The Diplomatic Surge We Need

So it appears the military Surge is working. We also need a diplomatic “Surge.” In particular, the U.S. government should intensively pursue the following goals with respect to Iraq.

  • an emphasis on victory as a fait accompli. With respect to our primary enemies — supporters of al Qaeda and supporters of al Baath — the only question left is the nature and extent of their obliteration. With respect to our primary clients — al Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Kurdish Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — the only question left is the nature and extent of their triumph.
  • an emphasis on The 2K Solution. The war leaves us with two stable and friendly allies who enthusiastically wish us to remain and do not require counter-insurgency operations: Kuwait and Kurdistan. The American military presence should be accompanied by an increased American economic presence, focusing on the role of Kurdistan and Kuwait as developmental hubs for the region.
  • an emphasis on Iran. Like cancer, the Iraqi Baath Party and the Islamist Qaeda Movement are blight on everyone’s house. Now that the first disease has been cured and the second seemingly quarantined, enemies (Iran) as well as clients (Saudi Arabia) and friends (Israel) all benefit. A favorable regional balance of power can be sustained through military arms and materiel sells at favorable rates. American troops in Iraq are not needed. Similarly, the ruling parties of Iraq are naturally grateful to Iran for years of underground support. Iran’s help should be embraced.
  • an emphasis on feedback. The reality of the deed — the overthrow of one of the most prominent Sunni Arab states and its replacement by a Shia Arab regime — is matched by the propaganda of the deed — that partisans of Ali now control the ancient seat of the Caliphate that murdered their Imams. In every way, the greatness of the deed and the thunderousness of the propaganda should be emphasized. To the extent possible, both should be used to destabilize the broader Sunni Arab world.

I was skeptical of the Surge, but if our military progress is matched by an equal effort on the diplomatic effort, it will have been worth it.

9 thoughts on “The Diplomatic Surge We Need”

  1. Well my post keeps getting dropped….the blog loops back to the front page…though my test made it.

    Let me try this in chunks:

    A very good post!

    The US has become not-so-good as using all its elements of power. There are couple of reason for this:

    1) The armed forces are strong and competent and can get things done. So its gets the call again and again.

    2) State Department's efforts seem weak, not-so-competenet and often at cross purposes to executive goals.

    3) US soft cultural power and economic power are strong but not readily focus-able by the feds, so they tend to discount its short-term worth (correctly) and its long-term worth (in-correctly).

    4) The US has very weak Information Warfare (aka Political Warfare) capability.

    5) A non-trivial portion of the media, national elites, and the population in general don't actually want victory.

    6) The US is pretty bad at focusing on long-term goals.

  2. “American troops in Iraq are not needed.”

    While I am not sure of this, their role can change. Perhaps, in 2Ks training facilities of some sorts can be developed. I am thinking it would be a good idea to have these sort of things for the Iraqi (run by the US and/or NATO): An NCO School, A counter-insurgency School, a human intelligence school, a military police school, something like the NYC for Iraqi's but at the company level. A joint US/NATO/Iraqi/Kuwaiti Intel center might be interesting too.

    What is true, is that one way or another the US is not going to be in Iraq long-term. It would be best to get out in a favourable way, then to appear to be turning tail and running.

    As far as “an emphasis on victory as a fait accompli” and “the greatness of the deed and the thunderousness of the propaganda should be emphasized” the US is really bad at this sort of thing. The US needs to drastically build this capability. I am not sure we can pull this off in the short term. Perhaps this could be outsourced to our allies. We pay – and they do it with us in junior roles. Maybe the UN could be co-opted for this.

    “an emphasis on Iran”.

    The US needs to take advantage of this and begin engagement of Iran. We need a “Nixon goes to China moment”. Perhaps Ambassadors Jeb Bush and Zinni should begin prepping. If Iran is truly western-friendly at the bottom with competing networks of mullahs with their revolutionary guards at the top now is the time to go for it at all levels. The US should reward positive behavior of actors and punish bad behavior of actors.

  3. Purpleslog,

    Thanks for the troika of comments!

    “6) The US is pretty bad at focusing on long-term goals.”

