Sunday, March 18, 2007

When all else fails, Congressional staff are told: There are always the "Roman and Halliburton options"

Colin Kahl, the political scientist featured in the prior post, points out that his essay was by way of commentary on a briefing by one Andrew Krepinevich, who is president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and a person with an illustrious military career including having served on the personal staff of three Secretaries of Defence, and so on and so forth. The Krepinevich presentation is only available as a point-form outline, dated February 27 of this year, and titled: "The 'New' Conterinsurgency Doctrine and the Baghdad Surge: Formula for Success?"

It begins like this: First there are a few one-liners under the heading "The Situation" starting with "The Bush Administration: Victory on the Cheap"; "The Opposition: Withdrawal without consequences"; that kind of thing.

But the next section gets into substance, and asks about available strategies. The first one goes like this:
The Roman Model: Massive retaliation
Strategy: Rome creates a desert and calls it peace
Success Rate: Very high
Examples: Britain revolt c 60 AD; Israelite revolt c 70 AD
US adaptibility: Low. Owing to US political culture, it is unlikely the Roman model would apply, except in the most dire of circumstances.
Got that? "Except in the most dire of circumstances."

Proceeding on, other possible strategies include "Attrition" which Krepinevich pretty much dismisses with a one-liner about "Whack-a-Mole" strategies, and then what he calls the "The Oil Spot", a confusing name for the idea of creating secure areas where there could be economic development, as a way of winning the population over. This is apparently the "new counterinsurgency strategy" of his title. His one-liner here takes the form of a quotation he attributes to someone called Lawrence Kaplan: "Population security depends on the assumption that US forces can insulate the populace from insurgents and militias. But how do you isolate the population from the population?"

In a nutshell, I don't think it is unfair to conclude Krepinevich is skeptical about the chances for success of any of these approaches. You could read the whole thing and see for yourself. But pay particular attention toward the end at page 21: "The thin green line", where there are four bullet-points:
(1) 92,000 force structure increase
(2) Army recruitment/retention costs are up and numbers are down [followed by some details]
(3) ...And the quality is down too [also followed by some details]
(4) Hired Guns: The Roman and Halliburton options
Recall the opening point about the Roman option of "massive retaliation" being "unlikely [to] apply, except in the most dire of circumstances". Then after running through the obstacles in the way of any of the other options, and the weakening of the US military, his final point is "Hired Guns: The Roman and Halliburton options".

So thank you, Colin Kahl, for that clarification. It is not the Roman option, but the Roman and Halliburton option. I was wrong about something else too. The briefing was not primarily for academics. It was primarily for congressional staff (see the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments website). Which explains why it has not been in the media.


Blogger Dick Durata said...

Shorter Kahl/Krepenevich, "The US doesn't do genocide, yet."
I'm struck by the delicacy of using Romans as a model when one could go to the last century for examples. I guess the congresscritters might be scared if someone used the other 'n' word.

3:54 PM  
Blogger annie said...


4:37 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Krepenevich seems to be the King of Military Strategy Consulting, the best I can tell. I might have expected to see a wingnut or someone talking about Halliburton in this way, but this guy is of the highest authority. And this "briefing" has been widely circulated, Kahl said. The policy elite said nothing. I think that's where the n word comes in.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tLawrence Kaplan: "Population security depends on the assumption that US forces can insulate the populace from insurgents and militias. But how do you isolate the population from the population?"

Also implicit here is the fact that most militia and insurgents are male, a fact not lost on the U.S. who as in Fallujah essentially must rid the population of military age males. Which in this case all males aged 14 - 65. So sure, you can achieve a temporary "security" but at the cost of a community cut of from the rest of the population and at the same time, relieved of male gender. Or in other words, a totally disfunctional community.

anna missed

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

badger, you've got congressional spelled wrong in the title

5:20 AM  
Blogger badger said...

thanks ! (I also misspelled Krepinevich, not Krepenevich)

6:51 AM  

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