Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bombs away

When I first read about "stepped up" air strikes in Iraq by US forces, reports that had been coming out for well over a year now, it seemed clear that such activity was indicative of desperation. That was a year before the "surge." Such news also surprised people, who had no idea that an unmentioned, some might say, secret air war was already ongoing and probably responsible for a large number of civilian casualties. Reports of this barely mentioned aspect of the Iraq occupation started surfacing a year before stepped up air strikes began and two years before the "surge" gained momentum (for a very complete and excellent report on this see, Turse and Englehardt, The Pentagon's Secret Air War in Iraq.)

But then we received yet more news of yet more stepping up of air strikes just last week, when US air strikes blew up a railroad station, collateral damage as part of a flurry of activity that has seen the number of air strikes doubled over previous levels. This move reeked of even greater desperation and more senseless civilian death. Shock and awe was so awesome, it seemed it was time to try it all over again.

Well, William Lind smells the desperation as well and, in concert with fester's excellent posts at The Newshoggers about 4th generation warfare and how the US military fails in the arena because it fails to adhere to known counterinsurgency tactics, Lind offers up his own howling mad description of just how desperate the US military is looking and how badly they are botching things in Iraq with the latest escalation of an airwar:
Nothing could testify more powerfully to the failure of U.S. efforts on the ground in Iraq than a ramp-up in airstrikes. Calling in air is the last, desperate, and usually futile action of an army that is losing. If anyone still wonders whether the "surge" is working, the increase in air strikes offers a definitive answer: it isn't.

Worse, the growing number of air strikes shows that, despite what the Marines have accomplished in Anbar province and Gen. Petraeus' best efforts, our high command remains as incapable as ever of grasping Fourth Generation war. To put it bluntly, there is no surer or faster way to lose in 4GW than by calling in airstrikes. It is a disaster on every level. Physically, it inevitably kills far more civilians than enemies, enraging the population against us and driving them into the arms of our opponents. Mentally, it tells the insurgents we are cowards who only dare fight them from 20,000 feet in the air. Morally, it turns us into Goliath, a monster every real man has to fight. So negative are the results of air strikes in this kind of war that there is only one possible good number of them: zero (unless we are employing the "Hama model," which we are not).
However, Lind thinks there is more that just desperation playing out here. Air forces do what air forces like to do; damn the ... er, bombs away!
What explains this military lunacy, beyond simple desperation? Part of the answer, I suspect, is Air Force generals. Jointness demands they get their share of command billets in Iraq, and with very few exceptions they are mere military technicians. They know how to put bombs on targets, but they know nothing else. So, they do what they know how to do, with no comprehension of the consequences.

In fact, the U.S. Air Force recently announced it is developing its own counter-insurgency doctrine, precisely because "some people" are suggesting air strikes are counterproductive in such conflicts. Well, yes, that is what anyone with any understanding of counter-insurgency would suggest. The Air Force, of course, cares not a whit about the realities of counter-insurgency. It cares only about protecting its bureaucratic turf, its myth of "winning through air power" and its high-performance fighter-bombers, which truly are its knights in shining armor, useful only for tournaments.
It really is hard to believe that, after years of performance in the Iraq theatre and after the debacles of the Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia carpet bombing campaigns, ramping up air strikes is still seen the military as the winning tactic in guerrilla insurgency. One might almost get the feeling the US wants to keep stirring the pot to further justify the now stated preference of the Defense Department and the White House to remain in Iraq for decades to come. How can this not be the suspicion after a further repetition of this news:
Iraq will remain incapable of taking full responsibility for its security for many years -- five years in the case of protecting its airspace -- and will require a long-term military relationship with the United States, said Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who until recently led the U.S. military's training effort in Iraq.
After all, most Iraqi already believe that covert hands are responsible for agitating the sectarian violence, something that Sadr himself claimed after the Samarra mosque was attacked for the second time.


Blogger Maya's Granny said...

When it comes to explaining the actions of this administration, I am half inclined to the notion that they know exactly what they are doing and that's what they want, and half way inclined to believe that they have a strategy governor which guarantees that in any situation, they take the action most likely to go wrong.

If they sat down and made a list of things to do that would make this war a disaster, it would include everything they've done and some things they will try soon.

1:39 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...


Of course, disaster plays into plans for long term occupation, so, in their view, it is not a disaster at all. To the White House, it has been a rousing success.

1:44 PM  

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