November 14, 2006

Iraq: A Final (Bipartisan) Push?

With the nomination of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, the important role of the Baker-Hamilton Commission in forging a new approach in Iraq becomes even clearer. Gates was formerly one of the principals of the Commission, and now finds himself thrust into a critical policy-making role, one where he might well end up implementing some of the Commission's recommendations. The challenge that James Baker and Lee Hamilton (the co-chairs of the so-called Iraq Study Group (“ISG”)) must now grapple with is how to forge a bipartisan consensus on Iraq policy. Without one, the Commission will not be able to issue a recommendation that meets with the approval of all the Commission members (who range from Democrats like Leon Panetta and Vernon Jordan, on the one hand, to Republicans like Ed Meese and Alan Simpson on the other). The goal is clear: recommend a credible and actionable game plan on how to move forward, while helping a divided American nation find broad, if elusive, consensus regarding what to do next in Iraq.

A huge challenge, to be sure, but the good news is that the last best hope for Iraq might well involve a mixture of policy positions some of which are popular with Democrats and others with Republicans. For instance, the Democrats (not to mention quite a few non-ideological Republicans) will find engaging Syria and Iran in high-level, direct talks of interest. In addition, an attempt to provide deeper autonomy to the main Iraqi groups in relatively secure, organized manner will appeal to leading Democratic foreign policy players like Richard Holbrooke who have been influenced by Les Gelb’s calls for an Iraqi confederation. Republicans, on the other hand, will find talk of bolstering the remnants of central authority in Baghdad of interest, so as to keep alive the prospects of a unitary state, as well as increasing troop deployments in Baghdad, so as to not have to rotate forces out of Anbar Province. And both Democrats and Republicans will find some common ground with regard to embedding more U.S. military advisors with Iraqi units to enhance the training and equipping effort, hammering out an oil revenue sharing protocol among the key Iraqi constituencies, working to better disarm and disband the militias, more attentively monitoring growing Turkish-Kurdish tensions, and more comprehensively backstopping national reconciliation efforts.

The most contentious issue, of course, will be what to do with the approximately 140,000 troops in Iraq. Some observers, including this one, believe that forces must be increased by not fewer than 30,000-50,000 additional men, at least so as to provide for a temporary massive ‘surge’ style operation in Baghdad. This, however, not only will put greater strain on the military, but also will be hugely controversial with Democrats who see their victory in the recent elections as a mandate to begin troop withdrawals in Iraq. To persuade the Democrats to entertain introducing greater troops into Iraq, so as to have a fighting chance to re-assert order in Baghdad (an absolutely critical goal)--the Baker-Hamilton Commission will likely have to introduce the notion of benchmarks--so that Democrats can point to achievement of certain goalposts as constituting conditions for continued deployment of significant numbers of troops.

The obvious question this begs, however, is what happens if the benchmarks aren’t met? While Republicans must resist any automatic triggering of troop withdrawals based on failure to achieve benchmarks, they should keep in mind that America's greatest leverage in Iraq might well now be the very act of threatening the Iraqis with our too precipitous withdrawal (even Shi’a militias like the Badr Brigades must be somewhat concerned about the prospects of Sunni insurgents still putting up a hard fight, just as Sunnis will be worried about a wave of unfettered Shi’a revanchism—so that all but the most radical factions, even if they don’t say so loudly publicly--aren’t yet ready to see the Americans leave the country, particularly overly expeditiously). This means the Democratic concept of benchmarks could well be used adeptly to ratchet up pressure on the Iraqis to achieve goals ranging from the disarming of militias to agreeing an equitable oil revenue sharing scheme, so that some Republicans might see some value in it.

All the above aside, however, I will stress again in these cyber-pages that a dramatic move to regionalize our approach to the Iraq issue is desperately needed. Not only will this signal to the American public that ‘stay the course’ is over and done with, it will also convince skeptical European capitals and chanceries that we are truly moving in a new direction, not merely providing a fig-leaf for a sequenced withdrawal that does not constitute a convincing new plan (offering Europeans and others non-discriminatory access to reconstruction bids is also advisable on this score). In my view, and as I’ve previously stated, we should convene a major Iraq Contact Group consisting of the Americans, British, Germans, French, Russians and Chinese—with full participation by each of Iraq’s neighbors (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait), as well as other critical Arab and/or Islamic countries as observers to the Contact Group (Egypt and Morocco, for instance). To represent the U.S. at the Six-Plus-Six Contact Group we should appoint some of the very best envoys the country has at its disposal.

One critical priority must be addressing directly the wider regional tensions Iraq has exacerbated so that the conflict does not spill over to other countries. There might well be surprising areas of common interest among many of the regional Contact Group members on this score. A variety of goals will need to be tackled, and the diplomatic might of the entire key “Big Six” of the Contact Group must be marshaled to 1) build on Syria’s (still not convincing enough) efforts to make the Iraqi-Syrian border less porous, 2) continue to assist Riyadh in minimizing insurgent flow from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, 3) bolstering via diplomatic and other efforts countries facing growing religious radicalism from within like Jordan and, less noticed, Syria, 4) engage Iran full-bore on the Iraq agenda (to include as necessary other issues of mutual concern on a discrete case by case basis) to assure that the most radical elements in Teheran are dissuaded from providing arms and materiel to the worst of the Shi’a militias (lately groups splintering away from Moktada-al-Sadr), 5) dialogue more closely with Turkey to assure that her vital interests are not being imperiled by Kurdish resurgence, and 6) get Arab countries more involved generally with the situation in Iraq (greater Arab influence, in terms of bolstering the Sunni position, might well help serve to contain some of Iran’s growing influence, while also perhaps reducing the appeal of the ‘alliance of convenience’ between Syria and Iran, the former 70% Sunni, the latter a predominately Shi’a country). This is an impartial list, but the point is clear: a massive, full-scale international effort comprising all the great powers and the key regional actors must be convened to, around the clock, tackle the Iraq crisis.

Many readers ask: what will we gain from direct discussions with Syria and Iran? I can think of several actions, without limitation, that the Syrians could take if we extended various carrots to them (such as facilitating a return to negotations with the Israelis over the Golan Heights issue), including: 1) making the Syrian-Iraqi border less porous, 2) reducing Iraqi Baath money floating about Syrian banks and thus ultimately getting to insurgents, 3) cutting down on former deviationist-type Iraqi Baath who fled to Syria during Saddam's regime trying to cut a non-Saddamite, neo-Baath resurgence in Iraq, and 4) inducing Damascus to be more cooperative with Maliki's government so as to help stabilize the national government in Baghdad. As for the Iranians, it's no secret they are hedging their bets and, not only supporting Shi'a militias, but also Sunni insurgents. Similar inducements (mixed with the specter of punitive actions) could get the Iranians to reduce support to some of the groups causing us the worst problems, whether Sunni or Shi'a. Neither Damascus nor Teheran want a total meltdown in Iraq--which would also involve large refugee flows to both their countries--countries with their own somewhat disgruntled minorities (Azeris in Iran) or indeed majorities (Sunnis in Syria). In diplomacy, as in life, you talk to your opponents on occasion to get results. Hope and 'they know what to do' isn't a plan.

In the above context, I also believe it is high time for America to reclaim the mantle of “honest broker” in the Arab-Israeli dispute, not only to reduce the horrific human suffering on both sides in the Holy Land (but of late particularly among the Gazans), but also to help provide for improved regional dynamics that would better allow important countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to more easily align themselves with American objectives in the region. The most critical objective, of course, is to stabilize Iraq, which is closely linked to a related goal of preventing an overly resurgent Iran from wielding too much power as something of a local hegemon bestriding the Persian Gulf via too much lebensraum in Iraq. In this, our Arab allies can probably be doing more to help us, if we do a bit more to help them. This does not mean appeasing the Arabs on the backs of the Israelis, however. American Administrations across both parties remain steadfastly committed to Israel’s existence and security, and nothing I recommend here would jeopardize these strong bonds. If anything, Israel’s security would actually be enhanced if the peace process were to make progress so as to improve dynamics between the parties, to include allowing for a rapprochement between Israel and Egypt, better relations with a potential national unity government in Ramallah, and even improved relations with Damascus and Beirut.

In short, a final and convincing attempt to stabilize Iraq, via a combination of autonomy devolving to the regions but with powers related to border control, national defense, oil revenue sharing, and foreign policy all remaining the province of a sitting national government in Baghdad--one strongly backed by the collective might of the international community--must be seriously considered (to include a convincing road-map for the regions to move towards greater centralization at a future date, of which more another time). This will require troop increases in the Baghdad area (but with the introduction of benchmark concepts as palliative for Democrats) which, make no mistake, will be difficult to ask the American people—exhausted by three plus years of war and increasingly uncertain of Iraq's broader utility in the war on terror (itself a concept in need of a significant rethink).

As mentioned, some ideas will appeal better to Democrats, others to Republicans. But the broad center of American society likely realizes that a rapid-fire withdrawal from Iraq will lead to a massive, full-blown civil war that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, perhaps even ultimately millions. Can America allow that country to erupt into total chaos? What would it mean for the region’s stability? What would it mean for the reputation of this country? What of all the blood and treasure that has been expended these past years? Will it have been for naught? Yes, who are we in the cheap chattering classes to ask another soldier, to paraphrase John Kerry, to be the last man to die for a mistake? But can we be sure one last attempt to stabilize Iraq, undertaken on a broad bipartisan basis, might not be the best way to honor, not only our fallen men and women, but also those still serving in this so difficult war, and those who might be deployed in a final push for victory through 2007? And do we not owe the Iraqis, who lost a horrid dictator only to gain anarchy and mass carnage--do we not owe them one last attempt at establishing a semblance of order and the serious prospect of a viable polity there?

Posted by Gregory at November 14, 2006 05:37 AM
Comments

I tend to agree with your prescription, Greg. I hope Washington is reading this blog.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 14, 2006 07:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is, of course, the Syrians and Iranians want things we really do not want to grant. The Iranians want their bomb. The Syrians want the Hariri investigation to go away, and Lebanon -- probably far more than they want the Golan Heights.

Now -- do we need to engage. Of course. But is engagement going to be terribly successful. I don't know. What does the US really have to offer either country, that isn't really pretty unacceptable?, when we consider our own interests?

And the US as honest broker? The only people who really think we serve as an "honest" broker in the Mideast are US citizens. We are allies of Isreal. The US sees itself as such. So does the rest of the world. Any administration that gets too tough with Isreal really does start to have domestic difficulties. And the Palestinians? Well, does this proto-country have any idea on how to negotiate in good faith?

Do we owe Iraq one last shot? Yes. But only if Iraq shows some signs that this would do any good. If these folks really want their civil war, they will surely have it. I will say this -- given the US election results, the Iraqis are surely paying attention. The message they should hear is this -- do not depend on us in the long term. In the long-term, you will mostly have to deal with yourselves.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at November 14, 2006 08:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great analysis, Greg, though I mostly disagree.

While we "negotiate" with Iran, we won't be putting on sanctions for prior treaty violations with respect to nukes. Remember nukes & WMDs? Your strategy for Iraq almost guarantees that Iran gets nukes.

"One last chance" for Iraq. Why so? Why not "One last decade of continued support for the Iraqi gov't?"

Commit to maintaining up to 100 000 troops in Iraq, as requested by the Iraq gov't, for at least 10 years. This is plenty to win any battle, but obviously not enough to stop gang warfare.

The Iraqis have to stop the Muslim murders mostly on their own. In all cases, both Dems and Reps should be proclaiming that Muslims doing murder in Iraq is mostly an Iraqi and Islamic problem.

The desire to "do it right the first time", and be done with it, is the childish desire to do nation-building faster than is realistic. More troops, now, smacks of this one final try and then we leave, since if this isn't enough nothing is enough.

What IS enough is a LONG TERM commitment, longer than a Britney Spears marriage of convenience.

More troops now, for a limited time, will almost certainly fail to stop the murders, but will increase the blame against the US for "failure", and thus allow the US to leave. So that the Iraqi civil war goes into a higher gear.

The key is to correctly and honestly blame the current murders in Iraq on those in Iraq who do the murders, and those who know about these people but are silent.

But again, at least this is a highly positive statement of what should be done, far superior to many prior ones. (And again, I was wrong to be so pro-Rep -- I'm increasingly glad the Dems won Congress, so now it becomes the Dem war, too; and thus America's war.)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 14, 2006 10:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iraq War is lost as the country devolves further and deeper in the inferno of full-scale civil war, and American voters have expressed their disillusion with the war during the midterm elections. Throwing 30,000 to 50,000 more American soldiers into the country for a surge-style tactic of securing Baghdad represents a delusional state of mind, either unable to grasp the reality on the ground or perhaps using the defense mechanism of denial to contemplate the full extent of the foreign policy debacle. But I do agree that you are representative of the chattering class, who are so divorced from reality and lost in their intellectual and political talking points, they think that they can somehow avoid what grand fools they have been in their support for this war.
Last Saturday I struck up a conversation with a fellow Vietnam vetran in a diner across from the steel mill. His son is in the Ohio National Guard and has just been sent to Iraq. This poor guy was beside him discussing how President Bush has bungled this war and now sent his son into harm's way.
Here in the heartland of northern Ohio there is a sense of betrayal and anger in the air that I haven't seen since the Vietnam War. To the mothers and fathers, who have sons and daughters in this war, the idea of increasing troop levels in Iraq for one last chance at victory or even salvaging some stability there would be met with bitter laughter.
On the hospital ward where I served as a medical corpsman in Vietnam, the wounded grunts had a standard reply when they were asked about finding that elusive light at the end of the tunnel over there. We would ask rhetorically: Would the last soldier leaving the country, please remember to turn off the lights?
How many of the readers of this blog have actually been in a shooting war or even have had relatives or friends who have been under fire? That means more to me that an abstract phrase like the blood and treasure of a nation, used in your defense of a troop increase in Iraq.
As Kerry has pointed out, how many more American lives must be sacrified on the altar of abstractions and flowery slogans before we must finally acknowledge the moral depravity of offering other lives in a desperate attempt to avoid the folly of this war and all the cheerleaders sitting on the sidelines who supported it.
War separates the men from the boys, and perhaps that is why the leftist bloggers scornfully refer to President Bush as the Boy Emperor.
If I could talk with the Boy Emperor, I would have to say: Good luck, good night, and please remember to turn off the lights.

Posted by: george hoffman at November 14, 2006 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A reasonable plan for late 2003. Today, not so much. How many Iraqis still believe that the US knows how to or really wants to act in their best interests. Everything that I have seen recently shows that Iraqis are placing their bets on the militias. Why should any Iraqi care what the ISG wants?

Our problem has always been our political weakness in Bagdad. No effective Iraqi army or police could be created without a government that they were willing to fight for. Nothing our military can do will solve this problem, not in 2004 or in 2007. Making nice with the neighbors will not solve this either.

Please, stop thinking of the Iraqi government as a real government. Think of it as the trade association for the Shia parties and their militias. The government will always be their instrument not vis-a-versa. The PM. spokes model, will make whatever soothing noises the US pushes hard for, then nothing will happen unless it strengthens the Shia parties. They tolerate our presence as long as we keep killing Sunnis for them. They will miss us for about as long as it takes to dial Tehran

James Baker, America's first name in bipartisonship? Sorry, but if you don't mind, I will hold on to my wallet, with both hands. PLease, Bush should keep all of the credit for Iraq. He has certainly earned it!

Posted by: Bill D at November 14, 2006 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But the broad center of American society likely realizes that a rapid-fire withdrawal from Iraq will lead to a massive, full-blown civil war that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, perhaps even ultimately millions.

I suspect most americans aren't nearly as cocksure as you, and 'realize' that they have no idea what 'will' happen after a withdrawal.

As for how many Iraqis die, I'm confident that few Americans care. I've lived in this country all my forty-some years, and I've not seen a speck of evidence that more than a small fraction of Americans care how many people die in any foreign county.

I think most Americans want out of Iraq. Given the choice, they'd like the getting out to be associated with something at least superficially resembling a 'victory', and many still cling to that hope. We've been here before, in the last years of Vietnam. I'm just old enough to remember.

I think the people are more savvy now, and won't let themselves be strung along as they were by Nixon.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 14, 2006 11:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do you really think, for a minute, that the president is capable of implementing anything as nuanced and complex as this approach? He couldn't even read the post from beginning to end. He'd have to delegate the whole thing to somebody--which is, I suppose, possible. He may spend the rest of his term on his bicycle.

But you don't have 30-50 thousand troops. You don't have support from Europe. You don't have any negotiating channels open to Iran or Syria. You can't do this stuff on the fly at the last minute. Troops need to be trained. Relationships have to be nurtured. Talking to the "enemy" has to be a continuous process.

Steve Gilliard has said there are three choices:

1) Institute a draft and bring in 100.000 troops, starting in about six months (I note that this would bring the US force level to 2/3rds of the planned Iraqi security forces.)

2) Start withdrawals immediately.

3) Set up a timeframe and follow it.

That's not a happy list. Each choice means a different kind of conflagration in Iraq. But this talk of diplomacy is bootless. There is nobody there to run diplomacy. He's still trying to jam in Bolton, for heavens sake. The president sees any exit strategy as an acknowledgement of failure. Rightly so, I guess, because it is. But we're gonna keep bleeding on a failed venture to preserve his ego. His legacy is shot. All he's got left is "staying the course" until he leaves office.

Unless, of course, Barney changes his mind.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 14, 2006 11:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I've admired Greg's criticism of the administration over the past few years, but this post has the feeling of Davy Crockett in the Alamo. Its an honorable statement of beliefs, sure, but it puts the entire thrust of our Iraq policy onto men who honestly has little chance of succeeding. Dick Cheney still has the ear of the president. Bush still has an ego the size of Texas. As other commenters have noted, any chance of future success relies on delicate statescraft, but the mallet and hammer approach to foreign policy is all these fools understand.

For many intelligent people, accepting the realization that we have lost this war, and that escalation of our efforts will only lead to greater losses, is so painful, so unimaginable, that they must cling to the idea that victory is still possible. But that ship has sailed. Its over, over, over. I'm glad the Dems are there to make sure Bush doesn't make a mockery of the course of action that Greg suggests.

Posted by: Nathan at November 14, 2006 01:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have a friend, Marine, just returned from Anbar for rehabilitation of an arm ripped apart by sniper fire, and from him I've gotten the straight goods concerning what the 'brave men' serving in Iraq think of the place and what they might like to see happen - and doing the 'honorable' thing in some grandiose push for 'victory' for the beleaguered Iraqi people is most decidedly not on the list. They want the hell out. They do not trust, do not want to work with and in most cases have nothing but contempt for the Iraqi soldiers they are forced to man ops with. They seem to not feel much different when it comes to the Iraqi people in general. These guys are warriors, not peace makers, and walking into towns dodging IEDs and snipers to kick in a few doors or hand out soccer balls and crayons to children is NOT what they signed up for. Have an open and unfettered talk with guys on the ground in Iraq and you come away with the distinct impression that the situation is lost and beyond recall and that the linchpin of any ostensibly feasible remedy - the Iraqi army - is a complete sham organization marked by incompetence, conflicting interests, corruption.

So if these perceptions are true and general throughout the country - and there seems to be a fair amount of reporting that suggests such is the case - then right away Greg your ambitious plan is DOA, which is the problem with all such plans insomuch as at crucial points in the reasoning they have to make some rather broad assumptions.

As in your assumption that regional powers will back a contact group because their best interests will be served. One, we may have some idea of what we think their best interests should be but that doesn't mean that's what they are; and two, even if some tentative consensus can be reached people throughout history have shown a remarkable tendency to not act in their best interests especially if they've imagined a viable alternative with more perceived upside which is most certainly the case with Iran.

And why do you say Iran is 'hedging its bets' by supplying arms to both Sunni and Shia? Isn't it more likely if such is the case that they are seeding chaos knowing full well that the Shia will emerge victorious in the end but that the chaos serves their ends well right now - or that they're pursuing two separate initiatives, one to firm up Shia militancy as the source of real power in Iraq and the other to embarrass, tie down, make life unpleasant for the American military?
My point being that saying Iran is hedging its bets and therefore might be amenable in some way to diplomatic initiatives is a rather broad assumption.

Posted by: saintsimon at November 14, 2006 01:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you lost the Administration right around the second sentence's "bipartisan consensus," Greg. The only thing they'll understand are cutting off the supplemental appropriations. I mean, he's already kicked his poodle on this one.

Posted by: norbizness at November 14, 2006 01:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The post is long and rambling and blows lots of smoke. I guess I can't blame a die-hard hawk for wanting to look at the situation through a haze.

For this comment I'll just select out some of the policy recommendations.

. . . forces must be increased by at least 30,000-50,000 additional men, at least for a temporary massive ‘surge’ style operation in Baghdad. . . . so as to have a fighting chance to re-assert order in Baghdad (an absolutely critical goal)

It would be nice to accompany this with some discussion of where the troops will come from. However, I don't doubt 50,000 could be scraped up. The rotation schedule could be shortened, though that might mean sending some units into battle under-equipped, under-trained, and/or under-rested. Troops could be borrowed from other theaters, like Europe and Korea.

But, what for? To what larger strategy is restoring order in Baghdad a 'critical goal'? There can be none, for the bolt will be shot, the cupboard bare. By Greg's own statement the 'surge' will be 'temporary'. There will be no troops to spare for following up the success, if there is a success.

Such an operation would be an Ardennes offensive, a futile gesture. For what? To save the faces of our politicians?

This means the Democratic concept of benchmarks could well be used adeptly to ratchet up pressure on the Iraqis to achieve goals ranging from the disarming of militias to agreeing an equitable oil revenue sharing scheme, so that some Republicans might see some value in it.

