April 02, 2006

The State of the Iraqi Insurgency

An interesting report from the ICG worth your time.

Excerpts:

First, the insurgents’ perspective has undergone a remarkable evolution. Initially, they perceived and presented the U.S. presence as an enduring one that would be extremely difficult to dislodge; they saw their struggle as a long-term, open-ended jihad, whose success was measured by the very fact that it was taking place. That no longer is the case. Today, the prospect of an outright victory and a swift withdrawal of foreign forces has crystallised, bolstered by the U.S.’s perceived loss of legitimacy and apparent vacillation, its periodic announcements of troop redeployments, the precipitous decline in domestic support for the war and heightened calls by prominent politicians for a rapid withdrawal. When the U.S. leaves, the insurgents do not doubt that Iraq’s security forces and institutions would quickly collapse [ed. note: There is some insurgent bravura in this last contention, as post-Tal Afar especially, I believe the insurgents have some real concerns about the growing abilities of the Iraqi Army, but said concerns are nevertheless mitigated by various circumstances, of which more below]...

...The armed opposition, determined to force the withdrawal of foreign forces, has opted for a strategy of steady and continuous harassment. The second siege of Falluja in November 2004 appears to have been a turning point, graphically demonstrating the futility of directly confronting U.S. troops or seeking to hold fixed positions. After a short albeit angry debate on this, insurgents shifted toward a more fluid and flexible approach that sought to exploit enemy vulnerabilities. Tandhim al-Qa’ida issued an 85-page publication entirely devoted to the battle, with accounts of the siege, testimony on various aspects and practical conclusions. Jami’s first issue, published in September 2005, included a long piece on the battles of Falluja, Karabala and al-Qa’im. U.S. tactics in retaking these towns was scrutinised and dissected: initial, massive bombardment; entry into the town by elite units backed by tanks and helicopters; forced evacuation of the civilian population, gathered in large and exposed empty lots; completion of a comprehensive blockade, denying access to both civilians and the media; and finally use of incendiary munitions to mop up remaining pockets of resistance.

Tandhim al-Qa’ida recommended the following approach regarding urban zones: avoid direct confrontation and static positions; focus on quick, sharp armed operations in the heart of the targeted towns to avoid immediate airborne retaliation; vacate targeted cities prior to the onset of cordon and search and seize operations; once an enemy cordon is in place, attack from the outside, using rockets and snipers; and surround the enemy within the very towns it deems re-conquered and pacified...This strategy of attrition has yielded some important results, curtailing the freedom of manoeuvre of U.S. forces, putting them on the defensive and enhancing the perceived aggressive, provocative nature of their presence...

...Hunting down armed “collaborators” has become one of the armed opposition’s primary concerns, particularly as more capable Iraqi forces have emerged, and militias have assumed a greater role. Although efforts to intimidate and eliminate Iraqis cooperating with the coalition have been on the rise since 2003, the coalition-led operation against Tall ‘Afar in early September 2005 arguably was the turning point. During that battle, Iraqi units for the first time played a decisive part, a fact highlighted in insurgent communiqués. By October 2005, groups such as Tandhim al-Qa’ida and Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna clearly began to designate the “internal enemy” as their top priority target...

This last bolded portion, while ostensibly good news, of course (that Iraqi forces are developing in a manner that has insurgents genuinely concerned), is only so to a fashion. Insurgents are calculating that the trend-line is running towards diminishing U.S involvement, that U.S. force posture is increasingly so conservative as to render taking on U.S. forces directly of less import, and that greater progress towards stoking chaos, sectarianism, and fostering further fealty to militias is better stoked by attacking 'softer' nascent Iraqi Army/Police forces rather than focusing primarily on U.S. troops, although continuing attrition like forays are still being mounted on this front too.

More:

...The current anti-insurgency approach does not appear to be working. To date, it has centred on three core pillars: the enemy’s destruction (elimination of the largest possible number of fighters), decapitation (suppression of insurgent leaders and leadership structures) and dislocation (recovery of their sanctuaries and disruption of their lines of communication). Yet the armed opposition has been able to replenish its ranks and mobilise necessary (albeit limited) popular support. Even Tandhim al-Qa’ida, a prime target for both coalition and Iraqi security forces, has not displayed any sign of exhaustion.

The insurgency is built around a loose and flexible network, feeds on deep-seated family, tribal and local loyalties, with allegiance to a cause rather than to specific individuals. Insurgent leaders are an important part, but there is no evidence their individual roles are crucial; those who have been killed or captured have been swiftly replaced with no notable impact on any group’s performance. The insurgents, meanwhile, have been both playing on and exacerbating Sunni Arab hostility, first toward the occupation, and now also toward sectarian Shiite parties seen as intent on taking over national institutions and resources, waging a dirty communal war and pursuing an essentially Iranian agenda. The combination of social networks, an ample supply of weapons, a powerful message and adequate funds has allowed the insurgency to maintain a relatively constant level of violence. The armed opposition also has found ways around the coalition’s attempt to dislocate it by regaining territory (e.g., Tall ‘Afar and al-Qa’im) or disrupting internet sites. On the ground, the insurgency is responding to the U.S. strategy – “clear, hold, and build” – by one of its own: recoil, redeploy and spoil. Rather than confront the enemy head on, it is taking advantage of its military flexibility, the limited number of U.S. troops and the fragility of Iraqi security forces to attack at the time and place of its choosing. Insurgent groups also have become proficient at maintaining internet communications despite coalition efforts to interrupt them.

The content and evolution of the armed opposition’s discourse carries important lessons in this respect. Over time, the insurgency appears to have become more united, confident, sensitive to its constituents’ demands, and adept at learning from the enemy’s successes and failures and its own. The trend remains fragile – the surface homogeneity in all likelihood conceals deep-seated tensions; the confidence may be short-lived; and the sensitivity has its limitations. But the U.S. needs to take these into account if it is to understand the insurgency’s remarkable resilience and learn how to counter it.

A central message is that the coalition’s most effective tools have not been of a military but rather of a political nature. Televised confessions of insurgent combatants and accusations of sectarianism, brutality and depravity, as well as the various 2005 polls all had a visible impact on the armed opposition, bringing about tangible changes in its behaviour and rhetoric. This was only a start, but it suggests something more profound: the importance to the insurgency of its legitimacy, which essentially relies on opposition to the occupation, anger at its specific practices and the feeling shared by Sunni Arabs of being under siege.

Conducting an effective counter-insurgency campaign requires emphasising this political dimension, taking the armed opposition’s discourse seriously, and directing one’s efforts at the sources of its popular support. Excessive use of force by coalition troops, torture, resort to tactics that inflict widespread harm on civilians and reliance on sectarian militias simultaneously undermine U.S. legitimacy and boost the insurgents’ own, thereby clearly outweighing any possible military gain.

For the U.S. and its Iraqi allies to prevail on this battlefront, they first of all must establish a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence – which means establishing the legitimacy both of the means being deployed and of the state on whose behalf violence is being exercised. That, to date, has been far from the case. Instead, the insurgency flourishes on widespread Sunni Arab perception of U.S. and official Iraqi arbitrariness and coercion. As a result, the U.S. runs the risk of seeing the armed opposition durably entrenched in predominantly Sunni Arab areas which, in a vicious cycle, the central government can reach only through periodic assaults and repressive actions.

