Gian P. Gentile is an active duty Army lieutenant colonel who has served two tours in Iraq, most recently as a combat battalion commander in west Baghdad in 2006. Last month, his World Politics Review article, “Misreading the Surge,” brought a fierce internal debate over the Army’s new emphasis on counterinsurgency operations and its potential impact on conventional capabilities to the attention of the general public. In the context of this week’s congressional hearings on the Surge, WPR asked Gentile for a follow up email interview, to which he graciously agreed.Describe the kinds of “classical” counterinsurgency methods you were applying […]

In a few weeks, the celebrations to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary will begin in earnest. Some of the events, including a landmark visit by the German chancellor and half of her cabinet, have already taken place. First, as is customary, the country will come to a stop, remembering the thousands killed in Israel’s many wars. The next day, May 8, the country will mark six decades since the founding of the first Jewish state in two thousand years, a state that many thought would not last past its infancy. The very fact that Israel still exists despite active efforts to […]

The Surge Outside the Spotlight

The Petraeus and Crocker show moved to the House yesterday, where it continued to get the spotlight. But the real action to my mind was the testimony over at the Senate Armed Services committee, where Andrew Bacevich (here in .pdf) and Robert Malley (here in .pdf) really filled in the blanks on the asessment of the Surge, but more importantly on the strategic context that should inform our discussion of where we go from here. Malley’s discussion, in particular, of al-Sadr’s ceasefire adds more depth to the simplistic explanation that his decision was taken solely in response to pressure from […]

Iran and Iraq

Since the Senate Foreign Relations committee seems to be giving Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker a pretty tough time regarding Iran’s influence in Iraq and how reasonable it is to believe we can eliminate it, now might be a good time to point out that former Iraqi Prime Minister and head of PM Noori Miliki’s Dawa Party, Ibrahim Jafari, was in Tehran on Sunday, where he met with Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani: Jafari. . .highlighted the Islamic Republic of Iran’s role in solving his country’s problems and said, “Iran seeks to establish peace, security and stability in the region.” Maybe the […]

Consolidating the Surge’s Gains

I’m not able to watch the hearings here in Paris, so I’ve only been able to read their prepared statements which are up now on the Senate Armed Services Committee website (Amb. Crocker here, Gen. Petraeus here). But based on that, I’ve got to agree with Andrew Sullivan: both Gen. Petraeus’ and Ambassador Crocker’s testimony seem to reflect an effort at intellectual honesty that surpasses that of most of the shrill din surrounding them. There’s still the possibility that a few days of high-pressure questioning might produce the kind of political theater that definitively shifts public opinion, but besides that, […]

Iraq After the Surge

The U.S. Institute of Peace report, Iraq After the Surge, that’s been bouncing around the web is notable, as Marc Lynch observes, for putting American strategic interests back where they belong, at the heart of any analysis of policy going forward. A thought that didn’t make the final cut of yesterday’s post on the competing narratives of the Surge is how both advocates and opponents shape its success or failure to defend their policy position. The U.S.I.P. report, on the other hand, identifies five core strategic goals for Iraq outcomes: -Platform for terrorism; -U.S. military capacity and credibility; -Regional stability; […]

The Candidates on Iran

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran will very likely be in the spotlight during today’s Congressional testimony by Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Since all three remaining presidential candidates will also be in attendance, that means the hearings are sure to highlight their differences not only on Iraq policy going forward, but also on Iran policy. This Foreign Policy in Focus backgrounder gives a pretty good rundown of where they stand. The editorial slant is definitely towards engagement with Tehran, but it’s important to remember that insofar as we’re already engaged with Iran on Iraq security (the Iranian Foreign […]

The Competing Narratives of the Surge

When Gen. Petraeus testifies before Congress tomorrow, it will be the latest installment in an ongoing battle between competing narratives of the Surge. On the one hand, that of its supporters who argue that through a combination of brilliantly conceived and skillfully implemented COIN tactics, an increase in troop strength that intimidated Iraqi and Iranian agents provocateurs, and an emphasis on bottom-up reconciliation among Sunni insurgents, Iraq has been brought back from the edge of the abyss. The gains are measurable but fragile, and thus in need of continued consolidation. The major threats to stability are the result of either […]

On April 8, Egyptians will go to the polls for the first time in three years. Millions will vote to fill 52,000 seats in 4,500 municipal councils at the village, district, and provincial level. This election season, however, most Egyptians are focused less on political issues and more on matters of daily survival. In Egypt, a country where the president has ruled for more than a quarter of a century, free and fair elections are a rarity. The country held its first multi-candidate presidential elections in 2005. The following year, a stronger than anticipated performance by the Muslim Brotherhood in […]