I don't know why Greg calls benchmarks a 'Democratic concept'. As best I can tell it was Bush who introduced the term.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/25/AR2006102501635.html

There's an obvious problem with expecting this administration to do anything 'adeptly'. (Sorry for the cheap shot, but it needed to be said.)

The more fundamental problem is that Shia and Sunni alike rely more on their militias than on U.S forces for security. They might prefer both, but it would make no sense for them to give up the former to keep the latter.

. . . engaging Iran full-bore on the Iraq agenda . . .

There is a difficulty here that is almost never mentioned. Last September, the Congress passed and President Bush signed the Iran Freedom Support Act.

http://www.bakerbotts.com/file_upload/IranFreedomSupportActSignedIntoLaw.htm

http://mysite.verizon.net/lardil/id70.html

'It is the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support regime change for the Islamic Republic of Iran and to promote the transition to a democratic government to replace that regime.'

This law replaced an earlier one, providing for sanctions on both Iran and Libya, which I think may have included a similar 'regime change' provision for Iran.

If I were an Iranian leader, I would consider the Iran Freedom Support Act to be tantamound to a declaration of war, and I would demand its repeal as a precondition for any cooperation with the U.S.

Such a repeal is probably a political impossibility, as the Israeli lobby and its allies would be strongly opposed.

Again there is a more fundamental problem. Iraq in chaos is not in itself in the interests of Iran and Syria, but it is probably preferable to a stable Iraq under U.S. influence. I think they would be willing to help only if there were some arrangement to 'neutralize' Iraq, which I doubt would be acceptable in Washington.

I also believe it is high time for America to reclaim the mantle of “honest broker” in the Arab-Israeli dispute . . .

I agree, but it's too late for that to matter with regard to Iraq.

And do we not owe the Iraqis, who lost a horrid dictator only to gain anarchy and mass carnage--do we not owe them one last attempt at establishing a semblance of order and the serious prospect of a viable polity there?

No. We owe them no such thing, even if we had the power to give it to them, which we don't.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 14, 2006 01:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In the above context, I also believe it is high time for America to reclaim the mantle of “honest broker” in the Arab-Israeli dispute

Not to create an echo, but does Greg think there's ANY chance of that under the present administration?

Even assuming (implausibly) good intentions on our part, I just can't imagine that Bush has any credibility left with the necessary parties.

Posted by: Anderson at November 14, 2006 02:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's the cliche of the hour and of the season - but it's Vietnam redux, circa 1970-72, when 'Vietnamization' was in the air and the illusion of some kind of (what do they call it - Pyrrhic?) victory was still being clung (clinged?) to. It's the illusion that we could still have a say in what's going on even when we're past the point of having any say - death squads, whether Sunni or Shi'ite, don't need the U.S. to approve or disapprove of them doing what they damn well want to anyway. The only difference is that the South Vietnamese government had the semblance of a slightly-more functioning government than the Iraqi one now. But the similarities are striking - an army far inflated in numbers and materiel on paper beyond credibility on-the-ground; police and other law enforcement personnel practically indistinguishable from the guerillas/insurgents; a civilian population whose living rooms and front porches become front lines at any time, and do an inproportionate amount of the dying; a corrupt and venal political crony culture more interested in jockeying for power and position and knowing where to stand or sit when things change, and so on and so forth.

The more I read this blog, the more impressed I am at the attempts to come up with nuts-and-bolts policies, even though I disagree with much of the ideology and the people often endorsed within its roll. But given the venality of our own political culture of the last six years, with one (and maybe two) stolen presidential
election(s), a gutted economy, a wrecked reputation in an area we didn't have a stellar one in to begin with, it's hard for me to believe that this administration would in fact now have the capacity for the nuance and statecraft required for this hideous farce to come to an end. When laced with the rhetoric of 'defending civilization' and all the Christianist posturing it's indulged in both against the international enemies (everybody not on board the Bush boat in addition to the Islamofascists) and the domestic ones (all that Jim Crow for gays), at our worst we don't really come across as any different than the forces we're against. We feel guilty when we torture, and we have nice insurance policies for the families of the troops when they're killed, but killing is killing and torture is torture, all corpses stink, and there's no democracy at the end of any of that.

Greg, you still seem to be moving in the direction of a Dayton-style accord, which the Iraq Contact Group appears to be a harbinger of. I've advocated that in other comments I've posted before, and I can't imagine what else there is to do at this point. So...in lieu of anything else... and while this is going way off the subject...how about a similar accord or summit with ourselves? An inventory of our imperialist role internationally when the dust appears to be settling? An inventory of exactly what our role is in the world, and what we can do better? Because the question is not how much the world must support our adventures when we go off on a tangent over this dictator or that regime, but whether the world should care when we so spectacularly fail at it.

Posted by: sekaijin at November 14, 2006 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Appreciate the effort you've made to think your way through this. I have to say though that I disgree: your analysis, while well done, might have been useful 2-3 years ago but events have passed it by.

If I could pound on the point begun above by Jay -- Gilliard points to three options:

1) Institute a draft and bring in 100.000 troops, starting in about six months (I note that this would bring the US force level to 2/3rds of the planned Iraqi security forces.)

2) Start withdrawals immediately.

3) Set up a timeframe and follow it.

His readers offer three more:

4) Stay the course for two more years and let the next administration clean up the mess (Bush's current plan, in essence).

5) Get chased out. Helicopters on the roof in the Green Zone. A rout.

6) Get Saddam out of jail and put him in office.

#1 simply will not work. There will be no political support for a draft. Even if there were, the time horizon for training the conscripts is too long. The latter point could also be made regarding drafting Iraqi troops if the idea were not laughable on its face; in any event 100,000 new Iraqi troops simply means 100,000 better trained insurgents.

#4 converges to #5. How soon? Anybody's guess -- probably on the order of months. If you have reason to think differently I'd like to hear your thinking.

#6 is tongue-in-cheek -- it's doubtful that even Saddam could run that place now, but at least we've realized, much too late to do us any good, why he ran it the way he did while he was doing so.

Upshot: the more #3 converges to #2 the more viable it becomes. The more it converges to #4, the more irrelevant.

Do you disagree with this? Do you see any real options? Yes, we can talk to the Iranians and the Syrians all we want but do we seriously think they're going to save our bacon on this? In other words does such talk really gain us more options than the 6 above? Does it gain us any time?

If you don't disagree then my question becomes, if you and I and Gilliard and his commentariat can come up with this in 15 minutes on a Tuesday morning, what the hell is the Iraq Study Group besides a talking shop? They've been in business since what, March? And furtermore, why should we expect Baker -- who's at the end of a life career as a consigliere to the Bush family -- to put forward any option that will negatively impact their interests in any serious way?

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg--

I appreciate your analysis, but I am skeptical about the necessary troop levels. Are you suggesting 30,000 to 50,000 combat forces plus support, or just a total of 30 to 50 K? I fear that this is a step in the direction of gradualism, albeit at the high end. But it is also probably the absolute maximum that the Army and Marine Corps are capable of at this point. My overall worry is that we have maxed out the services, with the exception of the Air Force--plus Naval air--and you and others are therefore pulling numbers together that refect the limits of our capabilities rather than a thorough analysis of exactly what force levels might be necessary.

Posted by: George Hogenson at November 14, 2006 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Consider the mass kidnappings today.

Does anyone think that Iraq is not going to spiral quicker and quicker into total civil war? Does anyone think that a mere more 30-50K American soldiers is going to keep the country together?

The best thing we could do is help the middle class get out, airlift them in mass to somewhere peaceful, help them recreate their lives, and leave the rest be, who seem determined to have a civil war no matter what.

It's developing into the 200 years of religious war in Europe between the Catholics and the Protestants. The wars finally died out, whether because people finally realized that all this war just meant more dead people, or because all the real fanatics were killed off. Maybe that 's the best we can do--give the fanatics opportunities to kill each other while protecting the moderates.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 14, 2006 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

VidaLoca

what the hell is the Iraq Study Group besides a talking shop?

I assume that Bush was dragged kicking and screaming to setting this up, in order that they could get off the "stay the course" talking point.

There is no interest in policy in this White House. This group gave cover to Republicans seeking reelection, and may well have saved some House seats, given how small some of the margins are.

Now that they've lost, this group serves no purpose. It may present an opportunity for reality-based discussion to take place, but I have seen absolutely no sign that the president is interested in reality-based discussions.

And they're stilll playing hardball. At a time when they should be trying to find some bridges to minimize the damage of their minority status, they are trying to jam through appointments and legislation that will stand no chance of passage in January.

During the last six years, they have dismantled much of the apparatus for bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. The Democrats may, in the national interest and in reflection of the broader ideological positions in their party, reestablish some of that apparatus. But they may not; playing hardball at this stage essentially ignores a very clear mandate from the people (not one republican challenger won). They will get what they deserve if Pelosi and Reid decide to treat them the way the minority has been treated.

What this portends is Bush refusing to change policy in Iraq until we hit the helicopters in the Green Zone phase. As Gilliard has said, without a draft this war is unsustainable. And, as you have said, there will be no draft. Can Baker convince Bush of this? They met for all of an hour yesterday.

If not, despite what Pelosi has said, impeachment may end up on the table.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 14, 2006 04:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

what I owe the Iraqis: nothing. They aren't my family. They aren't my friends.

What I owe my brother in the army: everything. Bring him home now.

Posted by: Mr. F. at November 14, 2006 04:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jay --

Now that they've lost, this group serves no purpose.

Well, no, unless you count rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenberg as a purpose.


It may present an opportunity for reality-based discussion to take place, but I have seen absolutely no sign that the president is interested in reality-based discussions.

If we can't come up soon with some reality-based alternative policies, these reality-based discussions are going to end up getting a lot of people killed.
I really hope that somewhere in the Pentagon there are some serious people making some serious plans to get our troops, as much of their equipment, and as many friendly Iraquis as we can the hell out of there in good order -- because I can't see this turning out good and I don't see any leadership initiative at all coming from any of the civilians. Reality-based discussion: give me a break.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

If you want to give it one last shot fine. But adding troops won't help so just forget about that. We don't have them, and if we did it wouldn't matter anyway.

Here's the only viable plan.

Demand the Iraq government disarm the militias immediately. Give them 30 days and monitor the progress.

If significant disarming hasn't occurred within 30 days, say sayonara and leave them to the destiny they've chosen.

Now understand, this plan has zero chance of succeeding. But at least we could claim we gave them a chance.

Iraq has been over for quite a while. If we feel we need to save some face this is probably the best we can do.

Posted by: Davebo at November 14, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg--that seems the best hope right now. I know that troops alone are not the answer, not now. But a surge combined with a new plan might work.

One of the worse tragedies of this war is liberating an area, making contacts and connections with Iraqis, only to leave and having those people who cooperated with us beheaded and killed. This has happened again and again, especially in Anbar. Al Qaeda litterally is a virus, attacking those members of the Iraqi public, the potential future leaders that we need most to protect and foster.

Posted by: Joe at November 14, 2006 04:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Baker-Hamilton group is looking for a new approach and forge a bipartisan consensus on Iraq. Bob Gates appointment is perhaps the first step in correcting the military disaster that has befallen the US due to that incompetent fool Rumsfeld, who wanted to be the military general and the civilian planner and ended up failing at both and led the US at the verge of a potentially humiliating situation. Now at least Bob Gates, a consummated bureaucrat, would let the Generals make the military decisions and his job would be to sell it to a restive and cynical US Congress and the US public.

The three ingredients needed for the new approach:
1. Make this arrogant administration eat the humble pie
2. Create a timetable for the US withdrawal
3. Negotiate with insurgents both local and foreigners and design some confidence building measures that can bring them to table to talk.

The Humble pie number 1:
Get the UN security council involved and let the security council members plus Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia find ways to:

1. Look for a political solution.
2. Prod UN members for creating a 100,000 strong Iraq peace force that will be ready to replace the US army in phases. (The US must bear all expenses for this force.)

This administration has badmouthed the UN so many times that going to the UN would be the last thing it would accept. To soften this blow, create a focus group of the same countries above outside of the UN.

Humble pie number 2.

A) Announce a timetable for the US withdrawal. Cheney would probably resign before he allows el Presidente to sign on this but this must be shoved down the administration’s throat. Otherwise, the disaster in Iraq will continue and there is no way the US public or the new Congress will wait for two more years of inaction in Iraq.
Once the timetable is announced and the UN forces are being assembled, start talking with the insurgents through intermediaries.

Negotiations:

Drop bucket loads of money for compensation for the dead Iraqis. Give the Sunni tribal leaders the authority to distribute money as they please. Ask Saudi Arabia to announce amnesty for it citizens that are fighting in Iraq. This is a little known secret but 90% of foreign insurgents in Iraq are perhaps Saudi citizens who blend with the local Iraqis well. The Baathist would also like them to leave the country.

Start deploying the UN forces in different Iraqi Provinces and seek cooperation from the tribal and religious leaders. Once the UN deployment is complete, let all groups in Iraq start talking about the future.


Posted by: HP at November 14, 2006 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we can't come up soon with some reality-based alternative policies, these reality-based discussions are going to end up getting a lot of people killed.

Yes, that is the problem.

But do you see any alternative policies other than withdrawing and letting them have their civil war? Positioning some number of troops in Kurdistan and negotiating with the Turks and the Kurds to preserve that border? Can you really think of anything else? Thoughtful, well-reasoned approaches like Greg's are, as you've already said, no longer possible. There isn't time to train another 50 or 100 thousand troops, and no where to get them from. The Iraqi army is a failed army, and was never going to be properly equipped in any case. The idea of permanent occupation with the US controlling air and armor, the central (and unspoken) part of the plan, has been proven chimerical.

Thoughtful, well-reasoned approaches were never on the table anyway, and I cannot think of one that the ISG can come up with, other than phased withdrawal. And I reiterate my belief that the formation of this group was purely political and that it's recommendations, whatever they are, will not be followed.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 14, 2006 05:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

HP

Who do you see serving up this humble pie? What makes you think the president will eat it? I guess the Rumsfeld firing might be one indication that he's prepared to change direction in some way, but I cannot believe that there will be any substantive change.

The suggestions you make are pretty much unworkable in less than three Friedman units. The US has no relations with Iran and Syria. Iran and Syria have absolutely no incentive to do anything but wait and watch as the US armed forces are depleted. The UN just got a fresh snub this week with the lame duck Bolton appointment.

Woodward reported that Bush was staying the course no matter what. He may well agree to claim to be undertaking yet another approach--sending Condi around the world again, say. But there is no evidence I can see that would lead me to believe that there will substantial withdrawals any time soon.

In the spirit of hope, I can make a constructive suggestion to add to your list: make sure a substantial fraction of oil revenues goes directly to citizens. This will lessen the Sunnis fear of impoverishment and will create a disincentive for interfering with production.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 14, 2006 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It may be that immediate withdrawal is the best thing that can be done now, but if anyone thinks that we won't likely be back in the Persian Gulf, in force, within the next 30 years, they are mistaken. We won't be attempting nation building next time, however; abattior management will be the primary objective.

I don't even know if it could have been avoided. What a Prussian general in 1914 called "the iron dice" may have been tossed the moment the oil was discovered in the region, and it was just a matter of time before their tumbling stopped. Throughout most of human history, economically and militarily weak populations stting atop critical natural resources, and imbued with religous or cultural hostility towards far more powerful populations who have extraordinary demand for said resources, have either been slaughtered or enslaved, or usually both. This has always been a race against time, in which the muslim populations of the Gulf would achieve the ability to self govern and interact with the rest of the world in a non-hostile manner, or they would be destroyed. One may assert that the industrialized nations of the world have been just as responsible, if not more so, for the hostility which exists, but it matters not a whit. The fundamental fact is that the oil is in huge demand, by billions of people around the globe, and it is going to be extracted. If many of the people atop the oil are hostile to those who demand it's extraction, and act on that hostility, they will be crushed. That's the way what Twain called "the Goddamned human race" behaves.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 14, 2006 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One thing that hasn't been mentioned regarding increased troop levels is that this would guarantee an increase in US casualty rates. Good luck selling increased casualties in what is already perceived as a lost cause back home.

Additionally, what possible motivation do Syria and Iran have to help the US out of the hole it's dug itself into? It seems like Russia, China and any card carrying members of the Axis of Evil (i.e. Iran) or junior members (i.e. Syria) would be happy to see the US bleed lives, money and credibility indefinitely in Iraq.

Also, what possible expectation does anyone have that BushCo will suddenly now see the light? You reap what you sow Greg and you suported these mendacious tools in 2000 and 2004. Heralding Baker, the architect of the Florida power grab of 2000 as the saviour of the Iraq debacle is rich irony indeed.

Let's face it, the pullout is going to happen. The Iraqi civil war will continue as events play out over the next few years, probably with a de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, a dominant Shia majority closely aligned to Iran and a pseudo-autonomous Kurd north. This road will be paved with a few hundred thousand Iraqi lives. The neocons will claim that the democrats are responsible for losing the war since they initiated the pullout and will embrace a new myth, much like Vietnam, where victory was lost due to lack of will, liberal treachery and an insufficient willingness to kill a lot of wogs. They'll be assholes for thinking this when they're the ones who pushed for this pointless, loser of a war in the first place. But then they always were.


Posted by: ramster at November 14, 2006 05:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Additionally, what possible motivation do Syria and Iran have to help the US out of the hole it's dug itself into? It seems like Russia, China and any card carrying members of the Axis of Evil (i.e. Iran) or junior members (i.e. Syria) would be happy to see the US bleed lives, money and credibility indefinitely in Iraq.

When, in the late 70's, the US saw the Soviets run into the quagmire in Afghanistan we were cheerfully ready to throw them an anchor. Now, we find that we managed to get our legs wrapped in the chain. Why would Russia, China, Iran, Syria, or anyone else want to do the least thing to help us out of this mess that we chose to commit to? They'll stand back and laugh their asses
off as they sell weapons to the other side now -- just as we did then.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm a leftist, and I would have never imagined American right-wingers to be totally stupid conserning war.

Posted by: ND at November 14, 2006 06:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jay,

As I see it, we have prepared the humble pie already and now it is up to our new reps to serve it. I doubt that the elections were an exercise in futility. However, we will surely see a lot of resistance from the administration but the public opinion at this time is not on their side. Sending the armies out on a war is relatively easy but the task of brining them back without a victory can get nasty. Since there is no hope for a victory in Iraq, the public opinion would continue to bear down on the admin and the Congress to bring the troops home.

Your pessimism is well founded but the events on the ground and the forces of change are stronger. I doubt that there is any sane American left out there who would relish the status quo in Iraq.

Once the administration accepts the notion of change, it is everyone’s job to keep them moving in the right direction. This admin will continue to slide downwards on a slippery slope and that will give plenty of opportunities to the right-minded people to press home the advantage.

I know the admin has a huge mental block about talking with Iran and Syria and that is why I think either the UN or a focus group consisting of the countries I mentioned, would perhaps help break the ice. I am sure you are aware of some rendition flights that took some terrorists to Syria and back. So, the US does have a channel open to talk to Syria.

“The suggestions you make are pretty much unworkable in less than three Friedman units.”

If you are referring to Friedman six-month unit, then you are right. There is no solution in Iraq that will take less than a year. So initially, a timetable for one year would probably get the ball rolling.( Btw, I don’t read his articles.)

“Iran and Syria have absolutely no incentive to do anything but wait and watch as the US armed forces are depleted.”

I don’t subscribe to that. The situation in Iraq also creates problems for both countries. In a civil war like the one we have in Iraq, the warring groups seek new hideouts and the fights begin to spillover in the neighboring countries. The ongoing civil war in Iraq may create refugee situation for both countries too. Lastly, no country cherishes living next to a war zone.

The US withdrawal from Iraq would establish Iran as a regional power and I think Iran would prefer that the US armies leave the area.


Posted by: HP at November 14, 2006 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The US withdrawal from Iraq would establish Iran as a regional power and I think Iran would prefer that the US armies leave the area.

Well, I'll grant you that diplomacy costs nothing -- and since it has not been tried yet, perhaps it's worth trying. Like all the rest of this mess I don't think we have a large window of opportunity to get a diplomatic initiative started however. By the time The Decider decides to negotiate our position may be so weakened that diplomacy will not accomplish much. We surely cannot afford to see a denoument like the Paris Peace Talks where we spend 3-4 years "negotiating" with the Iranians or the Syrians (over an outcome that's become a foregone conclusion!) while we pour blood and treasure into the sand.

If the Iranians prefer that the US armies leave the area enough that they allow our forces to withdraw in good order to Basra in return for not attacking their nuclear facillities, perhaps that's the best we can hope for.

I doubt that there is any sane American left out there who would relish the status quo in Iraq.

Yeah, but it's the insane ones that we need to worry about.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 08:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Boy,

we've just given Iran the whole of the Middle East. Well done Mr. Bush! You realize that if we go to Iran and ask them for help, they will come back and ask that we leave their nuclear program alone. Then they will help us. Who is holding the best deck of cards in the Middle East today? Iran.

Oh the foolishness and the vanity of the Bush administration and its supporters! To think this war could have solved all our Middle East problems. "The road to Jerusalem is through Baghdad" they said. How tragically wrong they were, and still are.

Posted by: Dan at November 14, 2006 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can anyone here imagine a course of events that could have made the Iranians happier than this? To their west, their mortal enemy, Sadaam Hussein has been overthrown, in a manner that inflicts great harm to their second mortal enemy, the US. This harm includes costs in money, lives and more importantly, a diminished global reputation as a serious player diplomatically, as a good ally, as a credible military threat, etc. The resulting chaos in Iraq allows them to expand their influence in the region and is a key enabler of their goal of regional hegemony. Another enemy to their east , the Taliban, has been overthrown but the job was done on the cheap in a way that doesn't threaten any of their interests (which a more secure and stable Afghanistan would have done). I continue to believe that the Iranians posess the ability to use their proxies in Iraq to dramatically escallate the violence and associated US casualties and this provides them with an effective deterrence against the US, allowing them to pursue their nuclear ambitions unimpeded.