A first imperative, of course, is to reach out to the Sunni Arab community, amend the constitution and build a more inclusive polity. But that aside, important steps must be taken to alter radically how the counter-insurgency campaign is being waged. For the U.S. and its Iraqi allies, this entails:

--closely monitoring, controlling and, if necessary, punishing, the behaviour of security forces;

--halting recourse to the most questionable types of practices, including torture and extraordinary methods of interrogation and confinement, collective punishment and extra-judicial killings;

--ending the use of sectarian militias as a complement to, or substitute for, regular armed forces and beginning a serious process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of militia fighters;

--the U.S. holding the new government accountable and making clear that longer-term relations, economic assistance and future military cooperation will depend on the steps it takes to rein in and ultimately disband militias, halt politically-motivated killings and respect human rights and the rule of law. [my emphasis throughout]

Needless to say, the Iraqi insurgency is not defeated. Equally needless to say, their chances of victory will be exponentially enhanced if a too speedy U.S. withdrawal is pursued. This was one of the very key reasons I supported Bush, as I judged him much more likely than Kerry to keep our forces in theater for the duration. We can quibble about that, and my disgust at this Administration's frequent incompetence has been blogged frequently in this space, but I still believe we'd have well fewer than 133,000 or so troops in theater today if Kerry had prevailed, based on his campaign utterances and the view among rank and file Democrats about the Iraq war. This would likely mean that sectarian violence would today be even more intense than it has been to date, as fewer U.S. forces would be available to attempt to keep a lid on the nascent civil war. Further, I believe we've made significant headway, of late, in peeling off some moderate Sunnis away from the insurgency. I know too that coalition authorities have, on occasion, attempted to raid Shi'a-run detention centers, or have, of late, more proactively monitored other abuses of power by nascent Iraqi police units or Interior Ministry authorities, so as to attempt to ensure gross abuses are reined in.

In short, we're already doing some of the things the ICG report calls for. But the situation in Baghdad today showcases how we've failed in establishing a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, as the ICG report puts it. And one of the reasons I'm so keen to see Rumsfeld step down or be fired is that he doesn't appear to understand that one of the key prongs of defeating the insurgency means denying the insurgents legitimacy. And, of course, the insurgents derive legitimacy in Sunni areas by, say, arguing that Shi'a death squads are operating with impunity and torturing detainees. Recall the press conference where Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, showed some rare back-bone, standing at the podium with Rumsfeld, and differed with the Defense Secretary on what U.S. forces should do if they witnessed Iraq Army forces mistreating detainees? Pace said that U.S. forces had a duty to intervene, but Rumsfeld said no, they just need to report it to their superiors.

General Eaton (whom a Pentagon website describes as the "father of the Iraqi Army", as he was in charge of training and equipping the Iraqi Army in '04) describes this incident in his recent NYT op-ed:

In the five years Mr. Rumsfeld has presided over the Pentagon, I have seen a climate of groupthink become dominant and a growing reluctance by experienced military men and civilians to challenge the notions of the senior leadership.

I thought we had a glimmer of hope last November when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced off with Mr. Rumsfeld on the question of how our soldiers should react if they witnessed illegal treatment of prisoners by Iraqi authorities. (General Pace's view was that our soldiers should intervene, while Mr. Rumsfeld's position was that they should simply report the incident to superiors.)

Unfortunately, the general subsequently backed down and supported the secretary's call to have the rules clarified, giving the impression that our senior man in uniform is just as intimidated by Secretary Rumsfeld as was his predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers.

Rumsfeld doesn't appear to understand that to further defang the Sunni insurgents of legitimacy, he cannot describe credibly the national Iraq Army as controlling the battlespace in Sadr City (infested with Mehdi militia), that he cannot wash his hands of the behavior of Interior Ministry or other forces mistreating detainees, that he cannot say that a civil war in Iraq will meet with U.S. forces pulling back to their bases or otherwise over the horizon, providing further fodder to Sunnis fearful of revanchist Shi'a death squads that they need insurgent protection going forward. Otherwise, no matter how many key 'Zarqawi lieutenants' Pentagon mouthpiece bloggers inform their breathless readership have been captured or killed, the insurgent ranks will continue to replenish, and we'll therefore continue to face two main perils in Iraq: not only the specter of large scale sectarian violence or even full-fledged civil war, but also the continued existence of a resilient insurgency.

This war is simply crying out for new leadership at the Pentagon, but the President is too blind to see this and belatedly accept Rumsfeld's resignation. But I haven't given up hope yet, as I know that Rumsfeld's fate is not as certain as he would have us believe with his cocksure manner. He's in large part damaged goods (William Buckley rather damningly called him a "failed executor" of the Iraq War in a Bloomberg interview over the weekend), and increasingly a political liability for Bush. There is still hope the President will come to realize this in coming months, and as it will have a material (albeit admitedly not determinative impact) on the course of the war, I believe a positive one, I will continue to push for his dismissal or resignation in these pages, even if this inevitably has me appearing a tad Ahab-like on this front.

Posted by Gregory at April 2, 2006 02:25 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Greg, it is your support of Bush that has led to this chaos and all these dead Iraqis. You cannot blame anyone else until you are willing to take your share of the responsibility for this disaster. Once you honestly accept your guilt then it is possible for you to make amends. Until then, if you look at it honestly, all you are doing is avoiding the fact that you were totally wrong. This is hard to accept because in this case, being wrong, led to the death of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

I don't know what you can do to ever fully regain honor, and perhaps it is best if Bush supporters were permanently marked with some sign of disgrace. Nevertheless, it is still worth at least trying.

Posted by: ken at April 2, 2006 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" There is still hope the President will come to realize this in coming months, and as it will have a material (albeit admitedly not determinative impact) on the course of the war, I believe a positive one, I will continue to push for his dismissal or resignation in these pages, even if this inevitably has me appearing a tad Ahab-like on this front."

You don't sound like Ahab. You sound like a mark who's still expecting the con artist to make good on the scam.

Bush is still saying things are going well in Iraq. More importantly, Cheney is still saying things are going well in Iraq. How can they possibly make such claims? They're either lying or deluded: there is no third possiblity.

What on Earth gives you hope that an Administration so divorced from truth or reality will suddenly embrace both and make serious, effective changes in how they're running the war?

Really. Where does your hope come from?

Posted by: CaseyL at April 2, 2006 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

there is a sense of unreality in the ICG recommendations ---

it turns out that they were published over a month ago (2-16-06), i.e. before the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara.

The problem isn't Rumsfeld, Greg. The problem is Bush. Sistani isn't going to start reading Bush's letters just because Rummy gets replaced -- and without Sistani's backing, no US strategy is going to be effective.

Kerry might have reduced US troops -- and he probably would also have been able to convince the rest of the world (including Sistani) that the US was no longer being run by a madman, and that preventing chaos in Iraq was now a higher priority than containing tthe Bush regime....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 2, 2006 07:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ken/casey: so what do you want to do? stamp a yellow 'he was for iraq' star on my ass and pull out all the troops in 3-6 months? then what, watch the country degenerate into anarchic conditions from afar? we're in a big effing mess, there, yes. partly b/c people like me supported this war, and I accept that. but we're there now, and we've got to try to salvage the situation. firing the grotesquely incompetent Rumsfeld and stabilizing Baghdad, if possible, would be a start. what are your suggestions, aside from beating up on me as a hapless war cheerleader who deserves to rot in hell b/c post 9/11 I thought the burden of risk was on Saddam to prove he had no biological or chemical WMD and that I, like many, thought he did, and so needed to be robustly confronted. i was wrong, and not only that, the prosecution of the war and nation-building has been hugely problematic. but the question on the table is what to do now. I'm sorry, but Jack Murtha's genuine, heartfelt view, which I respect and understand, is not in my view the best course of action at this hour. It's, rather, continued engagement marshalling all effective assets at our disposal.