The Defense Department late last month delivered its 4,000th Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle to the Southwest Asia war zone, a rapid pace of deliveries that reflects the importance DOD places on its top procurement priority. Months after U.S. Transportation Command began shipping massive numbers of MRAPs by ship to ports in the Middle East, sealift has yet to surpass airlift as the primary means of delivery. At the end of March, more than 1,700 MRAPs had been delivered overseas from the United States by large container ship — but nearly 2,300 had been delivered by Air Force C-5 and […]

Iraq 2012

If you’re interested in what a non-alarmist view of American withdrawal from Iraq might look like, click through and read Dr. F. Gregory Gause’s testimony (.pdf) from last Thursday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled, “Iraq 2012: What Can It Look Like, How Do We Get There?” Gause, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont, offered his analysis as part of the committee’s lineup of hearings meant to put next week’s Petraeus/Crocker appearances into a broader strategic context. While he acknowledged that withdrawal would result in Iraqi violence, both sectarian and factional, he argued that even […]

Army Readiness and Iraq Strategy

To follow up on yesterday’s post about fighting Shinseki’s war with Rumsfeld’s Army, here’s Army vice chief of staff General Richard Cody on the Surge’s impact on the Army’s state of readiness (via Jason Sigger at Armchair Generalist): When the five-brigade surge went in . . . that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army. In his Congressional testimony (.pdf), Cody also underlined something that I’ve flagged before but that I don’t think has gotten enough mention in the mainstream press: While our Reserve Component (RC) are performing magnificently, many RC units have […]

The Pre-Petraeus Reports

Thanks to Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark for flagging the Senate Foreign Relations Committee web page, which has surrounded next week’s Ryan Crocker/David Petraeus testimony with hearings on the military situation in Iraq, the political situation, some longterm goals (2012) and how we might reach them, as well as the question of negotiating a longterm relationship with Iraq once we draw down our forces. Marc has got some excerpts from Gen. William Odom, Nir Rosen, and Gen. Barry McCaffery, all of whom paint a pretty gloomy strategic context for Petraeus’ report, but there are also some more optimistic views (Stephen […]

Something radical has begun in Iraq, but it has flown under the radar of the media and the public. For the first time since 1970, the U.S. Army is court-martialing a civilian; and not an American civilian, but a Canadian civilian. Charged with aggravated assault for attacking another contractor during an altercation, this civilian contractor now faces trial by a military court, with a jury, judge and defense counsel all in uniform, without the benefit of indictment by grand jury, and with a potential federal criminal conviction awaiting him at the end of the process. To understand why this is […]

Shinseki’s Army

“Beware the twelve-division strategy for a ten-division Army.” The man who spoke those words is probably the only person in America who actually suffered for being right on the Iraq War from the very start: Gen. Eric Shinseki. It’s worth remembering Shinseki’s maxim, especially in any attempt to re-vision American foreign policy in the post-Iraq War era. Because eventually we’ll leave Iraq, but unless we address the temptations that led us to invade that country in the first place, we’re likely to give in to them again. According to Dissent magazine’s tribute to Gen. Shinseki, the dispute between him and […]

Was Basra Failure Due to Maliki’s Poor Planning?

The result in Basra clearly did not reflect well on the Iraqi Security Forces. But American officials and other prominent advocates of the idea that victory is within reach — or at least possible — in Iraq are saying in the wake of the Basra fighting that the Iraqi Security Forces’ poor performance was more a consequence of the poor planning of ISF commanders and Iraqi government officials — all the way up to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — than of ground-level combat unreadiness. In an essay title “Maliki’s Missteps” on the Web site of the neoconservative journal Commentary today, […]

Iran and Basra

Here’s another take on last week’s Basra fighting, this time from Asia Times Online’s M K Bhadrakumar, who intelligently identifies the overlapping templates of what was at stake in the fighting: Iraq’s future as a unitary state; the parameters of acceptable federalism, if any; attitude towards the US; control of oil wealth; overvaulting political ambitions. . . In other words, not just a sectarian battle, but a complex matrix of conflict. That notwithstanding, Bhadramakur ultimately paints Maliki’s offensive as a U.S.-backed power move to secure Basra’s oil wealth. Take away the edge of glee Bhadrakumar betrays at the setback it […]

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