Posted by: ramster at November 14, 2006 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here's why I mostly agree with Greg's proposal. We don't now and never did have adequate forces to maintain security in Iraq. If we simply added 30K-50K troops *without* planning to leave, then surely it would be a futile gesture. But, as many people fail to realize --- war is political. If we set a timetable for withdrawal, and basically say --- we're going to leave, Iraqis, better get your act together --- the insurgents may well think that they've "won", which might reduce violence. At this point we temporarily increase troop levels to at least give us a chance of providing security in some areas, while preparing to withdraw. The net effect might be (might) that since we've said we were leaving, the increased forces might just have enough deterrent effect to be able to provide security in the short term.

The fact that we're planning to leave might get the Iraqis to get serious. Regardless, after a short period we start to really withdraw, and hand over day to day to the Iraqis.

I don't see a better alternative out there.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 14, 2006 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But Mitsu...

If we simply added 30K-50K troops *without* planning to leave, then surely it would be a futile gesture.

It surely would, but it always comes down to that 30K-50K troops. Say we come up with the best plan ever to leave... where are the 30K-50K troops going to come from? The troops we've got have done multiple tours over there already. Training new troops (if we could produce them somehow) takes a year, and the place is coming apart at the seams -- we don't have a year to spare here.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 09:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Out now!

They are Arabs, they are Muslims, i.e. they are crazy, degenerate losers

Full-scale civil war, Syria dragged in, Iran dragged in, Sunni-Shiite mass killings. I'll check out the casualty reports with relish!!!!

Out now!

Posted by: OutNow! at November 14, 2006 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To get Iran on board would most certainly mean acquiesing to their nuclear program, but we may have no choice.

Posted by: gregdn at November 14, 2006 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the commenters on Pat Lang's blog makes a point that I thought was relevant to the conversation here:


"We are seeing at work once again the PR stratgey of "milestones" which distracts people from that actual situation and encourages passivity.

Just sit there and speculate/fantasize about what will happen when "the Iraqi Constitition is voted on...the new government is agreed...the U.S. elections are over...the ISG reports..."

The most important job for the ISG is to concoct a new series of milestones for us to sit, hands folded, and wait for what happens next.

Our brains have been trained by too much television. The newscaster says: "And now this" and our minds shift effortlessly from a car accident to the CMA awards to an election to the weather. The items in the series have no logical connection..and we don't need or want one. We just sit and wait to see what's "up next." [See Neil Postman.]

Meanwhile, in Iraq, our relatives, neighbors and fellow citizens find themselves in a situation that grows more precarious by the day.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 14, 2006 11:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iranian Mullahs gangbanged Bush with sandpaper condoms.

All because Bush didn’t have the balls to go after Bin Laden.

Then again, Bush does represent the United States.

So we all get to share the bruises.

Posted by: ME at November 15, 2006 12:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To get Iran on board would most certainly mean acquiesing to their nuclear program, but we may have no choice

While I don't think the diplomatic reach-out to Syria and Iran can work--it's just too late, there's no diplomatic foundation, it will take too much time, this team has nobody who can do it and they have no reason to to make nice with the US--I don't think the nuclear program is relevant at this stage of its apparent development. That can can be kicked down the road.l

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 15, 2006 12:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iranians will get what they want: humiliation of the Americans, without any negotiations. They simply want to be "seen" to win. In addition, the other powers, China, Russia, and the Europeans, wish us to be seen to be humiliated as well.
Greg is going on about some nonsensical "grand bargain", as if we are in a position to offer the Iranians anything. We aren't, unless we are absolutely willing to attack every installation in Iran. I don't see that happening.

Unfortunately, this will leave Iran with workable atomic weapons.

What the Democrats never understood was the simple equation that follows: inevitably, there will be atomic war. The outlines of this war will be terrible, its casualties, unknown.

You all are going on about the Baker-Hamilton commission as if that means anything. Nuclear weapons will be perfected and used, if not by the Iranians, then by others in the Middle East once the Saudis, the Turks, and the Egyptians get in the game. This is not a situation like that of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, where Serious Men stood watch over a balance of terror for 50 years. This is much, much worse.

Now the True Believers gain the secret knowledge that Oppenheimer cursed himself for having passed on to Groves, LeMay, and Tibbets. And they will use it.

Do not say you were not warned, no matter how deserved the scorn this blog and many others have poured down on Bush and Rumsfeld. Do not say that Ahmadhi-Nejad and others have not spoken the language of mass extermination and genocide-because they have. Language has been used in the Middle East, by leaders, that has not been seen since the Fuhrerbunker in April of 1945, and the reaction of the world has been a huge yawn. Yet the consensus on this blog and others is to indulge the fanatics, to give them what they want. Maybe then they will go away and leave us alone.

They will take what they want, and then some. Rational minds always come up short when faced by the iron will of determined fanaticism.

As always, in situations like this, it helps to recall Mr. Churchill's first reaction to the Munich catastrophe: "The Western Democracies had a choice between dishonor and war. They chose dishonor. They will have war."

It gets worse from now on. Much worse. You may indulge yourselves in gutter partisanship by blaming Bush, but we're all in this together. Perhaps the political class in Washington will realize this before it is too late and discover that, as Americans, we have common interests after all that transcend mere party.

Posted by: section9 at November 15, 2006 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

section9 sure loves the taste of sandpaper.

Posted by: ME at November 15, 2006 01:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Do not say that Ahmadhi-Nejad and others have not spoken the language of mass extermination and genocide-because they have.

Ahmadinejad has called for a one-state solution for Palestine, to be achieved peacefully by referendum.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092100829.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1772198,00.html

I understand that Zionist fanatics equate such a peaceful solution with 'mass extermination and genocide', but I know of no evidence that Ahmadinejad does.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 01:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg: I appreciate your views on how to solve this little imbroglio. I think your dance has too many steps. Have the US troops move to the margins - Syria and Iran - and cut off all unapproved movement across those borders, with "hot pursuit" ROE whenever we bust somebody there (even if it leads to B52 raids on, say, Damascus or Tehran, whom we should advise publicly that this could happen). Let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves in Bagdad and elsewhere inside the border for as long as it takes. Move US troops forcefully to kill Moqtada al Sadr and/or any other Iranist Shia when he attempts again to control Najaf. Protect the Kurds against Turkey. In time, this Tarawa-sized affair could yield important benefits.

Your respondents are depressing - seemingly a mixture of KosKids and Pat Buchanan isolationists. God forbid.

"At ease, I'll be in the area the rest of the day"
jafco

Posted by: jafco at November 15, 2006 02:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Two thoughts for you:

1) Do you suppose the Iraqis might be invited to the Iraq Contact Group you propose? Many commentators seem to forget that, whatever its many flaws and weaknesses, Iraq has a sovereign, democratically elected government. It's a little late in the day for folks such as Leslie Gelb to sketch out Churchillian ideas on napkins.

2) Have you considered that Iraq's neighbors might actually *prefer* Iraq to be instable? After all, every Saudi/Jordanian/Iranian/Syrian jihadi who blows himself up in Iraq is one less jihadi causing trouble for those neighboring countries' governments.

3) Don't you suspect that Iraq's neighbors' alleged fears of refugees are overstated? After all, Saudi Arabia, for example, doesn't need to have a messy political fight before simply building a fence on its border with Iraq; in fact, it is building one now (interestingly though, more than three years after the start of the Iraq War. Could it be the Saudis wanted to give their jihadis maximum time to enter Iraq, before they locked them in?).

Posted by: David P at November 15, 2006 03:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, that was three thoughts. But while I'm correcting myself, allow me to add a fourth and fifth thought:

4) What percentage of the world's military spending does the U.S. represent -- 40%? Why not use more of our half a trillion dollar defense budget and do what it takes to win in Iraq? E.g., multi-billion dollar jobs programs -- get every Iraq male of military age laying sewage pipes and otherwise building their infrastructure. Let them use shovels instead of machines, to maximize the number of laborers and have them to tired to commit mayhem at night. Or what about multi-billion dollar weapons buybacks to dry up the supply of IED parts? If you think outside the box and beyond the headlines, it seems ridiculous that, with a defense budget larger than the GDP of Iraq and its neighbors we can't get things down to a low simmer there.

5) Alternatively, why not keep a division or two in Kurdistan and let the Shiites and Sunnis kill each other for a decade or so? And if that leads to a proxy war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, would that be so bad?

Posted by: David P. at November 15, 2006 03:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, yes, Mr. Tomlin, one has to be a "Zionist fanatic" to interpret the following....

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation.The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

....as something other than a call for a peaceful solution. Really. Quite.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 15, 2006 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You confidently assert that "forces must be increased". We "must" do this -- no alternatives considered.

Frankly, not considering the alternatives is how our government got into this mess. So let me suggest an alternative approach that could do your readers (including me) a significant service.

You're a perceptive guy. Write a thought-out post that seriously examines the strategic alternative. That is, assume for sake of argument that US troops withdraw from Iraq soon -- before the current situation improves materially -- and draw out the consequences.

How would the next 5+ years likely play out in Iraq, the Mideast, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Korea, etc.? And in the US itself? For this purpose, the most-likely scenarios are more interesting than best-case or worst-case fantasies.

If the consequences of withdrawing are bad enough, then you've made a case for increasing the forces. If not, then you've made a case for withdrawing. Either way, you've made a worthwhile contribution.

Posted by: pireader at November 15, 2006 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The wisest words said in the run-up to this war are still the ones of Colin Powell about the "Pottery Barn rule": you break it, you own it. Well, America broke it, now America owns it.

This talk about the "ungrateful" Iraqis who have "chosen" civil war and themselves should solve it is frankly disgraceful. You do owe them.
As a European living in Asia I can also say that no one in the rest of the world will buy this line of "Well we did what we can do, but if the Iraqis want to slaughter each other, then that's their choice." And, please, I hope that everyone talking that talk in the future refrain from arguing that America is a "virtuos nation" and a "beacon for the world". It just won't cut it.

America (yes, in the form of Bush) pushed really hard for this war, against the strong opposition of the rest of the world. Well, you got it, now deal with it. And no, saying that you voted for Gore and Kerry won't cut it. We don't care if you're Dem or Rep, deal with the situation your President has created! (In Greg's case, he can't even say that! But then again, Greg is aware of America's responsibility for the situation and is making constructive suggestions. Not many of those around elsewhere among the "talking heads".)

Do I feel sorry for the U.S. soldiers stuck in this quagmire of their Commander-in-Chief's making? Yes, and my heart goes out to them and their families. But Iraq's civilians are the ones that get the most of my sympathies. They haven't signed up for anything, and they are living in hell. I'm belatedly reading "Night Draws Near", and it's heartbreaking. Anyone advocating wars of choice in the name of "freedom and democracy" should read it. Iraq's civilians are the "eggs" of your "omelette", and, no, the price is not worth paying. Yes, we have to stand up to tyrants and aggression, but waging aggressive wars in the name of freedom only means that your vision of freedom is utopian in nature, and you know what the road to hell is paved with. And, proudly "shocking and aweing" the civilians you purport to liberate amply demonstrates the inherent paradoxes and folly of such an enterprise.

So what can be done? Not much, but something has to be tried.

Greg's idea of Six-plus-Six talks is a very good idea, but as many have pointed out, the talks must be filled with substance. No repeat of the Six-party talks on NK, please.
That probably means making real concessions to Syria and Iran. The Golan Heights are still such a price that Assad jr would probably covet it to give his regime a rare success and bolster his own position. But that means pushing Israel to concessions.
I do think that Iran could perhaps be persuaded by a "grand bargain" with the U.S. Giving up the nukes in exchange for normalization and detente. Flatter them with the recognition of the Persian Great Power. It would of course mean the U.S. abandoning all talk of regime change. But Bush is an unlikely Nixon, and Rice is no Kissinger.

Being an Honest broker between Israel-Palestinians does not mean abandoning the alliance with Israel, but does mean stop giving carte-blanche to everything the Israelis feel like doing. Alas, also unlikely.

Massive increases in troop levels would of course also be necessary, together with a more aggressive "force posture". Easy? No. Impossible? Probably not. Relocating troops out of Europe, even Korea and Afghanistans would be necessary, as would prelonged tours. Realistic given the quality of present American leadership? Not in the slightest. Increase in casualties? Yes.

Not easy and not in any way attractive.

But what is the real alternative here? Withdrawal would entail Iraq finally slipping into a disastrous civil war, which will sooner or later involve its neighbours and perhaps set the whole region in flames. Iraq will really be the terrorist training ground that it was not under Saddam. As someone commented, would withdrawal from Iraq mean that the U.S. will not have to deal with violence and committ militarily in that region again? Please.
And American global credibility would really be in shatters after a withdrawal now.
Make no mistake, the realist leaders of Asia have seen for a while where the wind is blowing and that Iraq was a colossal mistake. America is descending, China is ascending. They are already adjusting for a region dominated by China.
The Taleban would of course be enboldened, and Afghanistan is as of yet far from secured for the West. Pakistan is of course only a successful assassination away from full-blown chaos that perhaps will lead to islamist take-over, and they don't need to start a nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia has apparently been quite successful in quelling an islamist insurgence, but does anyone believe in the long-term stability of that country? What would happen to Saudi with a full-blown civil war on its doorstep?

Withdrawal at this point is therefore not an option. Not morally, not "realistically".

Sorry for all of you with loved ones in harm's way.

Posted by: Michael af W at November 15, 2006 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg's article is a thoughtful, incisive analysis of the problems & choices we face in Iraq. One year, or two years ago, the situation there was salvageable. I hope I'm wrong, but I believe that the situation in Iraq is irretrievable.

At this point, a sensible, limited strategy would be to:
a) Reduce troop strength to 25,000 in Sunni / Shiite areas, and further 25,000 in Kurdish areas.
b) These troops should have the mission of:
* Training Iraqi troops;
* Supporting the Iraqis if they get into serious trouble, with rapid reaction forces;
c) Protect the Iraqi government (ministers & parliament in green zone);
d) Knocking out major militias with heavy concentrated firepower (assuming agreement from Iraqi gov't).
e) After a year to 18-months, declare 'victory' and return our troops home.
f) Negotiate with Iran & Syria to limit their support of Shiite & Sunni militias respectively

If we don't get agreement from the Iraqi government that we forcibly disarm or destroy major militias, then we pull out our troops.

Posted by: Adam at November 15, 2006 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David,

4) What percentage of the world's military spending does the U.S. represent -- 40%? Why not use more of our half a trillion dollar defense budget and do what it takes to win in Iraq? E.g., multi-billion dollar jobs programs -- get every Iraq male of military age laying sewage pipes and otherwise building their infrastructure. Let them use shovels instead of machines, to maximize the number of laborers and have them to tired to commit mayhem at night. Or what about multi-billion dollar weapons buybacks to dry up the supply of IED parts? If you think outside the box and beyond the headlines, it seems ridiculous that, with a defense budget larger than the GDP of Iraq and its neighbors we can't get things down to a low simmer there.

The United States spends 47% of the world's total arms sales. The problem with using this $470 billion dollars towards anything other than what it is currently used on is that most of the budget goes to the purchasing of nuclear submarines, high tech air craft carriers, F-16s and other Cold War relics that cost in the billions to produce. You step on mighty big feet if you think you can cut those out of a budget. Not only will you have military brass up in arms, but the defense contractors, who have politicians galore in their pockets will make sure your life is a living hell.

Welcome to the Military Industrial Complex.

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2006 04:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, yes, Mr. Tomlin, one has to be a "Zionist fanatic" to interpret the following....

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation.The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

....as something other than a call for a peaceful solution.

This (unsourced) quote is not a call for anything. It is a quite sensible warning of what is likely to follow if the Israelis persist in their aggressions.

And, yes, refusing to see the distinction between a regime and a population is fanaticism.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 04:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael,

That is a good analysis of why you think a withdrawal is not a good option. However, I am interested in hearing what option you think will work in actually quelling the situation, and perhaps even get it on a right path. Moreover, an even more important point, that seems to continually be put on the sidelines (like most Americans do these days when problems arise), how are we paying financially for fixing Iraq? Are we going to put it on another credit card and hope we can pay it off sometime soon? Or are we sending this bill to our children as well as the current $200-$300 billion we've already spent on Iraq?

Why are we not talking about the financial problem that arises from making this war? The way America runs its finances right now should send shocks through our system. Who is buying our bonds? China. Who is effectively owning America financially? China. If we send our bills to our children, filled to the brim with interest, just how free will they be? We're worried about our freedoms now, but don't seem to even think about what effect this will have on our childrens's world. The epitome of the baby-boom generation: Selfishness.

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2006 04:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yankee, go home.

Posted by: Mike Edmund at November 15, 2006 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whatever happened to "Anyone who supports a terrorist will be treated the same as the terrorist"?

Just as defending South Vietnam without taking the war to where it was given birth and sustenance in North Vietnam was unlikely to be successful, just trying to defend every point in Iraq while Iran and Syria fund, encourage, train and arm an insurgency that can strike at any point of weakness is also unlikely to succeed.

Why should Iran or Syria negotiate when this struggle costs them virtually nothing. Either you take the war to them and create enough pain for them that making war on their neighbor is not so attractive or you follow the Nixon doctrine of offering air support and arms to Iraq as long as it can field an army worth supporting but withdraw our ground forces and leave policing and guarding duties to Iraqis.

Posted by: Kent Webb at November 15, 2006 05:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, yes, Mr. Tomlin the fact that I didn't provide the link is oh so notable. Really. Also, the prediction of the "annhilation" of a political regime is quite commonly associated with the peaceful treatment of the population which elected the regime. And really, of the differing groups in the region, it is the Israelis who have been the most notable in their aggressions.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 15, 2006 05:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael,

You make some good points, particularly w/r/t "you break it you bought it". Your emphasis on our responsibilities to the Iraqui people on whom we have foisted this hell is appropriate.

As to negotiations with Iran and Syria, it seems like a path that should be explored aggressively though I'm not sure I see why they would not prefer we bled to death in the sand. You seem to hold the premise that, if we were to reach a deal with them (and an expensive deal it would be, too) our problems would diminish as the factional fighting in Iraq decreased. This may be true to some degree; whether the degree would make a difference is not clear. There are certainly enough high explosives and "free agent" bad guys operating beyond the control of either Iran or Syria to make life unpleasant for us and the Iraqui civilians, even if we were to give the store completely away to those two countries.

As to a more aggressive force posture and increased troop levels -- l'm not sure it's even possible; at any rate we agree it's unrealistic.

You probably know more about our global credibility than I do; I can only assume there's precious little left of it now and that the situation will get worse for us rather than better. I can't see how we don't come out of this with a huge defeat, a broken military, and a mountain of debt. Syria and Iran come out the winners.

You say that withdrawl is not an option. Morally you are right. Realistically I see two options: orderly withdrawl relatively soon, or disorderly withdrawl (simply put, a rout) slightly later.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 15, 2006 06:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Haven't had a chance to scan the comments yet, so apologies if the following has already been covered by others.

Convening a major Iraq Contact Group may be your idea of "a dramatic move to regionalize our approach to the Iraq issue" but all I really see you laying out is a laundry list of what you'd like the regional players to do. Much of what you describe runs demonstrably counter to the differing, sometimes shifting, strategic interests of players on the field and of those you're expecting to apply the required pressure, like Russia and China. I can't imagine you believe we'll simply be able to talk everyone around, yet the only carrot you even mention is "facilitating a return to negotations with the Israelis over the Golan Heights issue" in the case of Syria.

I'm sorry, but negotiating a return to negotiation is weak diplomatic tea in the context of what you're expecting to gain! So is opening up construction contracts to international bidders as an inducement for the good faith participation you envision from the grownups in the room. That is, and has always been, the central problem of the approach you're recommending. Until you've got a correspondingly substantive list of the incentives on offer, what you're describing is not a realistic initiative, it's wishful thinking -- based on what appear to me to be some rather glib assumptions as well. Saying that, "Neither Damascus nor Teheran want a total meltdown in Iraq," for example, considerably understates both countries' tolerance for chaos next door.

I note that your outline also completely ignores the role of Iraq itself, and the Maliki government, in both the decision making and negotiating process. That may actually be one of the stickiest wickets to be addressed, especially when your plan is essentially based on international "ownership" of an independent state.

I certainly don't reject the idea of direct talks, but I'll start taking it seriously when someone can tell me what rewards we'll be furnishing in return for the concessions we're expecting. I hope you can do so, because I have yet to manage it myself. Alas, that's what realizing your thoughtful agenda ultimately requires, and that's what will persuade the recalcitrant that you're touting a workable proposition.

Posted by: JM Hanes at November 15, 2006 06:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

VidaLoca, there is a perception problem here. You say we could face a rout, a military defeat. But many americans believe that we cannot have a military defeat, that militarily we are simply too strong. There's no way to find out for sure who's right unless we do suffer a defeat. As long as we are undefeated you can believe that the defeat is coming and they can believe that it isn't.

Pat Lang has described how such a defeat might happen. Currently nobody owns the roads in iraq. We can make convoys that can punch through wherever we want, perhaps suffering some losses when we do. We can set up roadblocks pretty much wherever we want and block traffic, and our roadblocks are subject to harrassing attack. Anbody else can set up random roadblocks that only a strong force can punch through, and nobody can keep it from happening. Many forces can close the roads, nobody can keep them open. And anybody of any importance in our military travels by air. We can stay high enough that the only danger comes at takeoff and landing, which can be minimised by doing complex evasive maneuvers at night.

