BELATEDLY, KILCULLEN ON THE TRIBAL REVOLT
Great piece by Colonel Kilcullen at SWJ Blog on the “flipping” of Anbar province by the tribal revolt against AQI:
“The implications of the tribal revolt have been somewhat overlooked by the news media and in the public debate in Coalition capitals. In fact, the uprising represents very significant political progress toward reconciliation at the grass-roots level, and major security progress in marginalizing extremists and reducing civilian deaths. It also does much to redress the lack of coalition forces that has hampered previous counterinsurgency approaches, by throwing tens of thousands of local allies into the balance, on our side. For these reasons, the tribal revolt is arguably the most significant change in the Iraqi operating environment for several years. But because it occurred in ways that were neither expected nor accounted for in our “benchmarks” (which were formulated before the uprising began to really develop, and which tend to focus on national legislative developments at the central government and political party level rather than grass-roots changes in the quality of life of ordinary Iraqis) the significance of this development has been overlooked to some extent.”
We should run with the grassroots and try to get tolerably effective Iraqi self-government at the local and provincial level and simply cut our losses with the central government. Let it fade into irrelevance as most Iraqis already ignore its edicts anyway.
The opportunity of the democratic elections were blown when the Iraqi power brokers (few of whom could be considered democrats in any meaningful sense and see a truly democratic system as inimical in principle to their own in-group leadership) were permitted to drag out negotiations over forming a government until legitimacy and popular interest generated by the elections eroded. We should have instead, followed the example of the noteworthy “Small Wars” fighter, General Leonard Wood.
The general, who was running occupied Cuba as the military governor in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War, faced a similar situation with the intransigence of wealthy, landed, Cuban elites who filled the legislature who were attempting to outwait Wood by creating a political deadlock until the Americans went home. General Wood, who understood the game being played and the free-for-all that would ensue if American troops left Cuba without a functional government, simply locked the doors of the parliament and his armed soldiers refused to permit anyone to leave until the legislators finished their business and also ratified the unpopular Platt amendment.
The latter effectively made Cuba a protectorate of the United States in name as well as fact but from a realist perspective, it also quashed the possibility of civil war, boosted Cuba’s economy and guaranteed a functioning civil government in Havanna for two and a half decades, even if it required a new military intervention. Iraq is not nearly so well off.