Postcards from Tradocia

Category: iraq (Page 1 of 2)

Go Home?

Col. Timothy Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B), wrote this memo early last month, about the current situation in Iraq:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/world/middleeast/31advtext.html?_r=1

In this memo (which was apparently not for public consumption, and has been dismissed as opinion by General Odierno’s staff), he has some interesting and pointed remarks about the current state of the Iraqi government. His thesis is that we should accelerate plans to withdraw US forces, well ahead of the current December 2011 deadline, since Iraqi forces are a) capable of handling the current counter-insurgency fight and b) increasingly uncooperative with US forces, making our presence counterproductive.

My favorite quote:

 The GOI and ISF will continue to squeeze the US for all the “goodies” that we can provide between now and December 2011, while eliminating our role in providing security and resisting our efforts to change the institutional problems prevent the ISF from getting better. They will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands.

Mammary glands!

Not sure what to think about his comments – the colonel makes a compelling argument, but his assessment could also be viewed as overly pessimistic and a total withdrawal in the next twelve months might be too hasty. But it’s a thought-provoking commentary, nonetheless.

Videos from the War

For some reason, it took me a long time to realize that the footage that we took during our deployment wasn’t going to be useful for creating a true movie-length epic. That, of course, was our original intent – the great war saga of our time! – but as it turned out, we really didn’t have much of a war. Thus, the movie idea fizzled. Still, I had hours upon hours of footage of us screwing around all across the globe, at great expense to the taxpayer, so I really wanted to share our folly with the world. Then, the obvious idea came to me: make short clips of the funny stuff and upload – it’s the Youtube era, after all! Movies with plot (and movies longer than 90 seconds) are so 20th century!

Thus, clips like the one below. For now, check out what I’ve got – click on the Google Video icon in the lower right of the player window, then select “Go to Google Video.” From there, you can click on “More from this user” in the upper right and see my other crap. (Too bad it’s not like Youtube that gives each user a page with all of his/her videos.)

iraq photos – now in HD!

OK, not really – but you know, everything is in “high definition” now (chicken-flavored ramen! now in HD!) so I figured I’d follow the trend.

My original deployment galleries were necessarily low quality, given my generally low bandwidth – uploading stuff on our satellite connection was even more painful than downloading. But now with my (HD!) cable, I can have better-looking images.

Without further ado…Midwest in the Mideast: The Photos.

weapon of choice

Check it out – the next episode of Midwest in the Mideast.

Note that I won’t be posting these in order – I’m posting them basically in random order.

ziggurat con?!

Soldiers at Camp Adder in Iraq are having what must certainly be the first game convention in a war zone – Ziggurat Con!

I plan to send stuff to them as soon as I can figure out what they need. Hit the link for contact info if you want to help geeks thrive in the desert.

Talk about a band of brothers – not only fellow soldiers, but fellow dorks! Also note the picture on the link – you’ll see a Red Bull patch there…ha!

live from the front

SGT Dock sends this missive from Iraq, showing that while life in a war zone is sometimes dangerous and exciting, it’s mostly boring and frustrating.

The following is hilarious if you’re a military guy; probably less so if you’re not. It’s hilarious because everyone who’s been on a radio net has had an experience like this…

********

Life is so damn boring here. I can’t believe I’ve been extended to sit at the radio for nothing. I could be saving lives. I could be doing something of merit. But instead, I listen to the dumbest that New Jersey has to offer.

One guy really like to say that he “advises” me, every time he calls. I told him: “Just send me the message. You don’t have to advise me of what your message is, just send the damn thing.

(thoughtful pause)

You don’t have to make the shh noise, it does it on its own.”

Now everyone says the advised thing just to fuck with me. Goddamn assholes.

I also hate the command center. They love to constantly re-identify who they are and who they are talking to after 5 transmissions.

“North ECP this is Snake Main”

“Main. This is North, send it.”

“Roger North ECP, Snake Main. What is the status of your testfire pit.”

“Hot, over”

“Roger North ECP, Snake Main. I copy that your test fire pit is hot. Time:Now.”

(pause for disgust) “>sigh<, Roger." "Snake Main, out." Look asshole. After the first time we started this exchange I knew who you were. And you don't have to tell me that it is 'Time:Now.' I know what fucking time I made the fuckin' thing hot. It was 10 minutes from ten minutes ago; now shut up and just say roger out. There is no photocopying going on. Then the Battle Captain calls on the phone and says that I cannot truncate 'North ECP' to 'North' or 'Snake Main' to simply 'Main'. I must use proper radio procedures. Well, jackass...there is no spot in the RTO manual that says you have to constantly re-identify who you are talking to every time you key the mike. And fuck that "time:now" crap.