Posted by: greg at April 2, 2006 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wars against insurgents take 10 to 20 years.

Don't be too hasty in your judgements.

Posted by: M. Simon at April 2, 2006 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Ken, the first commenter above: the personal attacks on Greg D. say far more about those who make them than about him. Besides the fact that this tripe is utterly tiresome at this point, you continue to wallow in the past, and as such you're part of the problem at a time when solutions are needed. This blog (and GD's current post) is grounded in the present and focused on solutions. If you want to obsess about "guilt" and "blogger dishonor" you might be more productive plying your absolutist trade against the dozens of apologist bloggers on the Right who, like you, have retreated into blaming others (the media, the Democrats, Hollywood, Cindy Sheehan, the French, Syria, Iran, Russia) instead of focusing on reality.

Posted by: The Cunning Realist at April 2, 2006 07:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm sorry, but Jack Murtha's genuine, heartfelt view, which I respect and understand, is not in my view the best course of action at this hour. It's, rather, continued engagement marshalling all effective assets at our disposal.

Murtha's view, like the ICG's, have both been overtaken by events.

We need to confront the fact that we are no longer in control of the situation, and do what we can to cut our losses and minimize the damage to the people of Iraq.

The fact is that Bushco takes two steps back for every step forward. It gets its elections and constitution..... then throws a monkey wrench into the mechanism by actively undermining the choice of the coalition of Shiite religious parties by taking advantage of the differences between the parties. That's a "divide and conquer" strategy, not a "stability" strategy --- and its so fucking stupid it makes me spit with rage....

And that ISN'T Rummy's doing. That Bolton, and Cheney, and Hadley and Rove and the rest of the Neo-con cabal that still runs things in the White House -- but most of all its Bush.

Yeah, Rummy should go --- but don't think that his leaving with make an ice cube's difference in hell in how Iraq turns out.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at April 2, 2006 08:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree that the question is what to do now. I cannot agree that this excuses the people who actually made the mistakes from the responsibility of facing up to them, and trying to avoid continuing to make them (or making new ones based on the same assumptions that led to the earlier mistakes).

At the start, this means that the Admin has to completely jettison the idea that the war can be waged for domestic political advantage. If, as supporeters seem to say all the time, MY support for the thing is a required element for victory, then earn it. Hint: not by insults, or dire predictions of failure. The latter don't work, because I'm not sure that the current Admin can acheive a result much better than the 'no action alternative.'

I'm fine with firing Rumsfeld. First, though, you fire Rove. And everyone else who's been using the war for domestic purposes. Then tell everyone talking about attacking Iran or Syria to STFU. Finally, announce that we have no dog in the fight over which factions rule Iraq, or what its constitution says about civil rights, the role of Islam, federalism, and all the rest. All Iraqi problems must be solved by Iraqis.

What's our role? Border security. Training the national army (no matter who shows up to be in it).

Posted by: CharleyCarp at April 2, 2006 08:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Glad to hear that the insugents are getting more media-savvy; that is, not videotaping beheadings and taking credit for suicide bombings anymore. It is also significant that Jill Carrol did not feel free to speak her mind even after she was released into the custody of a leading Sunni political leader. I think that Wretchard may be onto someting when he says that each of the political parties has an armed wing. The Shiites have the interior ministry, the Sunni jihadists have their terror and kidnapping campaign; which is not gaining in popularity. Their leaders are publicly obliged to condemn these things but are in many cases are funding and communicating with these groups.

I find it also significant that some Sunnis came running to the US to demand protection from the extra-judicial killings. Zalmay Khalizad responded positively, which in turn got him in hot water with the Shiites. The US is fine-tuning its strategy to act as a buffer among these groups.

Even if we had twice as many boots on the ground, the US would not have the power to pacify these groups all at once.

Meanwhile I recommend checking in with ITM once in a while. Omar and Mohammed are regularly reporting on political developments which are not all
gloom and doom. This begs the question, how much of what we are seeing is politics Iraqi style, and how much of it is due to us (bumbling) evil imperialists? I think it is a fair question.

Posted by: Chuck at April 2, 2006 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

[Re: Kerry's election, and withdrawing forces] "This would likely mean that sectarian violence would today be even more intense than it has been to date, as fewer U.S. forces would be available to attempt to keep a lid on the nascent civil war. "

From what I've read, it appears that the major US reaction to this growing civil war has been to withdraw US troops, to make sure that we don't get caught up in it. In other words, to do little or nothing to prevent it.

This puts us in a big dilemma - if we intervence, we enter a more multi-front war in Iraq, with Shiite governmental and militia forces attacking us. If not, we strengthen the dominance in the Iraqi government of Shiite forces who don't like us, and are only using us to whack the Sunnis. Also, we heighten the Sunni resistance in the short/medium term, as more Sunni's decide that this is a war of ethnic survival, and support the guerrillas.

Posted by: Barry at April 2, 2006 08:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This discussion is unreal. The points are made from an ideal world perspective. In an ideal world we would have an administration that would flexibly and pragmatically learn from mistakes and change failed strategies. Well, I think the president was not faking it when he seemed to search for painful minutes for examples of mistakes during his administration. Repeat after me: there are no mistakes. No mistakes have been made. Things are fine in Iraq. Worries and failures will start in January 2009. This war has been waged with criminal incompetence from the start and it seems that criminal incompetence is the modus vivendi of this administration, its inherent characteristic. You could just as well demand that Bush should resign. Criminal incompetence in policy execution and ruthless use of foreign policy as a domestic policy wedge with which to divide the Democrats and keep the Republican coalition unified.

Never mind the Iraqi factions and the "actual situation" in Iraq. It's the spin that matters, it's the base that matters. Regardless of the legitimicy of the war and the manipulation of intelligence and popular opinion it is simply dishonest to claim that we should now "focus" on "the existing problem" in Baghdad and Iraq - the existing problem in Iraq occupies the White House and cannot be removed for years. Well, you get what you order. I often think that senator McCarthy could have just as well be on KGB pay, he was such a gift to the Communists. Similarly I have been wondering if George Bush would not be a Chinese mole. I suppose the great part is that they don't even have to pay him.

Posted by: llwyd at April 2, 2006 09:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I did not notice that you would quoted the following part from the report:

"The insurgency is increasingly optimistic about victory. Such self-confidence was not there when the war was conceived as an open-ended jihad against an occupier they believed was determined to stay. Optimism stems from a conviction the legitimacy of jihad is now beyond doubt, institutions established under the occupation are fragile and irreparably illegitimate, and the war of attrition against U.S. forces is succeeding."

Strangely, this report makes the insurgents look more sophisticated and pragmatic than the Bush administration. They seem to learn from mistakes and make major changes into strategy and tactics. If they think they are winning against the US, they are proabably right. Wars of choice don't seem elicit the kind of sacrifices and generational commitments that you would need here. Not that the administration would have asked for them - you know, the domestic politics would have suffered, it would have risked 2004 certainly, that accountability moment. So, in rational, empirical world focusing on the "actual situation" in Iraq (and Washington DC) can quite legitimately lead to a demand of a fairly speedy withdrawal. With this "leadership" staying may not be in the interests of Iraqis and it will be done in the most criminally incompetent way imaginable. So, it might be time to cut losses. Of course, in a rational, empirical world that accountability moment might have been used for accounting.

Posted by: llwyd at April 2, 2006 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, yes in a sense you should be branded for your part in this debacle. You are not alone, however, and it is not good company.

Thousands of people are dead because of the direction you and others like you decided our country should take. What were you thinking? You must have know wars kill people, lots of people. Did this not matter to you?

