INDC Journal
May 31, 2007
Dysfunctional Iraqi Bureaucracies

Posted by Bill

Via Hot Air, this piece in the WSJ:

One debate roiling Baghdad now concerns whether the political process is stalled because elected officials are merely inneffectual or because they are more interested in advancing their sectarian agendas than in governance. The strategy review conducted for Gen. Petraeus seems to conclude it is a bit of both. The report argues that Iraq is essentially a failed state and that the U.S. must devote far more effort to making Iraq’s ministries work, said officials who participated in the review.

"We've been too passive and deferential to Iraqi sovereignty," says one U.S. military official involved in a review of the surge for Gen. Petraeus.

I repeatedly focused on this deficiency, including this bit from an April post:

Beyond limited personnel for counterinsurgency, the biggest problem I saw in Iraq was the (apparent lack of a) relationship between the US authorities and elements of the Iraqi bureaucracy. As systems and government institutions were handed over to Iraqis, there seemed little maintenance of American responsibility or even oversight. Thus, when various Iraqi kleptocrats deny fuel and/or pay to the Iraqi security forces that Americans and Iraqis are dying to build, where is the US influence to curb corruption? To ensure the delivery of fuel? To make sure Iraqi soldiers get paid? To make sure the rolls of Iraqi soldiers are actually full when they are slated to take over primary responsibility for a given battlespace?

It's possible that American personnel I'm unaware of are feverishly working on this problem, but the results of any such efforts seemed wholly inadequate.

The security forces, the Military and Police transition teams are doing great work, and the Iraqi Army (and police, nationally, to a lesser extent) shows great promise. But without enough American engagement to set up enduring government bureaucracies that function properly, the efforts are hampered. I think it's possible. But it takes time and personnel. Almost exclusive public focus is on the violence, but these are the pivotal challenges to winning this war, because the Iraqi Army (and police in certain areas) will fight for their country.

If I were able to return to Iraq, a focus would be assessing the relationship between American authorities and these dysfunctional Iraqi bureaucracies.

It's what needs to happen, but is it too late to rebuild entrenched, politically-enabled bureaucracies? As Allahpundit notes:

The more we try to muscle the government, the more they'll try to drum up support in parliament to ask us to withdraw. That's their trump card, per Bush's thousand speeches about democracy, and they know it.

The far better strategy would have been to never relinquish control so quickly, or more importantly, so absolutely.

Posted by Bill at 11:28 AM
May 28, 2007
Memorial Day 2007

Posted by Bill

Jules Crittenden has a round-up "on the Ground."

Posted by Bill at 05:11 PM
May 20, 2007
Must See

Posted by Bill

The Military Channel is featuring a documentary series called Alpha Company: Iraq Diary, and it is excellent:

During the summer of 2005, filmmaker Gordon Forbes spent three months embedded with the U.S. Marines 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion during their deployment to the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. He documented the daily grind and struggles of the men in Alpha Company as they fought the War on Terror, thousands of miles away from home. While most networks send a crew to shoot only enough footage for a 90-second highlight piece, this three-part documentary covers several operations — from helicopter raids and mounted patrols to everyday interactions with the people of Iraq.

The good, the bad, and the utterly realistic. Forbes' candid narration and clips capture the reality (albeit more than one year displaced) of Marines in the Fallujah AO much better than my blog coverage did. Highly recommended.

UPDATE: I've just watched another episode, and I can't stress enough how excellent this series is. It's one of the best documentaries I've seen on the war.

Posted by Bill at 01:03 PM
May 17, 2007
Summer Blog Slowdown

Posted by Bill

My already anemic posting will drop lower for a bit, as I need to budget some energy towards my day job. Check in every now and again for sporadic updates, or just put INDC Journal on your RSS Feed. A couple of videos may be posted within the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading.

Posted by Bill at 09:27 AM
May 15, 2007
"Winning the PR War in Iraq"

Posted by Bill

A must-read at the American Spectator:

While I was at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in Baghdad on my recent trip to Iraq, a pair of Spanish journalists -- a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist -- walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the 1st Infantry Division (the unit with which I embedded only days later). They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures, and their impressions of these soldiers were extremely clear.

"Absolutely amazing," said David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing -- our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men -- and they seem so young! -- are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there -- one to a sniper and two to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things which they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing another comrade die, the soldiers' resolve and morale was unshaken in the long term, and they remained committed to carrying out their mission to the best of their ability for the duration of their tours in Iraq.

It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war, and of those who were tasked with prosecuting it.

