Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iraq = Gallipoli?

CDR Salamander has a thought-provoking post up discussing grand strategy in the Global War On Terror; I recommend it highly. I recently finished one of the books he mentioned -- Cobra II. While the book tends to focus on what went wrong with Iraq rather than what went right (which, to be honest, is the submariner way of doing things -- anyone who's ever been to a drill debrief can tell you that), I think that it is probably the most accurate of any book I've read in detailing the problems that went into pre-war decision making and planning (based on what I saw when I was a CENTCOM staff weenie). Basically, the idea was good, the people executing the plan did the best they could, but the plan, in hindsight, just didn't work.

This reminds me of another campaign of the last century -- Gallipoli. This campaign gets a bad rap from history, but in actuality it came pretty close to being a great success that could have shortened the war; in addition, an unforeseen benefit was the subsequent liberalization of Turkey under Ataturk. The Gallipoli campaign was born from an Allied desire to look for a better way to break the deadlock on the Western Front that sending men against prepared German positions. Had the invasion been better planned, the Allies could have knocked the Ottoman Empire out of the war fairly easily, freeing up Russian troops to attack the Germans and Austrians, which would have forced the Germans to pull troops out of the Western Front. As it was, the initial invasion wasn't strong enough to destroy the Ottoman resistance, which allowed the Turks time to find a way to fight the Allies on roughly equal terms; for the rest of the campaign, the Allies basically threw brave soldiers into the fray without a real hope of making a strategic difference in the war. Eventually, they realized they needed to pull out and look for another place to fight the war from -- this re-deployment required skill, though, and wouldn't have worked had it been done haphazardly.

Is Iraq the Gallipoli of the GWOT? I don't know. While I'm convinced that we just can't pull out -- or set ourselves up with a "deadline" to withdraw, which will lead to increased attacks against our forces so the terrorists will be able to claim that they "forced" us out -- I'm starting to think that we need to start looking beyond Iraq, and maybe find a better place for our forces to fight the war. CDR Salamander makes a good case about the dangers of the Balkanization of Iraq, but I'm starting to think that might be our best of several bad options. In Gallipoli, the Allied forces lacked the physical ability to overcome their opponents. In Iraq, we as a society lack the moral mindset to allow our troops to do what they need to do to "win" militarily -- I think it's a good thing we're not there yet. We can still win this war without using the tactics of our enemies. A partitioned Iraq won't be the "shining beacon" of democracy we might have hoped for when we went in, but at this point I don't think it turn into that no matter what we do. Sometimes, in a long war, the smart move is to end one unprofitable battle and get ready for the next one.

This doesn't mean that the brave men and women who were lost in that battle gave their lives for nothing; it means that we're doing our best to win the war as a whole, to honor their sacrifice. In WWI, the final victories were won in the easternmost portions of France, where the Allies really hadn't expended much offensive effort after 1914 -- (Verdun was defensive). In the GWOT, the climatic battle may be well be in some other country, or it may be an economic victory, or even us just standing aside and watching our enemies implode. No matter how it happens, though, our inevitable victory will justify the efforts of our dedicated men and women in Iraq. Then, we can hope that some future leader of whatever Iraq becomes will be able to echo the words of Ataturk to veterans from Britain, Australian and New Zealand in 1934, at Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives...
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well


Blogger reddog said...

We won the war in Iraq militarily, in record time, with almost no casualties. What we're having problems with is, technically, the occupation of Iraq.

What is it that our troops could do over there if we had the "moral mindset"?

Khamal Ataturk is one of the most dynamic figures of the 20th century. he is single handedly responsible for dragging Turkey, against it's will, into the modern world. He was also a genocidal maniac that makes Saddam look like a prankish school boy. The only guy I can think of that beats him is Pol Pot. Maybe Idi Amin.

Why didn't we invade Saudi? They're the ones funding the Mullahs, Al-Quaeda, and I believe, Hezbollah , using Iran as a front. The war on terror benefits the Saudis in three ways. It raises the price of oil. It keeps the Sunni world from invading them. It keeps the US chasing it's tail. All good for them.

8/22/2006 5:49 AM

Blogger CDR Salamander said...

I'm not with you on this, but it is a fair and clear headed perspective. Worth chewing on some more.

8/22/2006 6:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grand strategy is not my forte, but I do have friends in the Green Zone and they are pretty unanimous in this: the partition of Iraq is not something that may happen, or even should happen. It has happened. Region by region, city by city, even neighborhood by neighborhood. Our imposition of some mythical "national authority" just hands the asylum keys to the inmates and provides a target-rich environment for their inevitable enemies.
The Kurds have organized things this way already (except for their integration into the national electricity grid...they went from 24-hour power under their own control to six hours of brownouts under "national" control),
If we want to really put the fear of God into them, convene a national Congress for Partition. See how the Shia deal with losing the capital. See how the Sunnis deal with being left out of the petroleum cakewalk. See the Kurds laugh all the way to a seat at the UN.

8/22/2006 7:33 AM

Blogger Alan said...

What do you think our troops need to do to win militarily? What mindset does the country need?

I think our only feasible military option is to send in lots more troops, impose security, scrub the country of weapons, then leave. Our natioal mindset would support this, but the administration could not do this and survive politically.

To beat an inugency we'd need either to impose rigid control with the help of locals, i.e., pick a winner and put them inpower, or to win over the locals by reconstructing the country. Unfortunately, the latter will be very slow and very costly, since the insurgency blows up most of what we build.

8/22/2006 8:35 AM

Blogger reddog said...

Scrub the country of weapons.

The average Iraqi has more automatic weapons than an infantry platoon. These guys love guns!

How's this for strategy. "Give a man fire and he'll be warm for the night. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life"

I think Khamal Ataturk said that. No more Mr Nice Guy

8/22/2006 8:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm starting to think that we need to start looking beyond Iraq, and maybe find a better place for our forces to fight the war."

BH, now is not the time to go soft or forget what you learned in the silent service (the public need not know everything the military does, plans or attempted, because that is too much information for our enemies).

I am aware of a SEAL team that did not officially exist contradicting a major drug operation at sea. Has the public ever heard of this? No. Was it a good thing? Yes.

What makes you think that Iraq is the only place the GWOT is currently being waged or planned? Are you privy to what Bush gets whispered after Daily Intelligence Briefings? I dare say, if I am not, you, too, are not.

8/22/2006 7:15 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

reddog: I'm thinking that the only way we could end up with a peaceful, intact Iraq at this point is to establish a normal Arab government, with all the bad things this entails -- and to do that, we'd have to be at least aware, if not complicit, in the establishment of the not-very-nice things that go into keeping domestic opposition in line. That's what I don't think we have the political stomach to do.

8/23/2006 12:07 AM

Blogger Skippy-san said...

James Fallows wrote a great article in the Atlantic Magazine. Which is why fight the war at all?

He is not saying not to oppose terrorism, rather its to get back to opposing it through a concerted foreign policy backed up by a deterrent force.

The War on Terror rhetoric creates a sense of an end to the war. If we treated like the crime it is, then we would be better prepared to ralize that the war never ends, crime is with us always. However we can and have reduced crime.

8/24/2006 7:44 AM

Blogger Skippy-san said...

There is another option too. I refer to it as the Dresden option. Basically level Iraqi cities and make it clear that if 1 American dies, 20,000 Iraqis do too. Either go in full bore or don't go in at all.

And at this point, levelling Baghdad would be an improvement.

8/24/2006 7:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry, but the "Dresen Option", as you so colorfully describe it, is just what we have Saddam on trial for - mass murder.

8/24/2006 1:08 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home