You say that is all behind us now and we must deal with the mess you guys got us in. OK, but I don't see you willing to listen any more now than you were then. We were right to say that the war on Iraq was wrong. We are right now to say it is wrong to stay in Iraq even now after messing it all up.

The question is not will lots more innocent people die. They will die regardless of our further action. That is a given. You guys started the killing but you are totally helpless to stop it. So the real question is who does the killing and do we participate?. I see no reason for us to continue killing anyone in Iraq. They did not threaten our security before the invasion and do not threaten our security now. No one in Iraq has ever harmed us in any way.

The problem for you is that this means you will have to accept the blame for the 'loss' of Iraq. Tough. It is not something you and other war supporters can morally escape.

But by you guys accepting the blame, it does allow those of us who were right all along the ability to move forward without a bunch of whining conservatives trying to blame us for their mistakes.

BTW Greg, I do think you are very honest - that is why I believe I can be brutally honest with you about what must be done. Thanks

Posted by: ken at April 2, 2006 10:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Um, Greg isn't TCR...

Posted by: Doug H. at April 2, 2006 11:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I do appreciate your willingness to do a mea culpa regarding Iraq. I'm particularly grateful to see you making the logical decision based on what you realize about Iraq and not support more of the same in Iran.

When I said you sounded like a mark taken by a scam, I didn't mean it as more beating up on you for your past support of the war in Iraq.

I meant that you keep hoping Bush will fire Rumsfeld (or accept his resignation) and appoint someone better - and listen to that better someone, and change how the war is being fought.

Because there has been no indication, none whatsoever, not a hint or a word, from the Bush Admin that it will do any such thing.

To put it bluntly, and in terms you really won't like hearing, you're in the same spot as the tens of millions of people who opposed the war before it started: trying to reach people who have already decided not to listen.

As to your plan itself, I frankly don't know enough about military science to know whether it would work. Your plan at least has the virtue of trying to take an honest look at the situation - if "all" we were dealing with was an insurgency. I don't think we are; I think the insurgency has already morphed into a civil war. And I don't think there are enough US troops anywhere to halt a civil war that's already begun - we've tried more than once to either halt a civil war or make sure the "correct" side won it (Vietnam, Lebanon, Angola), and we've never succeeded. (Kosovo wasn't a civil war; it was genocide. The US, and the rest of the world, sat out the civil war part of Yugoslavia's implosion.)

I also think your plan would increase US casualties dramatically, esp. if we're past "insurgency" and into "civil war," and I don't think Americans would tolerate that - because they would, quite reasonably, ask "What are our soldiers dying for?" and at this point there aren't any satisfactory answers to that question.

Posted by: CaseyL at April 3, 2006 12:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, we can't be sure how much of the data on insurgents to believe. It isn't always clear who's putting up the websites or frequenting the chatrooms. So be careful what you believe of this.

That said, this stuff looks plausible to me except for the suggestions.

The last time around, when it was the british liberating iraq, the sunnis collaborated nicely while the shia fought. And the result was that when the british pulled out they left behind an official government run by sunnis together with a british-armed sunni army, and the sunnis have been on top pretty much ever since. This time around the shia are determined when we pull out they'll be the ones running an official government with a US-armed army behind them.

In that context it would be very hard for us to tell them to let up on the sunnis.

So what's the difference between the insurgents and the shia militias? Well, some of them are sunnis and others are shia. But the big difference is that we have declared war on sunni militias but not on shia militias. They're insurgents because we chose to fight them. The shia militias are not insurgents because we agreed on a truce with them. If we break the truce and try to make them disband, then they'll be insurgents.

Our welcome in iraq depends on us being on the shia side against the sunnis. As soon as we stop doing that, we've worn out our welcome and we'll be invited to leave. Maybe the iraqi government (sitting in the Green Zone entirely under our control) will be too intimidated to deliver that invitation, but it will be delivered regardless.

At this point I'm in favor of cutting our losses. We aren't doing much good. We're providing training to shia military guys, but our training is based on their having great mobility and great supply, backed up with artillery and airstrikes. We aren't just training them, we're providing their trucks, their logistics, and their artillery and airsupport. When we leave they're going to go back to their militias (which are organised not to need any of that). They'll use whatever they find useful of our training, which I think might not be very much.

Our choices are:

1. Take the shia side in the civil war and help slaughter sunnis.
2. Try to interfere in the civil war, basicly be against both sides.
3. Quit.

#1 doesn't look to me like it gets us much.
#2 looks even worse.

Oh well. I thought Greg was stupid to support the war at the beginning. But there was a lot of data to look at, and we believed different parts of it. If the parts he believed had been true and the parts I believed had been lies, it wouild have turned out very different.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 3, 2006 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi Greg,
I love it. The lefties are eating you up alive. It's ironic. They have used your tactic against you. As i have said before you Rumsfeld vent was nothing more than a political power vendetta. The lefties political ploy is to make sure that the Republicans are out of power . If you notice they could care less about replacing Rumsfeld or combating terror, They turn this thread soley into Bush bashing by using your own words. One ill deed deserves another.

Posted by: Moose at April 3, 2006 03:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To say that Iraq is a debacle at this point is premature and the true verdict won't be known for years. In the middle of every major war the US has been involved it has always looked bleak and mistake filled. This war is no different.

However, what would the world look like if we hadn't acted in Iraq? I would say it would be a much scarier place. Where would Pakistan be? I doubt they would be an ally fighting terrorists. UN sanctions were eroding quickly and Saddam was just playing for time. If Gore had won, he probably would have been forced to decide to invade Iraq. Iraq was a 12 year festering wound that the US and Britian were going to have to act on sooner or later.

I feel we will prevail in Iraq. There are too many Iraqis who see tremendous benefit if we succeed. The insurgency has no just cause, no popular base of support with the vast majority. We stay the course and the Iraqis themselves will pull themselves out of the fire.

Posted by: mharling at April 3, 2006 03:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To say that Iraq is a debacle at this point is premature and the true verdict won't be known for years. In the middle of every major war the US has been involved it has always looked bleak and mistake filled. This war is no different.

However, what would the world look like if we hadn't acted in Iraq? I would say it would be a much scarier place. Where would Pakistan be? I doubt they would be an ally fighting terrorists. UN sanctions were eroding quickly and Saddam was just playing for time. If Gore had won, he probably would have been forced to decide to invade Iraq. Iraq was a 12 year festering wound that the US and Britian were going to have to act on sooner or later.

I feel we will prevail in Iraq. There are too many Iraqis who see tremendous benefit if we succeed. The insurgency has no just cause, no popular base of support with the vast majority. We stay the course and the Iraqis themselves will pull themselves out of the fire.

Posted by: mharling at April 3, 2006 03:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We won't know for years, you say? How very convenient for supporters of this war. You can just make that declaration, and then hope that in the intervening years there's either a miraculous turnaround in Iraq or some big event that distracts our attention to other subjects.

As far as salvaging the situation, there is really only one way to do so: cut our losses. The end result in Iraq will not be good. We need to accept that, and recognize that sacrificing more American lives won't fix the problem. Trying to prevent civil war in Iraq is like trying to stop the tide with a teacup. The result is already out of our hands, so our best course of action is to back away and not get caught in the middle when it happens.

