NB: This account of the Iraqi insurgency, by an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, with its focus on the Sunni tribes, differs from Ahmad Chalabi's (AFP, Jul 31) account, with its emphasis on the Ba'athists. However, they concur on a key point: the core of the insurgency is not foreign jihadis.
Iraqification, Part II By F.J. Bing West August 2, 2004 The Wall Street Journal RAMADI, Iraq -- In this Sunni city, a provincial capital 60 miles west of Baghdad, a Marine battalion fought yet another episodic battle last week, killing a few dozen insurgents at a cost of four wounded. In five months, the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Marine Regiment has engaged in over 200 firefights, absorbing close to 300 casualties while killing over 1,000 guerrillas. The battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Kennedy, is the most battle-seasoned American unit in Iraq. But in the danger and the style of the combat, it is not atypical. The battalion fights alone, as do most American units. Iraqi government forces are absent from the field of their battle. And that is the heart of the problem. Stultified by 30 years of tyranny, Iraqis practice the politics of victimhood, complaining about others and bewailing their fate, while doing little to change it. They are not fighting for themselves. Sunni tribes north and west of Baghdad comprise the insurgency. In many Sunni cities, the insurgents mass at will and the people remain silent, either due to intimidation or commitment. In Ramadi, heavily armed Marines patrolling the marketplace receive sullen stares. Often they learn of a heavy attack when the machineguns open up. In nearby Fallujah, the Marines have agreed to not enter the city at all, ceding it to the insurgents. For 16 months now, the fight has been between the Americans and the insurgents. Iraqi security forces stand on the sidelines, usually proclaiming they will not kill a fellow Iraqi. While bombings have taken a toll among the security forces, offensive actions on their part are rare because they lack leaders. In the Sunni area, each city needs a competent police chief, a battalion leader and company commanders. In the American army, the sergeants are the glue of the structure. In contrast, in the Iraqi army, officers set the tone and the men follow obediently. U.S. advisers and combat commanders repeatedly pointed to a lack of leadership at the Iraqi company and battalion level. Because the insurgency is concentrated in a dozen cities, about 40 Iraqi battalions and 300 Iraqi leaders are needed to take on the insurgents. Captains and majors are needed out on the streets, not generals in Baghdad. That isn't a large number, but it has vexed the American military leadership for over a year. Now that Iraq is sovereign, the danger lies in rebuilding an army from the top down, filling officer slots with cronies seeking to benefit from rather than to sacrifice for the new Iraq. Because President Bush has promised to stay until successful, the weak can dictate the pace to the strong unless deadlines are set for turnover of local control. The key to local control is the willingness to go into battle and kill the other guy. The 700-man battalion is the logical force to back up the police in most cities. Lincoln selected his generals by performance, weeding out the failures after battles. That is the only course now for the Iraqi government, and for the U.S. This means insisting on deadlines and a joint -- not an Iraqi-only -- mechanism for swiftly firing those who refuse to fight or perform poorly. If the U.S. military cannot decisively influence the rapid replacement of incompetent leaders, American troops will carry the brunt of the fighting for years. The U.S. leverage to influence officer selection lies in equipment, money and advisers. We should tie equipping to a willingness to patrol and do battle. American political leaders should stand behind our military leaders and not undercut them when the Iraqis complain, as they surely will. American soldiers win every firefight, but they cannot beat the insurgency. Only the Iraqis can do that by wresting local control from their fellow Iraqis -- the insurgents. Because the insurgents have toughened over the past year, there will be bloody battles and some local defeats if Iraqi security forces challenge them. But without deadlines and competent Iraqi officers, we are consigned to whatever pace of turnover the Iraqis choose, and they have an incentive to let us do the fighting for them. Why do for yourself what the more powerful is willing to do for you? No one washes a rental car. Well, the Iraqis now own the car. So it is time for them to step forward here in Ramadi, and many other cities. --- Mr. West, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is writing a book on the struggle for Fallujah.