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    Hold Still. This Is Good for You.

    military_operation.jpgQuote:  “Surgical strikes?  Nothing is surgical about military operations.   They tend to have impacts, effects.”   A “senior counterterrorism official” in the Washington Post.

    Figure of Speech:  horismus, the clear definition.  From the Greek, meaning “definition.”

    A classified report compiled by all 16 federal intelligence agencies and leaked to the press asserts that the war in Iraq is making us less safe from terrorism — not more safe, as the president contends.  The anonymous Post source explains the reason with a horismus, a pithy definition that explains the distinction between terms.

    Definition is one of the most powerful persuasive tools.  Get your audience to believe your interpretation of the terms, and you have won half the rhetorical battle.  Today’s quotation is a perfect example.  If operations in Iraq are “surgical,” then it’s possible to kill the bad guys and bring freedom to the Middle East.  But if you define military operations as messy, with unintended political affects, then killing the enemy will only create more enemies.

    The White House will undoubtedly take the news seriously.  Having failed to find Bin Laden, Bush’s men will begin a zealous hunt for the report’s leaker.

    Snappy Answer:  “So they’re cruel and bloody and create resentment throughout the population? That makes them more like an election.”

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    Reader Comments (23)

    You can delete this, but in the second paragraph, last sentence, you've used "affects" when I would think you'd want to use "effects."
    September 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSara Howland
    I should think your logic a bit flawed, however well intentioned. If it were the case that killing the enemy merely gives rise to enemies in greater number, then it stands to reason, we could conceivably allow our enemies to kill more of us, thereby creating more enemies of our enemies.

    Now back in that operating room Mr. I'm going to need 100 cc's morphine stat. And get some for the patient too.

    September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    Sara, you may delete this, but in the first sentence, you've used "can" when I think you'd want to use "may." :)

    September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    I am suddenly reminded of the old man in the whorehouse in Catch-22.

    There is no flaw in the logic. Just as 9-11 led to a surge in recruitment for the US military, so does the Iraq war lead to a surge in recruitment within jihadist circles. It is a selling point, an obvious example of how "the West wants to destroy Islam." This message then serves to frame much jihadist rhetoric and...er...advertising, if that's the right word for it. If you kill one enemy and his whole tribe swears vengeance, you haven't exactly done yourself a favor.

    Besides, as far as I can tell, Figaro is doing a great job of explaining how the speaker uses rhetoric, not necessarily endorsing the speaker's position. After all, he advises us to talk like Bush, but I just can't see Fig as a Bushie.
    September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    Not to belabor the point, or my snappy answer, but the flaw in logic lies in the erroneous conclusion that our military intrusion, however non-surgical it may be, is, in and of itself, provoking more ill sentiment towards the West than has existed prior to the present incursion. To come to such a conclusion would require one to ignore the storied history of this particular region over the past three millenia.

    And I suppose the Germans got pretty pissed when we fire bombed Dresden, but if my history serves me correctly, there was little hand wringing, or second guessing going on at the time.

    No, resentment in Iraq is a function of our abject failure to provide for a minimum level of security, electricity, and economical growth, and for this we can not forgive Donald Rumsfeld, and his utter disdain for the Powell Doctrine.

    Another flaw exists in the assertion that military strikes are not 'surgical' as if we were habitually cluster bombing day care centers, if indeed they even have day care centers in that part of the world.

    But your point relating to rhetoric is well taken. :)
    October 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    Resentment in Iraq is due to a number of problems. To paint the reasons insurgents become insurgents so broadly is to seriously "misunderestimate" their level of intelligence. Some listen to clerics and grab bombs, some do it to avenge a kinsman, and some do it as scheming opportunists. They may be bastards willing to blow a few of their countrymen to hell in order to scratch the paint on a 114, but they're smart bastards.

    While with the 10th MTN, one of my side-tasks was sorting through transcripts of terrorist propaganda. Outside of Iraq, the Iraq war is a rallying point for extremists, "proof" of America's pure evil motives and - equally importantly - military weakness. No matter how much good is done by Soldiers, no matter how much humanitarian aid and work is done, it will go unreported. Meanwhile, the horrible actions of a few and grisly photos will sell papers, fill airwaves, and serve to feed ammunition to these groups around the world.
    October 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    To the contrary Doc, my point was not to necessarily itemize the the insurgent rationale, but to refute the flawed logic presupposing that killing the enemy only engenders more enemy insurgents in greater numbers. This is simply not the case.

