The Democrats Plan
Mike Yon - Ernie is Dead

Teflon Don of Acute Politics Interview

I'm guest blogging at Michelle Malkin's place this week.  I recently conducted an interview with Teflon Don of Acute Politics and posted it there.

The whole interview is here, too, after the Jump.

If you could, please read David Kilcullen's post at Small Wars Journal and tell us what you think of it -

Whatever we would have liked to believe four years ago, there is no quick win in Iraq, and that is more true now than ever. Mr Kilcullen succinctly summarizes the reality of the situation in Iraq: We need to improve security, work with the Iraqis and at their pace, and reconcile with the population at large. I further agree with his statement that the way of progress in Iraq is more like police work than classic COIN.

The one thing we must not do is to confuse the real country of Iraq, where there is a real war, a real population, and a real obligation to protect them, with the parallel-universe "quagmire Iraq" of popular imagination.

That pretty much sums it up right there.

A few comments down, there is a Comment from "bg" about measures of effectiveness (MOE).  Would you please respond to the comment about polls in America as measures of effectiveness for the insurgency?

I think opinion polls in America are a poor measure of effectiveness. As another commenter to the article pointed out, such polls measure the effectiveness of communication about the war as much or more than they reflect actual conditions on the ground. In the end, though, we may find ourselves once again winning a war, but losing the public opinion. Public opinion is not a military battle to fight, but it has to be won.

As far as realistic measures of our COIN (Counter Insurgency) effectiveness, here are some things that seem like common-sense to me:

Employment: Are there enough jobs? Do people feel safe working? Can you earn enough at an honest job to dissuade you from spending a day placing an IED at whatever the going rate is?

Infrastructure: Is there power? Water? Sewer? Cell phone service? Is the infrastructure that does exist relatively secure, or is it often attacked?

Iraqi Forces: Are the IPs and IA willing to fight? Are they well trained? How is their morale? What is recruitment like?

What is most on the mind of the troops at the moment?

Beer and Women. Did you expect a different answer? :-D

Nope...glad to see that my Army hasn't changed.  What worries you most about back home? And what are you hearing from friends or family about home and the US?

I have two main worries.

First, I fear that the violence and disorder of Iraq will find its way back to America. I worry that gangs will begin to attack each other and the police with IEDs, and that more veterans will return to commit crimes "to draw attention to the plight of Iraqis". I worry that more will return no longer able to distinguish colors other than their accustomed black and white- violence or no violence.

Second, I fear that our leaders back home will not allow us to finish what we have started; that we will leave Iraq before there is any hope of order. If we do, I fear that we will have a genocide worse than Darfur or the Balkans on our national conscience, as well as a terrorist threat far beyond our imagination.

What has changed in your area since you began working in Iraq?  For the better or for the worse…?

Better-Ramadi, in essentially every aspect. Fewer IEDs, fewer attacks, more workers, more police, more coalition presence.

Worse-The rural areas surrounding Falluja. Part of this is due to another good thing- Falluja is primary patrolled by Iraqi forces now, freeing up American combat power to be exercised outside the city. We have quite the job for us in the countryside rooting up insurgent networks, bomb factories, and the like.

Since you're a Reservist, I thought I'd ask how the Army Reserve prepared you for the deployment?

I thought my unit did well, particularly my company. We've had battle-orientated leadership since long before I joined the Army- men who believed that training soldiers in basic fighting skills built groundwork of teamwork, motivation, and leadership that made other tasks easy. By comparison, the official mobilization process conducted prior to our deployment was like going back to kindergarten. I wouldn't say it was inadequate for deployment- it's just that the mobilization training was a verification of the minimum standards required of a deploying unit, and we had previously maintained a higher state of training.

If you could say anything to Pres Bush, what would you say?  To Sec. Gates?  To Gen Petraeus?

President Bush-At the beginning, I thought this war was the best of bad options. I neither believed it would be as easy as so many claimed, nor did I believe it would become as hard as it has. We depend on you- both to lead us, and to listen to us.

Secretary Gates-Sir, you come in to this war at a crucial point. Listen to your generals, listen to our elected leaders, and don't neglect one for the other. Most of all, don't neglect both for your own opinions- that mistake caused part of the trouble you face today.

General Petraeus-Sir, you also come at a critical time. Many people, both civilians and those in the military, expect a miracle out of you. Most of us soldiers down at the lowest levels have heard good things about your leadership style and abilities. You give many of us greater hope that we will accomplish our mission here. I fear too many of us serve our tours in Iraq while seeing only the day we leave, and tempering our anticipation of completing our tours with the knowledge that we will soon be back. I fear too many of us fail to take action that would positively influence Iraq's future out of a sense of survival. Will you allow your subordinate commanders and troops to fight this war to survive? Or, will you inspire them to fight this war to win? Much hinges on that question. I've heard some say that you were born and schooled to fight this war and win. I hope that's accurate, sir.

Do you believe that the media has portrayed America's efforts in Iraq correctly?

That depends entirely on how you mean "media" and "correct". Traditional media, such as newspapers and television, have done very well reporting the statistics and the sensational moments of the war. In a certain sense, that is "correct", but it is certainly not complete.

On the other hand, independent journalists have different stories to tell. If I want to know why things are the way they are in Anbar, I read Bill Roggio's account, not the New York Times. If I want to hear about an interview with a Falluja police officer, I read Bill Ardolino. I don't watch NBC. If I want to know what life is like for US soldiers or Iraqi civilians, I read their blogs, not the papers.

Most media accounts are correct, and the ones that aren't are usually quickly ripped apart. However, they must all be taken together to even come close to a complete story.

What is the one story, currently not told, that you would want America to know about?

The growing Sunni frustration with the insurgency in general and Al-Qaeda In Iraq in particular. I've seen a very little bit reported in the Washington Times about the sheik's council that has taken a stand against terrorism in the Ramadi area. Bill Roggio was the only source I found telling how Ansar Al-Islam and 1920 Revolutionary Brigades insurgents fought alongside Iraqi Police against Al-Qaeda fighters and tribal militias loyal to them. These things are glimmers of hope- hope for peace among the local insurgents, and hope for Iraq's total rejection of Al-Qaeda.

What's the funniest thing that's happened to you in Iraq?

I'd have to say that getting blown up by a roller skate was the funniest, simply for how ludicrous it was.

Are you going back to school when you return from Iraq?  What else is in store for you after Iraq?

I plan to go back to school and finish my engineering degree, possibly with a minor or second major in business and some additional dabbling in languages.

I've also thought of seeing what red tape I have to maneuver through to come back to Iraq for a month or two as an independent  photojournalist and blogger. There's a lot of things I've seen that I would have liked to take more time exploring and writing   about that I have had to let go because of our mission tempo.

Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions.  Thank you for your service to America.   We're proud of you.

Thanks to all of you for your support of us.

You can visit the Teflon Don's blog at Acute Politics.