Operation Matador… chasing the invisible bull

The Washington Post is running story from their embedded reporter with Lima Company.

I have railed against the US invasion of Iraq since the start, for reasons from lack of UNSC approval to concern for the plight of Iraqi civilians in war.

There is yet another reason, which has been demonstrated in the report today in the Washington Post, that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned before. That reason is… the United States Armed Forces are not and have never been trained or set up for peacekeeping. Better known in the American MSM as “Hearts and Minds” missions.

The American Military is a war fighting force. Perhaps because of 50 years of Cold War alert, the US military has never changed from the WWII fighting machine that helped liberate Europe and subdue Japan. You can see it in their Code of Conduct

We saw this fact in all its glory as US forces swept into Iraq from the South and barreled across the desert. A truly unstoppable and formidable force. Perfect for exactly the operation that it was tasked to do in those first few weeks.

But once Saddam fell and the mission was “Accomplished”, the US was faced with a very unfamiliar situation. How does an invasion army transform itself into a national guard? It is clear now that US Commanders simply don’t have the answer. Indeed, it’s not impossible. You need only look at the British forces, who were far more successful in the South at creating a contructive relationship with the civilian population. Yes, they are a much smaller force than the Americans… but their casualties are miniscule in comparison. A few dozen British soldiers have died, many due to accidents, whereas over 1200 American soldiers have now perished.

As the situation continued to stagnate and the insurgency grew we began to see frustration from the American military. It was clear that they were losing the “Hearts and Minds” war and they had to do something… so what did they do? They overran and destroyed Fallujah as if they were on the way to Berlin.

Unfortunately, most of the insurgents had already left… the insurgency didn’t go away and in fact it grew in places like Mosul and Baghdad.

Now, after the election which was supposed to bring peace to Iraq, we again have had weeks of insurgent violence. And again, the response has been one derived from a WWII playbook. Operation Matador was supposed to sweep NorthWestern Iraq of all insurgents and cut off supply routes from Syria.

Yet they have found, once again, that their enemies are not divisions of tanks and grunts, but rather insurgents who will run before they can be confronted.

from the outset, as Marines swept west in what would be a week-long operation, scores of foreign fighters had fled ahead of them, residents of towns farther east told the Marine commanders.

If the Americans found Arabi in the hands of foreign fighters, said Marine Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of Lima Company in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, “we’ll make it rubble.”

“Where the [expletive] are these guys?” Maj. Kei Braun exclaimed in frustration.

“I’d much rather foreign fighters come out and shoot at us. We can respond to that,” Kalouf said, as the Americans got ready to head back across the Euphrates. “We can’t stand all their IEDs and mines, crap like that. Because we can’t do that.

Spoken in language so clear it could only have been said by a Marine.

America will not.. CAN NOT win this war in Iraq. It simply doesn’t know how and it has been made abundantly clear over the past 3 years that it has no capability to transform itself. Nor should it be expected to, it is incredible fighting machine. It is tuned from top to bottom to fight armies and win wars. As the Coalition of the Willing dwindles and finally disappears in 2006 it will only become more and more clear that the American military is not suited to the task at hand.

The United States has dozens of allies able to do this job through the UN and NATO. Unfortunately, it chose not to use either body, and now it might be too late… pride is on the line.

Only Iraqis can quell the resistance. Once they have a constitution and a freely and universally elected government they might finally have the credibility to take back their country and prove to the insurgents that they are not lapdogs of the Occupation forces.

Only then will the insurgency finally be dealt the fatal blow and Iraqis will be free to rebuild.