    And as for the level of intelligence required to pick up a weapon, hide in a window, and take pot shots at Humvees as they speed by, I feel quite comfortable with my assessment of the average insurgent's level of intelligence as being equally as low as our own.
    October 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    The Iraq war is a symbol, an ever-present, can't-miss-it symbol. Militant Islam spins the event into a clash of civilizations, the center stage of the war between Islam and its enemies. Furthermore, the side-effects of missions may drive some to join the insurgency as they blame the US for the negative effects of military operations. For the Shiite death squads. For the abuses and corruption of the IP and the IA forces within the country. Many Iraqi citizens - fairly or not - lay blame for these problems at our feet.

    A tactical victory - killing the enemy and destroying men and material - may leave you in a worse position if it galvanizes a people to action. Or have you forgotten, "I fear all we have done is awoken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

    This is not to say I'm in favor of an immediate withdrawal; that would be even worse. But we were debating whether or not the war can serve to enflame hatred and supply militant Islam with fresh recruits. All intelligence estimates say it does. Again, an immediate withdrawal would be an even worse disaster - the militants will spin it as defeat and be emboldened.

    I wish I still had some samples of the language they use for those things to pass to Figaro; I'd love to hear his take on the language and imagery they use.

    Incidentally, ignoring how clever these guys can be will get you killed. They are in a life-or-death competition with Americans. Every new tactic created leads to adaptation by the other side. Men in those situations rarely have the luxury of being idiots. Imagine having a dead dog by the side of the road explode. Or finding mortar tubes buried, ready to fire, in the middle of trash heaps with coffee cans covering the bare tip of the tube. Or finding weapons caches hidden in hollowed out school buses. These are old tactics - old hat, old tricks, things we were warned they'd try to use. They're coming up with new ones all the time.
    October 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    Hey Doc. It's interesting, and betraying of your mindset, I suspect, that you would liken Tojo's omen, not to 'America' as the sleeping giant, awakened after 9/11, but rather to 'militant Islam' awakening on the heels of our latest incursion into Iraq. But here's a news flash for ya; Militant Islam has been awake, wide eyed, and bushy tailed for quite some time now.

    Moreover, this point which you and others have recently adopted, and continue to nurture, that people get their feelings hurt when you kill their friends and family, is becoming a little tiresome. That's not a legitimate rationale on which to prosecute a war.

    And once again, as to the overall degree of intelligence existing in and among the insurgents, this is of little consequence. If you insist on characterizing them as a cadre of raving mensa members, that's your business. But the foremost underlying issue at hand, and what we should all be most mindful of, is the rather modest prevalence of intelligence in existence within the hallowed halls of the Pentegon.

    Oh, and one more thing. You will ultimately be proven wrong, hopefully sooner rather than later, in your determination that our troops should not be immediately withdrawn from this theater of war. Recent polls suggest that over 60% of all Iraqis are rooting for the bad guys.

    (That's not us, by the way)
    October 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    Most of what you post here is a flame and I will not be drawn into it.

    I am well aware of the history of militant Islam from the Muslim Brotherhood on to present day. Nonetheless, the point is that it allows for -greater recruitment.- It helps to make an idea that was previously fringe into the mainstream.

    "Moreover, this point which you and others have recently adopted, and continue to nurture, that people get their feelings hurt when you kill their friends and family" - this statement is absurd. Recently adopted? It's a news flash people who have their families killed get a little angry?
    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    Yes, recently adopted, with a little help from the latest pentagon report. Wars are associated with something we refer to as Hell. To suggest that a war should not be prosecuted on the grounds that it will upset the enemy, or those sympathetic to the enemy, is absurd. You do your best to minimize innocent loss of life, and you move on.

    The ill-will and encouragement this war engenders stems from the fact we're loosing it, not because we're killing the enemy.
    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    I'm enjoying this debate, guys, but let's take it up a notch: would you consider Iraq a conventional war or a counterinsurgency operation? If it's the latter, how do we win it?

    I'm also wondering what the line is between war and politics. It seems blurrier than ever in Iraq.

    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    It's the latter, and thus, unwinable by any conventional litmus test. How Doc L expects to salvage this comedy show of a war is beyond me, however, I am open to suggestions...
    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    If I may 'provocatize' my previous comment:

    The ill-will and encouragement this war engenders stems not from the fact that we're killing people, but from the fact that we're not killing enough of them.
    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    Holy straw man, Batman! You put your words in my mouth. It's amazing you know I recently adopted that view; thank you for telling me what I think.

