by Austin Bay
April 8, 2008
It's a shame Sen. Carl Levin failed
to take the time to call public attention to Gen. David Petraeus' "Anaconda
Strategy" chart. Petraeus briefly referred to the chart during his initial
testimony this week before Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Anaconda Chart is a complex
graphic that depicts an intricate, multi-dimensional war. It's tough to describe
even with a copy in front of you. However, the strategic concept behind
Petraeus' chart (titled "Anaconda Strategy versus al-Qaida in Iraq") is dirt
simple: Squeeze and keep squeezing.
A commercial artist would certainly
describe the chart as "too busy," but war isn't an exercise in aesthetics. The
Anaconda Strategy identifies six routes of attack on al-Qaida in Iraq: 1)
Kinetics (which includes combat); 2) Politics (which includes countering
ethno-sectarian pressures and Iraqi political reconciliation); 3) Intelligence
(operations from air recon to intel assessment); 4) Detainee Ops (which includes
counter-insurgency in detention facilities); 5) Non-Kinetics (education, jobs
programs); and 6) Interagency.
Anaconda's Interagency is a
hodge-podge and a kludge of a category, including diplomacy, information
operations and -- an interesting specificity -- engagement with Syria.
On the chart, these six broad routes
become operations that converge upon and compress al-Qaida's command and control
capabilities, finances, ideological appeal, safe havens, weapons and popular
The U.S. military uses the acronym
DIME 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 Ryan
Crocker's September 2007 testimony, "the Anaconda" (the incremental synergy of
this complex war-fighting and nation-building process) has dramatically squeezed
al-Qaida. No, it hasn't crushed it -- but the organization is physically
damaged. Moreover, with the "Sunni Awakening" and similar programs, al-Qaida has
suffered extraordinary political and information defeats as Sunnis publicly
turned on the jihadis.
Is this victory in Iraq? No. But it
suggests we've won a major battle with potentially global significance, the kind
that in the long term squeezes al-Qaida's ideological appeal in all corners of
Shia gangs and Muqtada al-Sadr's
Mahdi Militia also receive the same multidimensional squeeze. Remember, last
week the herd-media quickly declared the Iraqi Army's recent counter-militia
operations in Basra, east Baghdad and southern Iraq a huge failure, "the Basra
Blunder" according to one headline. Both Petreus and Crocker were pestered with
questions about the Iraqi Army's operational mistakes and inadequacies.
Iraqi Sunni Arab and Kurd political
reactions to the attacks on the Shia militias has proven to be overwhelmingly
positive, however. Iraq has progressed to the point where the political context
is the dominant context and a democratic Shia-led government taking down Shia
gangs was a step toward national reconciliation among ethno-sectarian groups.
Is this a surprise? Let's go to the
chart: Petraeus' Anaconda chart demonstrates that the "political route of
attack" can be as lethal as a kinetic (combat) operation -- perhaps more so if
the goal is bringing the marginalized and antagonized into a democratic
political process. In fact, in Iraq the political context is now the dominant
In the case of Basra and east
Baghdad, at some point the Iraqi Army had to confront the Shia gangs. No, the
fight 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 and
Iraqi government planned and executed the operation themselves. Failure? Don't
think so. This is progress. As time passes, it is increasingly clear the Iraqi
Army did a far better job than the Shia gangsters.
But we all know why the complex
chart gets ignored and successes are glasses half empty: A presidential election
campaign is on, and the Democratic Party has bet its soul on defeat.
"Hear no progress in Iraq, see no
progress in Iraq, but most of all speak of no progress in Iraq." Thus Sen. Joe
Lieberman, a member of the Armed Service Committee, deftly summed the last two
years of Democratic Party posturing as well as the Democrats' talking points in
the latest hearings.
Lieberman's maverick pal, Senator
and Republican presidential nominee John McCain, spoke more bluntly, "Congress
should not choose to lose in Iraq, but we should choose to succeed."