Bottom up and top down changes for fighting in Iraq

In Washington on March 17th, at the Gathering of Eagles stage area just east of Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, I got to hear some spirited speeches, but Air Force Maj. Eric Egland's urging of more support for bottom up tactics and intelligence gathering filled in many of the gaps the  media hasn't want to address. I had a chance to talk with Maj. Egland later in the afternoon and purchase a copy of his book. His ideas mirror those seen in retired Army officer Gordon Cucullu's recent article in the New York Post entitled "The Iraq surge: why it's working."

Now in the Reserves, Maj. Eric Egland previously served on the front lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has graduated the Air Force Academy, holds a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College, has briefed Congressmen on his Plan from the Troops and has written a book about what he believes needs to be done in Iraq now. It's titled "The Troops Need You, America!: Six Ways to Help Them Win From Your Living Room" and is available at either his website
http://www.troopsneedyou.com/  or at Amazon.com. This is a book written by an officer who knows much from first hand experience but, unlike the New York Times, is honor bound not to reveal too much, choosing his words carefully.

In Maj. Egland's discussion of Offense, he mentions the military has engaged in what are called presence patrols, a "show the flag" tactic used effectively in Bosnia to calm the population, but which has acted as a target for ambushes and roadside bombs in Iraq. Moving in daily predictable patterns is the worst thing the US military can do. Maj. Egland advocates what we are seeing now under Gen. Petreus's command: more use of intelligence and aggressive patrols "to hunt rather than chase the enemy," as the book advocates.

He also wants to do what Rudy Giuliani did when he was elected  Mayor of New York: establish a database of "crime" (here, enemy attack) patterns so he could map their movements and predict their patterns, leading to concentrating US forces in the locations where they would be most effective. On page 164, he talks about a combat unit that had much lower casualties than support units because the combat unit lived in the area/neighborhood and knew alternative routes for patrolling than the major roads where IEDs were placed.

The New York Post article also talks about Gen. Petreus having his troops living in the areas they protect rather than in remote bases. Whether the General got his ideas from this book I don't know, but I'm glad he's using this tactic. Maj. Egland talks of an innovative commander who uses partially armored civilian cars rather than the huge, easily spotted Humvees, and even partially covers his soldiers' uniforms with local garb. This gives his unit the element of surprise. Also mentioned were the futility of the military developing and buying huge jamming devices that just lead to the terrorists switching the frequency of their IEDs with some low cost item they order over the internet from the European equivalent of a Radio Shack.

Getting into the media war aspect and its fallout, the setting off of IEDs under predictable regular US military patrols not only gives the media it's "the war isn't working" lead-in for news stories and videos, but it also causes many commanders to be wary of sending anyone on patrol, acting more like the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, which was undone by these tactics.

Another chapter talked of empowering local commanders to pay rewards directly for bomb location tips. Incredibly, the military has used a voucher system that requires a cooperative Iraqi to travel to a US base, identify himself by name, and wait a month for "a check in the mail." This is incredibly naive and a risk most Iraqis won't take. Many local commanders have either paid twenty dollar bills of their own or fudged the discretionary account of the unit to cover such expenses which lead to savings of lives and many thousands of dollars worth of military equipment.

Maj. Egland has some ideas about supplying a coffee maker to locals who watch certain locations along with Cingular cell phones that work in the Iraqi system, as well as video cameras. This is very similar to a Neighborhood Watch used in American cities to report crime. He also advocates money being passed out at the brigade level and lower to encourage these neighborhood volunteers who no more want to see outside insurgents destroy their neighborhood than the US military does.

But Maj. Egland is no utopian. If a certain watch location doesn't produce tips, he would turn the job over to another neighbor - and get the local government to finance the rebuilding of his home as well, withdrawing support from the nonproductive tipster.

Another creative idea found in this book is using small amounts of money to buy power tools to give to locals so that they could be self employed and productive. This is microcapitalism, a concept advocated and done in various developing countries to lift people out of poverty. The article in the Post mentions various warlords seeing that insurgents are bad for their local business, so they are cooperating with the US military. But the microcapitalism approach gives the people with no tribal connections to a local warlord/employer a way to earn a living at something other than working for Iranian intelligence or Al Queda.

On the home front, Maj. Egland wanted to see a database set up to match people who want to donate items and money with a list of what is needed in Iraq. One thing Maj. Egland told me in person was that they first started giving out candy to girls in the neighborhood to build goodwill, but the little boys stole it, so now they contacted a group of women in America who make homemade dolls. Dolls are an item the boys don't want to steal. If discount and closeout sales of tools occur at WalMart or Sears, most people wouldn't buy an extra three battery powered drills for themselves, but if they knew they could help the troops in Iraq, they just might.

Back again in the US, but on bases, Maj. Egland believes that training should be weighted more towards counterinsurgency street fighting than towards classic battle formation training. And he also wants a type of anti-terror electronics trade show where companies making new devices show them to military units which can buy them with either discretionary or budgeted funds and bring them to the Middle East when they ship out.

Lastly, there is the media war. With modern email of video and shipping videos, units in the field can make their own news reports that can be taken to local papers, civic organizations, and the best of them could be shown at Pentagon or White House briefings. The concept of accepting the drive by media's reports as the only choice for news is defeatist on the information front. And it just won't do.

All in all, the central idea is the War in Iraq is no longer to be treated as a business as usual conventional tactics matter. And Americans are easily as capable of being innovative and fast moving as any enemy - if and when their commanders no longer fight a politically correct war.

