Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Adaptability

You may remember me eulogising an Australian army captain called David Kilcullen, who had done a PhD and written a few articles on counter-insurgency operations. At the time (all of a month ago), the tone of the articles about him was that of a bright young thing mixing it with the big boys. Things have changed.

For one, it seems that he is now a lieutenant-colonel, but more important than the upping of rank is that he about to get what every theoritician desires and fears most: the chance to put his theories to the test. And this is a test that will be marked in human lives. He's been put on the staff of General Petraeus in Baghdad.

Petraeus has gathered about him a lot of bright boys who have been blowing rasberries at the conduct of the Iraq operation for some time. I know nothing of any of them except Kilcullen, but there's one thing about this Surge (that word still makes me snigger) that lifts my despondency. It is the fact the American administration and military are willing and able to look failure in the face and say, 'OK. That didn't work. Let's try what our critics have been saying'. They are displaying the prime quality of the beast that survives: adaptability (though I hope without the evolutionary randomness bit). They are learning from experience and making the appropriate adjustments. It's what closed systems cannot do (vd the Soviet Union) and healthy open systems can.

Update
Bill Roggio on the Surge: "a process, not an event."

General David Patreaus, the new Multinational Forces Iraq commander, recently stated the results of the new Iraq strategy won't be known until the summer at the earliest. The Coalition must be prepared to alter the plan as needed, and remember the enemy always has a voice in war. Sadr, al-Qaeda and other Anti-Iraq Forces will probe for weaknesses, both militarily and politically, and attempt to exploit them. The real failure in Operation Together Forward, the Baghdad security operation in 2006, was a failure in imagination. The U.S. military kept plugging away with the same plan, refusing to alter operations in the face of a concerted enemy campaign that exploited the operation's weaknesses. America and the Iraqi people cannot afford the same mistakes in 2007.
[my emphasis]

2 comments:

Jim in London said...

You've been given the wrong impression about Kilcullen -- he's not a bright young theorist as Packer suggested (maybe for Packer's own purposes, who knows). Actually, Kilcullen was a Captain way back in 1993, later worked his way up as a combat leader with the Aussies, retired as an infantry Colonel several years ago and has been a very senior Counterterrorism advisor to Condi Rice for some time. I think he has some special forces background too. He has also done this for real several times -- Iraq once before, Afghanistan, and several other places. You can check out his writings at www.smallwarsjournal.com. I have met the guy and he is a really serious hombre with a lot of experience.

The same goes for all these Petraeus guys -- amateur hour is definitely over. The real question is why the neocons have finally allowed these guys who opposed the war and always wanted to fight it differently, to be in charge at this late stage. Act of desperation, or attempt to shift the blame onto the professionals? Hmmmm....

NoolaBeulah said...

Thanks for the corrections, Jim. I didn't realise he's already been to Iraq. What came of that?

But you are cynical. Or maybe I'm just naive and incurably optimistic. But power has a way of denting the certainties of ideologues, and I find it difficult to believe that Bush would stick out his neck like this in an attempt to shift the blame. The cause is still the same; it's just that the means have had to adjusted somewhat.