Old Blue’s pithy comments about media coverage of the Battle of Wanat over at The Belmont Club are worthy of wider dissemination.
First of all, anyone who views Iraq and Afghanistan as two separate wars is so far off point as to be immediately discredited in any further discussion. I have an Afghanistan Campaign Medal and a Global War on Terror Service Medal. Those who serve in Iraq have an Iraq Campaign Medal and a Global War on Terror Service Medal. Two campaigns; one war.
Many who have not qualified for a campaign medal still have the GWOT medal. One war. Why do we not grasp this?
Secondly, do not be so quick to declare victory and let’s all leave Iraq. The nature of insurgents is that they don’t hang around where you are. The tactics employed in the surge were sound counterinsurgency tactics, including “be a little of everywhere.” In order to leave, the local government must be strong enough to handle what amounts to criminal activity on its own.
Galula’s primer on counterinsurgency warfare described the effect of going into an area in force as stepping into a puddle. The water (insurgents) splashes out, but when the foot is removed, it rushes back in to fill the void. The other work of establishing the governmental functions, such as the police, seems to be going well; but if we leave too soon, we will find ourselves in another surge or leaving a huge mess to destabilize the entire region. Don’t leave a void for the water to rush back into. Simple idea, complicated but not impossible in practice. So difficult, not even all generals can get it right.
Don’t be so quick to criticize; this shit is HARD to do right.
Lastly, I’ve looked back over the last discussion (including mine) on this subject. We all pontificated, based on what was reported in the media, about an engagement vastly different from the one that actually occurred. Personally, I’m embarrassed that I did not heed my own counsel and wait for the real picture to emerge. I should have known better, because I’ve been involved in both tactical situations.
I also know better than to go along with thinking that an outgoing unit would begin the establishment of a COP, Firebase, or FOB in the middle of a RIP/TOA. The incoming unit would make those kinds of decisions, because the establishment of a permanent site is not taken lightly. It’s a huge IO coup if the next unit in can’t support it and it is left to the enemy.
A year or so ago there were Taliban pictures released of them “overrunning” an abandoned FOB in the 205th Corps area.
I lived for a month out of hasty VPB’s in the Tag Ab Valley. We had two American gun trucks, a couple of ANA armored personnel carriers (side note: seeing a BMP-1 next to an M-113 in the same livery is just plain weird to an old cold warrior like me,) and a bunch of ANA and ANP LTV’s (four door Ford Ranger diesels with pintle mounts for machine guns above and behind the cab.) Being attacked en mass was our worst nightmare.
We were also there when they started to build what is now Firebase Kutschbach by Tag Ab Village. It started as a VPB and grew quickly into a full-fledged firebase.
Those young men from the 173rd lived our nightmare scenario. Afghanistan is like a box of chocolates; you just never know. Those young men occupied a VPB in bad guy country and the nightmare happened. My heart goes out to them in complete empathy, and I am awestruck by their actions in the midst of that nightmare.
The “incompetent” Lieutenant died reinforcing his OP, leaving the larger perimeter to go to where his men were in the most peril. I believe that incompetent little bastard may just have qualified himself for a Silver Star or possibly The Medal. A week ago today he was declared an idiot, though, based on a map recon and an opinion.
This is just one clear example of how f-’ed up our press is in the coverage of this war. They don’t know what they are talking about because they have not bothered to become subject matter experts on what the hell they are talking about. They bandy about words that mean something, like COP or FOB, without using them in the proper context. It is to the point that a guy who was THERE not long ago can’t get a clear picture of what happened. How can an American citizen, whose job is not to become an expert in the lexicon of war, possibly understand the situation? How can an American citizen, OUR center of gravity, support what is nebulous and so poorly reported that he/she cannot make any reasonable sense of it?
One clear example in so many fuzzy ones that they can never be counted. When I was boots on the ground, we knew. We saw the myriad of inaccuracies. Little things. A million holes in a blanket make it a net; not good for keeping you warm, but it might keep the flies out if you cover the window with it.
Lots of little examples. Do you remember the helicopter that made an emergency landing in Parwan Province last year with two senators on board? The ground force that reached them and brought them in was reported to be the DSTB, 82nd Airborne. What was not reported was that it was Co B, 1-158 Infantry, Arizona and Hawaii National Guard who were attached to the DSTB. Small fact, but just another little hole in the blanket-become-mosquito net.
When I talk about IO, IO is not just aimed at the enemy; it is also for the benefit of the people back here upon whose support we soldiers depend. Nobody believes the Army when it says something… or when it is silent out of respect for the process of notification of loved ones. So we depend on our media to have the sense that God gave a rabbit and not do a half-assed job of reporting it.
Our IO is so poor, and OUR press such a non-help in making sense of all of this that we have mis-educated the public to the point that one our PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES doesn’t understand about the idea that it’s ONE WAR on terror. How can anyone solve a problem that they don’t see clearly? How can a public support a war that they can’t see clearly?
Whose job is it to help them understand?
I feel like an idiot for having bought into this one. The AP sucks, the NYT is practically criminal, and while people have somehow found it in themselves to “support the troops but not support the war,” a lot of us troops are fed up with not having what we sacrifice to do truly understood.
You want to see a pissed-off soldier? Go ahead and let everything that we have worked for, sweated for, and bled for go for naught because it has become “fashionable” to “support the troops” by bringing them home before the job is done. Hey; it sucks to be there. You know what would suck worse? Having it be for nothing. You asked us to do a job. After 9/11 everyone had veins in their teeth and a taste for blood. Now that taste has turned to shit because the American public cannot make any sense of the crap that they are fed every day, but they are still asked to form an opinion.
Garbage in, garbage out.
Pyhrric victory, my ass; and COL Preysler is right; they won.
Those guys don’t need to be compared to John Wayne. They have built their own legend. John Wayne would have happily taken a check to play one of those guys in a movie.
We all need to take a look at ourselves. Myself included.
Jul 21, 2008 – 7:39 am
Bolding added by me. See also On the Pakistani border, comments at Jul 14, 2008 – 9:36 am, Jul 14, 2008 – 12:41 pm, Jul 14, 2008 – 6:00 pm, Jul 15, 2008 – 6:38 am, Jul 15, 2008 – 1:23 pm, and Jul 15, 2008 – 3:14 pm.