Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Being feared and not hated: How the US got control of a town in the Sunni triangle

The study of great books is not an academic exercise: it’s supposed to help us to understand how the world works. In one of those famous books, a great Florentine student of politics and war says that to maintain your state and security, "it is better to be feared than loved". At the very least, a person should not be hated, which can be avoided if you do not take the "property and women" of those under your authority.

This enduring lesson is brought home in an unusually interesting and balanced article from The New York Times on how the US military got control of a Sunni insurgent hotbed in northern Iraq. By being incredibly patient, flexible, and willing to work with what they had in front of them, Captain Kevin Burke and his men struck a delicate balance between cultivating former regime elements who would cooperate and rounding up those who would not (and figuring out which was which). According to the piece, the Sunni villagers began to provide Company C with some very good intelligence that led to the capture of "Mohammed Shakara, Al Qaeda’s leader for northern Iraq and its biggest city, Mosul." The intelligence flowed once the Americans showed that they were serious about keeping order but did not want to rule the place by themselves. The Americans are not loved in that town, but neither are they hated -- except by the irreconciliable jihadists. They still have to watch their backs, but now they are feared and even respected in a certain way. As Capt. Burke says, that’s as good as the "reality" of the situation permits.

No doubt, the Florentine thinker would be proud.

Discussions - 3 Comments

With the exceptions of bar and strip joint owners, the people outside US army camps usually are not too thrilled.

"With the exceptions of bar and strip joint owners, the people outside US army camps usually are not too thrilled."

Well.........the "hosts" seem to forget who protects their behinds and yours. It is the US military and not Kofi Anus.

Two things--

1) Mr. Wallis, you should re-assess your comments based on actions currently undertaken to change the BRAC closures. Think just "bar and strip joint owners" are fighting the closures and moves?

2) The "Florentine Thinker" is required reading in many Officer Professional Development programs--I read him twenty-one years ago as a young lieutenant. Our leaders are nothing if not pragmatic (and educated).

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