COUNTERINSURGENCY….The LA Times reports that the Pentagon is under mounting criticism for its inability to counter the Iraqi insurgency:

“We’re going to have the same cast of characters in Washington and the same commander [Abizaid] in the field,” said Andrew Krepinevich of the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, an expert on counterinsurgency warfare. “What gives you a sense of confidence we’re going to become a lot more competent at something we haven’t shown a great deal of competence at doing for a year?”

….Military experts point out that a counterinsurgency is the most difficult type of war to wage. With the exception of the successful British effort in Malaya in the 1950s, history is littered with examples of unsuccessful counterinsurgency strategies carried out by great powers. As the French learned in Algeria in the 1950s, the United States in Vietnam a decade later and the British in Northern Ireland, the most difficult part of any such operation is to separate the insurgents from the civilians from whom they draw strength. This, some top Pentagon officials say, has been one of the U.S. military’s difficulties in Iraq.

I’ve read over and over from military analysts of various sorts that we could have won in Vietnam. The basic principles of counterinsurgency are well known, they say, and we were beginning to apply them successfully when Nixon made the decision to pull out. If he had stayed the course, we could have won.

Maybe. But if those principles are so well known, why do we never seem to learn them? Instead, three decades after Vietnam, I keep reading stuff like this:

U.S. jets dropped six bombs Monday on a residence believed to be a safehouse used by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the U.S. military said. At least 10 people and possibly as many as 15 were killed, witnesses and doctors said.

Four 500-pound bombs and two 1,000-pound bombs were dropped in an operation designed to underscore the resolve of coalition and Iraqi forces….

This just scares the shit out of me. My greatest fear in Iraq is that it turns into the West Bank writ large, an endless, slow motion slaughter that demonstrates undoubted resolve but sucks the soul out of both sides in the process.

The West Bank and Gaza have been among the least successful counterinsurgencies ever, but our tactics in places like Fallujah and Sadr City sound more like West Bank tactics every day. I sure hope there’s more ? a lot more ? than meets the eye here.

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