If iraqis get weapons that can make our supply convoys too expensive then we will be reduced to supply by air and we will be in serious trouble. We will have to withdraw to the superbases that have large supply dumps, and then evacuate them before they run out of supplies. Anybody who gets cut off will probably be lost. This is how we got the russians out of afghanistan. We gave the afghans weapons that stopped the russian ground resupply and weapons that sometimes hit their planes and helicopters. But nobody is giving the afghans advanced weapons. We have to control the borders so they don't, but we don't have sufficient men to control the borders. What we can do is place sensors near the borders and run lots of UAVs to destroy anything the sensors sense there. This is why cooperation from syria and iran (and turkey and jordan and saudi arabia) is so important. If they start letting modern weapons through then we will lose. So it makes sense to bomb their capitals with B52s and commit other direct bloody acts of war against them if that's what it takes to persuadethem not to aid our enemies.

Even without that, we have done very well so far to avoid fighting shias. The shias are happy for us to kill sunnis and leave them alone. They might decide at any time to attack our convoys and that could give us a lot more trouble. All it might take is some little incident -- like say a captured special forces guy admitting under torture that we did the Samarra sabotage -- and they might change strategy in a day. Or we could attack them as Jafco suggests.

The other side of it is that most of our forces are tied down doing force protection. We need secure bases, and it takes a lot of force to keep them secure. We need to protect our convoys -- more force. We don't have much left to attack the enemy, even if we knew who and where to attack. To reduce our forces as Adam suggests we must either shut down a lot of bases and cede those areas to the enemy, or else we must reduce the offensive troops first. There's a lower limit -- too small a force can't protect itself. And we can't rely on the iraqi army to protect our guys, they're too unreliable.

So in detail we could be heading for a defeat. We can't afford to do a partial drawdown, that's an easy way to get hurt. We can't afford to just easl the borders and let the iraqis kill each other while we stop the refugees from leaving. That's -- perverse. And it's a logistical nightmare too. If we don't seal the borders then foreigners might start sending in advanced weapons, playing our own trick against us.

But a lot of americans simply don't have the concept that we could suffer a military defeat. It sounds like crazy talk. Just not anything to take into consideration.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 15, 2006 07:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David Tomlin, would it be OK if we drop the subject of israel?

There will be no peace. There will be no meaningful concessions by israel. Minor concessions by israel will be accompanied by much larger US concessions to israel. Arabs/muslims will be appalled at our one-sided support for israel.

We can argue about whose fauilt it is. We can argue about which side are the bad guys and who's morally justified in their atrocities etc. It gets us nothing in the short run.

For the foreseeable future -- then next 5 years, that's as far as anything political is foreseeable -- there will be no change in US support for israel. We are their ally and we will support them in whatever they do. They are our ally and they will give us intelligence info whenever they feel like it. Arguing about the morality of anything connected to israel will not help us in any way with our problem in iraq. Nothing useful will be accomplished by such argument. You will confirm zionists in their belief that they are alone and friendless in the world and must do anything it takes to stay on top. You may find random-seeming difficulties put in your way in your individual life if you get the antisemitic label. It does no one any good.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 15, 2006 07:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas,

Then we will never see peace in the Middle East. Our relationship to Israel is like having a brother who is addicted to drugs. You try getting your brother to clean up his act and he thinks you're against him, like he thinks the whole world is against him. I'm all for supporting Israel, but sometimes the best friend, the best ally is one who tells you to stop it, the one who tells you enough is enough. If we cannot tell Israel something Israel needs to hear, just what kind of relationship is this?

What is in the best interest of Israel? Is it the utter destruction of her enemies? No. Is it living in peace with her neighbors? Yes. Sometimes Israel has to do that which she thinks is bad for her nation.

Let me tell you, everyone who says the key to peace in the Middle East lies in solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue is most correct. That is the key. Solve that and you've solved the Middle East.

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2006 12:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Crooks and Liars links to a post that notes that while the Iraq Study Group is bipartisan, it lacks any experts on Iraq or the Middle East. It's just a collection of fixers. I suppose they can call in experts, but it is, upon reflection, group composed to offer political cover rather than policy solutions.

Link

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 15, 2006 01:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan:

Everybody is looking for a silver bullet in a world where bullets are merely made of brass.

Solving the Palestinian problem would be helpful. But, remember, there were wars against Isreal before the Middle East thought the Palestininas were a problem. I think Iran's current leadership thinks of Palestine in the same way Hitler thought of Sudetenland -- a useful pretext, but if it disappears, another can be found.

And those who have decided that the solution of Palestine would solve everything really make negotiation IMPOSSIBLE. The Palestinians are said to have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. There is a reson they keep killing negotiations -- they believe, if they hold out much longer, some general middle eastern explosion will give them everything they want. (Which, at a minimum, is a right to reoccupy most of Isreal through a "Right of Return".) Insisting that Palestine is the key to everything means that the Plestinians to "solve everything" will demand a very high price.

Isreal's best interest is a peace it can rely on with its neighbors. Frankly, given the state affairs, that's probably best accomplished with a wall and utter separation from Palestine, which is best to left to fester on its own. Eventually, the Palestinians will get tired and arrange a deal.

Question to Greg: Is a deal in Iraq woth selling out Lebanon? Because that's the only outline of a deal that would seem appealing enough to both Syria and Iran.

Posted by: appalled moderate at November 15, 2006 01:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan, peace for israel might be the golden key to the box of magic fairy dust, but it isn't coming in the next 5 years.

The US codependent relationship with israel is not going to change in the next 5 years either. (Barring some utterly unexpected event like Mossad agents getting asylum in france and announcing to the world that they personally were responsible for 9/11.)

Maybe at some time in the future things will change. But for now it's something we have to live with. It doesn't matter what's really good for israel, the USA will support israel in whatever israel wants.

Note AM's response, which he might not have noticed suggests peace through putting a wall around palestine and letting them "fester" alone inside it until they're ready to unconditionally surrender. See, israel can't allow palestine to trade freely with anyone else until after there's lasting peace....

But I just let myself get sucked in. Arguing about israel is useless. In any argument zionists will explain that absolutely whatever israel does is morally justified because of what arabs want to do and might someday do. And if you try to argue morality they will repeat over and over that israel is totally morally justified in anything israel does, and keep coming up with justifications. Israel is in mortal danger and any friend of israel, or friend of democracy, or friend of western civilization will support israel unconditionally until the danger is past. Anybody who argues otherwise is an immoral amoral fiend who ... Anyway, the argument can't possibly go anywhere interesting.

And if you somehow get past the moral stand and consider sheer pragmatism, then that gets trumped too. Arabs have an irrational hatred of israel, and so they are a mortal threat, and it would be impractical for israelis to stop killing them with artillery, airstrikes, cluster bombs, etc until after their enemies stop hating them.

It's vaguely possible that arguing about this might change some bystander's mind, and that over a very long time it might have some sort of political effect. But then, I've never heard of anybody who approved of the Sugar Lobby who wasn't in the Sugar Lobby, and universal mild disapproval has done nothing to reduce sugar tariffs and subsidies.

If you start an argument with zionists during a discussion about iraq, it will not accomplish anything useful. The zionists will not hear anything new from you no matter what you say. They will repeat their positions indefinitely. Nothing will happen that could help us in iraq, and the argument about israel will distract from whatever on-topic matters people are discussing.

No matter how much good you think it would do to get progress toward peace for israel, there will be no progress and making up stories about about possibilities for peace is useless.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 15, 2006 02:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd like to second J Thomas' last commentary, and extend it just a little further, since it touches deeply on the specter that haunts, clouds, and confuses the Iraqi debacle - the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian saga..

We keep fluttering about on this U.S.-Israel relationship as though our survival depended on it. But we've confused something here - we seem to think our reputation is somehow tied into our survival, and that if that sinks, we're through. But think about it - our reputation right now is about where it was at the height of the Vietnam war - in other words, it sucked bong water. And we had people, pundits even, back then hanging the fate of the country on SE Asia - it was either total victory or the barbarians at the gate. Chicken Littles all of them, squawking ever more shrill and ear-splitting even when Nixon gave them what they wanted and widened the war to Cambodia.

But the real life of the citizenry in America went on, somewhere between the victory and the gates. What made the carnage in SE Asia all the more tragic was how thoroughly and utterly meaningless it was to Americans. The veterans came back, many of them draftees, and so many of them found that for every one of them who went, a dozen or so not only didn't have to go, but probably had no fear of ever being called up. And the worst part of it all was that you couldn't blame either side - the vets for feeling snookered that their sacrifice really amounted to nothing, and the folks back home who had little to no clue where Vietnam was because it had no meaning to the lives they actually were leading. Yes, we 'lost' Vietnam - whatever 'losing' it meant (which, as it turned out, was much more to us than it was to the Vietnamese, who finally got their country back after us, the French, the Japanese, the French the first time, and Chinese long before them were through with it). But we survived. And the barbarians at the gates - why, it turned out to be our own leadership.

What never gets laid at the feet of Israelis by the U.S. is any reminder of the price that has been demanded for living in such an unforgiving part of the world. What never seems to ever get mentioned, even sotto voce, to any Israeli PM or delegate in any meeting with any U.S. official is that the responsibility of the intransigence on both sides of the fence (ever more, in the literal sense of that term) is entirely that of those...on both sides of the fence. There is so little distinction between the stubbornness of the Israelis and the Palestinians both, that there's no daylight between the two. Each side blames the other and wails publicly when their people die but keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over. We are asked to support Israel when their marginalization of the Palestinians amounts to apartheid, and we are asked to support the Palestinians when they have consistently made lousy choices of leadership and tactics. Both sides have screamed to the stars for international support, and ignored whatever reasonable choices there could be from the international community.

Maybe the best role we can play is this: tell Israel that they're on their own if they want to persist in their strategy of pre-emptive war. Tell the PA that they're on their own if they don't simply form the reasonable apparatus of a functioning state. Both sides could have what they want when and if they convene a summit - entirely of their own. Stop looking to Oslo or Timbuktu or Washington or Alma-Ata for a stage they can blame each other on when things go to pot. It's remarkably stupid and idiotic in these pages to say all this, of course. But it isn't any less stupid than the last almost-sixty years of ME history.

In the meantime, let's also tell ourselves this: our fate doesn't rest on Israel or the PA, and we can't fix what they haven't been able to fix - or haven't wanted to fix. Wasn't it Golda Meir herself who said something along the lines that there'll be peace in the Middle East when both sides begin to love their children more than they hate their enemies? Our fate is far greater than our reputation, and after all, it is we who are responsible for that reputation.

Posted by: sekaijin at November 15, 2006 03:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To amplify on points made by several posters, I don't think there's much future in "standing up" the Iraq defence forces while deathsquads continue to run around in Iraqi police and army uniforms. Continued training should be contingent on disbanding of the militias -- anything else is self-defeating.

Posted by: farmgirl at November 15, 2006 04:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J. Thomas,

Your point about Americans' perception problem vis-a-vis military defeat is well taken. The whole picture of the helicopters flying off the roof of the embassy in Saigon is just ... lost somehow, it fell down the memory hole and nobody knows where it went. Somehow in the minds of these Americans we're undefeated, indeed we can't be defeated; and the fact that it happened once -- under conditions rather similar to those currently obtaining -- is left unconsidered.

Anyhow. To your point about advanced weapons. Yes, if the Iraquis got numerous shoulder-fired anti-air or anti-tank missiles there would be serious hell to pay. But they've been doing rather well with very un-advanced IEDs and vehicle-born bombs -- both of which are an almost ideal weapon for low-tech urban warfare. My question then would be, how much benefit comes from our efforts to interdict advanced weapons that evidently aren't even necessary to make our stay there unpleasant? The beauty of the position that Iran and Syria are in is that they can
do nothing but wait while we bleed ourselves to death -- and come out on top when the dust settles.

You're right that convoy resupply is critical -- but the convoys run over roads; what happens when the roads are blown up? As you point out, air resupply happens -- but then you have to fall back to larger bases where the planes can land. Your resupply cost goes up by orders of magnitude as the efficiency goes down, troops are cut off except by air -- and what's the purpose of having them there anyhow if they can't venture beyond a supply radius that has suddenly become radically diminished? True, by applying more force you can extend the supply radius back out (though cost will be non-trivial) -- but again, what's the point of paying those costs to defend a supply line? For what purpose are the supplies ultimately being used -- if it's just to play whack-a-mole with the bad guys, is that worth it?

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 15, 2006 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Note that Bush has now set up an internal white house review of Iraq policy. I guess in his meeting with Baker he didn't like his choices, so he needs some more.

WaPo via FireDogLake.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 15, 2006 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The most contentious issue, of course, will be what to do with the approximately 140,000 troops in Iraq. Some observers, including this one, believe that forces must be increased by not fewer than 30,000-50,000 additional men, at least so as to provide for a temporary massive ‘surge’ style operation in Baghdad."

Contentious?? Am I living in a parallel universe? Did you fail to notice the result and implications of the recent election? Trust me, there's not the faintest, tiniest, most infinitesimal chance that this will ever happen. Fugedaboudit! Come back down to the real world.

Posted by: Helian at November 15, 2006 07:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Will Allen:

Oh, yes, Mr. Tomlin the fact that I didn't provide the link is oh so notable.

Oh, please. I inserted one word in parantheses to make clear that I don't myself know if Ahmadinejad said what you attribute to him.

Also, the prediction of the "annhilation" of a political regime is quite commonly associated with the peaceful treatment of the population which elected the regime.

South African apartheid ended peacefully.

And really, of the differing groups in the region, it is the Israelis who have been the most notable in their aggressions.

Strawman.

Of course the Iran-Iraq war was bloodier than all the Arab-Israeli wars put together, and Saddam treated the Iraqi Kurds much worse than Israel has treated the Palestinians.

In his letter to president Bush, Ahmadinejad expressed 'happiness' over the fall of Saddam before mentioning Zionism. In the September 2006 interview published in the Washington Post, he brought up Saddam in response to a question about security issues, but didn't mention Zionism until he was asked about it.

For some reason, Ahmadinejad's criticisms of Saddam's aggressions don't generate sensational headlines.

For convenience I'll repeat the links.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092100829.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1772198,00.html

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 07:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


J Thomas:

David Tomlin, would it be OK if we drop the subject of israel?

I'm amused that this request is followed by a post which says about as much about Israel as I have in the entire thread. In turn there follow four more posts discussing Israel, one of the longer ones by J Thomas.

My recent remarks concerning Israel were in response to section9's assertion that Iranian president Ahmadinejad has 'spoken the language of mass extermination and genocide'. Surely this is pertinent to diplomatic relations betwee the U.S. and Iran, and thus on topic. I have tried to keep my remarks brief and to the point, so as to avoid provoking a lengthy tangential discussion of the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I would enjoy such a discussion in a more appropriate place. If anyone is interested I have a piece on the subject, with comments open, here:

http://www.rationalreview.com/content/15124

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, pre-requisite for having a conversation.

Where will those additional 30,000-50,000 troops come from?

Until we can answer that (and no one has yet done so in the places I've looked) a conversation about additional commitment cannot move forward.

Posted by: MNPundit at November 15, 2006 09:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

MNPundit,

Where will those additional 30,000-50,000 troops come from?

Great question. Here's another.

How are we going to pay for the additional troops? Are we going to put it on another credit card and send the bill to our kids? Or can this generation actually pay for its own wars?

Posted by: Dan at November 15, 2006 09:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"David Tomlin, would it be OK if we drop the subject of israel?"

I'm amused that this request is followed by a post which says about as much about Israel as I have in the entire thread. In turn there follow four more posts discussing Israel, one of the longer ones by J Thomas.

You're right. I'm not very good about that.

I guess it's time to do a webcam of my 4-hour speech extolling the benefits of brevity.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 15, 2006 09:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


According to the NY Times, Senator McCain thinks 20,000 additional troops may suffice for 'bringing Baghdad and the restive western provinces under control.'

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/14/washington/14mccain.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Tomlin, if you wish to persist in the contention that the term "annhilation" , in reference to a political regime, is normally used in the context of the predicted peaceful treatment of the population which elected the regime, well, you just go right ahead.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 15, 2006 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


This, however, not only will put greater strain on the military, but also will be hugely controversial with Democrats who see their victory in the recent elections as a mandate to begin troop withdrawals in Iraq.

Beginning troops withdrawals does have majority support in polls, both in exit polls and in polls of the general population.

Increasing troop levels has little support - less than 20% in exit polls, less than 10% in general polls.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 15, 2006 10:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


To persuade the Democrats to entertain introducing greater troops into Iraq, so as to have a fighting chance to re-assert order in Baghdad (an absolutely critical goal)--the Baker-Hamilton Commission will likely have to introduce the notion of benchmarks--so that Democrats can point to achievement of certain goalposts as constituting conditions for continued deployment of significant numbers of troops. . . . While Republicans must resist any automatic triggering of troop withdrawals based on failure to achieve benchmarks, they should keep in mind that America's greatest leverage in Iraq might well now be the very act of threatening the Iraqis with our too precipitous withdrawal . . . the Democratic concept of benchmarks could well be used adeptly to ratchet up pressure on the Iraqis to achieve goals ranging from the disarming of militias to agreeing an equitable oil revenue sharing scheme . . .

I and others have discussed why this is unlikely to succeed in producing the desired effect in Iraq. Now I want to look at it in the context of U.S. politics.

If the offer is that 'Democrats can point to achievement of certain goalposts as constituting conditions for continued deployment of significant numbers of troops', isn't that offer withdrawn, almost in the next breath, by 'Republicans must resist any automatic triggering of troop withdrawals based on failure to achieve benchmarks'? If there is to be no 'automatic triggering', doesn't that mean the 'conditions' aren't really conditions at all? Is this verbiage supposed to fool somebody?

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 16, 2006 12:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


MNPundit:

Where will those additional 30,000-50,000 troops come from?

Until we can answer that (and no one has yet done so in the places I've looked) a conversation about additional commitment cannot move forward.

Frederick Kagan has addressed that here:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/902lfnxh.asp?pg=2

'When pressed, officers and analysts who claim that there are no more troops point out that it is impossible to "sustain" higher levels of forces in Iraq on any sort of reasonable "rotational" basis--that is, to be able to bring troops out of the country after their year-long tour and replace them with an equivalent number of fresher troops.'

So, Kagan's solution is one that I suggested in an earlier comment: change rotation schedules, sacrificing time for resting, re-fitting, and training.

I should clarify that the suggestion was hypothetical, as I am in the pro-withdrawal camp.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 16, 2006 01:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The only way this idea would work is if we establish benchmarks with consequences, and guarantee that we'll be out within a certain time frame. Increase troop strength temporarily, promise to LEAVE in the long run, and mean it.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 16, 2006 03:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David Tomlin, thank you. It's an issue I haven't seen properly addressed before now, it's still not in the article you point out but at least it was discussed.

Of course my question to Kagan is if you do sacrifice re-fitting, training and resting, how effective can those forces actually be (irrespective of his points on morale)?

But as I said above, at least we can have a conversation about that now and I too am in the pro-withdrawal camp though I'd like to clarify that escalation or further commitment is not automatically a non-starter to me, that is I am open to discussing those kinds of plans.

Thanks for the link regardless.

Posted by: MNPundit at November 16, 2006 04:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Rumor has it that 'last push' will be administration policy, but with only 20,000 troops. That's probably because Army and Marines have concluded that's the best that can be done without unacceptable strain.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1948748,00.html

I'm not assuming this report is accurate. If it is, I wouldn't expect bipartisan support for the plan. I hope there would be some Democrats in Congress courageous enough to denounce it for what it would be: a cynical sacrifice of our soldiers' lives for the sake of political expediency.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 16, 2006 08:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I second, or rather third, J Thomas and Vida Loca on the possibility of an American defeat in Iraq.

The Shi'ite majority has been tolerant of an occupation whose forces have mostly been helping them fight their Sunni enemies. But lately the U.S. has been treating the Sadrists as the main enemy. Popular Shi'ite hostility to the occupation is likely to rise steadily as long as this is true, posing a significant threat to supply lines.

There's a little-known story from the CPA days, that Bremer once had to order food rationing for the Green Zone.

American ground units need lots of fuel for their vehicles. If a Shi'ite resistance succeeds in disrupting logistics, the occupation forces may have to abandon their heavy equipment and evacuate by air, just as in Vietnam.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 16, 2006 12:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Where will those additional 30,000-50,000 troops come from?

Great question. Here's another.

How are we going to pay for the additional troops? Are we going to put it on another credit card and send the bill to our kids? Or can this generation actually pay for its own wars?

Fred Kaplan in a Slate article made the same suggestion as a possible policy alternative. I emailed him this very question, noting that you can't add substantial numbers of new soldiers without a substantial (at least 6 month) lead time and that recruiting standards have been lowered because current goals can't be met without doing so.

His response was that, yes, it would take more than six months to add soldiers to the Army and that the way to do that would to increase recruitment incentives. That is, pay the soldiers more up front. So I think the answer to your who's gonna pay questions are yes, put in on the credit card.

I have sympathy for anybody trying to figure a way out of this that isn't disastrous. But I really don't see any such way. All of the attempts, ranging from diplomacy to more army resources, are destined to fail. It's too late for any of them.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 16, 2006 01:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that there is considerable consensus on one point -- regardless of what strategy we attempt to adopt, the Bush regime will be unable to implement it because of its lack of credibility and/or competence.

If there is a solution, it starts with the the GOP Congressional Delegation going to the White House and demanding the resignation of Bush and Cheney, and the ascendance of a Democrat to the Oval Office. Before we can achieve anything in Iraq, the US must establish that it recognizes how badly Bushco has screwed thing up, and how willing we are as a nation to set things right.

If there was any honor in the GOP, that is what would happen -- of course, for the last six years we've been shown that the GOP is, for all intents and purposes, an honor-free zone, so I fully expect more years of carnage in Iraq...

