Why was Iraq so hard? Because our Army doesn’t know people. It knows field manuals, it knows regulations. It knows it can’t mess up, or the media’s going to jump all over it.
Cops know people. At least the best ones do. And a police officer can be all things to all people. He can help an old lady across the road, or he can kill an armed and threatening bank robber. He’s trained to be polite and have a plan to kill anyone he meets. He’s professional, courteous–and deadly proficient with his weapon.
The great police officer doesn’t sit at the station waiting for a call. He’s driving through the neighborhoods. He’s shaking peoples hands, reassuring them that he’s on their side. He’s getting a feel for the human terrain, a coalesced amalgam of culture, personality, psychology.
A great cop has instincts, cultivated by a day to day grind on the streets. He senses what he could not know. Talented people are sometimes oddities outside their talent’s fiefdom. Some people just know people. That have a knack. Modern war is a media and perception war, almost as much as it’s a war of truth and destruction.
The Army needs fluidity, creativity, even artistry. It needs programs that not only cultivate these talents, but ones that teach leaders to recognize them.
The last administration failed to know the human aspects of warfare in the post-modern world. It could wage linear war on a scale never before seen, but when our enemies melted away behind curtains of humanity and learned to manipulate our own media in ways the administration did not understand, Iraq fell into civil war. It never had to be that hard. Barack Obama would not be president right now if the war had been properly fought after Saddam’s regime fell only a month into the conflict. Paul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army and prevented former Baathists from taking part in the new government. But the Baathists were the only ones with education, and most of them were former military people. So guess what? We had lots of guys with PHDs and no jobs. However, they knew how to pull a trigger and they could learn to make bombs. They wanted their power and their earnings back, and ensued on attacking Shia Mosques and Coalition convoys, as well as civilian infrastructures, in order to destabilize and discredit our efforts. Mujaheddin swarmed into the country, drawn by the overblown newscasts of American difficulties. Then things got worse.
We should have seen this coming.
Only one man was able to see the forest for the trees. That man General David Patraeus– a warrior and a scholar–US Army Ranger and paratrooper, brought his 101st Screaming Eagles into Nineveh Province in the largest Helicopter-borne assault in history. There they fought door to door, block by block, pushing the insurgents out with bullets and guts. In their wake, they shook the hands of the people who only wanted a regular, peaceful life; to be able to go to school and to work.
The 101st walked the dusty streets, sniper’s bullets at times whizzing by harmlessly, at other times evading a soldier’s body armor and finding a deadly home in a face or neck. But they kept walking and they kept talking.
The Iraqis found hope and trust in those meet and greets. No longer were the Americans absent from the core of the brutality, where the insurgents had moved about so easily, planning at will their next attack, planting bombs anywhere they pleased. The terrorists were being dimed out by the Iraqis. There’s a bomber that lives over there, in that house. There are men who carry guns into the basement of that Mosque every night.
The insurgency crumbled. Al-Qaeda had over reached, and America began winning by showing both strength (killing those who wanted to kill us) and gentle restraint. We thanked Iraqis for letting us search their homes. We turned their power on. We backed our words with action. Truth smashed perception. Now, Al-Qaeda’s beheadings worked against them. Iraqis wanted McDonalds, not Sharia. And the world is better for it, trans-fats non withstanding.
There is a place for the gritty warfighter who only knows marching, MREs and line and column formations. But more and more, there is a place for the oddity. The savant, who like Claudius, everyone doubts because of his apparent weakness, but in the end shows talent.
In this case, Claudius must carry a M-4 carbine, and sport a cop’s instinct for the Human Condition.