Posted by: Goddess of Death at April 3, 2006 06:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't believe those who are calling the war a failure. The goal of the U.S. was to end a hostile regime that might give WMD to terrorists. It was reasonable to conclude (and the Duelfer report suggests) that Hussein was maintaining the capability and waiting for the watchdogs to leave. No one knows what he would have done then, not Bush, and not the Bush-haters. Why should a Great Power live with the uncertainty Hussein embodied? The potential costs of doing nothing--thousands, maybe millions of American deaths, a shattered economy--were too great. So America went to war, and at a relatively small cost to herself solved the problem. The U.S. is now certain that Iraq does not have the ability to pass on such weapons to terrorists. Goal achieved.
Instead of leaving the Arabs to butcher each other--something that was already happening, folks-- the U.S. has decided to help Iraq find a better way. It may succeed, or it may fail. Whichever way it goes, America will have lived up to its best traditions by trying. Pay any price, bear any burden, remember? In three years of fighting, we have lost fewer lives than were lost at Gettysburg in three days, or in one day at Antietam. After several years of civil war, our efforts freed a people--and the whole time, the Democrats protested, reviled Lincoln, and undermined our efforts. Their ideological descendants are the ones that are going to have to erase their dishonor over this war, not the war supporters.

Posted by: Blixx at April 3, 2006 06:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You can't believe it? I'll tell you what I can't believe. I can't believe that some people still buy into the long since disproved pre-war justifications. You believe that the goal of this war was to "end a hostile regime that might give WMD to terrorists", but no such regime existed in Iraq. The scenario of Saddam Hussein giving a WMD to terrorists is a product of the same fantasy land where the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, there would be no insurgency, and Ahmed Chalabi was a trustworthy leader of the new Iraq.

Posted by: Goddess of Death at April 3, 2006 06:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


However, what would the world look like if we hadn't acted in Iraq? I would say it would be a much scarier place. Where would Pakistan be? I doubt they would be an ally fighting terrorists

To the extent that Pakistan is an ally, it became so because of huge AMerican carrots after 911. Pakistan's being an ally has nothing to do with Iraq -- in fact, the pro-US forces in pakistan (such as they are) have found their tasks much harder bedcause of Iraq. It is errant nonsense to suggest otherwise.

Posted by: erg at April 3, 2006 07:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Errant nonsense is the specialty of thus who support this war. Most people who supported it originally have realized their mistake, but some just can't admit to being wrong.

Posted by: Goddess of Death at April 3, 2006 10:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The scenario of Saddam Hussein giving a WMD to terrorists is a product of the same fantasy land where the Iraqis would greet us as liberators

Why? Why can you not believe Saddam would give away WMD's to terrorists? Because he was such a great guy? He killed 5% of his population. He used WMD's against the Kurds and against the Iranians. He sponored and protected the perpetrator of the bombing of the World Trade Center after the bombing failed. Do you really believe he never had WMD's? People like you and Ken are too irresponsible for words. What was your plan to remove Saddam, to address the violence done to 40 million arabs in Afghanistan and Iraq, to attack terrorism at its base? None. You have no plan, all you do is stand at the sidelines and snipe. Bad news kids, the war is on, it is a tough one but we will win, and the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and who knows Iran and Syria will be better off. p.s. I have been in the Military for the last 24 years, so don't call chicken hawk

Posted by: RedIndigo at April 3, 2006 10:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We can't spare Rumsfeld. Nobody else could have done half the job he has in remaking the international "footprint" of the U.S. armed forces. You can't replace somebody with nobody. You'll just get another Les Aspin or Bill Cohen. Rumsfeld has ability. We cannot spare this man. He fights. (Somebody said once!)

Posted by: Exguru at April 3, 2006 11:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"We won't know for years, you say? How very convenient for supporters of this war. You can just make that declaration, and then hope that in the intervening years there's either a miraculous turnaround in Iraq or some big event that distracts our attention to other subjects."

It is a fact of history dearie, not some neocon ploy to deflect criticism. If you will open your history textbook once and a while you will see the consequences and final analysis of war take decades if not longer to resolve. Your mindset of course is understandable. You come from the instant gratification generation who want it right here, right now. And if you are denied it, you scream and whine about the competence of those who are supposed to provide it for you. Your cowardace and blind hatred of people who had the courage to do what you could not, would not do is appalling.

"As far as salvaging the situation, there is really only one way to do so: cut our losses. The end result in Iraq will not be good. We need to accept that, and recognize that sacrificing more American lives won't fix the problem."

Its really a good thing that the soldiers who fought in the Civil War and WWII didn't listen to such selfish, shortsighted and defeatest crap. Once again, open up that history book and look at what it took for good to prevail in this world. Then take a good look at the consequences of "cut our losses". A good place to start would be Vietnam. Defeating Saddam and his minions was the right thing to do on so many levels. From the moral viewpoint of removing a genocidal murderer to the possibility of WMDs being passes to terrorists. Those who cannot see these things are blind. And there are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Posted by: Robert at April 3, 2006 12:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good point Robert. How do our brothers and sister on the left MORALLY justify their claim that it was better to abandon the people of Afghanistan and Iraq to a brutish, tyranical hell? Would they like to go back in time and tell the Jew, Poles,Gypsies and the other millions of victims of the Nazi regime that it would not be worth it to free them? After all, we lost alot more people there. Cost alot more, too. Again, I think it goes back to the fact, they have no answers, they think their critsisms are enough

Posted by: RedIndigo at April 3, 2006 12:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's a pity you have lost your nerve, Greg.

Nha Bao Noi Lao, An Tien ="Journalists" tell lies, take money.

Dong Ha-72

Posted by: Dong Ha-72 at April 3, 2006 12:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

They try to justify it by making claims of "hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead" without ever backing up those claims or providing the least bit of qualification on who those "hundreds of thousands of Iraqis" happen to be. Then they go on to say that we have only made things worse and will only continue to make things worse because we can't provide them immediate proof that things will ever get better. The real problem is that those who hold this viewpoint have no clue on what it is to live in tyranny. To live in fear of death every single day because the local dictator wakes up one morning and decides he wants you dead. They have no grasp of history and no personal experience with the sacrifices that were made to protect and nourish the liberty they enjoy. The best they can do is attach themselves to some rabid anti-establishement "cause" which tells them everything they need to know about how evil BUSHCo is.

Posted by: Robert at April 3, 2006 12:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


What was your plan to remove Saddam, to address the violence done to 40 million arabs in Afghanistan and Iraq, to attack terrorism at its base?

Afghanistan is not an Arab country.

This is not just a nitpick, but a perfect example of the ignorance of wingnuts. After all, before you try and remake the Middle East, South Asia etc., you should know a little about the country you're invading, no ?

I fully supported the war in Afghanistan, incidentally.

Posted by: Matt at April 3, 2006 01:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If you will open your history textbook once and a while you will see the consequences and final analysis of war take decades if not longer to resolve. Your mindset of course is understandable. You come from the instant gratification generation who want it right here, right now.

I beg to differ. The president said the war was over 3 years back. Why do we have to wait decades if he says that ?


Its really a good thing that the soldiers who fought in the Civil War and WWII didn't listen to such selfish, shortsighted and defeatest crap.

Yup, the Iraq war was as vital to our security as WWII or the Civil War, which was fought on US soil.

Also, those who point to lower casualties in this war than previous wars should remember something. The Soviet Union lost barely 1/20th as many people in Afghanistan over 10 years as they lost in Stalingrad in a few months. Yet, that conflict drained the Soviet army and treasury and helped to bring about the end of the Soviet Union.


good place to start would be Vietnam. Defeating Saddam and his minions was the right thing to do on so many levels. From the moral viewpoint of removing a genocidal murderer to the possibility of WMDs being passes to terrorists.