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 16, 2006 03:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"To represent the U.S. at the Six-Plus-Six Contact Group we should appoint some of the very best envoys the country has at its disposal. " - geragos, you are a good son.Remember always protect the family even at the expense of letting the netroots ,"If there is a solution, it starts with the the GOP Congressional Delegation going to the White House and demanding the resignation of Bush and Cheney, and the ascendance of a Democrat to the Oval Office. " overtake this site.

Posted by: Moose at November 16, 2006 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yankee Go Home.

Posted by: Mike Edmund at November 16, 2006 05:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Remember always protect the family even at the expense of letting the netroots ..."

hey, what could be more bipartisan than have Congressional Republicans facilitate the takeover of the White House by a democrat? :)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 16, 2006 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Bush and Cheney were both removed from office without appointing replacements inbetween, the next in line would be the speaker of the house. Nancy Pelosi.

I can't quite imagine it.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 16, 2006 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Greg's post is the subject of an interesting discussion here:

http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2006/11/14/5605

A commenter writes:'To me, it seems like it’s more about setting up for a backstab myth later. If the Democrats don’t try every last half-assed one-more-try policy that some pundit comes up with, then they were the ones who “lost the war”.'

I hope this is the case, and the administration doesn't really intend to throw lives away on this. Of course there will be a back-stab myth ('dolchstosslegende') in any case, but I suppose it will be stronger with more talking-points in support.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 17, 2006 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, suppose the democrats do approve every last half-assed last try.

Then it's their war too. They did nothing to get out before it all collapsed. They're responsible.

"Bush broke it, you bought it from him broken. You own it."

Posted by: J Thomas at November 17, 2006 12:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me see if I understand this correctly:

If the Democrats call for a withdrawal, and Iraq finishes its spiral into chaos, then the GOP can blame the Dems for wanting a withdrawal.

If the Democrats agree to a troop increase of 20,000 - which is less than the 30-50,000 figure deemed to be the minimum which might make any positive difference - and Iraq finishes its spiral into chaos, then the GOP can blame the Democrats for going along with the policy.

Nice little shell game scam the GOP has going there, eh?

Hey, I have an idea: let's not play the game the GOP wants us to play.

How about if the Dems hold hearings in which military experts and officers who've been right all along get to talk about what would be needed to stabilize Iraq. Get some real hard truths out there, not wishful fantasies and simplistic slogans. Drag Baker's group in, and ask them to explain their scenarios: where they got the figures, where they expect to get the additional troops, how long they expect us to be in Iraq, and what that means in terms of military readienss if anything else happens elsewhere in the world.

In other words, stop with the smoke and mirror bullshit that has characterized the debate for lo these many years.

Do something new and radical: get hard facts from people who know what they're talking about, and demand answers from people who've refused to give 'em.

Tell America the truth. What a concept!

Posted by: CaseyL at November 17, 2006 02:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

yes, greg, we do owe, we are obligated -- to our dead and maimed soldiers, and especially to the Iraquis -- to finish for them, for the mission.

and for all who advocate turning tail, you are turning into our ultimate destruction.

Posted by: neill at November 17, 2006 05:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


. . . and for all who advocate turning tail, you are turning into our ultimate destruction. . . .

Sure. And anyone who doesn't believe every word of the Bible is going to Hell.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 17, 2006 06:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


A New York Times 'military analysis' advises: 'Some military experts said that while the American military is stretched thin, the number of American troops in Iraq could be increased temporarily — by perhaps 10,000 or more, in addition to the 150,000 or so already there — by prolonging combat tours.'


http://tinylink.com/?ZNWiCXxHQX

Accumulating evidence suggests that Greg's 'final push' of 30-50,000 is not in the cards. At most it will be about 20,000.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 17, 2006 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In terms of the political game, here is what will happen...

Bush will come up with a new proposal. Pelosi and most Dems will object, but Pelosi will allow it to come to a floor vote that will have sufficient Democratic support to pass ONLY if the overwhelming majority of GOP'ers support it.

And when that proposal is implemented as fails, it will be the GOP's fault.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 17, 2006 08:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If the "final push" in Iraq is the just right size, Bush could lose Afganistan at the same time.

Posted by: Bill D at November 17, 2006 08:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak

Bush would not cede that level of authority to Congress, not even advisory. He will stay the course, stalling as much as necessary--adding troops if that's what it takes to create an appearance of changing direction. Leave it to his successor to deal with, along with all the other disastrous messes he's created.

Posted by: Jay Ackroyd at November 17, 2006 01:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some observers, including this one, believe that forces must be increased by not fewer than 30,000-50,000 additional men, at least so as to provide for a temporary massive ‘surge’ style operation in Baghdad.

This strikes me as being about as dumb as the German's "surge" towards the end of WWII referred to as the Battle of the Bulge, and the American military's "surge" in southern Afghanistan last summer shortly before turning over control of the southern operations to NATO under command of the British. As to the former, by and large obviously it didn't change the outcome of the conflict. And as to the latter, the British commander who was to lead the NATO operations roundly criticized the American military for undertaking what he considered to be not only unnecessary, but also counter-productive, and later events there have borne him out.

So, just what is this "massive 'surge'" that you foresee supposed to accomplish? As far as I can see, it will accomplish nothing, except possibly wasting time and effort on the American military's part, and possibly further alienating the Iraqis. Who knows, depending on how it turns out, you might end up getting enough major factions in Iraq to be against the US--which pretty much was the situation in Beruit in 1983, which led to the barracks bombing there.

In my view, and as I’ve previously stated, we should convene a major Iraq Contact Group consisting of the Americans, British, Germans, French, Russians and Chinese—with full participation by each of Iraq’s neighbors (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait), as well as other critical Arab and/or Islamic countries as observers to the Contact Group (Egypt and Morocco, for instance).

This strikes me as being terribly naive. The Americans and the British I can understand, but, quite frankly, why would the Germans, French, Russians or Chinese want to get involved in an American&British led "Contact Group." It seems to me that at least the Germans and French would want to hold off to see what happens in Iraq, to avoid potentially alienating any group or groups that come to power there. Aside from the fact that Iraq was America's little military adventure, the fact is that the Germans and the French have commercial interests there--i.e., they would want continuing access to Iraqi oil, which apparently is far less important to the Americans. The same, quite frankly, with the Chinese. While the Russians have oil and gas of their own, and thus, would be far less likely to need access to Iraqi oil, they do have Muslim minorities that they have to deal with (remember Chechnya?) and would probably not want to get involved trying to clean up America's mess.

And, aside from Turkey--whose issues regarding their Kurdish problem the Bush malAdministration steadfastly refused to acknowledge in their lead up to the Iraq adventure--it would appear that the listed Iraq neighbors have little if any interest in or need to participate in such a Contact Group. Turkey has the main problem--with their Kurdish minority--but what would Turkey expect to get out of being involved with any such group? Having the Bush malAdministration stab it in the back yet again?

Posted by: raj at November 17, 2006 01:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So the way to honor our fallen comrades and the Iraqis is to yet prolong the agony on both sides - really, more Iraqi - by committing more troops, asking them to risk their lives for a cosmetic 'push' that simply will do nothing to halt the spiral, honor no-one anywhere, and really be just a last-ditch effort to save some congressmens' hash?

Let's just see this for one moment from the side of those who believe this war is still worthy of something that would make for a straight, moral face. In the context of troop strength, the NYT has said that at most 10,000 could be added in addition to prolonging yet more tours of those already over there, some of whom are, what, already on their second or even third go-arounds. Pentagon (?) estimates that 20,000 or so are the maximum allowable that won't break the Army or Marines beyond repair. But given how out-of control so many key areas are, how would even the 30-50,000 on the wish list then even make a jot of difference given how multifarious the chaos is becoming? If that's sound even for a pat analysis, then 10-20,000 will be clutching at straws for those who still believe in such a last-minute magic bullet. It would work only if what was at stake was re-taking Baghdad. But Baghdad anymore is only half of it.

I guess so many of us simply can't bring ourselves to admit that...we're beatable. Does it give me any pleasure to say that? You might think I'm lying when I say this, but I'm not. Honestly. But that's this: it gives me no pleasure to say it at all. If I believed that there was something to finish in Iraq, something worth yet more buckets of blood, I could bring myself to say that we stay the course. But we're simply no longer in a position to finish anything, because there's no infrastructure at all reasonable Iraqis still alive could build, and no infrastructure that we could still create that could make anything right; what little we had done was freighted with cronyism, corruption, Halliburton, insensitivity, stupidity, and the fingerprints of a Vice-president a few inches right of outright graft. In other words, there's nothing that can be finished that could take a detour around the civil war that -let's face it - is underway.

I have a nephew in the Navy. He's a corpsman in lab tech training. If such a cockamamy scheme is hatched to infuse those ten-twenty thousand-odd troops, he'll be there with the Marines. Yes, he volunteered. Yes, he knew exactly what he was doing by signing up. And yes, he's only one of scores in the same boat, so he's not special. But it's criminal to ask him, and all the rest like him, to honor the dead, maimed and emotionally crippled by becoming one of them.

Posted by: sekaijin at November 17, 2006 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yankee, Go Home.

Posted by: Mike Edmund at November 17, 2006 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CaseyL,

I agree with you that playing the GOP's game, becoming an accessory after the fact to their policy failures, would not be wise. I agree with you that holding hearings to get the facts before the public is an appropriate tactic -- it's not only the "right" thing to do on its face (since both the facts leading up to our intervention, and the facts about the current situation and our options, have been thoroughly suppressed up to now), but also it's one of the few tactics available to a party that does not control the executive branch. Baker's group should be called to testify; I'm less convinced than you are as to the usefulness of doing so however. Look at the people on that committee: these are not "experts" in any discipline that objectively matters, these are political fixers and representatives of the mandarinate; their job is not to review pollicy options but to provide political cover. Their report, when they issue it, will be just another milestone on the road to nowhere. Furthermore if you call Baker's group to testify, who will be sitting in the witness chair? Baker: the Bush family consiglieri. Can we reasonably expect his committee to come up with a set of recommendations that is inconsistent with the Bush family interests?

But I digress. I agree that Baker should be invited to speak before the hearings. I also think it would be useful to invite the generals to speak before the hearings; some questions could be asked that have not been asked at Republican hearings up to now. Depending on how the generals are feeling their responses to some of these questions could be illuminating.

At the end, though, I'm left with this: the new Congress will not be seated until, what, second week of January? They'll need to move into their offices, hire staff, buy new drapes, get the deck chairs all rearranged. Hearings won't commence until -- February? March? At the rate things are deteriorating in Iraq will there be enough time for the hearings to be anything but a post-mortem?

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 17, 2006 03:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

More troops means more US casualties.

It would be stupid to add more troops, when the solution to victory is very "simple".

Time.

Like 10 more years, or maybe 20.

Regime change in Iraq, with the development of stable democracy, was surely worth some 10 000 volunteer soldier lives. Any timetable for withdrawal is an attempt to control Iraq -- but winning a limited war is out of the control of the winner.

The loser controls when the war ends. When the loser decides to stop fighting.

Shia death squads taking over the streets will most likely help the Sunnis to decide to stop fighting quicker than US military following Geneva and US war conventions.

It's highly unlikely the current level of death will continue for 10 more years if we stay, and continue supporting the Iraqi Army. The Iraqis will get tougher, and meaner, and better at killing any who oppose them.

Bush won't accept losing on his watch.


Where will the money come from? Cutting US pork would help a lot -- minority Reps will be much better at it than minority Dems were.

One new direction should be an end to "aid" to Iraq, to be replaced by municipal bonds for reconstruction, and state agency bonds -- to be repaid by user fees for the services. So the Iraqis should pay.

The withdrawal should happen according to the elected Iraqi gov't. As usual, too much talk of what the US will decide on this or that issue which is more properly to be decided by the Iraqis.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 17, 2006 04:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Late to the thread, and sorry if I repeat (having read only the first third or so of the comments). A few points:

1. The president is in Viet Nam today demonstrating his utter unfitness to engage in any strategic decision-making at all. We lost there only because we lost the will to fight? (And where the hell was he and his will to fight?) This isn't just delusional, by the way. It's also deeply insulting to his hosts. If they for a minute think he really thinks we could have outlasted them in their own country.

2. The President and his SecState think negotiating is the same as demanding. I expect the Pres to accept recommendations wrt Syria and Iran, and then have Sec. Rice take the podium and say 'they know what they need to do.' Negotiations completed.

3. Don't we really need to negotiate with Sadr first? If we can make a deal with him, and then with some leading neo-Ba'athists, then there's no need to do anything with Syria. On the other hand, if we can't make a deal with Sadr -- who's faction is in the gddm parliament that we created -- then why would we think we could make a deal with anyone at all.

Posted by: Charleycarp at November 17, 2006 05:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The loser controls when the war ends. When the loser decides to stop fighting.

That's true. If we put enough money and lives into it we can drag it out another 5 years before we admit defeat. We can continue until we can't afford the fuel to continue longer.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 17, 2006 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Charleycarp: Bush in Vietnam; yeah that f__king idiot finally got to Vietnam more then 30 years after his Daddy got him a place in the Air National Guard Outfit for well-connected Draft Dodgers. What an utter load of Crap that this witless asshole should be saying that we lost in Vietnam only because we could not outlast the Vietnamese in their own country! And yes it is insulting to say that & some freedom is on the march nonsense in front of his Vietnamese hosts. Boy George really is Totally Clueless!

The Fanfare of the Establishment in proclaiming the Coming of the Baker Comm. Report sounds like the theme from "2001"! It really is that pretenious & overblown! As for whatever the old Bush Family Consigliere & Co. recomend is likely to be ignored unless it concludes that the US should withdraw from Iraq by Election Day 2008, except maybe for some troops left in the Kurdish north. The American people are not likely to support anything else. Make November 2008 the deadline because I doubt that the Republicans are dumb or enough to let the Democrats use Iraq to beat them two elections in a row. (Though after the Senate Republicans pick that good old boy segregationist Trent Lott as their No. 2 the other day, you do have to wonder about their group IQ!)

As for bipartistanship, the Republicans have made it clear over the last six years they regard that the same way they regard diplomacy. I.E. do whatever the Republicans want without question or they will do their level best to destroy you. To the current crop of Republicans, Politics & Diplomacy are Wars conducted by Other Means. Indeed War is waged overseas by this Administration in order to Triumph at Home over the Democrats. Given this background, why should Democrats listen to any calls for cooperation with Bush now that he has gotten into such a deep hole in Iraq. Throw him an anchor in the form of 1).Investigations into all the sweetheart contracts given to Haliburton, dealings with Energy Companies, etec & 2) sponsering resolutions such as Senator Levin, the new Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Comm., has proposed that US Troops be withdrawn from Iraq over the next 4 to 9 months. (If Congressional Republicans have any sense at all, they will back such Resolutions & do their best to force the Administration to withdraw.)

Finally as to the idea of sending more troops, i.e. "surging"; that only makes sense if those Troops are sent for the purpose of covering the general withdraw of US Forces from Iraq via Basra. Given the numbers being talked about, they are too few to be useful for anything else. It may seem overcynical but the current concentration of US Troops in Baghdad could be seen as the first step in such a bugout or as the British would say, scuttle. An Iraqi Civil War might not be the worst thing, after all, a lot of Shia & Sunni militants would be killed. In any case, do not expect American to sacrifice its children to prevent such a war involving people whom most Americans have at the least contempt, and in many cases, hatred for.

Posted by: David All at November 17, 2006 10:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Doesn't anyone remember what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan? Broken army, broken economy, finally broken empire.

We're already selling our future to the Chinese with our increasing the national debt.

The longer we stay in Iraq, the further we go down the USSR path.

When those of you who talk so loudly about how we must remain in Iraq start volunteering your own money and your own children for this mess, I may believe you are serious.

Otherwise, it's yet another case of having other people pull your nuts out of the fire.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 17, 2006 11:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reality Check II
Examining the consequences of "redeployment."
by Frederick W. Kagan
11/15/2006 12:00:00 AM

THE DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER of Congress has predictably led to a rise in calls for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The authors of these calls, like Carl Levin and Joe Biden, frequently maintain that their proposals are not for "withdrawal" but for "redeployment." U.S. forces would remain poised on bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, Kuwait, or elsewhere in the region to support the Iraqis with "rapid reaction forces." The United States would thereby both "incentivize" the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security and give them an over-the-horizon safety net. The trouble is that this "safety net" is illusory. It serves only to mask out-and-out withdrawal and defeat.

We'll ignore some of the sillier suggestions, such as basing "over the horizon" forces in Guam (thousands of miles away from Iraq) or Pakistan (hundreds of miles away and a place where we can't even get permission to send Special Forces teams to hunt Osama bin Laden). Let's consider instead the more realistic sounding plans of basing "quick reaction forces" (QRFs, as the military calls them) in Iraqi Kurdistan or Kuwait.

The scenario for using such forces would go something like this. After our departure, Iraqi Army forces would battle insurgents as necessary to clear and hold contested areas. They would occasionally be overmatched tactically and need assistance. They would call U.S. commanders in Kuwait or Kurdistan for help. American forces, kept on alert for just such a contingency, would rush to the rescue, restore the situation, and again leave, allowing the Iraqis to proceed with pacifying their own country. At this level of abstraction, it sounds reasonable. When any of the practical difficulties are considered, it is revealed as utter nonsense.

U.S. forces now operate in Iraq from forward operating bases, or FOBs. FOBs provide housing and food for soldiers, ammunition and fuel storage, depots for vehicles, command and control centers, and medical care, among other things. They require a constant stream of supplies to keep them going. Most of these supplies travel by sea to Kuwait's ports and then by road to the FOBs dotted around Iraq. The idea of maintaining some sort of super-FOB in Kurdistan while abandoning all of Iraq to the south is logistical madness. Everything would have to be flown in, requiring a massive airlift effort-unless one imagines that the Turks would allow us to supply it from their territory. Even with their permission, that would be a daunting undertaking, as supplies and reinforcements would have to travel hundreds of miles by rail from Turkey's Mediterranean ports just to get to Kurdistan. The cost would be astronomical and the entire set-up at the mercy of Ankara.

Let us suppose, then, that the quick-reaction force is based in Kuwait, where we already have a significant and stable logistics infrastructure. We would keep several battalions there at least, possibly several brigades. How will they get to where the Iraqis need them? It's about 600 miles from Kuwait to Baghdad-several days' drive for a military convoy. If we have pulled all of our troops out of Iraq, moreover, we will be driving through unsecured roads. The distance will give insurgents plenty of time to place IEDs and establish ambushes. We will have no U.S. local commanders to get intelligence of such activities or clear the roads before the QRF comes through. We will lose vehicles and soldiers, the convoys will be delayed, possibly halted. At best, they will have to fight their way through half the country to get where they're needed. They will surely not arrive in time or in shape to help......

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 03:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kagan part 2.....

Most advocates of this proposal probably imagine that our troops would instead fly from their super-FOB to where they are needed. That is in principle feasible. U.S. troops could theoretically mount helicopters and fly them from Kuwait into the Sunni Triangle, then land near the fighting and charge in. But 600 miles is a long way. Our soldiers do not fly out on such missions, engage briefly in combat, and then get back in their birds and fly home at night. They would have to land somewhere at a distance from the fight, set up a secure base, and then move out. Given the distance, in fact, they would probably need to make a stop to set up an interim support base before proceeding to the final objective. The helicopters would have to be refueled, of course, and the soldiers would need supplies of ammunition, food, water, etc. Such materials cannot be transported in large quantities by helicopter. So our soldiers will have to secure an airfield. If the insurgents conveniently choose to fight near an airfield, then the base can be quickly established relatively close to the fight. Of course, if the insurgents are actually within range of the airfield, then the airfield must be seized by helicopter assault-a complex and dangerous operation in itself. Most likely, though, the airfield will not be that close to the fighting, so the QRF will have to land, form its base, and then advance through unsecured territory to the fight, facing IEDs and ambushes all the way.

It is certainly possible to proceed in this fashion from a military standpoint. But how quick will such a quick reaction force actually be? To begin with, it will take time to launch the operation. Some troops at the super-FOB would be on alert, trained, and ready to go quickly. Soldiers in alert status will not be sitting in their helicopters or vehicles all the time, however. When the Iraqi request for support comes in, it will take hours to gather the soldiers and load them onto their means of transportation. Flying 600 or more miles in helicopters takes a few hours. Establishing a new base near the fighting takes more hours. Securing an airfield nearby still more. All of that would have to be done before the QRF joined the Iraqis in any numbers. The whole process would surely take a day or two even in the most optimistic scenarios.

That may not sound too long, but it is eternity in any combat situation. Unless the Iraqis are going to be calling us in all the time, the Iraqi commander will have to wait until he's in real trouble-about to be overrun, say, or unable to drive insurgents from some key location in a vital operation. In any sort of tactical emergency, the day or two delay in the arrival of the QRF is almost certain to spell disaster. The insurgents will either finish off the beleaguered unit before we arrive, or abandon that fight to set up ambushes for our troops, or simply leave the area before we get there, setting up a base somewhere else and waiting for us to leave before resuming their attacks. A QRF based in Kuwait will almost never be relevant for tactical emergencies in Iraq.

It might, in theory, be relevant for higher-level operational emergencies. If the Iraqi Army were trying to take a key city or town and became dangerously bogged down, American forces arriving within a few days might be able to make a difference. One could imagine our soldiers entering the fight at the right moment to take some key position to allow the Iraqis to achieve their aims. This image, too, does not bear up well under closer scrutiny. In operations of this scale, the few hundred soldiers that we could reasonably expect to move rapidly by helicopter are unlikely to be decisive. It is not possible to move vehicles by helicopter, for one thing, so we would be confined to sending in light infantry-something of which the Iraqis have plenty. Moving tanks, Bradleys, or Strykers by air would take considerably more time and make us, once more, dependent on having an airfield nearby. Once again, it is hard to imagine moving a force of the requisite size and composition to help accomplish a major clearing operation fast enough to make a difference.