"I love those guys," Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is CPIC. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you -- you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."

Such a radical transformation -- and such a strong bond of affection -- can rarely be forged in so little time outside of the constant, universal peril of a wartime environment. "It is those common experiences," Beriain explained, "where you are all in danger, and you go through it together. It builds a relationship instantly."

(Via HA)

Posted by Bill at 11:30 AM
May 13, 2007
Giuliani on the Issues

Posted by Bill

I think he does very well here:

After nearly two terms of Bush, it's refreshing to watch a politician that ably communicates complex issues.

(Via HA)

Posted by Bill at 10:35 AM
May 11, 2007
Problems with the Wire Service Model

Posted by Bill

Bryan Preston documents an error by the Associated Press:

This problem is at the heart of why it's vital that wire services and major outlets get their facts straight the first time. The first report, whether it's true or not, might get picked up by thousands of outlets worldwide. You can probably count the number of outlets who ran and acknowledged the correction on one hand. The AP itself didn't even acknowledge the correction on its own story. This is how a world misunderstands a war, one reporter's error at a time.

Journalism published on blogs certainly has an advantage, in this regard.

Read the context.

Posted by Bill at 09:36 AM
May 09, 2007
"Witnessing an Interrogation At Camp Honor in Iraq"

Posted by Bill

When I asked Lt. Col. Fisher of Military Transition Team 6 in Fallujah about how Americans influence Iraqi soldiers on the interrogation of suspected insurgents, he said ...

"You've got a lot of work to do if you want to change a mindset that's been forged in their collective memory over half a century. You don't change that in two years with a couple nice hand outs and a Dale Carnegie course. But when they (the Iraqi Army interrogators) see (humane treatment) works, that's what sells the product. You can give them brochures and hand outs and well meaning people coming in and talking to them about human rights, but until they see the tangible product that 'boy this does work, they actually told us what we wanted to know,' until they see it, they don't believe it. And that is very much how this country works."

"And the (Iraqi Army soldiers) have seen that; our methodology pays dividends."

Apparently he was on target, as this article seems to attest:

Dheyaa begins to cry. The colonel continues: " Saddam is gone now. We don't build an army on fear now. We heard you were the prince, but the information was wrong. You are one of my brothers."

Read the rest.

(Via HA)

Posted by Bill at 09:52 AM
May 07, 2007
CNN Video of 2007 Milblog Conference

Posted by Bill

Check it out.

It features my "From the Front" co-panelist Doc-in-the-Box, who was a charming, smart guy. I can't say I enjoyed the public speaking, but I relished meeting and listening to some truly fine folks. Overall it was a very well-run event, and I was particularly impressed by the wit and intellect of the women on the "All in the Family" panel.

Thanks to Andi and Bfive for the invite.

Posted by Bill at 05:41 PM
"Soldier in Heroic Battle to Receive Silver Star"

Posted by Bill

Up-armored Humvees are a success story of the war. The majority of IED blasts I hear about are failures, resulting in damage to the vehicle and often concussions, but no serious injuries. But other bombs with enough kick can obliterate armored vehicles. Shaped charges will penetrate armor. Heck, when I was in Fallujah, an incendiary-loaded IED took out an Abrams tank.

In light of that uncertainty, intentionally directing your vehicle to take an IED explosion in the place of others is very brave. Intentionally taking three is almost crazy. Add dismounting to save Iraqi civilians in the middle of a rolling firefight, and I almost think the Silver Star doesn't cut it for this guy:

"On that day, there were no Americans. There were no Iraqis, no whites and no blacks. There were no Sunnis, Shias, Christians. There was just a group of warriors working and fighting together," he said. "All the men I fought with that day showed incredible courage and bravery. That was one of the highlights of my life; working with those men that day."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Bill at 12:29 PM
May 05, 2007
RIP, 1LT Travis Manion (UPDATED)

Posted by Bill

rela.jpg
1LT Travis Manion (right) relaxes with fellow MiTT Marines prior to going on a mission in January.

I just found out that 1LT Travis Manion was killed in a sniper attack in Fallujah on April 29th. A Naval Academy graduate and former nationally-ranked wrestler, he served with a Military Transition Team advising an Iraqi Army battalion and went on the raid I wrote about here. He was a friendly guy, and prior to the operation, I had a conversation with him about the war, wrestling and Annapolis. I can't say I knew him well, but I did find it amazing at the time that we have guys like him, with such intellect, drive and options, who choose to put themselves in harm's way and serve their country.

Rest in peace.

