11 January 2007
In his speech last night the President announced acceptance of one of only three possibilities in the present conflict. (1) We remain in Iraq with no increase in troop levels. (2) We remain in Iraq, and increase troop levels. (3) We leave Iraq, retreat, runaway, redeploy, whatever.

Those are the three options. Whether or not we should have invaded Iraq persuant to the War on Terror, we are there. The consequences of leaving make the third option unnacceptable. And this is so even if we call it a ‘phased withdrawal’. Such a withdrawal is no less a retreat, no less quitting, than an immediate withdrawal. Whether immediate or phased, withdrawal means that the terrorist-inspired-and-led insurgency has been a success.

Of the remaining options, the first has been inadvisable since at least some time after the bombing of the Golden Mosque. An increase in troop levels should have happened months ago, probably. Speculation about why it has taken this long for the President to move to raise those levels wouldn’t be very fruitful.

But let’s do it anyway. Long ago Patton (I’m sure he wasn’t the first) noted two, and only two, schools of though with respect to the size of a military force: small, highly trained professional forces, or large, weakly-to-moderately trained non-professional (conscript) forces. Problems unsue, he thought, when either school tries a mixed approach. Rumsfeld, as is I think, well known, was a proponent (as are most of us former and current military) of the smaller highly trained professional force. I’ve wondered at times if, having determined upon a small, highly trained force, Rumsfeld was trying to avoid the problem Patton identified. Of course as insightful as Patton was, he was thinking at the time of conventional warfare. In the era of what some are calling fourth generation warfare, Patton, while valuable in a great many other respects, is of little help to us here. The enemy fight in ways that require superiority neither in numbers nor in military training. In this type of warfare a profiler is just as valuable as a sniper or an explosives expert.

Another problem is the all-too-human tendency is to stick to a plan once it has been conceived. I know it’s one of my greatest tendencies. There’s something to be said for commitment, but sometimes ‘commitment’ is a euphemism for ‘stubborness.’ I’ve read a lot of books by a lot of generals but if memory serves it was Sun Tzu who said that the mind which remains fastened unalterably to an origianl plan can never succeed, but that success would come to the one who at the right moment would alter his plan to suit a changing battlefield situation.

But even Sun Tzu (or whoever) becomes merely quaint when you consider that he also was speaking of conventional warfare. In this war there is, I think, no situation which will remain ‘the situation’ long enough to be reported as a ‘situation.’ Much of terrorist behavior reminds me of something Joubere, the assassin, says of Joe Turner (‘Condor’) in the movie Three Days of the Condor. (It’s one of my favorite Christmas season movies, and the first movie I saw with my father. You can read a plot summary
here.) He says that because Turner is an amatuer and inexperienced he will actually be a bit more difficult to deal with than a professional because his actions will, by virtue of his inexperience, be unpredictable.

But why should the terrorists’ behavior be unpredictable?

Think about conventional warfare. The way that conventional warfare is waged is in many respects determined by the weapons employed. This is one of the reasons that just about any war begins by fighting the ‘last’ one. Generally you go into battle with the weapons, and tactics, which won your last war and you adapt as needed.

The enemy's weapons, in conventional warfare, make his movements somewhat predictable. If he is going to employ artillery, armor and infantry this will narrow his choice of where to give battle. And if he is going to use these arms then he is going to use them in a necessarily limited, and fairly predictable, number of ways.

The very nature of the terrorists’ weapon of choice – terror – is precisely what enables him to be so unpredictable. Indeed, that unpredictabililty is the tactical employment of his weapon of choice.

There is, however, one similarity that this war has with conventional warfare: all we have to do to win is convince the enemy that his weapon of choice is not going to get him what he wants.

That’s the hard part.

It’s also the reason why there isn’t going to be a political solution. The only ‘political’ solution involves giving the terrorist-motivated insurgency what it wants. And they have made more than abundantly clear that those are the only terms under which they will cease using their weapons.

Those terms remain unacceptable.


About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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