If we could get to the trouble spot in a timely fashion, however, we would still face a terrible dilemma. How do we know whom to shoot? We would, presumably, be responding to a call for help from a local Iraqi commander. Without any of our own soldiers on the ground to start, we would have limited intelligence. Is the commander who called on us a good guy, or engaged in sectarian cleansing and atrocities? Are the people he's telling us to kill really radical anti-regime elements, or are they moderates he wishes to eliminate for his own political purposes. The recent news reports from Baquba are distressing in this regard-the local Iraqi division commander (a Shia) asked his American partners to arrest a long list of Sunni Arab leaders, whom he regarded as leaders of the insurgency. It turned out that almost all of those leaders were men we had been negotiating with and saw as the key to restoring order to the city. The U.S. commander refused to put his troops at the disposal of someone trying to increase rather than reduce sectarian strife. He could do so only because he had been in the area long enough to know that the Sunni Arabs he was being told to arrest were really the good guys-and that he should not trust the Shi'ite commander he was partnered with. An over-the-horizon QRF will be at the mercy of whatever Iraqi commander calls on it, and will be far more likely to be drawn into sectarian strife in a damaging way, rather than a helpful one.

Over-the-horizon quick-reaction forces are simply a fantasy. We will not end up using them for all of the reasons given above and for one more: They will put our soldiers at far greater risk than they now face. QRFs moving around an unsecured country about which they have little meaningful intelligence will take high casualties. Flying helicopters over insurgent areas means losing some of them, with their soldiers. Light infantry moving through unknown land will inevitably be ambushed, sometimes with heavy losses. The lack of readily available armor support will expose our troops to losses, including the possibility of mini-Mogadishus in the urban areas. Tanks have played an unheralded but vital role even in the urban portions of this conflict, providing moving armor protection and instant firepower that the insurgents can't match or defend against. The bottom line is that the QRFs will have virtually none of the advantages our troops now enjoy, while facing far greater risks. Those who claim to care about our troops cannot possibly support such a proposal.

We face a stark choice now. We can either maintain bases and large forces in Iraq, or we can withdraw. If we withdraw, the Iraqi Army will collapse, and we will not be able to help it except by re-entering the country in large numbers and in a much worse situation. Attempts to mask this reality with militarily nonsensical solutions are dangerous. They will lead to higher U.S. casualties or to defeat-and quite possibly to both.

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As others have said, these suggestions might have made sense in November 2003. It’s too little, too late today. Iraqis want jobs, electricity, security, something to believe in. 50 or even 100,000 extra US troops will give them none of the above and may produce more ‘collateral damage”. You can’t solve a political problem with more troops. It’s too late.
Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian problem is very serious, but I doubt that there are 12 people in both houses of Congress who understand this. They are so afraid of appearing anti-Semitic and offending the MSM that they can’t see the facts on the ground. Israel and the Palestinians have both behaved stupidly and without regard for human rights. Once you accept the dreadful duality: Israel has a right to defend itself and Palestinians have a right to resist a military occupation, you see the problem.

Israel has a failed state in its back yard. Maybe it would have happened anyway- Yashir Arafat surely qualifies as stupid and greedy, but it’s there, and the current idiotic Israeli government can’t see that, they can’t see that cluster bombs will come back to haunt them. The Israelis can’t kill every Palestinian. Every week, every month they create more hatred among the occupied people. This is a formula for disaster. However neither Bush, Pelosi nor Newt Gingrich understand that. Please pray for us Argentina.

Posted by: maracucho at November 18, 2006 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the only way that makes sense, then, is to make way for the Caliphate.

Only there isn't enough 'room' on the planet for that, unfortunately.

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 05:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If we put enough money and lives into it we can drag it out another 5 years before we admit defeat. We can continue until we can't afford the fuel to continue longer."

J Dodge, you've already admitted defeat.

Only this ISN'T Vietnam.

There isn't a safe homeland to repair to, where a now hyper-emboldened enemy will not force the attack.

Your measly five years, which you won't even bet. Al quaeda sees that and raises with its (already internet-published) TWENTY-YEAR PLAN.

Are you still in?

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and islamist recruiting and fund-raising will absolutely go off the charts in the wake of an American departure.

not only will Iraq collapse. Iran will see to it that Lebanon goes. Afghanistan will be up for grabs. There will likely be civil war in Pakistan, with its nuclear jewels up for grabs. Egypt will revert to its pre-Camp David pose.

Europe will clutch the covers over its head. China will likely take advantage of the chaos and move on Taiwan.

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 07:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


And the door of the pit shall be opened, and an army of scorpions shall emerge. The four horsemen will bring war and conquest and famine and plague. A beast shall arise from the sea. The sun shall become as sackcloth, the moon shall be as blood, the stars shall fall to earth, and the sky shall be rolled up as a scroll . . .

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 07:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, we're hurting. Can you imagine how we can fund this war for another 20 years?

Your thinking is pre-Bush. We used to be a superpower and we aren't any more. There was a time when we had the strongest military in the world along with the biggest economy and the most international respect. Russia had a strong military but nothing else. Europe had a strong economy. Nobody could match us on all three fronts. We were the world's leader. But we've had 5 years of Bush after 8 years of Clinton and 4 years of Bush Senior and 8 years of Reagan -- the day we were the world's leader is long-gone.

There might have been a way we could confront all our enemies in iraq and win. We failed. We have less resources available for it now than we did in 2003, but the job has gotten a lot harder. The soonest we can put in a workable strategy -- supposing we find one -- is early 2009 when it will have had 2 more years to fall apart.

It's time to fall back and regroup. We're overextended. And yes, there's a fair chance we'll see terrorism in the USA when we do. Napoleon said, "Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake." Very likely, we haven't been attacked since 9/11 because they thought we were making a whopper of a mistake and they didn't want to distract us from it. Once we start to correct that mistake we can expect terrorist incidents to encourage us to make another one.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 18, 2006 07:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


There isn't a safe homeland to repair to, where a now hyper-emboldened enemy will not force the attack.

I've never understood this kind of thinking.

Suppose Bush 41 had taken Baghdad, and we still had an army occupying Iraq in 2001. Would that have prevented the Atta gang from executing the 9/11 attack? How?

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The fallacy in 'stay the course' is that the Iraqi army just needs more training time. But they've had plenty. The problem isn't their training but their loyalties. Even the neocons admit that now.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/16/AR2006111601359_2.html

Defeating an insurgency requires winning the support of the people for the government. But Iraq's nominal government is too ineffective to ever gain that support. By some accounts Maliki is no more than a front for Sadr, who is fighting Hakim's forces for control of the Shi'ites while both ethnically cleanse the Sunnis.

In other words, Nancy Pelosi is right to say that Iraq is "not a war to be won, but a situation to be solved", only it won't be the U.S. that solves it.

The situation is state failure. Unless the Shi'ites can get together and create a functioning national state, which will then make some concessions to win over the Sunnis, there is no possibility of suppressing the Sunni insurgency. But the U.S. can't make the Shi'ites do that. There is nothing left to do in Iraq but leave.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 08:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The situation is state failure. Unless the Shi'ites can get together and create a functioning national state, which will then make some concessions to win over the Sunnis, there is no possibility of suppressing the Sunni insurgency. But the U.S. can't make the Shi'ites do that."

David, you make the former statement about future action/inaction, discussing likely negative consequences, which I am in basic agreement with. And attach the following future action to end the paragraph, with no discussion of likely negative consequences.

"There is nothing left to do in Iraq but leave. "

Why is that?

Should we not soberly weigh consequences of all our possible actions in this critical matter?

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 08:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Neill, we're hurting. Can you imagine how we can fund this war for another 20 years?"


J Dodge, the economy is relatively healthy, in case you hadn't noticed.

What will lead to actual physical pain is your headlong rush toward surrender in the futile hope for greater security.

Al quaeda: Never interrupt your enemy from escaping a fight that is too scary and distasteful for him to continue. Then cut his head off.

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 08:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, the relative health of our economy has nothing to do with the situation. We're still insisting on putting the cost for this Iraq embroglio on the tab, so helpfully carried for us by the Chinese.

At some point, we're going to have to pay the bill. And with what's coming down the pipe in the way of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid demands, not to mention that pig of a pharmeceutical bill, we just don't have the $$$ for it.

We cannot afford to have this war go on at this level for another 20 years. We can't afford to have this war go on for another 5 years.

So what do you suggest we do to pay for it?

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 18, 2006 09:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

gr,

i dunno where you stood at the outset of this war, but if you advocated for the war at the outset, how can you possibly argue that we need to surrender for business reasons?

for that matter, what is the economic cost to us of not only a major, but an unprecedented, surrender?

and what does the economic gain of an unprecedented victory represent?

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 10:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

at the end of this long war, and no one knows how long it will last, only one thing will matter in this world:

Who is still willing and able to fight.

and

Who is essentially unable or unwilling to fight.

in this war, will trumps ability, hands down.

Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 10:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Neill:

Should we not soberly weigh consequences of all our possible actions in this critical matter?

What course of action do you propose? I have searched the thread and I don't see where you have declared one.

If we continue the present course, I would expect the situation in Iraq to continue deteriorating. Eventually the forces will be withdrawn, either because of popular political pressure at home or because they are forced out in a humiliating debacle.

http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_10_31_06.htm

The sooner the forces are withdrawn, the sooner the Iraqis can sort out their political arrangements among themselves. On the whole, I expect the consequences to be worse the longer we wait.


Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 11:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

in this war, will trumps ability, hands down.

Think about what you just said. Think. Doesn't it sound realy really stupid?

How bout you enlist. And when you go into combat, tell your squad leader that. And your platoon leader. And so on. It doesn't matter how well any of them do their jobs, all that matters is they have will. You'll get thrrough fine no matter how badly they do.

That wasn't what you intended to say.

"In this war, will trumps reality, hands down."

That's what you meant to say. But it's just as stupid.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 18, 2006 01:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops, what happened to my italics?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 18, 2006 01:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm still seeing this hard Cold War attitude raising its head: if only we had the will to fight in Vietnam, we could've won it. But at the height of that war (1969), we had half-a-million troops there, a draft, a plentiful pool of Baby-Boom cannon fodder, and a Congress as equally cowered by an unfettered executive as we've just had now. Hell, we could pay as we went for that and do Woodstock in the same year, and we felt ourselves to be in a cultural, social and moral position to have, say, the 101st Airborne's slaughter on Hamburger Hill as only an item on the nightly news, with Laugh-In, Love American Style, and all the rest still on as regularly scheduled. And that's not all - we bombed the shit out of the North and widened the war to Cambodia even when the war was becoming so unpopular and when we had lost so much credibility over it.

But with all those resources at our disposal, why did we lose? People like Neill would say because we 'lacked will'. But how much would it have taked to have had that will? A million troops? A widening of the war into south China? A step-up in the draft rolls so that everyone went? Well, that could've made a difference. But we weren't prepared to do that, because we knew what was at the end of that - national suicide. I don't know about you, but half-a-million troops in a country that posed no threat to our security sounded like no shortage of will to me.

Is it possible that what undid us in Vietnam was more a recognition that the mission it supported - the domino theory - was bogus from the word go? As with our current war, if in fact it was an enterprise worth putting that much of our resources into, then why was there so much deception, so many lies, so much nonsense surrounding it? The fact is that the American people were lied into that war just as much as we were lied into this one. There was no reason for it. And there never was a reason for this one. We have fought what we have not for freedom, but for our own interests, which often have supported a lot that isn't terribly free. And tied into those interests is a curious way of looking at the world, and a curious way of looking at ourselves - one that demands domination and control at all costs as a verification of our own worth. And this verification in turns demands resentment, revenge, and manufactured adversity. The worst part of it is that it has often caused it not only to lie to ourselves, but to lie to others - people and whole countries we pledged to be there for then betrayed, when that sense of domination and control could not sustain both that promise and our need to refuel our resentment and revenge.

So many of those who railed against Saddam in 2002 called him a friend twenty years earlier - because we were then railing against Khomeini. We did everything we could to enable Saddam to perpetuate his power, keep him supplied with what he needed for his own idiotic war against Iran, and further ruin his country's civil society. In that sense, the tragedy that is unfolding now in Iraq has our geopolitical DNA in it.

So here's yet another question for Neill - when you talk about 'will', what exactly are we 'willing', and over what? You seem to have this Kiplingesque 'ours it not to question why, ours is but to do or die' idea of staying the course. But what sort of empty-headed notion of honor is that? A will to sacrifice simply for the sake of honoring those who already sacrificed? A will that is really nothing less than asking others to sacrifice themselves because the sacrifice of others wasn't enough to make things as we wished for? From a military viewpoint, that is a most wasteful, unintelligent use of our resources. From a moral viewpoint, it is simply indefensible to demand that people give the ultimate when they have already seen others give the same and know that it did nothing. Plausibly the only reason to stay is for us to punish ourselves - for being an accessory to the conditions that have led to what is happening now.

Posted by: sekaijin at November 18, 2006 03:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why hasn't al Qeada Attacked
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/

9/11: Five Years After
Why al Qaeda Hasn't Hit the U.S. Again
John Mueller
The myth of the omnipresent enemy.

1. If al-Q is "just bidding their time," this article shows numerous instances where it really doesn't take much time or skill to make an attack. Example: T. McVeigh's attack in Oklahoma City took less than a year.

2. "Although some Arabs and Muslims took pleasure in the suffering inflicted on 9/11 -- Schadenfreude in German, the most common response among jihadists and religious nationalists was a vehement rejection of al Qaeda's strategy and methods. When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979, there were calls for jihad everywhere in Arab and Muslim lands, and tens of thousands flocked to the country to fight the invaders. In stark contrast, when the U.S. military invaded in 2001 to topple an Islamist regime, there was, as the political scientist Fawaz Gerges points out, a "deafening silence" from the Muslim world, and only a trickle of jihadists went to fight the Americans. Other jihadists publicly blamed al Qaeda for their post-9/11 problems and held the attacks to be shortsighted and hugely miscalculated."

This is just a quick summary of a very interesting article. The article does not deny that there could be another attack and the freelance jihadists trained in Iraq, when and if, the war ends, may try to come here, but that they probably will attack American friends overseas and our interests. Lastly, to also keep in mind that the odds of being killed by a jihadist are about the same as being hist by a comet, 1 in 80,000.

Posted by: Russ at November 18, 2006 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Is it possible that what undid us in Vietnam was more a recognition that the mission it supported - the domino theory - was bogus from the word go?

I once did some research aimed at answering some questions of that sort. The impression I got was that there was a major shift in the global strategic situation between the begining and the end of the Vietnam War.

When the U.S. began to get deeply into Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union looked like a monolith, and Indonesia had a leftist, pro-Soviet government. It made some sense to fear that the fall of South Vietnam to the North, seen as a proxy for both the Chinese and the Soviets, would be a strategic threat, not to us directly but to our western Pacific allies: Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines.

By the time the war was winding down, China and the Soviet Union were openly feuding, there had been a pro-U.S. coup in Indonesia, and the U.S. was working to improve relations with both the Soviets and the Chinese.

Kissinger's writings about his period suggest that containing the Soviets was no longer an issue. The only reason, or at least the main reason, for staying in the fight was that American prestige had been committed. The war was an embarrassment, not least because it was an obstacle to improving relations with the Soviets.

In Iraq, of course, the initial strategic rationale evaporated even sooner, when the WMD failed to turn up.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 04:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Kissinger's writings about his period . . .

I meant 'this period'.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You seem to have this Kiplingesque 'ours it not to question why, ours is but to do or die' idea . . .

Tennyson.

It happens that George Orwell, who fought in the Spanish Civil War, once wrote of Kipling 'at least he knows that men ordered to attack impossible objectives ARE dismayed'.

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300011.txt

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But with all those resources at our disposal, why did we lose? People like Neill would say because we 'lacked will'.

Why do people keep responding to Neill? Is it that they think we were getting slogans like his before the 2000 and 2002 and 2004 elections and no matter how well they got discredited the GOP won, and so we have to discredit them harder?

Consider the possibility that most reasonable people ignored those stupid arguments all along. Maybe the GOP won because a lot of people were convinced that the democrats were worse. Did they decide that because of Neill? It was some combination of their record and GOP prpaganda. My father was one of them, in 2004 he didn't much like Bush but he couldn't consider letting Kerry into the White House given his war record.

So why is it worth the trouble to refute Neill on this blog? It isn't. The only thing that gets him so much attention is that he's a bit of fun as a chew-toy.

There's the chance that if we all ignored him for a couple of weeks they'd reassign him and send us somebody smarter who'd be even more fun. Would you like that?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 18, 2006 05:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"and islamist recruiting and fund-raising will absolutely go off the charts in the wake of an American departure. (not to mention boldness, on the part of both salafists and khomeinists, who appear to be allying)

not only will Iraq collapse. Iran will see to it that Lebanon goes. Afghanistan will be up for grabs. There will likely be civil war in Pakistan, with its nuclear jewels up for grabs. Egypt will revert to its pre-Camp David pose.

Europe will clutch the covers over its head. China will likely take advantage of the chaos and move on Taiwan."

You guys suffer from a failure of imagination, the same intellectual flaw that left us blind to the oncoming 9-11: An unwillingness to face and honestly evaluate potential threats/consequences (previously not really thought possible) that could result from certain actions or inactions.

The subtext to almost everything I've written here is what is the potential impact of a withdrawal on the wider WOT? Nobody thus far is willing to seriously engage on that issue.

It's an article of faith for you that withdrawal will make things better, increase our security. After all, things can't get worse than they are and will be by staying in Iraq, right?

Yes, they can actually. By quite a bit.


Posted by: neill at November 18, 2006 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, if this war is so important, then
a) why haven't you signed up so far? (If you are posting from Iraq, good--at least you're putting your money where your mouth is.)
b) why haven't all the Young Republicans running around saying how important this War-on-Terror is signed up for fighting? (And no, sitting in your dorm and posting on the internet isn't the same, no matter how much you might like to think so.)
c) figured out a way to pay for it. Higher gas taxes. Higher estate taxes. Whatever.

For heaven's sake, if this "war against Islamo-facism" (or whatever it's called this week) is so important, why haven't those of you who support it actually do what is necessary?

And Neill, the reason we're not engaging you with this "but what will happen if we withdraw?!" hysteria is the following:

1) nobody knows.
2) see point one.
3) we do know we can't afford to continue this war as it is presently being fought. (If you have ways of getting it done, post, please. And something more tangible that "we must have WILL!" Makes you sound like Leni.)
4) All data indicates things are just going to get worse.
5) Maybe it's triage. But running around saying "but we're all going to DIIEEE!" just makes you sound like the hysterics running around saying We Should Never Stop The War In Vietnam because of the domino theory, the Chinese Commies were going to take over, etc. etc., and so forth. Last time I looked, Vietnam seems to be doing pretty well.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 18, 2006 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's an article of faith for you that withdrawal will make things better, increase our security. After all, things can't get worse than they are and will be by staying in Iraq, right?

Yes, they can actually. By quite a bit.

This reminds me of a Nasrudin story.

Nasrudin was going to mosque to pray, and the guy who sat beside him was a known thief. Nasrudin didn't take off his shoes.

The thief whispered to him, "Prayers with shoes on are lost." Nasrudin ignored him.

The thief whispered loudly, "Prayers with shoes on are lost!" Nasrudin ignored him.

The thief spoke out loud. "Prayers with shoes on are lost!".

Nasrudin nodded and shrugged. "Yes, prayers with shoes on are lost. But perhaps at least the shoes will remain."

Suppose that we try to stay in iraq for 5 more years. So far the war has cost us around $2 trillion and close to 4000 dead US soldiers, with less than nothing to show for it. And in another 5 years we can expect to lose another $4 trillion and maybe 15000 dead US soldiers, and we can expect results about as bad as the worst we can expect from pulling out.

If we take our army out of iraq, then our army can't force the iraqis to stop fighting each other. It can't force them to accept democracy. It can't force them to do a wonderful reconstruction. It can't force iraq not to collapse. Without an army in iraq we can't force iran not to make lebanon collapse. Without our army in iraq we can't force iran or others not to horn in on afghanistan. Without an army in iraq we can't force pakistan not to have a civil war or protect pakistan's nukes or force egyptians to love israel. Only a US army in iraq can force europeans to be brave and stop china from attacking taiwan.

hahaha.

So anyway, without an army in iraq a lot of our hopes for world domination will be lost. On the other hand, we'll have $4 trillion and 15000 extra live soldiers, all of which can be used for something else. As long as we're pinned down in iraq our army can't do much else, but if we pull out of there and refit then we *can* invade someplace else if we want to. If I was running a large third-world dictatorship and the US state department told me "You gotta do everything we say or we'll take your country away from you" I'd laugh and say "You and what army?". The US army is stuck in iraq. But if the army wasn't bogged down there and they said "We've learned from our mistakes in iraq, and now unless you do everything we say we're going to do democracy promotion and reconstruction in your country" I'd be terrified for my people.

It's sad to pull out of iraq and watch all our dreams go up in smoke. If we pull out of iraq there's a pretty good chance that iraq will get nukes, and bring Saddam back, and sponsor international terrorism. They'll genocide the shia and kurds and invade kuwait and saudi arabia and iran. On the other hand, all these bad things we have jprojected are just as likely if we stay in iraq too. At least the soldiers and the money wouldn't go up in smoke too.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 18, 2006 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> The obvious question this begs, however, is what happens if the benchmarks aren’t met?