From the Philadelphia Enquirer

"He was always a kid who would step up, no matter what he was doing," Thomas Manion, a colonel in the Marine reserves, said yesterday. "He was working so that the Americans could pull out and let the Iraqis take over. He knew he was on the front line, but he wanted to be a part of that."
...
"We weren't so comfortable with him going back on his second tour," his father said, "but he was always telling us it was fine, and he was doing what he wanted to do. He felt if he didn't go, somebody else would have to. He always cared about others more than himself."

And from the Bucks County Courier-Times:

"He didn't have to be on patrol that day," said his uncle, Chris Manion. "He was on the front lines because it was the right thing to do. He served, not because it was easy or because he liked what he was doing; he did it because of us. He was serving for us. If there were more people like Travis Manion, the world would be a better place."

Manion's mother, Jannette, said her son believed in the mission and wished more people backed President Bush's plan to send more troops to bolster the forces. She recalled a phone call she received from him the night Bush first talked of the troop surge.

"He was so sure what he was doing over there was right," his mother said. "He called the night Bush made his speech about the troop surge and told us, 'That's exactly what we need.' His biggest concern was that the politicians over here were giving life to the insurgents by putting the military and president down."

A few weeks later, Manion sent an e-mail to friends and family from his location in Iraq. In part, he said:

"As far as the job is going, the area is not good right now - but it’s getting better, and to be honest, I'm amazed at the ability and dedication of some of these Iraq Army soldiers. ... The IA's in this battalion are very eager to fight and to take control of this city. ... It was at times frustrating the first time I was here and it will and has been this time, but as in anything in life, true success does not come from battles won easily."

Manion served with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He wrote to The Intelligencer, the sister paper of the Courier Times, shortly after he left for his second tour of duty. In his letter, he wanted to make sure the public knew of the successes happening in Iraq:

"There are many different views on our mission here. However, all I can say with certainty is that there are thousands of Americans over here working hard towards a positive outcome in Iraq. ... I am not sure the average American sees the positives these servicemen and women accomplish or even understand the sacrifices of their efforts. However, whatever course of action our leadership decides upon, there are those in waiting, ready to carry out the mission in support of our country and in defense of its people and their freedoms."

UPDATE: MAJ Joel Poudrier, a member of Fallujah MiTT 6 injured in the chlorine gas attack on the Government Center, sends along this anecdote:

Another thing that Travis did that impressed me was in early to mid March. He was patrolling with his Iraqis and Scott Alexander in southeastern Fallujah when his vehicle was hit by a roadside IED. It didn't cause any casualties and didn't damage the vehicle much, but no one likes getting hit by those things. Someone saw the IED "triggerman" running away and Travis ran after him. The gear, ammo, and weapon we carry amounts to about 80-90 lbs, so you've got to be a strong man to move quickly with that stuff on. Travis ran after the guy, tracked him down in a building and dragged him back to the patrol. They took him to the ITC where I met up with him. I could tell that Travis was pretty pumped up and I congratulated him on his catch. When he and the patrol left to turn the guy into the detention facility, I walked back inside my office and spoke to my intel chief, SSgt Smith about it. I remember telling him what a stud Lt. Manion had to be to do something like that. He had guts and determination. He had to be a physical phenom to track down that skinny guy, running away terrified. And I wonder what must have been going through the triggerman's mind when big old Travis cornered him and there was no doubt that the chase was over. God bless that young man.
Posted by Bill at 04:54 PM
Highlight from the 2007 Milblog Conference

Posted by Bill

Watch this video.

Posted by Bill at 11:53 AM
May 03, 2007
Even Lighter (Non-Existent) Posting This Week

Posted by Bill

But I'm working on a video and will be at the 2007 Milblog Conference this weekend, participating in the "From the Front" panel.

Posted by Bill at 09:54 AM
May 01, 2007
"Desires of the Human Heart, Part II"

Posted by Bill

The latest from Yon:

There is a side to this war that cannot be captured in any kind of statistics. The importance of personal relationships among the soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts cannot be captured in quick stories or numbers. A huge part of this war comes down to personal relationships and respect. It's not about killing. That's only a small part of it. It's about building: building bonds that build societies. Giving Iraqi civilians a real alternative to those who create and then flee from civil havoc. Terrorists don't pick up the trash on the way back from blowing up the electrical stations.

I can't agree more, and in fact expressed a very similar sentiment here. It's amazing what these relationships mean compared to the political or religious distinctions so frequently and exclusively analyzed in Iraq assessments.

Read the rest.

Posted by Bill at 02:26 PM
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