Yes. Saddam would have passed on his non-existent WMDs via his near non-existent link to Al Qaeda. [Meanwhile, US ally Pakistan has genuine WMDs, links to terrorist etc.]

Posted by: Matt at April 3, 2006 01:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why can you not believe Saddam would give away WMD's to terrorists?

If you're still repeating this tired old chestnut now then it's pretty certain your mind is irremediably made up. But I guess I'll respond in case there's somebody around who isn't certain.

Just imagine that in our coming war with iran we were to decide that we needed two nukes set off in iran, one in Teheran and the other near a secret buried iranian nuclear facility. But for various reasons we didn't want the world to know that we did it.

So in this fantasy, we give the nukes to iranian kurds -- resistance fighters -- and we trust them to get the nukes where they belong and set them off. Now, there's always a chance that something will go wrong, that some delay might result in one of the nukes not getting to the right place on time. So just in case we give them four nukes and have them send two independent teams to each target. And if things work out fine and it turns out two of them were enough, they'll give us back the spares.

Doesn't that sound utterly crazy? We trust iranian kurds with our nukes? They might sell them. They might use them for their own purposes, on other targets. Maybe in our ally turkey. It's an insane plan.

It would have been even more insane for Saddam. We have a whole lot of nukes. If four of them got misplaced we'd hardly miss them. Saddam wouldn't have very many nukes, it would take him decades before he had a whole lot. See, it's real expensive to set up a nuclear program. But once you have it running it isn't all that expensive to produce a few bombs a year. Do that for fifty years and each bomb is pretty cheap. But in those first years you have a few very expensive bombs. Saddam gives half his arsenal to terrorists, and he doesn't know whether they'll sell them to the USA or sell them to god-knows-who or what? It makes no sense for anybody to give away nukes. Even less sense for people who don't have very many nukes.

So to suppose that Saddam would give nukes to terrorists, you have to not only figure he's evil. You also have to figure he's insanely incompetent. Lots of people thought he was ijnsane. But he seemed reasonably competent. We tried to support coups in iraq and we got nowhere. We tried to get Saddam assassinated and we got nowhere. He wasn't completely stupidly incompetent.

On the other hand, I didn't want Saddam to have nukes either. But was it worth 2 trillion dollars and counting? No. There were too many other nations I don't want to have nukes, that were more likely to get them -- and still are.

My point isn't that I thought the world would be a better place if Saddam had nukes. No, that's wrong. My point is that we started a war at the time and place that Bush chose. There was no immediate necessity to start that war at that time and place. Pretty much everything they said before the war and in the early days has turned out wrong. They said we'd find the WMDs, they knew exactly where they were. It would be easy and fast and cheap. The iraqis would welcome us as liberators and iraq would be a basewe could use to invade iran and syria unless they surrendered first.

NOW you guys are saying it always takes ten years. Hey, none of you said that before we were committed. We're almost 3 years behind schedule and over a trillion dollars over budget. That's from the Administration's original claims. It isn't me moving the goalposts, it's you guys.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 3, 2006 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Needless to say, the Iraqi insurgency is not defeated.

I'm sorry, under what definition of "defeated" have they not been defeated?

They hold no territory, have limited popular support even in their strongest areas, and are totally outgunned by even the ISF, let alone the Coalition. They cannot win a platoon-level engagement against either.

If defeat is the absence of victory, then they have had an abundance of it.

If you're going to define defeat as "giving up," well then they will NEVER be defeated. All it takes is idiots willing to blow stuff up, and Sunni Iraq has an endless supply of those.

So to suppose that Saddam would give nukes to terrorists, you have to not only figure he's evil. You also have to figure he's insanely incompetent.

Have you been asleep the last three years? He went from ruling Iraq from umpteen palaces to being photgraphed in his tighty-whities in a squalid cell, all because he wouldn't cooperate with inspectors looking for WMD he didn't even have.

Posted by: TallDave at April 3, 2006 03:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The scenario of Saddam Hussein giving a WMD to terrorists is a product of the same fantasy land where the Iraqis would greet us as liberators

80% of the Iraqis did in fact greet us as liberators. The mistake was not realizing just how suicidally dysfunctional the other 20% are.

Posted by: TallDave at April 3, 2006 03:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Soviet Union lost barely 1/20th as many people in Afghanistan over 10 years as they lost in Stalingrad in a few months. Yet, that conflict drained the Soviet army and treasury and helped to bring about the end of the Soviet Union.

Only because U.S. Stinger heatseeking shoulder-fired missiles turned their HINDs from invincble weapons platforms into sitting ducks.

People forget that before that point, the Afghan resistance was being steadily crushed. The Soviets would simply massacre any village that harbored resisters. It didn't win them any friends, but it was effective.

Also, keep in mind the Soviet Union ultimately fell for only one reason: the leadership lost the will to enforce their tyranny with the force of arms. That's why they fell and N Korea and Cuba's regimes haven't, despite having all the same economic problems.

Posted by: TallDave at April 3, 2006 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


All in all I agree with what you are saying, but I think you should admit that it is a bit simplistic. It is easy to say if Rumsfeld, Bush, or if whoever had put more troops on the ground, changed tactics, or encouraged civil society sooner things would be better. Wouldn't the insurgency simply have changed tactics to suit the new situation.
You point to the disagreement between Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace as a case to your point. Sitting back, it seems simple to say Specialist John Doe should actively stop any abuse they see. This while he is with his M16, 9mm, and grenade launcher. Specialist John Doe and the Army is a sledge hammer. As smart and well trained as he may be, I don't want the sledge hammer John Doe making that decision in the field and escalating a troubling situation into a shooting event with the Iraqi Army, police, or militia. I would rather have these sorts of political events sorted out somewhere else without all the loaded guns. Shouldn't the goal be stopping the policy of using these events, not policing every event with our G.Is. I could be persuaded otherwise if it where posible to have clear communications between the troops at the event, US general staff, and Iraqi government during each event,. But it seems with all of the pent up hostility between the Iraqi political factions, I don’t think we could stop every act of retribution even with 10 times the force there.

Posted by: prega at April 3, 2006 04:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So, you were for the war based on admittedly incomplete information earlier, but now you think you were wrong. Now you think all is lost , based on todays incomplete information , and you are obviously guilty as hell about being wrong before. Look your problem is you are too arrogant. You thought you were right then and you think you are right now. None of us have any real clue as to the outcome, all we can do is hope and work to do the things we hope will support the outcome we desire. Yes, maybe HISTORY will tell us this war was wrong. (Personally I don't THINK so and I certainly HOPE not). Nobody, not you not me, not the President can predict the future, but we still have to act now. Do you really question that the US has acted dishonorably here? That is the difference with the loopy left and many who are now "eating you up", they think the US was and is "the bad guy" in all this. I don't and I don't think you do either. Step back a moment and put this nasty little war in perspective. Has the administration made mistakes? Of course! What human endeavor have you ever been involved in where no mistakes are made? In this case people die when mistakes are made but so what? Did you really expect that because people would die no mistakes would be made? The brutality of war only serves to increase the stakes of decision and in a compassionate Republic like the US ensure that it's leaders take this very very seriously. It doesn't ensure that no mistakes will be made. And because mistakes are made it doesn't mean all is lost. The future is uncertain and subject to what, we will see as, bizarre twists and turns. Rightly or wrongly we as a country made a commitment to the Iraqis that many of them have depended on to their great risk. Can we now abandon them because we think the insurgency MIGHT win? This would be foolishness of the highest order. Buck up Greg! You aren't guilty and all is not lost, unless we THINK it to be.