Greg clearly is unfamiliar with the meaning of the phrase "begs the question", which makes for embarassing mistakes like this, unfortunately. Happily, a brief visit to a dictionary could help him avoid this.

Posted by: Pedro at November 18, 2006 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You guys suffer from a failure of imagination, the same intellectual flaw that left us blind to the oncoming 9-11: An unwillingness to face and honestly evaluate potential threats/consequences (previously not really thought possible) that could result from certain actions or inactions.

I might say the same of you. I and others have argued that it is possible for American forces to be driven from Iraq in a humiliating debacle. You have ignored that point.

Such a defeat would be the worst possible outcome for terrorist recruitment, on top of the huge boost it's already gotten from the invasion and occupation.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'blind to the oncoming 9-11'. If intelligence and law enforcement agencies had done their jobs a little better, the 9-11 plot might have been detected and disrupted. However, they might not have discovered the nature of the attack until some of the plotters were arrested. Whether they thought that kind of attack was possible probably wouldn't have affected their ability to detect and disrupt the plot.

Those responsible for aviation security were blind. They were complacent because there hadn't been a successful hijacking in a long time. They didn't see that the growth of suicide terrorism raised the possibility of a new kind of hijacking, calling for some revival of vigilance in that area.

It's interesting that the notebooks of the Columbine killers were found to include fantasies about suicide hijacking.

The blindness that may have contributed to the success of 9/11 was tactical, not strategic. No one doubted that terrorists wanted to attack in the U.S. There had already been one attempt on the World Trade Center.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 18, 2006 11:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

The subtext to almost everything I've written here is what is the potential impact of a withdrawal on the wider WOT? Nobody thus far is willing to seriously engage on that issue.

Not so. It is you who will not engage. You haven't answered this question:

Suppose Bush 41 had taken Baghdad, and we still had an army occupying Iraq in 2001. Would that have prevented the Atta gang from executing the 9/11 attack? How?

neill:

It's an article of faith for you that withdrawal will make things better, increase our security.

Wrong. It is a conclusion for which we have argued. Calling it 'an article of faith' is a lame substitute for a counter-argument.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 19, 2006 12:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


J Thomas

Consider the possibility that most reasonable people ignored those stupid arguments all along.

I've considered it, and I don't think it's true. Have you looked at the polls? There's a majority for withdrawing 'some troops', but only 25-30% for withdrawing 'all troops'. The consensus for full withdrawal has yet to be built, and I think responding to points like those Neill raises is a part of doing that.

I don't agree that those points are 'stupid', except maybe the will/ability thing. I might call some of them 'naive', but it's not as if the average American were all that well informed about Camp David or China's Taiwan policy.

My father was one of them, in 2004 he didn't much like Bush but he couldn't consider letting Kerry into the White House given his war record.

Do you mean that he bought the Swiftboat nonsense? Or was it Kerry's post-enlistmen anti-war activism that bothered him?

Your argument seems to assume that Kerry was offering an alternative policy in Iraq. That would be wishful thinking re-writing history. Kerry's Iraq policy was 'I'll do everything Bush is doing, and do it better.' In 2004 Kerry accepted the 'in it, have to win it' logic.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 19, 2006 01:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What the Baker commission suggests that we do and what we do or don't do going forward in Iraq really doesn't mean a thing in the bigger picture. What bigger picture you may ask? The bigger picture today has little or nothing to do with states and nations, which are in decline in the face of, for lack of a better term, globalism. Vast wealth is being created on a global scale thru an ever more complex web of monetary/credit/financial inter relationships which have almost nothing to do with states, except to the extent that central banks and financial regulators will provide direct and indirect support for markets.

Elites thruout the world are accumulating wealth beyond imagining. In the past elites became wealthy by control and exploitation of their resident countries. That is no longer the case and as a result nationalism is exiting as a driver of political events.

The corporation is the new paramount model of human organization. States are secondary. The failure of weak states is beyond irrelevant to markets. The Katrina like failure of the American state was likewise irrelevant. In fact the failure of states is massively bullish for markets, and markets are what matters most of all.

As Iraq devolves into a killing field watch the DJIA soar to 20, 000.

Posted by: rapier at November 19, 2006 01:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DT, in the name of fairness I'll be happy to answer your question if you'll do the same for me. It gets a little difficult when I'm getting peppered from several directions.

'There isn't a safe homeland to repair to, where a now hyper-emboldened enemy will not force the attack.'

"I've never understood this kind of thinking.

Suppose Bush 41 had taken Baghdad, and we still had an army occupying Iraq in 2001. Would that have prevented the Atta gang from executing the 9/11 attack? How?"

In the former, I'm distinguishing the circumstances and consequences of the withdrawal from Vietnam from that of Iraq. The way the media is being used deliberately by the enemy as a psychological weapon to affect our elections, and the outcome of the conflict, is identical. The likely consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq represent a dire momentum shift in the WOT, whereas with Vietnam we were able to simply wash our hands of it, walk away and continue that 70s show, while the media who largely precipitated the disastrous aftermath quietly averted its gaze. And it's recalled as an era of political triumph by liberals.

I wasn't avoiding your question. I wasn't sure how to respond to it. Of course occupying Baghdad in the 90's wouldn't have prevented 9-11. How on earth is that analogous with my previous point?

I wrote 'It's an article of faith for you that withdrawal will make things better, increase our security', because nobody (but me, thus far) has been willing to even evaluate withdrawal's downside. Just as many liberals were, and some still are, unwilling to face the truly bitter downside of the withdrawal from Vietnam. Only the downside this time will be truly disastrous, not only in Iraq but worldwide.

And you're not even willing to consider it worthy of discussion. That is truly blind faith, especially when the stakes are so high.

Which leads me to another question.

What actually is at stake here? That must be crystal clear to all of us -- before we make a decision to fold.

Posted by: neill at November 19, 2006 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What actually is at stake here? That must be crystal clear to all of us -- before we make a decision to fold.

This question was never properly asked or answered before we invaided or during our occupation, why would you expect it to be addressed now?

OK, look at the current tasks our military is doing. These are:

1. When a region is in open rebellion against the iraqi government, our army can move in and smash things, and then move out again. If a rebel army or militia stands and fights we can smash them too, if they hide until we go away we can't accomplish much agsinst them. After our operation is complete nothing much has changed except that area is smashed more than it was before.

2. We can train the iraqi army in basic drill and in urban warfare. Unfortunately our urban warfare techniques come from the israelis who aren't concerned about what civilians think of them -- a luxury that an iraqi army doesn't have. Also unfortunately, the iraqi government has not yet done much to inspire loyalty from the iraqi army. So for example when we tried to send 6 battalions from the iraqi army to Baghdad to protect the capital, 4 of them deserted. Officially the iraqi army has a lot of soldiers. It appears to have very few effective soldiers. We mostly have not been able to depend on it at all, and to some extent what we are doing is training and arming insurgents. Not good.

3. We can use US troops to "stiffen" iraqi units. With brave trained US soldiers fighting beside them, the iraqis may learn to do better. We have tried various ratios of US to iraqi troops, like 1:10 etc. So far the best ratio has been 1:1, one US soldier backing up each iraqi soldier. The result is a force that's far better than an iraqi force alone, and far worse than half the US force alone.

American commanders recently claimed that the war will be won or lost in Baghdad. Let's switch to a quick look at afghanistan. Some people claim that the afghan government with US assistance controls only Kabul, the capital, and everywhere else warlords do whatever they want -- which often includes cooperating with us and the afghan government. What would we think about how well afghanistan was doing if we couldn't control Kabul? Pretty bad, right? Well in iraq we can't control Baghdad. In August we had the idea of sending in massive numbers of troops to control Baghdad, but the iraqi army side of that failed so we sent in extra americans and the Baghdad attack group is 2/3 american. It's behind schedule and the news so far isn't good. Now think about the claim that the war will be won or lost in Baghdad. We can lose the war in Baghdad, clearly. If we win Baghdad does that mean we've won the war? Not at all.


What is at stake, what are we risking if we stop our current losing approaches? How does it help us to continue losing this way?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 19, 2006 02:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

j, thanks for your perceptive thoughts on the military situation in Iraq. We clearly need a change, but if that change is withdrawal, we will be seen as defeated, and far, far, far worse, as accepting defeat at the hands of islamofascists. At a time when neither side is clearly winning or losing on the actual battlefield.

The psychological effect of that on every other theater in the WOT will be disastrous, quite possibly irretrievably, for our side, and a gift from heaven for the other side. Take Hamid Karzai, for example. A lot of whatever power he wields comes from his relationship with us. Things will change radically for him, as they will for Musharraf and every other ally of ours. For an emboldened Achmedinejad and his ilk it will be a time for decisive action to highlight for all that only one side is capable of victory in this Great War.

So a move intended to cut our losses will actually have the opposite effect.


Doubling Down in Iraq
Warfare isn't like business.
by William J. Stuntz
11/20/2006, Volume 012, Issue 10

Don't throw good money after bad. When you're in a hole, stop digging. If you've been running in the wrong direction, the first thing to do is, turn around.

These are the kinds of things Americans are hearing and saying about the war in Iraq. It's understandable: Those familiar sayings are often useful. When you gamble and lose, the natural tendency is to double your bet--and when that doesn't work, mortgage everything you have to try to retrieve your losses. But as every undergraduate economics student knows, that strategy is a disaster. Hence the principle of "sunk cost." The fact that I've lost a pile on some enterprise or investment is no reason to lose an even bigger pile. The smart move, economically speaking, is to reassess your decisions on a regular basis. When an investment isn't working, get out. Put your money, your talents, and your energy to better use somewhere else.

All of which seems to apply to Iraq, in spades. A seemingly quick and easy military victory has turned sour. The costs, in blood and treasure, have escalated. Victory looks uncertain and distant. It seems the time has come, if not to cut and run, then surely to cut our losses. If ever the principle of sunk cost applied to warfare, it would seem to apply here.

But that instinct is wrong. Warfare is not like investment banking. At precisely the moment an economist might say to stop throwing good money after bad, a wise military strategist might say to double the bet.

Why might that be so? For one thing, willingness to raise the stakes often wins the game. Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave. They need not inflict a military defeat (which would be impossible, given the strength of the American military)--all they need to do is survive until American voters decide to throw in the towel, which might happen at any moment.

The proper response to that calculation is to make emphatically clear that the fight will not end until one side or the other wins, decisively. That kind of battle can only have one ending, as Abraham Lincoln understood. In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers be gan to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet--and won the war.

There is another reason economic logic does not readily apply to the fighting of wars. When running a business, one aims to invest just as much as is necessary to make the sale or manufacture the product--no less, and no more. Profit equals revenue minus cost, so minimizing cost lies at the core of wise business management.


Warfare could not be more different. Send just enough soldiers and guns and tanks to do the job, and you may soon find you have sent too few. The enemy concludes that if it can raise the marginal cost of the conflict just a bit, if casualties are a little higher or the expense a tad greater than you imagined, you'll quit the field. On the other hand, send vastly more soldiers and materiel than required to the battlefield, and the enemy soon decides that the fight is hopeless--that, as Lincoln so elegantly put it, our resources are unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible.

In the world of business, decisions are made at the margin: a little more invested here, a bit less there; everywhere, strive to cut waste, to spend no more than is absolutely necessary. In warfare, waste and excess are productive: They send the message that victory is inevitable, that whatever resources are needed to obtain it will be given to the task. That is the essence of what military historian Russell Weigley called "the American way of war." Overwhelm the enemy--instead of investing just enough, invest far too much. Make sure the other side knows that our capacity to give and take punishment immeasurably exceeds their capacity to absorb and inflict it.

The difficulties the Army has experienced in Iraq are due, in large measure, to the fact that the Defense Department forgot this historical lesson. Donald Rumsfeld tried to run a businesslike war. But warfare is not business; it is not fought at the margin. By striving to do just enough to win, we have done too little. The right strategy is to do too much.

That is especially true of a war like the one in Iraq. Consider these data: Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up.

The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win. And the difference between success and failure is not 300,000 more soldiers, as some would have it. One-tenth that number would make a large difference, and has done so in the past. One-sixth would likely prove decisive.

Counterinsurgency warfare is more about protecting than killing--like a nationwide exercise in community policing. And the lesson of the 1990s in American cities is that the best way to reduce the level of criminal violence is to put more cops on the street. The lesson of the past three years in Iraq is the same: If the goal is to cut our losses, the best move is not to pull back, but to dive in--flood the zone, put as many boots as possible on the most violent ground. Do that, and before long, the ground in question will be a good deal less violent.

War is not poker; the stakes in Iraq are much higher than a little money or a few chips. But war's psychology bears some resemblance to a well-played game of cards. The only way Americans lose this war is to fold. That seems likely to be the next move, but it is the last thing we should do. Far better to call and raise. Our cards are better than theirs, if only we have the nerve to play them.

William J. Stuntz is the Henry J. Friendly professor at Harvard Law School.

Posted by: neill at November 19, 2006 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill,

Warfare is not like investment banking. At precisely the moment an economist might say to stop throwing good money after bad, a wise military strategist might say to double the bet.

Or, possibly, a wise military strategist might not say any such thing.

I tried to think of historical precedents to support the point that Stuntz is making since Stuntz doesn't offer any. It took me a while but I finally came up with one: Stalingrad.

Can you propose others?

Not that it matters, at the end of the day this is all becomes academic. The time for airy "triumph of the will" rhetorical flourishes as in

Far better to call and raise. Our cards are better than theirs, if only we have the nerve to play them.

has passed. We have to fish or cut bait, or end up facing a disaster worse than the one we face presently.

Stuntz wants to double down? That means more McCain units of troops, more Friedman units of time, more loans that your grandchildren are going to have to pay off. So far our policy has been to invest Friedman units (this has been called "staying the course") because Friedman units have the appearance of being cheap and plentiful. The current conversation is driven by the growing realization that they are neither. So now we're considering investing further McCain units -- but we don't have them to invest in numbers large enough to make a difference.

Where are the troops coming from neill?

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 19, 2006 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

loca,

Every decision we make hs its cost.

"We clearly need a change, but if that change is withdrawal, we will be seen as defeated, and far, far, far worse, as accepting defeat at the hands of islamofascists. At a time when neither side is clearly winning or losing on the actual battlefield.

The psychological effect of that on every other theater in the WOT will be disastrous, quite possibly irretrievably, for our side, and a gift from heaven for the other side. Take Hamid Karzai, for example. A lot of whatever power he wields comes from his relationship with us. Things will change radically for him, as they will for Musharraf and every other ally of ours. For an emboldened Achmedinejad and his ilk it will be a time for decisive action to highlight for all that only one side is capable of victory in this Great War.

So a move intended to cut our losses will actually have the opposite effect."

??

Posted by: neill at November 19, 2006 05:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, can you see the utter bankruptcy of your argument?

You're down to arguing psychology. You say unless we spend $12 billion a month keeping our military pinned down in iraq, we will be demoralised and our enemies will rejoice.

You can't point to any hope of victory in iraq. The closest you come is the idea of flooding iraqi streets with police. But since we don't have spare arabic-speaking police to flood iraqi streets with, you propose to do that with imaginary english-speaking US soldiers.

In warfare, waste and excess are productive: They send the message that victory is inevitable, that whatever resources are needed to obtain it will be given to the task. That is the essence of what military historian Russell Weigley called "the American way of war." Overwhelm the enemy--instead of investing just enough, invest far too much. Make sure the other side knows that our capacity to give and take punishment immeasurably exceeds their capacity to absorb and inflict it.

I see that you are finally taking up the Powell Doctrine, barely 4 years too late. [sigh]

So OK, there's no hope of victory in iraq, and you're saying if we pull out it will make our enemies elsewhere bolder. Now think about this. If our enemies elsewhere make a move there isn't much we can do. We're pinned down. If we get out of that tarpit and our enemies elsewhere do something, we can respond. So which is better? Spend an extra $12 billion a month to stay pinned down and hope it frightens our other enemies, or actually get the men and materials ready in case they aren't frightened?

You don't have straws to grasp at, you're grasping at dandelion fluff. Give it up.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 19, 2006 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill,

At a time when neither side is clearly winning or losing on the actual battlefield.

The problem is that an insurgency that is not being destroyed is in the process of winning. All they have to do is survive -- that's the fallacy of a strategy of staying the course. And if recent events are any indication, they're doing more than surviving, they're getting stronger: put on police uniforms, drive into Baghdad, kidnap 150 people out of the Ministry of Education in broad daylight and drive away?

Clearly we need a change. The Iraqui army and police do not enforce the writ of a government which only exists on paper outside of the Green Zone. We tried pulling forces back from the outlying areas to gain control over Baghdad; that didn't work. We can pull more forces back, but that cedes more of the country to the insurgency. When the insurgents quit fighting each other to attack our supply lines we can devote more forces to protecting those supply lines but there's no useful outcome from that; it just gets more people killed.

An alternative is to double down, as Stuntz suggests. Leaving aside the practical matter of the lack of resources for doing so -- a lack which nobody seems to dispute -- the nightmare scenario is that we double down and still have nothing to show for it in the way of progress (historical precedent: Vietnam). Talk about your gift of heaven for the other side!

I can't prove you're wrong, and you may in fact be right about the consequences of defeat. Hanging on to Iraq by our fingernails does nothing to improve Hamid Karzai's chances however -- in fact it insures that we can give less support to a situation that is not yet lost.

Posted by: VidaLoca at November 19, 2006 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with neill that the consequences of a perceived defeat in Iraq would be very very serious. That should have been sufficient reason not to try it, especially not in a half-assed way.

The fact that the consequences are grave -- that defeat is not an option -- does not at all mean that the war is winnable. The time has passed when one could speak of an insurgency. The real problem in Iraq is the rivalry among and between the main Shia and Sunni factions. Nothing about our current mission is going to resolve this. Our current strategy, creating a national army, holds out, at best, the hope of creating a new Saddam. What I've been calling the Robert E. Lee problem for more than a year now has not been and cannot be solved: in a civil war between communities, officers and men will choose community over non-existent nation. Certainly legislators are doing so all the time. The solution to this -- emergence of Iraqi equivalents to Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton, and we'd need all 5 -- is not going to happen.

Beyond this failure looms a much larger one, adoption of a misunderstanding of the nature of the struggle to which neill seems seriously in thrall. The Al Qaeda movement is and has always been quite small. It can be largely neutralized. The answer, though, is not wild gambling on our ability to radically reinvent other people's societies (and traditions). It's careful police work and narrowly targeted use of military force.* Among the 'growing pains' of our 'new middle east' is our current (and apparently nearly total) inability to operate within Pakistan. This, more than anything in Mesopotamia, has got to be fixed.


* No thinking person would say that the safety of people in the United States was enhanced more by the removal of Saddam Hussein than by the apprehension of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al Shibh. In no way was the removal of Saddam helpful in those apprehensions (which took place before), nor has it helped any further with defeating the AQ movement.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at November 19, 2006 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think al quaeda may be overrated. They managed to lure the US into removing their hated enemy Saddam, and replace his stable secular country with a terrorist training ground and anti-US recruiting haven.

These seem like big successes for the anti-US world, but, I'd suggest they are really small potatoes compared to the larger financial issues -- the exporting of US capital and strategic electronics knowhow, manufacturing, and design to Asian sources.

I'd suggest the US is losing more strategically by building its financial base on Chinese funding, by moving its electronics (and therefore, warfare) base to Asia, and by increasing its unfunded liabilities by tens of trillions per year...

Posted by: Karl at November 19, 2006 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Huh. Maybe Syria does know what is has to do.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at November 19, 2006 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is very clear to any sane person that going after Saddam and WMDs in Iraq has been a huge blunder of historical proportions. For people who understand the middle eastern and muslim cultures it is very very clear how this conflict will end -- a three-way split in Iraq. It is time we tuck our sorry tail between our legs, hide our mammoth ego, and get out of Iraq letting the people of Iraq and the middle east decide how to sort out their own problems.

As someone said earlier, very very few people in the US gives a damn about the people of Iraq or the people of any other counry for that matter. Except maybe Israel - and that too due to very selfish reasons too! For fear that we could not go to heaven if Israel does not survive! and that Jesus will not come again if Israel does not survive. I do not wish my kids to be drafted into some idiotic war. The fools who advocate sending more troops into sure death should start by sending their families there first. Then we would find their valour disappearing fast. Can any one name any children or relatives of the Bush gang that have died in this stupid war?

Posted by: Lee Bertie at November 20, 2006 01:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Neill:

The likely consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq represent a dire momentum shift in the WOT, whereas with Vietnam we were able to simply wash our hands of it . . .

Hawks have been using this one for a while now. The difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that this time they have all these scare stories about the consequences of admitting defeat. Nobody was telling any stories like that before we got out of Vietnam.

That may fool some of the kids, but not us old-timers. There were plenty of scare stories in those days. The Russians were going to build a naval base in Cam Ranh Bay. (They never did.) President Johnson himself warned of the dire consequences if South Vietnam's output of tin and rubber were lost to the free world. All the dominoes would fall, and the Communists would land in Honolulu and San Francisco.

And there were those emboldened enemies. There's nothing new in that tale either. Humiliation would weaken America as global policeman, and all sorts of bad guys would do all sorts of awful things all over the world.

There may have been a little truth to that, as the foreign policy reverses of the Carter year might be attributed to an effect of that kind. But it came nowhere near the dire predictions.

Of course, in the end we won the Cold War. But we might not have if we had kept on bleeding ourselves in Vietnam.

Iraq isn't different because the hawks have scare stories. They had scare stories last time, and almost none of them came true.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 20, 2006 02:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

William J. Stuntz (posted by Neill):

Why do insurgent gangs, who have vastly smaller resources and manpower than the American soldiers they fight, continue to try to kill those soldiers? The answer is, because they believe they only have to kill a few more, and the soldiers will leave.

