Saturday, December 23, 2006

Our Beowulf Strategy

A millennium ago in the land of the Danes, a monster called Grendel, half-man, half-fiend, terrorized the population. Each night Grendel would emerge from his lair at the bottom of the lake, enter King Hrothgar’s hall, kill one or more of the king’s men or servants and carry them off to be eaten. After a particularly horrible event when Grendel killed thirty, the king called on Beowulf for assistance. Beowulf the Geat, the hero of a Germanic tribe in Sweden, came to their aid. In a mighty battle Beowulf mortally wounds Grendel and later kills the monster’s mother.

The Old English (tenth century) poem is about bravery in the face of immense odds, but also about those who are not brave. Prominent in the hymn of praise to the warrior is the voice of the king’s courtier Unferth, who dismisses Beowulf’s past exploits and asks the king to appease the monster rather than fight it. Unferth is filled with envy for a sort of bravery that is beyond his reach. The poet asks what is wrong with a man who will not render glory to the hero.

Most of us lack Beowulf’s bravery, but we honor it, or at least we used to. For two hundred years or more the citizen-soldiers of the United States fought wars to expand our dominion over the land between the oceans and other wars to defend the free world from totalitarianism. We were brave and undefeatable. We stood up to the German monster, the Japanese monster and the Soviet monster, among others, and fought until we were victorious. Many died.

There was always a class of Unferths who doubted our capacity and claimed that war is never the way to peace, when obviously it is frequently the only way. Not until Vietnam, however, did these antiwar courtiers led by John F. Kerry and Jane Fonda have their way.

We are now engaged in an existential struggle with the Islamist monster. The American Beowulf has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and defeated the Al Qaeda monster and the Sadaam Hussein military monster. In Iraq we are left with an insurgency that includes some Sunni foreign fighters and a large number of Iraqi Sunnis, many former Baath Party officials, who are unwilling to compromise with the ruling majority of Shiites and Kurds. On the other hand are the Shiite militias who are fighting the Sunnis on their own terms, unencumbered by the rules of engagement the US military imposes on itself and on the Iraqi military.

While Beowulf-like Americans debate the best strategy for victory, the Unferths among us (Kerry, Murtha, Pelosi, now even Hillary Clinton) call for appeasement, retreat and defeat.

I prefer the strategy for Iraq proposed by Robert Haddick a former Marine Corps infantry company commander who blogs at
Westhawk. See “Mission Possible: How the U.S. Will Win in Iraq.”

So what should be the new U.S. strategy?

Politically, the U.S. should abandon reconciliation and put its full support behind the 80%+ Shiite/Kurdish majority. The U.S. State Department has proposed this course to the President.

Militarily, the U.S. should abandon counterinsurgency; the Sunni Arabs will not voluntarily be part of Shiite/Kurdish Iraq or its governance, thus they must logically be considered an enemy population.

What about tactics? In World War II, civilians were carpet-bombed or treated as refugees (note that there were no insurgencies after that war). The U.S. cannot do these things today. The U.S. cannot cut off electrical power to recalcitrant neighborhoods, or do mass preventive detentions, or tell an insurgent-supporting family that it has until dusk to get on a bus heading west to the Syrian border, never to return. But Iraq's army and police, facing an internal emergency, could do all of these things, and more.

Here is what the President should say in his next speech on Iraq:

Iraq is in a civil war. Baathists, ex-army officers, and Al Qaeda are trying to overthrow the elected Iraqi government. Because it is a civil war, the Iraqi government will decide for itself the best tactics, techniques, and procedures to defend itself and its constitution. The U.S. government will stand with its ally, the Iraqi government. The U.S. will immediately turn all Iraqi army and police units under its command over to the control of the Iraq government. Embedded U.S. teams will act as a liaison for logistics, intelligence, and fire support these Iraqi units may require. U.S. military units in Iraq will cease patrolling Iraq's cities and towns. The U.S. will transfer most of its forces currently in al-Anbar province and Baghdad to the Iraqi/Iranian border. U.S. military forces not necessary to protect Iraq's border or to support Iraqi forces in the civil war will exit Iraq.

Here at home we need a massive campaign to counteract the defeatist, blame America, anti-military, non-heroic attitudes that pervade our elite institutions and the Democratic Party.

We need to reinstate the American belief that the virtues of the heroic age are still necessary and that heroism is glorious, praiseworthy and self-evidently valuable. Whether we are warriors or mere citizens, we must overcome the wincey political correctness that hamstrings our efforts and support the war with all our might.

For an insightful look at how our educational institutions have contributed to the Unferthing of America, read The Politically Correct Guide to English and American Literature by Elizabeth Kantor.

11 Comments:

Blogger RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

http://www.rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Thanks for the inside perspective rosecovered. And, especially, thanks for your service. I will read your blog and try to understand the problem you pose. I don't see it as necessarily an obstacle to the Beowulf strategy.

