"Hopefully this Buck won't stopone of the best damn MilBloggers to ever knock sand from his boots." -- The Mudville Gazette



Staring contest: go! SFC Pickerel meets his match.
photo by Buck Sargent

War is not the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.
-G.K. Chesterton

To the apparent chagrin of the new Congressional majority, President Bush has announced that we're moving forward with a renewed commitment in Iraq. So what does this mean precisely?

Some units already in country will have their tours extended, others will have their deployment schedule ramped up... been there, done that, got the ironically premature t-shirt. Okay, so it's not exactly pleasant for those affected, but in the end what it really constitutes is more of a Pentagon paper shuffle than an "escalation." Very few troops not already in Iraq or not already slated to go have been activated.

But haven't we been down this road before? (And I don't mean the editorial "we"). Whatever happened to Operation Together Forward? I'll tell you what happened: it should have been called “Operation Ass Backwards” in that it was a meaningless photo-op assignment from the get-go that lacked the political will necessary to put our additional forces to any good use. I had predicted as much from the start. We were never allowed to do what it is we do best: take the gloves off, seek out the enemy, and destroy him.

Whenever you hear someone state that there is "no military solution in Iraq, only a diplomatic or political one," consider that code for "I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about." There is indeed still a military solution, it simply has never been tried. "Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons," admitted the individual the MSM has dubbed the Man Who Blew Too Much. "There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."

In other words, making like a tree and getting out of there didn't quite work out as well as it must have looked on paper, much less in the papers. It was an exit in search of a strategy rather than the other way around. A quagmire is only a quagmire in so much as you're stuck in the suck and SOL. But Iraq is no hopeless basket case, it simply has a few difficult and seemingly intractable problems that only seem intractable because the country's most notable failures are directly linked to it's most notable successes. Democracy is as democracy does.

Sadr's Mahd Squads are producing Muslim body counts in Baghdad at a rate that would impress Jack Bauer circa Season Four. They stage so many fake checkpoints throughout the capital that residents call driving to work "Iraqi Roulette." But these guys also control a significant voting block in parliament. They're not fighting the government, they are the government. Don't vote or we'll kill you. (But if you do vote, you better vote for us or you're really gonna get it!)

One thing you've got to understand about lower class Iraqis: they love their strongmen. You've heard of Sadr City? Lovely place. Well, it used to be called Saddam City, at least until it's prime benefactor relocated to a deluxe apartment in the ground. Out with the old, in with the bold. Only in this case, the new landlord is reported to be just like the previous one, minus the compassion. You know how it is with a copy of a copy.

Would taking out Sadr himself do any good at this point? Probably not. Like any mafia don, he'd only be replaced with another lieutenant waiting in the wings. The Iraqis government needs to dismantle his organization themselves, not only to prove they have the military might but that they possess the political will to clean their own house.

Where does that leave our own forces? Much has been made about the ever-shifting sands that dictate our ROEs, but it's our own ROPE (Rules of Previous Engagements) that have us really tied down in the desert. We've become so dominant militarily -- so far ahead of the competition technically, tactically, and technologically -- that we now routinely get booed for running up the score. Unfortunately, Islamists don't recognize fair play. But they do recognize cultural squeamishness for what it is: a fundamental weakness to be exploited.
  • Insurgent revolving door justice
  • Mosque armory sanctuaries
  • Politically connected untouchables
  • Failure to identify, protect, and fully develop civilian sources
  • Over-reliance on local sources with their own agendas
This is practically a ready-made recipe for how to blow a counterinsurgency war at the buzzer. But it need not continue down that path. Mistakes have been made, as they have been made in all wars. Yet so long as course-corrections are forthcoming, they must be given time to take hold.

"This will not be a campaign of half measures," stated President Bush at the outset of the invasion, "and we will accept no outcome except victory."

Nearly four hard years later that initial assertion has been proven wrong. But the veracity of the latter is up to all of us now. To fight on is no guarantee of success, but to quit prematurely is a guarantee of failure. The Commander-in-Chief has chosen to press on; whether the new Congress decides to help or hinder depends ultimately on which option you choose.

