Wednesday, January 02, 2008

WWWD: What would Washington Do (about Iraq)?

I recently stumbled across Intel Dump, Phillip Carter's blog. Mr. Carter is a former JAG officer who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, or Screaming Eagles and brought to my attention a recent article about Iraq and how George Washington might react.

History professor Joseph Ellis writes in [the December 23rd, 2007 edition of the] Washington Post about "what George Washington would do" with respect to the mess in Mesopotamia. It's a fascinating question, because Washington served both an insurgent (as commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution) and a counterinsurgent (as an officer fighting Native Americans and the French during the Seven Years War). In fact, he probably ranks as one of history's most successful insurgents ever. After noting that it's impossible to divine the dead president's policy preferences for Iraq because of the passage of time, Ellis goes on to accurately (in my opinion) assess the state of the matter today:
[The question] is not "What would George Washington do about Iraq?" Rather, it is "How are your own views of Iraq affected by your study of Washington's experience leading a rebellion against a British military occupation?" The answer on this score is pretty clear. Washington eventually realized — and it took him three years to have this epiphany — that the only way he could lose the Revolutionary War was to try to win it. The British army and navy could win all the major battles, and with a few exceptions they did; but they faced the intractable problem of trying to establish control over a vast continent whose population resented and resisted military occupation. As the old counterinsurgency mantra goes, Washington won by not losing, and the British lost by not winning. Our dilemma in Iraq is analogous to the British dilemma in North America — and is likely to yield the same outcome.
This is popularly [known] as the "counterinsurgent's dilemma," perhaps best written about by David Galula in his classic Counterinsurgency Warfare — Theory and Practice. Setting aside those insurgencies which ripen into open warfare, like Mao's famous three-phase model, the goal of the insurgent is not to "win" in any conventional sense. Rather, the goal is to "win" by not losing. Either the insurgent bleeds the counterinsurgent to the point where his will to fight is gone, or the insurgent wins politically by earning the support of the people and alienating the people from the counterinsurgent.|George Washington and the Counterinsurgent's Dilemma - Intel Dump|
I haven't read Counterinsurgency Warfare — Theory and Practice myself, but it sounds fascinating. If I get drafted in 2008, maybe I'll pick it up.

P.S. I love the blockquotes tag.

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