I don’t think Patton ever said it, but it was in the movie so I’ll go with it. We all saw the movie, I loved the line, and it fits the man. “I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice.”
Last week the President authorized sending another 450 troops to Iraq. As reported by the Associated Press, as well as a bunch of other news outlets, the U.S. forces will advise the 8th Iraqi Army Division, based at al-Taqaddum, on a lot of things, including logistics, to help them develop a plan to retake of Ramadi. The U.S. will help forge connections between Iraqi security forces and Sunni tribes, assisting them in identifying and reaching out to Sunnis in Anbar so they can eventually work with the Iraqi Army.
I’m looking at my map of Iraq from the dark days, and there it is. Al-Taqqadum, or TQ as my Marine friends used to call it, right on Supply Route Michigan, and a short hop from Route Mobile, just about halfway between Fallujah and Ramadi. It brings back memories, and not happy ones.
As I think about what the Pentagon wants to do I’m overcome with immense melancholy. I don’t like what's happening for the very same reason Patton wouldn’t like it. I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice.
It looks like we are going to try to rerun the Anbar strategy from the surge. Establish the logistics, control the supply routes, and reach out to our Sunni friends in a classic counterinsurgency plan. On paper it makes sense.
Except many of our Sunni friends - those who led the Awakening and helped us control the supply routes - are no longer available. Some have thrown in with ISIS out of desperation because of how they have been treated by the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Some have died in the conflict with ISIS. Some are in hiding. Others have escaped the country.
To pull this strategy off, we are going to have to rely on our Iraqi allies to hold fast when required, and project power into a region that even challenged the iron fist of Saddam before the lid came off.
Patton has another great quote, “"Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy." This quote doesn’t come from Hollywood, but from Patton himself. Is the strategy that will spiral out of TQ into Anbar a good one? Perhaps. Is the Iraqi Army tactically capable of pulling it off? We shall see.
And what will happen if the Iraqi Army fails? Are our sons and daughters going to be asked to pay for the same real estate twice?