It's your call. Choose wisely.

I hope the President and Congress get a chance to read this. I don't know what it will take to wake our friendly politicians up but this might.

Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Damn good to see you on. And you're saying what I've heard most guys recently returned from Iraq say - but you've got a hell of a talent for how you say it.

Don't stop.

We've got our orders....now we march. Thanks Buck! Great to have you back in command. Keep it up.

Thanks for coming back to us, I missed your voice.

missed ya big guy.

To fight on is no guarantee of success, but to quit prematurely is a guarantee of failure.

ya. hooah.

Your comments deserve widespread dissemination. I hope these comments reach enough people to have an impact on the way we conduct this war, and to win. Keep up the good work and really enjoy being home.

Great post, everyone should have to read this instead of talking out of their A$$es. Glad to see you back

Excellent post Buck, as usual and right on the money. Over at Blackfive yesterday I read that Gates is delaying the deployment of David Petraeus which is outrageous. We don't have a month to lose.

Hugh Hewitt has a great interview with Tony Snow for those of you who haven't read it here's the link: http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=3cebc08f-de3c-4c12-9135-16c922d27712

On a different topic Buck. Ilove the new look but have you considered using white type on that green backround? It's probably easier on the eyes.

Thanks again.

Great to have you back Buck. I plan to send this to my congresswomen Murray & Cantwell. Probably won't help, but can't hurt.

"have you considered using white type on that green backround? It's probably easier on the eyes."

You know, I hadn't. But now look what you've made me go and do...

If everyone really hates this font color, please let me know. My laptop is a ridiculously tiny Sony VAIO (which took everything Iraq had to throw at it BTW) but it's difficult for me to know sometimes what things are supposed to look like on a normal size screen.

Never give me an excuse to play around more with options. Dangerous, very dangerous.


Ditto to much of what has been said already.

Have you seen the cover of Newsweek this week? I spotted it today. It has a middle eastern child on it (supposedly Iraqi), brandishing a weapon, if I remember it correctly. The writing on the cover asserts that our occupation in Iraq, and all the resulting sectarian violence, is, in effect, creating a new breeding ground for future jihadists.

From what you have been witness to, do you feel that to be the case? Is it broken down by sects--the Sunnis will hate us for taking away their power, the Shiites will hate us for trying to help achieve unity, yada yada yada...

I have not read the article inside, so I may be upset at it for no reason. I just refuse to believe the contention, at least as espoused on the cover, that we are having no positive effect on that country and that we are responsible for all the hatred that will come our way into the future.

Just wondering what your thoughts might be on that subject, as I know it will be an honest assessment.

Glad to have you back, and in top form to boot.

A most excellent post... most excellent, indeed. Love the new digs!


I've learned the hard way not to take anything Newsweek writes (or Time, for that matter) very seriously. I've met one of their foreign correspondents, Michael Hastings, who is a good guy and can be trusted to get things right without too much personal spin. A lot of Newsweek's Iraq coverage will be authored by So and So "with" Michael Hastings et al in Baghdad. In other words, they take his on-the-ground observations and then put their own editorial spin on it from back in NY or DC or wherever.

I saw them do this with his previous stories on my 4-23 battalion last fall. He seemed to getting the real story out of Baghdad for once, and all his editors wanted to cover was how angry all our wives were over the tour extension. It was pretty discouraging, but very eye-opening for myself as to how the MSM -- and especially the uber-obsolete MSM newsmagazines -- really operate, and especially in terms of their wartime coverage.

To make a short point incredibly long, there's no reason not to simply ignore the weekly newsmags. The only people reading them anyway are in dentist office waiting rooms.

The white font is much easier for me to read on the current background...I like the change.

I also noticed all the pictures down the right side, many of which are incredible.

I'm glad you're going to continue with the blogging Buck. Great to have you back!

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"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed." -- Abraham Lincoln