Posted by: steve walser at April 3, 2006 04:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I spent all of 2005 in Baghdad with the US Army. People who say that the war is lost are ignorant of reality on the ground, and those who advocate blindly pulling out are immoral. Both haven't the faintest idea of how these kinds of wars are won. If we actually were losing, it would be the fault of those who use our sacrifices for their gain while stabbing us in the back for political gain. This goes for both backpedaling, weak-willed conservatives and hysterical, moonbat liberals. Im glad the weaklings who have posted here weren't making decisions during the American Revolution, or we would be in a lot of trouble. Since returning from Iraq, I spend a great deal of time being ashamed of most of my countrymen and their knowing and unknowing aid to our enemies. Believe me, in the military, I am not alone in this feeling. But we all know that we are doing the right thing; our consciouses are clear. Shame on all of you who twist reality just to bash the president and score political points.

Posted by: CPT Mike at April 3, 2006 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People like Ken are ridiculous. To them, it's more important to be right than to solve problems. Toldya so! Taldya so! Jeez, grow the hell up.

"No one in Iraq has harmed us in any way" - oh really? Why didn't Bill Clinton think so in '98? Was that also a neocon cabal?

Talking about WMD was the first and perhaps most stupid mistake that Bush made in this war. There were plenty of justification to remove Saddam from power. It should have been done in 91, but better late than never. People like GD might have been wrong on WMDs, but they were damn right on the decision to start this war.

Btw, back in 2003 I opposed the war, but listening to bush-haters was an important factor for changing my opinion: they were indeed being useful idiots. When a bunch of people says the same thing over and over, like robots, you start suspecting they're wrong. Their idiocy makes them useful to our enemies, but that same idiocy also makes them useful to Bush and his supporters, because after listening to peacenicks, most reasonable people would rather be in Karl Rove's company than in Michael Moore's. As they say, I'd rather go hunting with Dick than have Ted give me a ride.

Posted by: Ivan Lenin at April 3, 2006 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's sad to follow the downward spiral of Greg's site. I used to enjoy the running commentary, in many cases a fencing match between articulate advocates of opposing views. But lately, there seems to be a fatal infection of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) where every point, every international incident or non-incident is merely fodder for ill-informed adolescent ideologues howling in outrage that Bush has yet to deliver utopia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in their personal lives.

Greg’s axe has been consistent on Rummy, Iraq, and elsewhere, so I don’t begrudge him an occasional sharpening. He is wrong on the insurgency, but the level of debate on this site (with notable exceptions) has fallen to the point where it isn’t worth the effort to forage through the pollution to combat it. I fault Greg on this one as he has allowed his sites’ comment section to be taken over by ISM style flamers who substitute verbiage for a reasoned argument and crowd out Greg’s core constituency who are willing to hold an honest debate

Posted by: DaveK at April 3, 2006 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't understand the tears of rage that Bush defenders here shed: things are fine Iraq and getting even better every day. Why should we be defensive about delivering democracy to the nation of Iraq. I mean surely you should be able to defend a succesful intervention without hysterics?

Of course, from purely a realist view point, it was fairly clear that Iraq was not an imminent threat, surely a tyranny, but we have lots of such friends. It luckily happened to be a hostile tyranny. But not an imminent threat. Well, there we go, it happened to be the moment of American military supermacy and there was a chance to break free from all these fussy foreigners and crush a hostile dictator, and maybe even transform the Middle East (with almost Leninist optimism concerning the use of force as a social tool).

Fair enough, why not - but the thing I don't understand is this criminal incompetence. It will not change, mistakes have not been made, everything is fine and dandy. Ok, I oppose his politics being a liberal interventionist (oh those, good old days when it was not betraying the troops to criticize foreign interventions), I think his policies are very hateful indeed, but I don't think that hateful policies are inherently not properly executable. I think this is just sheer bloody incompetence, adults are clearly not in charge. Well, as said you have to fight with the administration you have.

Posted by: llwyd at April 3, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Have you been asleep the last three years? He went from ruling Iraq from umpteen palaces to being photgraphed in his tighty-whities in a squalid cell, all because he wouldn't cooperate with inspectors looking for WMD he didn't even have.

Have you been asleep the last 3 years ? Or even the last 3 days ? The memos from Britain prove (if any proof was needed), that Bush wanted to go to war, irregardless of what happened with the inspectors, and was even trying to trigger a war by creating an incident.

Saddam actually co-operated with the inspectors. And the inspectors final words on the matter were to ask for more time "Weeks, not days, not months". George Bush didn' want to give that time.


80% of the Iraqis did in fact greet us as liberators. The mistake was not realizing just how suicidally dysfunctional the other 20% are.

80% of Iraqis greeted us as liberators for about a week or a month. At this point, the large majority of Iraqis (judging by the admittedly imperfect polling numbers we have) have no particular love for us, no matter how much they despised Saddam.

Posted by: erg at April 3, 2006 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CPT Mike, your experience would be nuch better used if you tell us in detail about all the things you saw and did in iraq.

Just heaping verbal abuse on people you disagree with doesn't do much, particularly when you don't even give an email address or anything at all to give us the idea you aren't some fat 50-something slob who's pretending to be in the military because he hopes it will get people to pay some minimal attention to him.

No offense, it's just we don't know you from Adam, and it seems like for every real military guy commenting in blogs there are ten or so fakes.

So if you'll just put up your own blog and discuss the things you personally saw in 2005, and give your name and rank and unit, we'll all be impressed with you and we'll pay careful attention.

At the moment your credibility is zilch. Not because of anything you've done or not done. Because of all the fakes and liars who pretend to be like you, who wanr to borrow your thunder. Who sound so exactly like you that they could be composed by the same bot. Who've never been in the military and never seen iraq, but who lie about it.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 3, 2006 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


How do our brothers and sister on the left MORALLY justify their claim that it was better to abandon the people of Afghanistan and Iraq to a brutish, tyranical hell?

Don't conflate Afghanistan and Iraq. Support for the Afghanistan war was and is much higher than support for Iraq.

But talk about moral justification -- how does the right suddenly get outraged enough to go to war 15 years after Halabja and after Saddamn's use of WMDs against Iran and Kurds ? What sort of moral justification is that ?

Also, the war will probably costs us $500 billion to 1 trillion. For that money, we could have saved far more lives in Africa building clean water systems and the like. What is the moral ground for not spending all that money on saving far more lives ?

Posted by: erg at April 3, 2006 11:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Btw, back in 2003 I opposed the war, but listening to bush-haters was an important factor for changing my opinion

Ouch. So, you mean, like, if I got some people to go around repeating over and over again, "Hitler and his nazis never took over argentina and their descendents aren't runniig argentina now." "Hitler and his nazis never took over argentina and their descendents aren't runniig argentina now." "Hitler and his nazis never took over argentina and their descendents aren't runniig argentina now." "Hitler and his nazis never took over argentina and their descendents aren't runniig argentina now."

Then you'd start thinking argentina is run today by german nazis?

Geez, man. that's sick.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 3, 2006 11:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This ICG piece is so biased and out of reality - that its hard to even begin.

Fact is that there is a sea difference between the Sunni insurgents and the al-Qaeda Takfiris who receive material support from Iran.

The secular and some Islamist Sunni insurgents, but possibly not the Saddamites, have entered into an inforal truce with the US presence. That is why attacks on US installations, even on Iraqi Army (who unlike the Police are less infiltrated with Shiite Islamists) is considerably down.

Except for killing a large number of Iraqis, these "insurgents" have very little to show. They have lost all their territories (or have entered into a truce, allowing tribal forces to police the territory), and they have moved closer to the Iranian border in Diyala.