(Jack Kemp is not the former politician of the same name.)
In Washington on March 17th, at the Gathering of Eagles stage area just east of Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, I got to hear some spirited speeches, but Air Force Maj. Eric Egland's urging of more support for bottom up tactics and intelligence gathering filled in many of the gaps the  media hasn't want to address. I had a chance to talk with Maj. Egland later in the afternoon and purchase a copy of his book. His ideas mirror those seen in retired Army officer Gordon Cucullu's recent article in the New York Post entitled "The Iraq surge: why it's working."

Now in the Reserves, Maj. Eric Egland previously served on the front lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has graduated the Air Force Academy, holds a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College, has briefed Congressmen on his Plan from the Troops and has written a book about what he believes needs to be done in Iraq now. It's titled "The Troops Need You, America!: Six Ways to Help Them Win From Your Living Room" and is available at either his website
http://www.troopsneedyou.com/  or at Amazon.com. This is a book written by an officer who knows much from first hand experience but, unlike the New York Times, is honor bound not to reveal too much, choosing his words carefully.

In Maj. Egland's discussion of Offense, he mentions the military has engaged in what are called presence patrols, a "show the flag" tactic used effectively in Bosnia to calm the population, but which has acted as a target for ambushes and roadside bombs in Iraq. Moving in daily predictable patterns is the worst thing the US military can do. Maj. Egland advocates what we are seeing now under Gen. Petreus's command: more use of intelligence and aggressive patrols "to hunt rather than chase the enemy," as the book advocates.

He also wants to do what Rudy Giuliani did when he was elected  Mayor of New York: establish a database of "crime" (here, enemy attack) patterns so he could map their movements and predict their patterns, leading to concentrating US forces in the locations where they would be most effective. On page 164, he talks about a combat unit that had much lower casualties than support units because the combat unit lived in the area/neighborhood and knew alternative routes for patrolling than the major roads where IEDs were placed.

The New York Post article also talks about Gen. Petreus having his troops living in the areas they protect rather than in remote bases. Whether the General got his ideas from this book I don't know, but I'm glad he's using this tactic. Maj. Egland talks of an innovative commander who uses partially armored civilian cars rather than the huge, easily spotted Humvees, and even partially covers his soldiers' uniforms with local garb. This gives his unit the element of surprise. Also mentioned were the futility of the military developing and buying huge jamming devices that just lead to the terrorists switching the frequency of their IEDs with some low cost item they order over the internet from the European equivalent of a Radio Shack.

Getting into the media war aspect and its fallout, the setting off of IEDs under predictable regular US military patrols not only gives the media it's "the war isn't working" lead-in for news stories and videos, but it also causes many commanders to be wary of sending anyone on patrol, acting more like the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, which was undone by these tactics.

Another chapter talked of empowering local commanders to pay rewards directly for bomb location tips. Incredibly, the military has used a voucher system that requires a cooperative Iraqi to travel to a US base, identify himself by name, and wait a month for "a check in the mail." This is incredibly naive and a risk most Iraqis won't take. Many local commanders have either paid twenty dollar bills of their own or fudged the discretionary account of the unit to cover such expenses which lead to savings of lives and many thousands of dollars worth of military equipment.

Maj. Egland has some ideas about supplying a coffee maker to locals who watch certain locations along with Cingular cell phones that work in the Iraqi system, as well as video cameras. This is very similar to a Neighborhood Watch used in American cities to report crime. He also advocates money being passed out at the brigade level and lower to encourage these neighborhood volunteers who no more want to see outside insurgents destroy their neighborhood than the US military does.

But Maj. Egland is no utopian. If a certain watch location doesn't produce tips, he would turn the job over to another neighbor - and get the local government to finance the rebuilding of his home as well, withdrawing support from the nonproductive tipster.

Another creative idea found in this book is using small amounts of money to buy power tools to give to locals so that they could be self employed and productive. This is microcapitalism, a concept advocated and done in various developing countries to lift people out of poverty. The article in the Post mentions various warlords seeing that insurgents are bad for their local business, so they are cooperating with the US military. But the microcapitalism approach gives the people with no tribal connections to a local warlord/employer a way to earn a living at something other than working for Iranian intelligence or Al Queda.

On the home front, Maj. Egland wanted to see a database set up to match people who want to donate items and money with a list of what is needed in Iraq. One thing Maj. Egland told me in person was that they first started giving out candy to girls in the neighborhood to build goodwill, but the little boys stole it, so now they contacted a group of women in America who make homemade dolls. Dolls are an item the boys don't want to steal. If discount and closeout sales of tools occur at WalMart or Sears, most people wouldn't buy an extra three battery powered drills for themselves, but if they knew they could help the troops in Iraq, they just might.

Back again in the US, but on bases, Maj. Egland believes that training should be weighted more towards counterinsurgency street fighting than towards classic battle formation training. And he also wants a type of anti-terror electronics trade show where companies making new devices show them to military units which can buy them with either discretionary or budgeted funds and bring them to the Middle East when they ship out.

Lastly, there is the media war. With modern email of video and shipping videos, units in the field can make their own news reports that can be taken to local papers, civic organizations, and the best of them could be shown at Pentagon or White House briefings. The concept of accepting the drive by media's reports as the only choice for news is defeatist on the information front. And it just won't do.

All in all, the central idea is the War in Iraq is no longer to be treated as a business as usual conventional tactics matter. And Americans are easily as capable of being innovative and fast moving as any enemy - if and when their commanders no longer fight a politically correct war.

(Jack Kemp is not the former politician of the same name.)