“Surreal” and “far-fetched”

Five soldiers of the 82nd Airborne lay it on the line: the situation in Iraq won’t yield to military force.

Some views from the ground for the warbloggers*, Republican presidential candidates, and (it’s sad to say) the Brookings Institution to ignore:

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

*Update I’m wrong. Warblogger-in-chief Glenn Reynolds didn’t ignore the piece: instead, he misrepresented its content with selective quotation. The thrust of the piece is that the U.S. is in a hopeless position in Iraq because the Iraqi political situation isn’t something that can be fixed by an occupying army, and no substantial piece of the Iraqi army or police force is loyal to Iraq as a nation rather than to a sect or faction. The authors give as an example of what they say is “a near-routine event” the death of an American soldier from an IED planted with the connivance of Iraqi Army soldiers.

While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse &#8212 namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

It’s evident that the soldier-authors don’t regret that we’re not willing to rule Iraq the way the Nazis ruled Czechoslovakia. But apparently Glenn does have that regret, and projects it on to the five soldiers, whose central argument he never bothers to acknowledge. Glenn adds in his own voice:

That’s been a theme of many milbloggers. I hope it’s wrong, since otherwise it means that we will lose the war as a result of enemy psychological warfare and “lawfare.”

That’s right. Anyone who rejects “the widespread use of lethal and brutal force” against Iraqis is a dupe of enemy psychological warfare.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com