Not all Sunni insurgents wish a sectarian internal war. It appears only al-Qaeda and Muqtada Sadr with their Iranian backers are in favor of this.

The war has now evolved to 95% between Iraqis themselves. In fact the Sunnis are looking at the American occupation for protection. I guess ICG is way behind the events and is trying to savlage a bankrupt "guerrilla warfare" type of scenario. Don't throw your money away on their reports.

Posted by: kazemi at April 4, 2006 05:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why? Why can you not believe Saddam would give away WMD's to terrorists? Because he was such a great guy?

The fact that he was an evil bastard does not equate to him giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. No one who is both reasonable and well-informed truly believes that was a plausible scenario.

People like you and Ken are too irresponsible for words.

People like you are too ignorant for words.

What was your plan to remove Saddam

I didn't have one, because I didn't care about Saddam. He wasn't important

to attack terrorism at its base?

Invading Iraq certainly isn't a rational way to do that.


Would they like to go back in time and tell the Jew, Poles,Gypsies and the other millions of victims of the Nazi regime that it would not be worth it to free them?

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but freeing the victims of Nazi tyranny was not the reason World War II was fought. We and our allies fought against the Axis because the Axis attacked us. Nothing more and nothing less.


They hold no territory, have limited popular support even in their strongest areas, and are totally outgunned by even the ISF, let alone the Coalition. They cannot win a platoon-level engagement against either.

The NVA couldn't win a platoon-level engagement, or probably even a squad-level engagement, against the US Army and Marines. North Vietnam won anyway. This isn't a conventional war were battles consist of two armies shooting at each other until one is destroyed, surrenders, or retreats. You cannot use conventional-war standards to judge the results of an unconventional war.

If defeat is the absence of victory, then they have had an abundance of it.

Our forces haven't been racking up the victories either. They won a resounding victory over the Iraqi army, but in the fight against the insurgency there haven't been many. Taking over a city after the insurgents have already mostly abandoned it (Fallujah, for example) is a hollow victory at best. Quite a few insurgents have been killed, but that also does not constitute victory. That's another thing that Vietnam proved to us: using body counts as a measure of progress is sheer folly. Our military leadership has in fact learned that lesson, but many of the war supporters back home clearly have not.


Since returning from Iraq, I spend a great deal of time being ashamed of most of my countrymen and their knowing and unknowing aid to our enemies. Believe me, in the military, I am not alone in this feeling.

Given that this is the same military in which 85% of the troops believe that the reason for invading Iraq was retaliation for Saddam Hussein's role in the 9/11 attacks, I don't expect you to have a rational or informed opinion.

Posted by: Goddess of Death at April 4, 2006 06:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But talk about moral justification -- how does the right suddenly get outraged enough to go to war 15 years after Halabja and after Saddamn's use of WMDs against Iran and Kurds ? What sort of moral justification is that ?"

Forget about 15 years ago, when Iran had almost occupied Iraq, Saddam the blood thirsty dictator was controlling Iraq, and had instituted a bloody pro-soviet dictatorship where the left was silent about.

WHY IS THE cultural-left so silent about DARFUR in Sudan today? half a million people have died and are dying daily.

The left totally ignores this war because it is perpetrated by Muslims, who are supposedly "friends" because they are fighting America elsewhere.

This is the degree of moral bankrupcy of the American and European reactionary and anti-enlightenment cultural-left.

Posted by: kazemi at April 4, 2006 09:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WHY IS THE cultural-left so silent about DARFUR in Sudan today?

Why is the cultural-right doing nothing about Darfur except blame it on liberals?

You guys have got control of the entire US government.

If you want to do something about Darfur, go right ahead. There's nobody in the world to stop you. Figure out just exactly what you want to do and have at it.

What's that I hear? You're still doing nothing about Darfur except blaming it on liberals for not doing anything?

Look, since 2002, anything that hasn't been done about Darfur is entirely your guys not doing it. And you have the gall to blame your victims!

Posted by: J Thomas at April 4, 2006 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our forces haven't been racking up the victories either. They won a resounding victory over the Iraqi army, but in the fight against the insurgency there haven't been many.

You seem to be a victim of our media's selective reporting. A dozen or so cities have been taken (and are now held by ISF) along the Euphrates in the last year. The media simply does not report these victories. You can read about them on Bill Roggio's site.


The NVA couldn't win a platoon-level engagement, or probably even a squad-level engagement, against the US Army and Marines.

Wrong, they won many such engagements.

North Vietnam won anyway

Only because we left and stopped the aid to SV. SV fell to essentially a single armored column. Had American air power remained, S Vietnam would probably look like S Korea today, at miminal cost to the U.S.

That's another thing that Vietnam proved to us: using body counts as a measure of progress is sheer folly.

I haven't heard anyone making that argument. OTOH, I see quite a few people who have failed to learn the real lesson of Vietnam: American wars are won and lost mostly on the battlefield American public opinion. Read Diem's memoirs sometime; he understood it.


Posted by: TallDave at April 6, 2006 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

erg,

Have you been asleep the last 3 years ? Or even the last 3 days ?The memos from Britain prove (if any proof was needed), that Bush wanted to go to war, irregardless of what happened with the inspectors, and was even trying to trigger a war by creating an incident.

That's a total non sequitur, besides being rather stupid since all Saddam had to do to forestall Bush's invasion was accede to the UN inspectors' demands.

My point was Saddam is a poor decision maker. The events of the last three years are ample evidence of that. To assert he would not provide WMD to terrorists on the basis that he makes better decisions than that is silly, not to mention suicidal.

Saddam actually co-operated with the inspectors.

That is just ridiculous. Not even Hans Blix agrees with that statement. Try to be serious, please.

And finally, "irregardless" is not a word. Sheesh.

Posted by: TallDave at April 6, 2006 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

erg,

Also, the memos don't "prove" anything. They're the opinion of the memo writer. You might just as well advance Michael Moore's website as proof.

Proof would be a memo from Bush saying "We're going to war no matter what." And that doesn't exist, because it's merely the fevered fantasy of BDS victims.

Posted by: TallDave at April 6, 2006 08:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and was even trying to trigger a war by creating an incident.


That's terribly tendentious. Discussing the possibility of something is not "trying" to do it. By your logic, Saddam was "trying" to attack the U.S. with WMD based on taped conversations where he discusses the possibility.

Posted by: TallDave at April 6, 2006 08:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You seem to be a victim of our media's selective reporting.

Please spare me the nonsense about how the right-wing media is actually liberal and tries to hide the "real story" about how wonderful things are in Iraq.

A dozen or so cities have been taken (and are now held by ISF) along the Euphrates in the last year. The media simply does not report these victories. You can read about them on Bill Roggio's site.

What victory is there in "taking" a city that the insurgents have already abandoned?

That is just ridiculous. Not even Hans Blix agrees with that statement. Try to be serious, please.

The one who stopped the inspectors from doing their job wasn't Saddam Hussein. It was George W. Bush.

Proof would be a memo from Bush saying "We're going to war no matter what." And that doesn't exist, because it's merely the fevered fantasy of BDS victims.

Are you truly so delusional that you think there was some circumstance in which Bush would have called off the invasion?

Posted by: Goddess of Death at April 7, 2006 10:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are you truly so delusional that you think there was some circumstance in which Bush would have called off the invasion?

What does this say about the looming attack on iran?

We have a lot of people who say that yes, it would be insane to attack iran, but we have to make them believe we'd do it so they'll pay attention to our demands.

Those people should blame themselves when Bush actually makes the insane attack.

Posted by: J Thomas at April 7, 2006 01:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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