On Point: Petreaus' Anaconda


by Austin Bay
April 8, 2008

It's a shame Sen. Carl Levin failedto take the time to call public attention to Gen. David Petraeus' "AnacondaStrategy" chart. Petraeus briefly referred to the chart during his initialtestimony this week before Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Anaconda Chart is a complexgraphic that depicts an intricate, multi-dimensional war. It's tough to describeeven with a copy in front of you. However, the strategic concept behindPetraeus' chart (titled "Anaconda Strategy versus al-Qaida in Iraq") is dirtsimple: Squeeze and keep squeezing.

A commercial artist would certainlydescribe the chart as "too busy," but war isn't an exercise in aesthetics. TheAnaconda Strategy identifies six routes of attack on al-Qaida in Iraq: 1)Kinetics (which includes combat); 2) Politics (which includes counteringethno-sectarian pressures and Iraqi political reconciliation); 3) Intelligence(operations from air recon to intel assessment); 4) Detainee Ops (which includescounter-insurgency in detention facilities); 5) Non-Kinetics (education, jobsprograms); and 6) Interagency.

Anaconda's Interagency is ahodge-podge and a kludge of a category, including diplomacy, informationoperations and -- an interesting specificity -- engagement with Syria.

On the chart, these six broad routesbecome operations that converge upon and compress al-Qaida's command and controlcapabilities, finances, ideological appeal, safe havens, weapons and popularsupport.

The U.S. military uses the acronymDIME as verbal coin for "the elements of power": Diplomatic, Information,Military and Economic. Petraeus' Anaconda Chart is DIME in big dollars.

Since Petraeus' and Ambassador RyanCrocker's September 2007 testimony, "the Anaconda" (the incremental synergy ofthis complex war-fighting and nation-building process) has dramatically squeezedal-Qaida. No, it hasn't crushed it -- but the organization is physicallydamaged. Moreover, with the "Sunni Awakening" and similar programs, al-Qaida hassuffered extraordinary political and information defeats as Sunnis publiclyturned on the jihadis.

Is this victory in Iraq? No. But itsuggests we've won a major battle with potentially global significance, the kindthat in the long term squeezes al-Qaida's ideological appeal in all corners ofthe planet.

Shia gangs and Muqtada al-Sadr'sMahdi Militia also receive the same multidimensional squeeze. Remember, lastweek the herd-media quickly declared the Iraqi Army's recent counter-militiaoperations in Basra, east Baghdad and southern Iraq a huge failure, "the BasraBlunder" according to one headline. Both Petreus and Crocker were pestered withquestions about the Iraqi Army's operational mistakes and inadequacies.

Iraqi Sunni Arab and Kurd politicalreactions to the attacks on the Shia militias has proven to be overwhelminglypositive, however. Iraq has progressed to the point where the political contextis the dominant context and a democratic Shia-led government taking down Shiagangs was a step toward national reconciliation among ethno-sectarian groups.

Is this a surprise? Let's go to thechart: Petraeus' Anaconda chart demonstrates that the "political route ofattack" can be as lethal as a kinetic (combat) operation -- perhaps more so ifthe goal is bringing the marginalized and antagonized into a democraticpolitical process. In fact, in Iraq the political context is now the dominantcontext.

In the case of Basra and eastBaghdad, at some point the Iraqi Army had to confront the Shia gangs. No, thefight wasn't perfect, but war is not the realm of perfect. War is the realm of"friction," as Clausewitz wrote, "the suck" in current lingo. The Iraqi Army andIraqi government planned and executed the operation themselves. Failure? Don'tthink so. This is progress. As time passes, it is increasingly clear the IraqiArmy did a far better job than the Shia gangsters.

But we all know why the complexchart gets ignored and successes are glasses half empty: A presidential electioncampaign is on, and the Democratic Party has bet its soul on defeat.

"Hear no progress in Iraq, see noprogress in Iraq, but most of all speak of no progress in Iraq." Thus Sen. JoeLieberman, a member of the Armed Service Committee, deftly summed the last twoyears of Democratic Party posturing as well as the Democrats' talking points inthe latest hearings.

Lieberman's maverick pal, Senatorand Republican presidential nominee John McCain, spoke more bluntly, "Congressshould not choose to lose in Iraq, but we should choose to succeed."


To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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