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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It’s Asymmetrical, My Dear Watson

by Sean Gonsalves for Cape Cod Times

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You’re familiar with the story about Sherlock Holmes and his camping trip with Watson, right? They set up tent and go for a hike. Exhausted, they return to camp as night falls. First Watson hops in his cot. Holmes gets under his covers and stares up at the cloudless night sky.

“My dear, Watson. Do you see what I see?” “Oh yes, the Milky Way is quite prominent tonight.” “No. Look closer.” “Now, I see it. The Big Dipper...” “No, no. It’s elementary, Watson. Someone stole our tent!”

Since I first started writing about U.S. policy in Iraq 10 years ago, I keep having the someone-stole-our-tent moment over and over again. Have you been reading these stories about how “the surge” seems to be working. The violence in Baghdad seems to be subsiding. Even Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., who just led a delegation to Iraq, said the Bush push to secure Baghdad “appears to be working,” according to the Associated Press. I suppose his words are supposed to carry some weight because the good senator is of Palestinian descent. He’s one of “them.” That kind of stuff works on some folks – like trotting out Colin Powell and Condi every now and then to explain why yet another nation full of backward dark-skinned people need to be bombed – I mean, “liberated” – from barbarism. Not knowing him personally, it’s hard to say why a smart guy like Sununu would say something so foolish without adding a HUGE caveat.

Of course, the violence is subsiding. This is a guerrilla war! Guerrilla War 101: “When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances.” That’s right out of Mao Tse-tung’s classic treatise On Guerrilla Warfare.

“When the invader pierces deep into the heart of the weaker country and occupies her territory in a cruel and oppressive manner, there is no doubt that conditions of terrain, climate, and society in general offer obstacles to his progress and may be used to advantage by those who oppose him. In guerrilla warfare we turn these advantages to the purpose of resisting and defeating the enemy. Guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them; it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and co-operation. There are those who do not comprehend guerrilla action,” Mao wrote way back in 1937.

The good news is: Gen. David Petraeus is now in charge of our forces in Iraq. A few weeks ago the general said something straight out of a Sean Gonsalves column. “Any student of history recognizes that there is no military solution to a problem like (guerrilla insurgencies) in Iraq.” Then, this past Sunday, the AP reported on Petraeus’ new leadership, illustrating what the fear-induced fools in right-wing radio land and the soft-handed talking heads who play tough guys on TV “news” shows can’t seem to get through their history-challenged heads.

Petraeus “has revamped the counterinsurgency strategy, designed to win back not only the turf but public support... . To set the tone, Petraeus has made several high-profile forays into public markets in Baghdad and elsewhere...smiling and greeting bystanders with simple Arabic phrases” – the kind of Arabic phrases that, if someone were to suggest they be taught in American schools, would trigger conservatives to decry the evil influence of political correctness and multiculturalism. This business of treating Iraqis like human beings instead of evil incarnate as fantasized by jingoists here in the States “carries some risk to U.S. troops...but the U.S. command seems prepared to take the chance. The new motto: ‘The more you protect the force, the less secure you really are’.” Gary Brecher, the “War Nerd,” has been trying to teach us real good on this and it took me some time to notice that someone stole our tent, too. It bears repeating. C’mon, say it with me: short of genocide (dropping nukes and turning the Iraqi desert into a sea of glass), there is NO military solution to guerrilla insurgencies.

It’s elementary, really. Actually, it’s asymmetrical.

[This certainly puts the whole “It’s getting better” story into perspective doesn’t it?]


sirkolgate said...


Yeah, we've been ignoring that the tent's been gone for so long that we've run into a bit of a crisis. ('we' being US)

Talk about a sin of hubris. The darling USA is only that in her own eyes. I just wish we had listened to people like Mr. Petraeus when we were busy alienating everyone in the whole friggin’ world.

More importantly Mr. Gonsalves did an excellent job of pointing out the exact nature of this conflict. We are in a guerilla war and we are not going to win that fight unless we have the support of the Iraqi people.

Only time and continuing on paths like this will tell if we can be successful in that endeavor.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I've just tagged you for a Thinking Blog Award. Come check out my post.

The Alpha said...

Oh so true! It's about time we started realizing there is no tent. We've been fighting for such a long time with our eyes closed to a rather obvious fact.

Plonka said...

Very nicely said...:)

Being Australian and having a Prime Minister that has his nose so far up GW's bum that all there is left to see is toes, I reckon I'm step ahead of Holmes. I know who stole our tent and the bugger still wont give it back, despite a 60% disapproval rating...:(

BTW - You'd know me as Ted from Sadie's. I only maintain a Blogger account so I can post on excellent blogs like this one...:)

CyberKitten said...

Welcome back Alpha. I hope you stick around.

Hi Ted/plonka & welcome. Thanks for your kind comment.

One of the (many) things that concerns me about the fiasco that is Iraq is that the US Government in particular are using the same old tactics to get us involved in a war with Iran - and that some (though thankfully less) people are buying it. I do so hope that we have learnt our lesson but I'm cynical enough to think that we haven't - yet.

Plonka said...

Thank you.

same old tactics to get us involved in a war with Iran

I've been watching this and I'm astounded they seem to be getting away with it.

I do so hope that we have learnt our lesson but I'm cynical enough to think that we haven't - yet.

Then it seems you are not alone...

Sadie Lou said...

aw--plonka meet cyberkitten, cyberkitten meet plonka. Now I'm responsible for you two meeting each other--My two favorite atheists.

Plonka--more time posting! Less time with comments!

Plonka said...

Sadie: Plonka--more time posting! Less time with comments!

Yeah, yeah...sheez...:) You may be disappointed though. I don't always do atheist stuff...