Saturday, February 16, 2008
who's to say what stays the same:
Even if Tom Ricks just has a contrib line, finally someone seeks to explain how Ray Odierno went from doorkicker to counterinsurgent. Unfortunately, the explanation feels a bit hollow. Paley n' Partlow:
In an interview before leaving Iraq to become the Army's vice chief of staff, Odierno said one pivotal moment came in late 2006 as he agonized over whether the United States should ally itself with Sunni tribesmen, many of whom had fought with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq against the Americans.

"I might have had a harder time doing that in '03 and '04," said Odierno, 53, who said descriptions of his division's conduct in those years have been overblown. "But I realized it was time to do that. We had to reach out to them."

In December 2006, Odierno sat down with Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni tribal leader in the western province of Anbar who led his tribesmen against al-Qaeda in Iraq and who told the general that he saw the best chance for his people in joining with the Americans. "I spent quite a long time speaking with him, and he told me how his mind-set changed," Odierno said. "I was willing to take a risk."
What? How can a general who had a hard time accepting an alliance with the persuadeables really be a seen-the-light counterinsurgent? Petraeus, Kilcullen, Mansoor, all of em jumped at the chance, and understandably so. Sure, the program veered out of control. But did Odierno really see that in advance? Probably not, since the piece reports that he pushed to rapidly expand the program to its ginormous size, which is an accelerant of the problem.

It's a little complicated an explanation. Simpler -- but not necessarily accurate! -- is that Odierno is Odiernoverrated as a COIN convert. The guy's quotes don't exactly inspire confidence:
And Odierno, who was accused in 2003 of failing to understand Iraqi culture, also repeatedly emphasized that the program, which now includes more than 80,000 men, would never work if it were imposed by the U.S. military.

"It's clear now that we can't succeed without the support of the Iraqi people," he said.
Um, when wasn't it clear?

Also, props to Ricks for contributing to a piece that subverted a key aspect of his masterpiece. In a couple days, he's going to preview his forthcoming book, which I hear is called Unfiasco. (Kidding!)

Update: Abu Muqawama is stumped too.

--Spencer Ackerman
Um, when wasn't it clear?

When Odie was using 155s to respond to a mortar attack.
Blogger Steve J. | 4:39 AM