    Notice I did not say what you claimed I did, namely that it is pointless to prosecute a war if it might upset your enemy. What I said was about the facts of the matter – not normative about whether we should prosecute a war. I said you may be worse off after a tactical victory if the tactical success does not pay for its strategic cost. That's why there's the wonderful expression “a Pyhrric victory.” The reason I cite Toho is because Toho realized Pearl Harbor was such a victory; though a smashing military success, it galvanized a waffling US into entering the war. Japan may have been better served not provoking the US at that point in time. Likewise, I claim that even though we may kill many militants on the streets of Iraq, the US may be worse off because we -create- and -motivate- new recruits faster than we kill the existing militants. More below.

    You also argue with no supporting evidence that the reason the war engenders hate is because we're losing. This is not the case. Now, we may be losing this war, not tactically but strategically, as I will explain.

    Regarding Figaro's question, I firmly believe this is not a conventional war by any stretch of the imagination. The term conventional war refers to the (historically) new idea of professional armies of professional soldiers engaging in battle. The combatants are well defined and affiliated with nations, not groups or tribes. The sides meet in battle, targeting the other armies, with at least lip service paid to the idea of ignoring civilians. WWII, WWI, the Gulf War, even the Civil War would be conventional wars. (The South formed regular units of soldiers.) This is not to say the wars are perfectly conventional. In WWII, you could consider resistance fighters in Europe a form of insurgent group while civilians were sometimes targeted specifically by the different forces.

    In Iraq, the only combatants in uniform are the various Iraqi Security Forces and the Multi-National Forces (of course predominantly American, but still called the MNF). The insurgency does almost everything it can to avoid meeting these forces in battle, preferring bombings, shootings of civilians, and so on. Furthermore, many of the combatants have divided loyalties. An Iraqi Police Officer - something supported by the MNF - may also belong to a Shiite death squad. A pro-US shiek may also be pro-Sadr, encouraging attacks on Shiites. And so on.

    This sense of divided loyalties extends not only to the individuals but to the groups themselves. The insurgency in Iraq is a far cry from the Rebel Alliance! These groups are at their best very strange bedfellows with very different visions. Consider, for example, Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers (usually abbreviated AQIZ or Al-Qaeda in Iraq), the Association of Muslim Scholars, al-Sadr's Corp (the Mahdi Army), former Baathists, and al-Sistani's influence of Iraq's Shiites.

    AQIZ has continually called for the Sunnis in Iraq to rise against the Shiites, and their propaganda often includes messages specifically tailored to exaggerate the relatively minor doctrinal differences between Sunnis and Shiites. Their communications call Shiites pawns of the Americans. The Association of Muslim Scholars, an affiliated group, tries to give the group positive press and sets the groups agenda on a (IMO) dubious Islamic footing. But the AMS has strong Baathist ties; many members were former Saddamists, and they recently broke ranks with AQIZ to call for an end to sectarian violence. Meanwhile, Baathists openly trade fire with AQIZ members as well as Americans, fearing that fanning the flames of Islamic hatred would make civil war interminable. Al-Sistani, considered amongst the most influential of Shiites, has repeatedly managed to contain much of the mainstream of Shia groups, though radicals still engage in open conflict with Sunni groups. Amongst those groups - you guessed it, AQIZ. Al-Sadr, also a Shiite, sent his militia and broke with Al-Sistani, only to find that he lacked the support without Sistani's blessing to take him head to head. So he pays some homage to Sistani's group while augmenting his militia, taking more and more responsibilities. Most believe Al-Sadr is ambitious and readying himself to take greater and greater power. His group is openly hostile not only to Sunni-dominated insurgent groups, but the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces, and the US. Al-Sistani, however, is (somewhat) pro-Iraqi government and at least willing to play ball with the MNF.

    Confused yet? Good. That's the point.

    This war, within the bounds of Iraq, is an insurgency taking place in the center stage of a civil war where the alliances shift on an hourly basis. But like any conflict, its effects go far beyond the boundaries of the land within which it occurs.

    Radicals in Yemen protest US action in Iraq. In Cairo, radical groups recruit by preaching about the ills of the American war. In Turkey, popular films about an apocalyptic war between Turkey and the US - long time NATO buddies - are becoming commonplace. And here may be the strategic blunder. No matter how decisively US Soldiers and Marines win firefights (and we - I say we purposefully - win these hands down), militant Islam bolsters its attractiveness because it now has a celebrated cause. It has a draw and urgency that it lacked in the pre-Iraq days. Further violence in Iraq will continue to aid these efforts. Current radical Islamic propaganda rarely makes it through a paragraph without either delving into Antisemitism or Iraq.

