A Soldier in Iraq

This piece by a lieutenant colonel who commanded in Iraq for a while.

The American Army’s new counterinsurgency doctrine told me to attack the root problems that allowed the insurgency to exist in my area. But some roots were impossible to get at.

There were thousands of unemployed young men in Ameriyah. I had much commander’s emergency reconstruction money to spend on endeavors like trash removal and street repair to employ these young men. But they were the Sunni children of the former Baathist elite. Rather than picking up the garbage, they wanted to go to college and become computer engineers, college teachers, doctors or lawyers.

They could not do this, however, out of fear of leaving Ameriyah and being kidnapped or killed at the checkpoints run by the Shiite militia and Iraqi security forces that surrounded their district. I would have needed the wisdom of Solomon and the power of Franklin D. Roosevelt to solve the economic and employment problems of Ameriyah.

By the end of 2006 I had became wary of some cocksure commanders who exuded the sense that they had mastered their area of responsibility. It seemed to me that these commanders had in their own minds become smarter than the war that they were fighting.