Critical Steps on the Road to Victory by Steve Russell
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. - Abraham Lincoln
Can we win? Ask a soldier. If four doctors all said that your life could be saved by surgery yet everyone in your neighborhood said you are going to die, who would you believe?
Victory rarely comes easy. Robert E. Lee said that from the rear, even victory looks like defeat. In a time of constant anxiety, opponents of the war offer no solutions other than what is essentially quitting followed by a legacy of defeat. As Americans, we owe it to our fallen and to ourselves as a nation to do better.
Often I am asked, what can be done to turn this war around. Here are some current practical ways to lead us toward victory that I have shared publicly:
* Reduce troubled areas. This does not mean destroy or wantonly target anything that spells trouble. It means that if a group or radical leader is a problem, they will not be a lesser problem if left unattended. Political co-opting is sometimes possible, but if we cannot envision this group or individual being in charge of the whole country due to a set of unforseen circumstances, we must have the resolve to reduce them now. The effort spent is worth it to reduce or eliminate threats to the Iraqi government and its people.
* Be willing to accept some collateral damage in the war on terror. The most humane thing we can do to end the suffering is achieve victory. It will be painful in the short term and save countless lives in the long run. History proves this time and again. We must not give up justice by being judicious. Our enemies bank on our reluctance to go after them if they hide in the population. We must go after them anyway. Populations will rarely tolerate insurgent infiltration if it means pain and suffering for their own people and neighborhoods. This is why we see a half a million Iraqis supporting the government and only ten to fifteen thousand supporting the insurgency.
* Lock down internet and cell phone networks in Iraq. The number one way the terrorists get their message out is by cell phone and internet. Before opponents start whining about curbing Iraqi freedoms, they must get a country first. these networks should be reserved for government, police and security forces.
* Establish a national identity card for all Iraqi people. This is something Iraqis want and had for decades. It exposes and disrupts the terrorists and safeguards the population. Citing scant cases of potential forgery and abuse is a poor counter to an obvious needed security measure.
* Publicly display Iraqi leaders. If Prime Minister Maliki is the man for Iraq, show that to Iraq. Put his face on thousands of posters. Display cabinet members on Iraqi neighborhood walls and Iraqi halls of government. This is their cultural tradition. Give it to them. Right now all they see are vitriolic, radical faces displayed on posters carried by angry militias and terrorists. We can do better.
* Increase Advisory Forces. Our best hope is a trained Iraqi military. That this is achievable is evident by the fact that all but two provinces in Iraq are well under control of the government. We must advise and train the additional Iraqi force to secure the other two. The numbers of troops serving as advisors as a percentage of the total force deployed is not half what we had in Vietnam.
* Adequately suppply and fund the new Iraqi forces. We should be ashamed of how little funding is going to the equipping and sustaining of Iraqi forces given that this is a central foundation of the US exit strategy. If we are asking them to do the tough job of securing their country, then we must give them the tools. They can hunt down few insurgents with mere words and proddings from the United States.
* Hold, try by military tribunal, and execute terrorists. Every precedent for this in international military law exists. We must use the rule of that law to establish order and secure the Iraqi people. If the state of California, whose population is 27 million, can incarcerate 170,000 prisoners, how is it that in Iraq, a naiotn of 26 million, can only see fit to incarcerate 17,000 terrorists? If the bad apples are removed until a peace is secured, the nation does well. If the rotten apples are executed for their murderous acts, they will never again inflict pain in Iraqi society.
* Remove US military leaders that don't achieve victory. We can ill afford to defer every setback and defeat to explanations that it is 'difiicult' and 'tough' in Iraq. No kidding. This is war. The nation has invested 30 to 35 years in a general officer's education. His one lot in life in time of war is to deliver victory. If he can't, replace him with someone who can. The president must hold his commanders accountable if they are not delivering results. If he did, they would deliver more. Lincoln went through alot of leaders and many national setbacks before he found his Grant and Sherman.
* Abandon the peacetime system of duties and awards. Our soldiers deserve to be led by the best. If a sergeant has proven he can lead his men and defeat the enemy, make him a lieutenant by battlefield commission. If a major can lead a battalion now, make him a colonel now. We have every precedent for this and fail to do it. We owe no one a 'career' in wartime. We owe the nation victory! Move the dead weight and those that only see the 'difficult' and 'tough' road ahead. Give the big commands to the generals that fight instead of sidelining them in educational posts so as to rotate the mediocre through the ranks. Reward the heroes. Decorate the brave. The pentagon should not be in the business of sifting through every valor award. If we trust a major general enough to command 20,000 soldiers, we ought to trust him with awarding a Silver Star to a deserving soldier. Awards exist to inspire the other troops to do similar acts, not to invite sympathy when the soldier turns 80 and finally gets his award at the local VFW post due to a well-established peace-time bureaucracy.
* Display America's heroes, not her casualties. America loves a winner. At least it used to. Where are the brave heroes? They are there, but the media does not cover them. They don't tell their stories or show their decorations. The factory worker does not see them. The Silicon Valley technician has never met one. Inspire America with her best and brightest and quit giving the title of 'hero' to somebody that plays sports.
* Publicly express a commitment to see victory in this war. Express that view to your members of Congress and your senators. Our elected officials respond to the people. Make your voice known. They want to hear your opinion. If they don't, then they shouldn't be there in the first place.
Steve Russell is a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. He commanded a battalion that was central to the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. He founded Vets4Victory and serves as its chairman.