    However, we're in a cleft stick of our own cutting. The consequences of staying are fairly apparent and I will not discuss them. However, if we leave immediately, we create another Somalia (incidentally, yesterday was the anniversary). Somalia is constantly cited in their propaganda as an inspiration and a clear example of the lack of will of the United States. An immediate American withdrawal will embolden radical groups within the region and allow them a stronger foothold. What is rarely mentioned regarding a pullout, though, is that the success of failure of American efforts in Iraq is critical to determining the morale, numbers, and motivation of these groups. Many intelligence agencies firmly believe that former insurgents, dissatisfied with the Iraq conflict, will be the nucleus of violent radical Islamic groups. Their level of motivation, expertise, and capabilities may be determined by their successes of failures in Iraq.

    In this war the line between politics, ideology, and the battlefield is virtually non-existent, except the events on the battlefield are less important than what people -believe- about the events on the battlefield.

    Now as far how to untie this Gordian knot of Iraq – hell if I know! I never claimed to have the answer. Nor do I believe that a simplistic, uninformed, or ideologically based answer is a good one. A thorough and complete understanding is an absolute necessity to pick between our options intelligently, and it may be that there is a bitter pill to swallow regardless of our decision. I am skeptical of the Iraqi Army's abilities (unless they've gotten a lot better very quickly) and very leery of Iran using unrest in Iraq as a pretext for action to “protect their Shiite brothers.” (This is a very real fear of Sunni groups; Iran has already been implicated in aiding Shiite militants within Iraq.)

    Finally, in response to the belittling comments regarding the intelligence of the insurgents, I would say you have forgotten these men are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game where the stakes are the loser dies. They're competing against a technologically superior force with more firepower that is better trained in open combat. However, they are on their home turf and are indistinguishable from civilians. Doesn't this sound like the last time the US faced an asymmetrical threat? And how innovative were those guys? It would take extremely cocky arrogance to play armchair general and dismiss the ingenuity of combatants on either side. Or, er, any side. This isn't as easy as us v. them.
    October 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    "A pro-US shiek may also be pro-Sadr, encouraging attacks on Shiites." should read "A pro-US shiek may also be pro-Sadr, encouraging attacks on SUNNIS."
    October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    "A pro-US shiek may also be pro-Sadr, encouraging attacks on Shiites." should read "A pro-US shiek may also be pro-Sadr, encouraging attacks on SUNNIS."
    October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    Good God. So many misguided notions, yet so little time in which to refute them all. Alas, in the interest of brevity, I will confine my remarks to your parting shot, the point you seem so attached to, the one I find so amusing, this feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder you insist on relating to the enemy's capacity for higher cognitive thought processes.

    Methinks, that at the point when one resolves to kill people, predicated in good measure on the fact that the invisible man in the sky for whom one worships, is not quite the same invisible man in the sky for whom one's foes worship, then one pretty much, simply out of embarrassment alone I should say, has little choice but to relinquish any and all pretense of intelligence whatsoever.

    It's as if you'de have us suppose that each and every fatality in Iraq is the final consequence of some diabolically ingenuous Rube Goldberg device. I can almost hear the pre-mission briefing now, "And whatever you do men, don't knock over any dominos, light any fuses, or tip over any small plastic birds."

    "And if you should see a box on the side of the road marked in broken English, 'This not rodeside bomb'- Men.. it could be a trick"
    October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler
    You lack time, except, it seems, to write four paragraphs of insulting invective while neither defending nor estabilishing points of your own. Take the trolling somewhere else.
    October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDoc L
    Don't be insulted Doc. I make no pretensions as to my expertise in foreign affairs. And as a matter of actual fact, I'm something of a self proclaimed 300 hitter, meaning I get it wrong 70% of the time. So if I were to venture a guess, informed by your performances thus far, as to 'your' average, I'd say you're batting round about the 250 mark. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

    Should you desire to raise your average, permit me to offer up some much needed counsel: Going forward, I suggest that you restrain yourself of the temptation to impress your opponent with ad nauseum background knowledge of the issue being debated, (We already know you served in Iraq) never use exclamation points (they only cast you as shrill) And never, never allow your opponent to know you feel insulted. (I'm so happy, I'm almost crying)
    October 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Heehler

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