As I write this on 8/6/07, there have been numerous reports of significant progress in the Iraq war. Most notably, John Burns of the chronically anti-war New York Times, said that the surge was making a positive difference.

I’m glad to hear it.

I cannot come up with specific tactics and strategy for the military commanders on the ground there, but what I would suggest in a general sense if they asked would be this.

Brass opposed the surge
In typical fashion remiscent of such wars as the Civil War and the Vietnam war, the president had better instincts than the generals. According to the 2/11/08 Time magazine (page 29), the chiefs of staff of the various armed forces all opposed the surge.

Tipping point
When there is a possible tipping point in war or in football, which I coached for 15 seasons, you should try to pour it on. An example would be the unexpected capture of the Remagen Bridge across the Rhine River in World War II. The Allies expected that the Germans would destroy all the bridges across the Rhine, which was generally the border between France and Germany. They tried to. But they failed on the Remagen Bridge.

When the Allied generals learned of this, they instantly sent as many forces as possible to Remagen and across that bridge as fast as they could. They also rapidly sent additional anti-aircraft defense weapons and crews to protect the bridge.

In a football game against California High School in 2004, my team was in a 0-0 tie for most of the game. But we kept charts of the success or lack thereof of our plays. We were in a whole-game, maximum slowdown that day because we were three- or four-touchdown underdogs and trying to keep the game close. The slowdown delayed a pattern emerging in our charts.

In the second half, we noticed on the charts that although our drop-back and play-action passing plays and our wide running plays were not working, running inside was. So we immediately poured it on inside running traps, draws, and lead plays one after another and won the game 22-0.

Not just geographical
The recent successes in Iraq are not totally geographical like Remagen or running inside football plays, but they are partially geographical and the principle applies to all dimensions, not just the geographical one.

‘More like this’
Another analogy is the phrase “more like this” that appears in Internet search engine results. Search engine results are typically a mix of sites that are relevant to your search and others that are totally unrelated. By clicking “more like this” next to one of the relevant search results, you get 100% relevant results the next time the browser window changes.

I applied that same principle to play calling in football. In almost every game, something would be working. Once our game play-results charts identified the type of play or point of attack that was working, we would start calling more of that type or location of play. This applied throughout the season as we learned what our team strengths and weaknesses were from successive games.

I do the same in my business—trying different things. Finding some that work and others that don’t, and doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. That may sound obvious, but nothing is obvious to bureaucrats like the people who run the government and the military. To them it’s all about protecting their position of power. For once, they need to think about winning the war. A few people in the military and the government do seem to have thought about that recently as evidenced by the recent successes.

Unexpected alliance
Speaking of the unexpected (Remagen bridge), our new alliances with the Sunnis seem to be working. Reportedly, they have turned against Al Qaeda and are working effectively with us to get rid of Al Qaeda. The Shiites, however, whom we thought were going to be our buddies because we liberated them from the Sunni-dominated Saddam Hussein repression, seem to be utterly self-centered and hate everything non-Shiite including us. Maybe that’s why the original Western occupiers of Iraq, the British, decided to put the Sunnis in power: the Shia were too nutty and unreliable.

So be it. The Kurds are with us and now many of the Sunnis are. The Shiites want all or nothing—a Shiite warlord equivalent of the Saddam Hussein regime. Their goals and methods are incompatible with a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic Iraq. Obviously, we should not reinstall the Baathists as dictators, but if the Sunnis will behave themselves in ways that are compatible with a peaceful, pluralistic democracy and help us put down the criminal Shiite warlords like Muqtada Al Sadr, we should form that alliance and get it done.

Iran is pouring it on
Iran seems to be following the pour-it-on principle I am advocating in this article. They see that we have had success recently. They do not want that. They want their fellow Shiites to take over Iraq.

They are reacting like the Germans did when they realized the Remagen Bridge had not been blown—committing massive resources to causing as many deaths as possible among U.S. personnel and Sunnis.

Iran and Al Qaeda also sense a tipping point from their perspective. That is, they think they are close to winning if they can keep getting aid and comfort from Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, et al, and keep pushing American public opinion against the war. Their “more like this” is causing casualties which U.S. media organizations that oppose the war use to build opposition to the war and which liberal bloggers use for the same purpose.

Near where I live, there is a mock cemetery in Lafayette on a hill next to the California Highway 24 freeway. Every time an American military person dies in Iraq, they add a white cross and change the count on a sign. The Iranians, Al Qaeda, and the Democrats love that cemetery and that count and see it going as high as possible as fast as possible as their way to victory. They are also very mindful of the upcoming September report to Congress and the American people by the military and the Administration and see it as perhaps the decisive moment in the war. Accordingly, they have placed a higher priority and increased urgency on killing Americans. They cannot win on the battlefield. They want to win the war instead in America’s news media and behind-closed-doors Democratic Party political meetings, like the North Vietnamese did 35 years ago.

