Recently there was a round table discussion with Dr David Kilcullen, the Chief Counter-Insurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus. A number of blogs that I subscribe to described this discussion including Austin Bay’s blog and Black Five. In many respects, there was nothing particularly new about what he said – many military professionals who have been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan know that many of his comments are similar to those that have been echoed by military people for the last few years and largely ignored. There was a substantial body of history to draw on – the US Small Wars manual, the lessons from Vietnam, the Malayan Emergency, Ireland and so on.
It is refreshing though to see that at the highest strategic level of the military effort in Iraq there is this appreciation of the situation in Iraq, and a recognition that war is more multi-dimensional than a simplistic use of ‘kinetic’ force aimed at finding a target and destroying it. While I would fear that it is perhaps too late to fully make good the situation in Iraq, I expect that this change of focus will ensure that the situation is less grim than it would otherwise have been.
Almost two weeks ago, a former Colonel in the Australian Army, Mike Kelly, retired from Defence and decided to stand for parliament in the upcoming elections. He was interviewed for the ABC’s 7.30 report and gave a very interesting insight into events in Iraq. I had had the opportunity of meeting Colonel Kelly a number of times in Baghdad and so it held a great degree of personal interest for me. He again alludes to the lack of following the advice of military planners and particularly points to the de-Ba’athification policies as a key failure in the Iraq war.