Please stop by again.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Anony,
I deleted your post since you will not be civil. If you return, make your points but don't be offensive to the blogger or his visitors.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unferth.... Is that French???

David

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Logical, Bill--but what do you suppose the Saudis said to (threaten) Cheney when they demanded that he appear there (which of course he did) RIGHT NOW?
(1) Don't leave--okay, boss!
(2) Protect our Sunni brothers--okay, boss!

A decrease of a million or two bbs/day soon adds up to big-time economic horrors for the country which needs it most--OUR country. Because we haven't done a damn thing to protect ourselves long-term against our fossil fuel guzzling.

Burt

6:59 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Bert,
I'm sure you are right about what the Saudis said. But they would not do a thing if we implimented my strategy. All they want is stability. If their oil money stopped the family regime would topple. And we need their oil a lot less than the Europeans do.

Plus, part two of the Beowulf strategy (tomorrow) will take care of their enemies in Iran ... gotta spread the pain. Time to call their bluff I say. Stay tuned.

Also, it's time to start drilling like crazy everywhere we can. I wonder if the Dems will be for it. LOL.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Note from Larry C Johnson: Received this today from a CIA buddy who in turn received it from a friend in Iraq. One soldier's perspective from the ground level.]

A lot of you have asked for my current assessment, this is it. I'm not an expert and I admit that I often miss the "big picture". My Brigadier, a Brit, often reminds me of that, as does one of the local State Department weenies, an oxygen thief of the highest magnitude. I remind the Brigadier that the "troubles" in Ireland were only going to take a year to solve, weren't they? I'm not a "big picture" guy, I'm a "sight picture" guy, so my apologies to you deep thinkers. Me I prefer the "Bull" Halsey form of mission statement. When he was asked by the press in 1944 what his mission was, he replied, "Kill Japs, kill Japs and kill more Japs.". If only we had that kind of clarity today.



As the Counter-Terrorism Advisor to the National Command Center I see and hear it all from the Iraqi side. I help them with targeting, planning and execution, which, by the way, since the Ministry of Interior is vastly Shia in all levels of leadership, involves only Sunni targets (go figure). The Ministry of Defense, which is vastly Sunni, targets who? Anyone want to venture a guess? Of course, Shia targets. So is there a reasonable thinker out there who believes that when we leave, which will now be sooner than later, this will automatically stop and these two organizations will suddenly join hands, work together and go after the "terrorists"? My terp and I overheard a conversation yesterday where the Iraqi Generals that work in my building and who had just been watching Al Jazeera and receiving the "truth" of the Armstrong/Baker Report were saying, happily, that we, the US would be leaving soon and they could now solve their "problem" the "Iraqi" way. With these Shia Generals, who are Al Sadr worshippers, anybody want to take a guess as to what their "problem" is, or what the "Iraqi" way entails?

Anyway, here's the assessment. This place; big picture - hopeless. Wrong plan, wrong place. 2003-2004 was done so wrong that we can't recover. The Iraqi leadership doesn't really want us here, they just want our money and equipment and they want us to get out of their way so they can accomplish their own personal agendas. Everything is about positioning themselves for when we leave. And they know we're leaving, every invader/occupier always has and this current one isn't shy about stating it in the press. Corruption is an art form here and we just keep playing into it.

In our collective arrogance, and our administration is pretty arrogant about projecting our democracy throughout the world, we thought that we'd be able to hand these folks the big "binder" on democracy, they'd thank us and immediately transition to it. Don't worry about 6K years of culture and history, surely they're smart enough to see that the 250+ year history of success in the U.S. trumps theirs. Surely the majority Shias, who had been repressed and murdered for 40 years by the minority Sunni Baathists, were big enough to overlook that short period of history. After all, everybody was killing everybody for the previous 5600 years, what's a mere 40 years? I guess we thought that the 5600 years of history had grown out of them during the Saddam era when he was killing people just out of suspicion or for the sake of killing. His two sons, evil murderous barbarians that they were, lived near here where I am and the stories from the locals abound with horror. However, I digress.

The Bremer plan sealed our fate, particularly when we decided that anybody who had held a position of leadership in the "former regime" was tainted and, therefore, ineligible for anything other than unemployment. We also assumed that just because the majority of the populace had been suppressed, didn't mean they didn't have potential governmental skills. Wrong. They were sufficiently skilled enough to become government street sweepers. The one thing they were ready for was black markets, stealing, corruption and militias. They all belonged to militias. Mahdi, Muhammed, Badr, Peshmerga, everyone belonged. If they didn't belong they died. Security in neighborhoods was accomplished my militias, not by police. Police were nonexistent during Saddam's time.