There is a scene in the movie Patton where General George Patton is directing military truck and tank traffic and pumping his fist up and down—the military hand signal for speed up—and yelling “Go! Go!” or some such. It is when his Third Army has found a weak spot and he is trying to exploit it as fast as possible.

I am not sure what “this” is when I say we need “more like this.” It is whatever the change was that has caused the recent progress.

Protection racket
One possible cloud in the reports of progress may be how we are doing it. In some media stories and reading between the lines, I get the impression that some or most of our progress may have come from paying protection money to thugs. We seem to be doing that with North Korea also. And some reports in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to indicate that the bad guys will stop killing us and each other if we pay them enough to do so. This is an age-old problem in the Middle East.

The first instance of it was the Barbary Pirates in the 1700s and 1800s. They operated out of places like what is now Libya. They would kidnap merchant vessel crews and steal their ships and cargoes unless the country whose ship was being captured paid “tribute” or bribes or protection money to the dictator of the month. They claimed these actions were authorized by the Koran. They told our ambassador that any Muslim pirate who died committing piracy would go to paradise. Ever heard that crap before? The European countries had been paying for years. When the United States became a country, we initally paid the bribes, then balked. One political slogan of the time was, “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.”

We finally beefed up our Navy and Marines and sent them over there to kick some ass if I may borrow the phrase Hugh Laurie used in a British parody of U.S. foreign policy. The phrase, “to the shores of Tripoli” in the U.S. Marines hymn refers to that action. The European nations were impressed that the U. S., which at the time was a third-rate naval power, could succeed against the pirates, so they followed our example and that generally put an end to the nonsense. I note that the western powers of the time had no qualms about killing the civilians in the Barbary Coast nations when they were killing the pirates themselves. For example, the various western navies bombarded the coastal cities of the Barbary Coast to punish them for piracy. And it worked. At some point, the populations of those countries decided the benefits of piracy, including going to paradise, were not worth it, and told their pirates to find another way to make a living.

But the protection racket aspect of what’s currently going on in Iraq and Afghanistan sounds like we learned nothing in the last 200 years. The Democrats’ policy appears to be, “Billions for tribute but not one cent for defense.” Morality aside, I suspect defense is cheaper than paying protection money or blackmail or whatever you want ot call it.

Fareed Zakaria’s column

The 11/12/07 Newsweek has a column by Fareed Zakaria. It says

Petraeus’ new strategy is working though not exactly for the reasons initially advertised.

According to Zakaria, it’s not the surge or the tactics described in Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Manual. More troops did result in better security. That’s sort of by definition.

Our official position has been that we are neutral between the shiites and sunnis. But that violates the rules of getting involved in a civil war:

1. Don’t.
2. Pick a side.
3. Make sure your side wins.

Originally, we violated all three. Recently however, Petraeus discovered that he could ally with the Sunnis—in spite of the fact that they were Saddam Hussein’s people. They appear to be pragmatic. Probably that’s why the French and British put them in charge in spite of being a minority. The Shiites are just nutty. They’d rather fight than get along.

Once the Shiites realized we had allied ourselves with the Sunnis, they realized they would be toast if they continued their murdering ways. With the Sunnis’ local knowledge combined with the U.S.’s firepower, the Shiites would have no chance. In the Shiite South Shiite-on-Shiite civil war, we also picked a side: the militias who are against Bani Sadr.

When the Iraq war was about to start, I warned that the military leaders needed to avoid preconceived doctrine and just play it by ear. That waas the winning formula in all our war victories. Petraeus did not do that in his Counterinsurgency Manual. But he appears to have finally done it on the ground.

Patrick Cockburn’s article saying that things are better, but still horrible, in Iraq

May have to defeat Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to defeat Al Qaeda and the Mahdi army
The Democrats—who are more interested in victory in Washington than in Iraq—indeed who feel they need defeat in Iraq in order to achieve power in Washington—need to decide which they prefer: an American victory in Iraq or a partisan one in Washington. I think we know the answer. Then the question only is whether they think they can get away with increasing the nation’s chances of failure in Iraq for their selfish reasons without the American people figuring it out.

I am not a Republican. I come closest to the Libertarian party. I think the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq probably was not wise and their handling of the war since the invasion has been lousy. But there appears to be an opportunity now in Iraq to win. If so, it must be exploited promptly and ferociously before the enemies—Al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, and the Democrats—get a chance to adjust effectively to the new tactics and strategy of the American and Iraqi military.

Go! Go! Go!

John T. Reed