Militaries are instruments of war

Via Francois Tremblay comes an article at the Washington Post discussing a startling report by the RAND Corp. indicating that the U.S. military's "'show of force' brand has proved to have limited appeal to Iraqi consumers".

Many of the study's conclusions may seem as obvious as they are hard to implement amid combat operations and terrorist attacks, and Helmus acknowledged that it could be too late for extensive rebranding of the U.S. effort in Iraq. But Duane Schattle, whose urban operations office at the Joint Forces Command ordered the study, said that "cities are the battlegrounds of the future" and what has happened in Baghdad provides lessons for the future. "This isn't just about going in and blowing things up," Schattle said. "This is about working in a very complex environment."

In an urban insurgency, for example, civilians can help identify enemy infiltrators and otherwise assist U.S. forces. They are less likely to help, the study says, when they become "collateral damage" in U.S. attacks, have their doors broken down or are shot at checkpoints because they do not speak English. Cultural connections -- seeking out the local head man when entering a neighborhood, looking someone in the eye when offering a friendly wave -- are key.

Apparently RAND was paid $400,000 for this study! Pentagon, if you're listening, I could have done it for half that. Remember me next time you want something really obvious told to you in an expensive way.

The U.S. military is in a situation similar to the one the British government found itself in back in the Anglo-Irish War. The IRA's violent tactics were supported, at first, only by a small minority of Irish people, but as the British cracked down harder and harder they only converted more people to the IRA's side.

There was really almost no way for the British to emerge successfully from that conflict. The main advantage the irregulars have in guerrilla conflict is that they blend in with everybody else. When the occupier is attacked it can retaliate against everybody or against nobody. It's a lose-lose situation for them.

If the mission had ever been about helping the Iraqi people, there are plenty of ways that could have been attempted. If you think, as I do, that the war was first and always about the New American Century, you see that helping the people was never really a concern. More from the study:

At the same time, Helmus said, U.S. military and civilian authorities must stop thinking of themselves as a "good-idea factory" whose every thought has greater merit than those of their customers. "Procter & Gamble doesn't even do that," he said. 

This is exactly what the architects of the war did. And on their assumptions the military carried out the first several years of the war. Anything now in another direction, I am sorry to say, is too little, too late.

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I'll give the Pentagon that news for half of what Randall is asking.