…speaking of red bulls

In Michael Yon’s latest dispatch from Iraq, he tells of the Marines’ high praise for our hometown team:

Mellinger said he was going to contact the CSM of the National Guard to make sure it was known how highly regarded these soldiers are by the people who have come to rely upon their effectiveness in one of the most dangerous outposts in the world. […] Mellinger affirmed that this was honestly the highest congratulations he could confer. In my experience of having seen CSM Mellinger interface with, say, fifty different units during the month total I’ve spent with him, be they Marines, soldiers, sailors, Special Forces or Air Force, I have never seen him give an endorsement like the one he extended to the Minnesota National Guard.

Hey, maybe all of our ridiculous Minnesota pride is justified! If 134th Signal Battalion could be the best signal unit in the US Army, why couldn’t our infantrymen be similarly stellar?

notes on the surge

Since I a) have been to Iraq and b) am in the Army, that obviously makes me an expert on counterinsurgency tactics and global strategic issues.

Of course I’m kidding, but because of the aforementioned facts, many people ask my opinion when the subject of the Iraq war arises. Thus, the following thoughts about what has come to be known as the “surge”:

First of all, while the surge is being described as a force increase, it’s really more of a force shuffle (force compression? force interleave?). No troops are being deployed who weren’t already slated to do so; the increase of 21,500 soldiers and Marines is being produced by accelerating the deployment of units already in the pipeline (i.e., the 2nd BCT of the 82nd Airborne) and the extension of units already there (like our own 1st BCT of the 34th Infantry Division). This is really the only effective way that a surge can work, at least in the short term; the logistical realities of moving even a light infantry brigade preclude activation and deployment in any way that might be termed “rapid.”

The next obvious question is, “will the surge be effective?” This is difficult to answer, since it’s not entirely clear what exactly the mission will be. Furthermore, how does one define success? One definition of success might be “the reduction of violence in volatile areas of Baghdad during the surge period.” This mission will almost undoubtedly be successful – implement enough roadblocks and curfews and raids, and the insurgents/terrorists/militamen/et al will certainly either be stopped or will go into hiding. In previous situations where there was an elevated force presence in Baghdad and the city was more or less locked down (for example, during the first elections in January of 2005), the incidence of violence decreased greatly.

The more interesting question, though, is whether the surge will result in any meaningful long-term reduction in violence. It is considerably more difficult to predict this outcome, because there are many factors at work besides the actions of the American military. If I had to guess, however, I would say that the surge will have little impact on the situation in the long term. There are several reasons for this: first, it’s a matter of numbers. Baghdad is a large city with millions of inhabitants, and it seems that to pacify the city without widespread destruction or total martial law, one would need many more soldiers than we are willing to provide. Second, and probably most importantly, I don’t think the surge will be successful (at least in this regard) because in large part, the situation is now out of American hands.

This point deserves its own paragraph. As others have opined, Iraq isn’t necessarily in a state of civil war; however, what exists certainly is a state of internecine conflict that is highly complex in nature, and is widespread. It seems to be a combination of Al Qaida terrorists, foreign fighters from Iran and Syria and elsewhere, sectarian militias, gang members and thugs, and revenge killings. Therefore, the situation is considerably more complex than just “ethno-religious civil war” or “terrorist violence” or “insurgent uprising against American occupation” – it’s a patchwork quilt of groups and interests, all bent on killing for their own reasons. I’m lumbering towards a point here, I swear it – and it’s that while American forces can (conceivably) put a stop to activity of the “terrorist” or “insurgent” ilk, there is probably little that we can do about the sectarian aspects of the violence. A simplistic way to express this notion might be to say that they just need to have it out, to get the violence “out of their system,” that the violence that is now happening is inevitable and endemic to the ethnic, religious, and social fabric of the manufactured nation that we call Iraq.

All of that being said, I still think the surge isn’t a terrible idea. It may not improve the long-term situation; but then again, it might yet. It’s a better option than just leaving, and it sets up a more flexible situation for future operations: if the surge proves effective, troop levels could be increased on a longer-term basis, whereas if it is judged to be ineffective, it provides a push (a surge, if you will) to buy space and time for the stand-up of more Iraqi forces and the eventual drawdown of American ones.

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