The successful model for here is the Marshall plan, essentially Germany after WWII. By the way, that's what the Iraqi wanted. Every invader/conqueror/occupier in the Iraqi's history provided for the people. Iraq was never without a "foreign" power in control until after WWII. Iraq has always been provided for by their occupiers. I can't even begin to Express how many Iraqis have said that we need to fully play the role of the "big dog". According to them, we should kill more often, we should break the will of the militias, we should force the people to accept our leadership. We are trying to do the exact opposite and it's a recipe for failure that has been well cooked. We should have come in, taken power, established our own government and stood an Iraqi counterpart next to us for 5 years (it was 10 in Europe post-WW-II). We should have taken command of their armies and police forces, instead of trying to be the half-hearted and unable advisors that we've been. We should have forced the State Department to play ball with DOD, instead of allowing them to create an internally subversive system behind the scenes (if you don't believe that State Department types hate military types, you just have to attend a few meetings here). We should have employed lots more Special Forces and SF type leaders to destroy the militias, in the surgical manner that SF is capable of. We should have, we should have, we should have...

Anyway, any place that can use Black and Decker drills with practiced skill to torture people over nothing more than their branch of the religion, and then finish them off with a shot in the back of the head, is a long ways from democracy. Any place where 15-20 people die whenever Iraq wins a soccer game, due to the falling bullets from massive volumes of celebratory gunfire, and yet they continue to do it anyway, has little hope. Anyplace where the general populace cheers and dances in the streets when the news shows images of a Palestinian suicide bomber killing innocent Jewish women and children, has little hope. Anyplace where the police force acts as the kidnapping and execution arm of the militias and no one, not even the Prime Minister will do anything, anything, about it, has little hope.

We just need to figure out an exit strategy that will keep casualties to a minimum and get out, quickly. Then in 5-10 years, we'll be back to try to break the back of the extremist Muslim regime that has been committing genocide on other Muslims and has enabled/empowered terrorism against Jews, Christians and America. Maybe we'll get it right on the return trip.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The simplistic answers are still all the rage with bill and Co,
Bill -Politically, the U.S. should abandon reconciliation and put its full support behind the 80%+ Shiite/Kurdish majority

So bill you really do not see a problem with fully backing Iran I mean the Shia that are aligned with Iran? No. Well every other country around the middle east is Sunni Muslim. Still don’t see the future problem? Then you are as blind as Bush is on foreign policy.

Bill on the Saudi‘s-All they want is stability. If their oil money stopped the family regime would topple. And we need their oil a lot less than the Europeans do.

The Saudis do want stability but they have already said they will back the Sunni’s and because the Saudi regime is the most repressive in the middle east they are afraid the lid will blow off their country and the extremists will take over and the royal family might have to move in with longtime family friends the Bush‘s. You think the U.S. will just stop buying their oil? Get real this administration has proved rather than cut oil use we will just go get more. Big mistake.

You see we support repressive totalitarian regimes as long as they are family friends of the Bush family. The Saudis have their public be-headings and we look the other way. The Saudis have a telethon for Palestinian suicide bombers families raising millions and we say nothing but Saddam gives some and he supports the terrorists. Are you seeing how it works yet?

TC

7:17 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

TC, old man,
Noooo, I am not in any way backing Iran. What a silly idea. I will dispose of them in part 2 of the Beowulf Strategy.

No, it is not that Sunnis are the problem, or that Shias are the problem. The problem are the radical Islamists in both sects. Those who promote or support acts of terror must be dealt with.

After Iran, we will have to deal with the Saudi radicals. But maybe the Royal Family will see the light and take care of them.

Don't hold your breath while waiting for the US or any country to cut oil use, since that is what drives prosperity. You libs never will understand basic economics.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course it is mostly radicals Shia and Sunni that are the problem.

The Shia radicals have control of the government and have death squads in uniform killing Sunnis and they are aligned with Iran.

You fail to realize that while the radicals started the killing the average Sunni or Shia will not stand back and not get involved. It is not only a civil war but there is genocide going on Shia death squads that are in the police and security force are killing Sunni's because they are Sunni Muslim and Sunni's are killing Shia because they are Shia Muslim. Radicals start it but it has escalated to the brink of a regional war between Shia and Sunni.

Only two countries in the world have a majority Shia population, they are Iraq and Iran. all other Muslim countries are majority Sunni and they will not stand back and just watch the killing of there fellow Sunnis.

So if we do as you suggest and back the Shia against the Sunni's we will be backing Iran and alienating the Saudis and all the other Sunni countries in the middle east.

And you think the Saudis will see the light? Get real if the royal family cracked down to much the radicals may rise up that's why they let them teach hate in their madras's.

Like most Bush apologists you are a year late and $300 billion short. Why does it take the republicans are always behind reality? Like we won, there is no insurgency, they are deadenders, there is no civil war etc.

TC

1:55 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

So TC,
What do you suggest? Shall we back the Sunni insurgents against the democratically elected, largely Shia, government in order to keep the Saudis happy?

The bad boys have to go and the government of Iraq is our ally in this fight. The Shia radicals do not have "control" of the government. Sadr is a problem, but not in control.

I'll take care of Iran with part 2 of the Beowulf Strategy, see above.

11:43 PM  

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