    That's why wise leaders don't make their nations focus at all [1,2]!

    “While I am not sure of this, their role can change”

    Quite right. Demanding all American troops leave the geographical region known as Iraq is defeatist in the worst sense. Kurdistan is an obvious location for permanent bases, while Special Ops will probably operate openly in Anbar and quietly in the rest of Iraq.

    Still, daily patrols of Basra is symptomatic of everything we are doing wrong.

    “As far as “an emphasis on victory as a fait accompli” and “the greatness of the deed and the thunderousness of the propaganda should be emphasized” the US is really bad at this sort of thing.”

    What I meant is a recognition and proclamation that we already won. We are left with a two-bnit bargaining game as a classic regional balance of power situation, with regards to Iran.

    The enemies we went into Iraq to kill, the Baathists, and those that came to attack us, the Qaedists, either are dead or will be soon. Indeed, our presense is all that sustains them. The only reason that they can eat dinner in view of their enemies is that we protect them.

    “If Iran is truly western-friendly at the bottom with competing networks of mullahs with their revolutionary guards at the top now is the time to go for it at all levels.”



  4. I would add a more tactical goal: “Where we leave troops behind, be sure they're properly trained and equipped- in all senses of the words- for the jobs they're left behind to do.”
    If they're left behind as a tripwire in case Iran gets ambitious, make sure they can survive and fight autonomously until help arrives.
    If they're left behind to keep groups like the PUK from destroying Kurdistan's relations with its neighbors, they need the Kurd government's permission to do what needs done.
    If they're still conducting operations against Al Qaeda, they need intelligence sources independent of the Iraqi government; being used as a cat's paw against non-Qaeda Sunni Arabs would be a bad thing.

  5. Actually, I would see the tactical goals as necessary building blocks of your goals. You're not wanting troops in Kurdistan and Kuwait to pick their noses all day; you're wanting them there to help those areas grow. How do they do so?

    Protecting them from outsiders. In the case of Iran, that means giving the Ayatollahs visible proof of our willingness to do so; if combined with sincere attempts to work with them towards mutual objectives, your third goal is also worked toward. In the case of Turkey, that means dealing with Kurdish groups who would threaten the peace between Turkey and Kurdistan.

    Addressing outside instabilities. IF our help is still needed with parts of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, we should lend it. Failing to do so helps to worsen an already chaotic situation that could easily spill over the K's borders; it also threatens your first goal directly. Care in ensuring that we're REALLY attacking Al-Qaeda and not some other faction is not only efficient, it addresses a real risk with your fourth goal; that the instability of the Sunni Arabs could threaten the K's. This threat could be indirect (fomenting rising internal instability, especially in partly-Sunni Kuwait) or combine with your third goal to for a direct threat (the K's getting caught in the middle of a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran).

    My overall goal- properly equipping and training the soldiers for their tasks- stems from the recognition that there's a SOUTH PARK-sized devil or two lurking in the details.

  6. Another thing I thought of while writing that last response. The K's (Kurdistan and Kuwait) aren't the only potential hubs. Jordan's a long-time ally who's somehow managed to retain a comparatively moderate government in spite of its position between Syria, Israel and Saudi. The UAE- Dubai in particular- is becoming a regional commercial hub. Oil-poor Oman has been quietly modernizing over the past few years, Bahrain and Qatar are gas-rich and religiously split. Each country offers advantages to us, and to its neighbors. Each also has its own share of problems to deal with, military and otherwise.

    This suggests another tactical goal: “Recognize the differences between different hubs and plan accordingly”. In most of these cases, American soldiers and marines may be less important than Navy and Air Force. In some cases, American diplomats and businessmen may be more important still.

  7. Michael,

    Kurdistan and Kuwait are both able to handle the military aspects of their own systems administration quite well. American troops are needed mainly to project force into the theatre, as opposed to intensive nation building.

    Your point on different hubs is correct. Likewise, the Sunni Arab culture along the Persian gulf appears to be qualitatively different than that of Arabia and westward.

    If the term has any meaning, then the Sunni Arabs of Anbar and adjacent provinces form an enemy population and should be dealt with accordingly.

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