Wrong. It's because it's their country, and they have a greater stake in it. Like the Vietnamese, like other insurgents throughout history, they are willing to kill a lot more than 'a few' of the foreigners, while taking heavy losses themselves. Insurgencies typically last years, and sometimes generations. And, as Matthew Yglesias has pointed out, neither the Sunni nor the Shi'ites are likely to lay down arms while each side has reason to fear genocidal violence from the other.

Don't forget that these speculations about the psychology of the enemy are coming from the same people who once assured us the Iraqis wouldn't resist at all. In effect, they are saying that any day now the Iraqis will change into the nation of collaborators that they were supposed to be all along.

The picture is clear: More soldiers mean less violence, hence fewer casualties. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. The larger the manpower investment in the war, the smaller the war's cost, to Iraqis and Americans alike. Iraq is not an unwinnable war: Rather, as the data just cited show, it is a war we have chosen not to win.

These sweeping conclusions are hardly justified by Stuntz's handful of cherry-picked data points. Here's a more thorough discussion:

http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2006_11_14.html#005996

Counterinsurgency warfare is more about protecting than killing . . .

That is true. That is why counterinsurgency forces need to be much larger, indeed several times larger, than the insurgent forces they are fighting. It's an odd point for Stuntz to raise, as he argues for foolishly trying to do counter-insurgency with minimal forces.

Stuntz overlooks another feature of counterinsurgency, which I raised in a earlier comment:

Defeating an insurgency requires winning the support of the people for the government. But Iraq's nominal government is too ineffective to ever gain that support. . . . Unless the Shi'ites can get together and create a functioning national state, which will then make some concessions to win over the Sunnis, there is no possibility of suppressing the Sunni insurgency.

To this Neill responded: 'I am in basic agreement'.

The only way Americans lose this war is to fold.

Stuntz makes no argument for this claim.

I have cited an article arguing the contrary. I repeat the link here.

http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_10_31_06.htm

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 20, 2006 04:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The only way Americans lose this war is to fold.

It's like betting in a casino. No matter how high your losses get, you haven't really lost until you stop betting more. Until then there's always the chance you'll win it all back.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 20, 2006 04:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"That may fool some of the kids, but not us old-timers. There were plenty of scare stories in those days."

C'mon old-timer, comfort me with a bed-time story bout how a withdrawal from Iraq is going to make us safer. Bout how a withdrawal, and the subsequent blood-bath there, is going to help our WOT alliances and disembolden our enemies.

"When the U.S. began to get deeply into Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union looked like a monolith, and Indonesia had a leftist, pro-Soviet government. It made some sense to fear that the fall of South Vietnam to the North, seen as a proxy for both the Chinese and the Soviets, would be a strategic threat, not to us directly but to our western Pacific allies: Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines.

By the time the war was winding down, China and the Soviet Union were openly feuding, there had been a pro-U.S. coup in Indonesia, and the U.S. was working to improve relations with both the Soviets and the Chinese.

Kissinger's writings about his period suggest that containing the Soviets was no longer an issue."

So those "scare stories" were sensible early on? And as conditions regarding our enemies changed, earlier threats seemed not as threatening, right?

What's the parallel shift in conditions today that indicates a lessening enemy threat to us in the WOT?

Shi'ite Iran supplying weapons to salafists in Somalia? Somalians fighting alongside Hezbollah last summer in Lebanon? (counterterrorismblog.org)

Posted by: neill at November 20, 2006 05:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill:

Of course occupying Baghdad in the 90's wouldn't have prevented 9-11.

Thanks for clarifying that.

How on earth is that analogous with my previous point?

You wrote 'There isn't a safe homeland to repair to, where a now hyper-emboldened enemy will not force the attack.'

I thought you meant that our occupation of Iraq was somehow preventing a terrorist attack on the U.S.

And you're not even willing to consider it worthy of discussion.

I'm puzzled over why you would say this.

In an earlier comment you asserted, without argument, that the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would include the following:

Egypt will revert to its pre-Camp David pose. . . . China will likely take advantage of the chaos and move on Taiwan.

In a response to J Thomas I wrote:

I don't agree that [Neill's] points are 'stupid', except maybe the will/ability thing. I might call some of them 'naive', but it's not as if the average American were all that well informed about Camp David or China's Taiwan policy.

Is that not discussion? For that matter, our exchange over Iraq and 9/11 is part of the discussion you say I am unwilling to have, and part of that exchange is in the very comment in which you make the claim.

Of the various consequences you foresee, I would say that some are indeed likely, some less likely, and some, such as the ones mentioned above regarding Egypt and China, quite far-fetched.

For the sake of discussion, I will stipulate to any list of consequences you like. My question is, how are those consequences to be prevented, as opposed to being postponed for a few years?

As far as I can tell, your answer is to hope that the Sunni insurgency will one day just give up. Not only is that unlikely, it doesn't even deal with Iraq's other problems, of state failure and feuding militias. It's not as if all the contenders for power can just give up. Someone has to run things.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 20, 2006 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Hawks have been using this one for a while now. The difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that this time they have all these scare stories about the consequences of admitting defeat. Nobody was telling any stories like that before we got out of Vietnam."

Uh...and that would be because we hadn't turned tail before Vietnam.... and many Americans then didn't realize how haunting those consequences would turn out to be.

We've been living with those consequences ever since. Just listen to bin Laden or Zawahiri say we're a paper tiger, that we're going to turn tail again. What an earth-shaking propaganda victory it will be for the enemy when we fulfill their prediction. Our muslim allies will love that day.

Posted by: neill at November 20, 2006 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

our muslim allies everywhere, who have bet their lives and their families/tribes lives on American staying-power (I know you don't like it when I talk about the will to fight, so I won't), will come to the chilly realization that they made the wrong bet. Just like the hundreds of thousands of long-dead Vietnamese did in 1975. They believed in the kind of life we stood for, not the other side, and died because of it. And we do stand for something, but only to a point.

And not just muslim 'allies', but the billions of muslims round the world who might like a more liberal existence than that offered by islamofascists. But who, when they see that Westerners' allegiance is made of (what was J's term?) fluff, will make a rapid, decided shift to the allegiance thay know will not fail them. A burka is way better than dead.

And that day is the day the WOT will be effectively lost -- as will be life as we have known it.

Posted by: neill at November 20, 2006 06:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I might call some of them 'naive', but it's not as if the average American were all that well informed about Camp David or China's Taiwan policy."

(Now pat me on the head. Please give me a dog buiscuit....you know I want one.)

If this business following a withdrawal plays out as I think it's likely to, these "policies" may not be written into the kind of stone you obviously think they are.


Posted by: neill at November 20, 2006 07:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Here's an article I think everyone will want to check out.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/19/AR2006111901249_pf.html

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 20, 2006 10:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, it's obvious we've lost control of Iraq badly, and that the Iraq "government" doesn't have control of it either. Eventually people at the Pentagon had to get tired of throwing their troops into a meat grinder, and having ALL of their forces tied up in an expensive defeat, and eventually they had to start wanting to know when the US would get back its military -- after all, there is more to the world than just the Iraq civil war, and someday the US might have an Administration which bothered to have foreign policies. Admittedly the Bush Administration hasn't bothered, but in only two more years, there will be a new Administration, and that one might want a foreign policy, and an actual military to go with it.

I realize the rabid right-wingers want to keep throwing money and troops into the Iraq civil war, because it makes them feel patriotic, and they don't care about the cost to the military or to the US shaky finances, but the Bush administration is not made up of rabid right-winger zealots -- it only plays them like a fiddle to keep power. It is really made up of oil company executives, and while they probably like the short-term profits, they've got to realize that they're destroying the US' future slowly, so eventually the negative long-term will turn into negative short-term, won't it?

Posted by: Hank Williams at November 20, 2006 02:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> And that day is the day the WOT will be effectively lost

One might make an argument that the so-called war-on-terror, although always a kind of dumb idea (much like a "war on lying" -- that example helps reveal what a silly idea a war on a tactic is), was a decent propaganda sound bite, it lost its appeal when it was generally revealed to global perception that the US didn't care about Al Quaida nearly as much as it cared about grabbing oil -- that is, when the US abandoned Afghanistan to prosecute a solo invasion against the US old ally, Saddam. Then, as it became obvious that the US invasion of Iraq was based on lies stacked on lies, and was prosecuted with complete disregard for the Iraq people or nation, and with incredible incompetence, and with a surprisingly public devotion to torture and mayhem, I'd speculate any remaining appeal of that propaganda sound-bite faded fast.

Posted by: Hank Williams at November 20, 2006 03:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, you still haven't answered our two main questions:

1) where are you going to get the extra troops from?
2) how are we going to afford it?

And all that fluff from someone at Harvard Law school is just...well, pitiful. There's a difference between fighting a war of survival (which is what people who have been invaded do) and fighting a war for resources (more land, oil, whatever.) With a war of survival, you don't really worry about what the situation will be at the end, as long as you (and your country) survive. Here, no matter what the cost is, you're willing to pay it. You'll worry about the economy, technology base, whatever later.

If you're fighting a war for resources, there's much more of a cost-benefit analysis. If your country ends up worse financially, technologically, economically, it's not a good investment. It's a stupid use of men, arms, and money.

Very few people in the US at present are convinced that this war in Iraq is a war of survival. This is partly because we haven't been fighting it as if it is. We don't see the people in charge sacrificing. We don't see raised taxes (in order to pay for it.) We don't see a draft. So you can understand why we're pretty cynical about this. We're also wondering whether the negatives from continuing are higher than the negatives from not continuing. Niell, you may run around screaming about how we're in a war for survival, but you haven't convinced any of us. Heck, if "1% possibility" is all that's necessary, why aren't we more worried about global warming? Or being in hock to China? or Peak Oil? All of which are far more likely to take the US down than a piddlely war with a bunch of Islamic punks.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 20, 2006 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kissinger said this weekend on the BBC "We can't win"!!! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15802130/
But then again he is no WILLIAM J. STUNTZ!

Posted by: centrist at November 20, 2006 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uh...and that would be because we hadn't turned tail before Vietnam.... and many Americans then didn't realize how haunting those consequences would turn out to be.
Posted by: neill at November 20, 2006 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment

Didn’t Eisenhower cut ‘n run on North Korea?

Posted by: What? at November 20, 2006 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neil: "And on that day (when US leaves or abandons Iraq) is the day when the War on Terror will be effectively lost - as will be life as we have known it."

Sounds like Neil has been taken over by the ghost of the hawkish cold war columnist, Joe Alsop! Alsop was always going on prediciting the immenient doom of the West unless we built whatever new gigantic weapons system the Air Force wanted or failed to stand firm in Vietnam or whatever country it was that had become "crucial" in the Cold War struggle. It was Alsop, who more then anyone else, convinced the public in the late 1950s that Russia was ahead of the US in ICBMs & would destroy the West in a few more years. This "Missile Gap" played a big part in JFK's narrow win over Nixon in 1960. It was only after the new Administration took office that it was announced that yes there was a "Missile Gap", only it favored the US, not the Russians!

Posted by: David All at November 20, 2006 10:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"There's a difference between fighting a war of survival (which is what people who have been invaded do) and fighting a war for resources (more land, oil, whatever.) With a war of survival, you don't really worry about what the situation will be at the end, as long as you (and your country) survive. Here, no matter what the cost is, you're willing to pay it. You'll worry about the economy, technology base, whatever later.

(you perceive no threat to our survival then? is everyone here agreed on that?)

If you're fighting a war for resources, there's much more of a cost-benefit analysis. If your country ends up worse financially, technologically, economically, it's not a good investment. It's a stupid use of men, arms, and money.

(other than just saying it's a war about resources, and our accepting that at face value, why not substantiate why that's so -- and why it has nothing to do with survival, not only for us but the West in general as well.)

Very few people in the US at present are convinced that this war in Iraq is a war of survival. This is partly because we haven't been fighting it as if it is. We don't see the people in charge sacrificing. We don't see raised taxes (in order to pay for it.) We don't see a draft. So you can understand why we're pretty cynical about this.


(This is the kind of thought process that did in the dinosaurs. And just how should the people in charge "sacrafice" to SHOW this war is about survival -- bag lunches? Should folks 'tighten their belts' and start collecting bits of tin and rubber? This ain't the forties, and with an economy now 70% dependent on consumer spending it definitely isn't what the doctor should be ordering. Raise taxes and cut into that consumer economy? Nope. And finally, bring back the draft! who thinks this is an idea to more successfully prosecute the war -- other than Charlie Rangel, who wants to use the increased discontent it would create as a political weapon to TORPEDO the war. Any more good ideas?)

We're also wondering whether the negatives from continuing are higher than the negatives from not continuing.

(how's this one: our muslim allies everywhere, who have bet their lives and their families/tribes lives on American staying-power will come to the chilly realization that they made the wrong bet. Just like the hundreds of thousands of long-dead Vietnamese did in 1975. They believed in the kind of life we stood for, not the other side, and died because of it. And we do stand for something, but only to a point.

And not just muslim 'allies', but the billions of muslims round the world who might like a more liberal existence than that offered by islamofascists. But who, when they see that Westerners' allegiance is made of fluff, will make a rapid, decided shift to the allegiance thay know will not fail them - I notice that no one in the thread wants touch this one as yet)

Niell, you may run around screaming about how we're in a war for survival, but you haven't convinced any of us. Heck, if "1% possibility" is all that's necessary, why aren't we more worried about global warming? Or being in hock to China? or Peak Oil?

All of which are far more likely to take the US down than a piddlely war with a bunch of Islamic punks.

(your attachment to verbal theatrics is remarkable, my friend, but where's the beef?)


Posted by: neill at November 21, 2006 03:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Sounds like Neil has been taken over by the ghost of the hawkish cold war columnist, Joe Alsop!"

Hanging with y'all ain't exactly fun, but then again I don't know that Churchill had a lot of fun in the Thirties. But he refused to shut up.

And we all know that ending. Actually, I hope when it all washes out, that it turns that I am a Joe Alsop and not a 30's Churchill.

Britain managed to recover from its miscalculations, by the skin of its teeth. In this networked nation, we are so much more vulnerable.

Posted by: neill at November 21, 2006 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

here's someone with hopefully some insight on matters who thinks greater sacrafices can be maintained within the current structure:

a la Reuters

"The top U.S. general in the Middle East said on Friday that if the world does not find a way to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, it will face a third world war.

Army Gen. John Abizaid compared the rise of militant ideologies, such as the force driving al Qaeda, to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that set the stage for World War Two.

"If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War Three tomorrow," Abizaid said in a speech titled "The Long War," at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, outside Boston.

If not stopped, Abizaid said extremists would be allowed to "gain an advantage, to gain a safe haven, to develop weapons of mass destruction, to develop a national place from which to operate. And I think that the dangers associated with that are just too great to comprehend."

Abizaid said the world faces three major hurdles in stabilizing the Middle East region: Easing Arab-Israeli tensions, stemming the spread of militant extremism, and dealing with Iran, which Washington has accused of seeking to develop nuclear bombs.

"Where these three problems come together happens to come in a place known as Iraq," said Abizaid, who earlier in the week warned Congress against seeking a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from the country that is wracked by insurgent and sectarian violence.

"The sacrifice that is necessary to stabilize Iraq, in my view, must be sustained in order for the region itself to become more resilient," Abizaid said."

Posted by: neill at November 21, 2006 06:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have chosen to focus on a fellow online commentator, the eminent and intelligent, knowledgeable and fellow realpolitiker, Mr. Gregory Djerejian, because in his much more intelligent fashion, he summarizes the prevailing wisdom of the most highlighted fact among the Washington pays legal: that a regional conference, with the participation of all the internal Iraqi factions: Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, et cetera, plus all of the regional powers: Persia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, et cetera, and, the already existing 'contact group' dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue: Russia, the USA, France, UK, the EU and the UN, will be able to convene and miraculously able to resolve, or go towards resolving the internal unrest and conflict in Iraq, by in the words of Henry Kissinger, internationalizing the conflict (see: the Council on Foreign Relations 'Daily Brief' for 20 November in www.cfr.org). The point here is that like all such exercises at grasping at straws, the current obsession of viewing a 'regional conference', as some type of panacea is simply that: an illusion and nothing more. Per se, there is nothing wrong with attempting the regional conference route. And, of course, there is much to be said for the Americans talking with both the Syrians and the Persians, both about Iraq and regional questions in general. However, the idea that by mere talking with such regional powers, or that 'drawing in' such outside powers will resolve the Iraq imbroglio is nonsensical.

This is so for two reasons: one, that the strife affecting Iraq is internal, and, is not the plaything of outside powers, however much our neo-conservative ideologues would like to think otherwise. With a very long fuse, the violence in Iraq which has occurred since the fall of Saddam Hussein, has almost entirely internal origins. A classical case in fact of der primat der innenpolitik. While it is true that outside powers, such as Syria and Persia have added a few timbers to the flames, nothing suggests that their activities, have had substantial influence or causation therein; two, recent examples of the regional conference approach shows what can, and what cannot be done in instances such as the current conflict in Iraq: the first (positive) example is the Bonn Conference of 2001-2002, dealing with Afghanistan. Here was a conference where 'all' of the internal factions, the regional players, the UN, EU and the USA, met and decided on policy for a 'new' Afghanistan. All that is except of course for the Taliban, who had just been ousted from power. And, of course, it is precisely the ousted Taliban, who in the last couple of years have caused much in the way of violence in that poor country recently. The seond (negative) example, was the Rambouillet Conference of 1999, which attempted to resolve the problem of Kosovo. Notwithstanding all the same ingredients, as what is being proposed for Iraq, the conference failed, due to the fact that the two warring parties: Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians were unable to come to an agreement. NATO's war with Serbia soon followed (for Richard Holbrooke's less than positive view of the conference idea as panacea, see the Council on Foreign Relations Daily Analysis for 14th November: 'The Buzz over the Baker Report' in www.cfr.org).

Consequently, in the absence of an internal settlement between Sunni and Shiite, what is the prognosis for a resolution of the Iraq problem, via the regional conference route? I for one predict much journalist hyperbole and political rhetoric, but nothing of substance, id est, utter failure. The insurgency and the sectarian conflict will go on, unabated. The alternatives will swing back to essentially what they are in reality at present: a) the Bush approach of 'more of the same'; b) the Senator McCain approach of investing more troops: perhaps two to three divisions worth in order to damp down the conflict, and ultimately allow Iraq time to stabilize itself; c) some type of scheduled, negotiated withdrawal.

Posted 21st of November in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com

Posted by: Charles G. Coutinho, Ph. D. at November 21, 2006 08:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uh...sorry to be glib...but is Greg delibrately not posting a new installment because he wants to see if the comment ticker on this one hits 200? (I haven't seen a new posting, nor heard that he's away)

Just curious. I've said all that I can say on this. The ISG's supposedly about ready to make some of its conclusions public. But I've so thoroughly digested the often excellent comments of others on this posting that I've already imagined the ISG out of existence. After all, what more could it say that so many of us haven't already said? I would still feel that Greg's notion of an Iraq Contact Group would certainly be a better option than throwing more troops into what is a certain fire, but I feel more and more as Raj, several hundred comments earlier, in tandem with my own sense that there's little point in any country coming to our rescue. Right when we need it most, we've proven how unworthy we are of it. But if there's any 'last-ditch' effort worth pursuing, Greg's option would be better, for no other reason than it would show that we are willing to eat our humble pie, recognize once and for all that we are but one nation out of 200 or so, and demonstrate that we are willing to think - and work - in multilateral terms. Even if it failed, it would send a powerful message to all and sundry around the world, which they need as much as we do - a United States that could, at least for one nanosecond, stop being a rogue nation long enough to listen to what others have to say. Clutching at straws? Maybe. But the alternative of another 'push' is another bunch of straws, and will get far more people killed.

Posted by: sekaijin at November 21, 2006 02:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neil,
I think you are "churchillian" alright! Churchillian of the "stay the course in a bloody, irrelevant mess like Galipolli variety!!!

Posted by: centrist at November 21, 2006 03:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is not difficult folks. Deep down inside we all know what needs to be done to serve America's interest.

1. Install a Sunni Strongman to counter Iran (Someone very much like Sadam. We could even send Rumsfeld to shake his hand)

2. Give him trained Sunni troops, tanks and helicopter gunships

3. Provide financial support for new regime from US (may be send Rumsfeld to shake his hand).

4. Enforce Northern Iraq "no-fly zone"

4. Get out of the way.

Does it sound almost like the way things were before we invaded?? Damn straight.

Posted by: six at November 21, 2006 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Install a Sunni Strongman . . .

Nominations are being submitted.

http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_11_06_06.htm

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 21, 2006 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Niell, you may not like what I've said, but you have consistently failed to address the points we keep bringing up over and over again:

1) where are we going to get the troops? We can't keep rotating our troops in and out. The military is on the verge of breaking already.

2) where are we going to get the money? If we're not going to raise taxes to pay for it, how are we going to pay for it?

In both cases, there's been far too much of "suddenly a miracle happens here" attitude with the pro-war supporters.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 21, 2006 06:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

More vigorous application of a flawed policy will simply make this yet a greater blunder than it is already. Whether we leave in 90 days or two years the goal of "stabilizing" Iraq is the sheerest nonsense.

Posted by: Tom Perry at November 21, 2006 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

yes, we can adjust rotation schedules. it'll be more of a strain but it's worth the extra effort. we can draw more troops from other areas like...europe (bring those troops home!).

as to cost, y'all have no idea of the cost of the consequences of what you are entertaining. to say it will dwarf what I'm proposing is an understatement -- in both blood and treasure.

and if we withdraw, that will lead to conditions where we will have no choice but to reinstitute a draft.

I find it most interesting that while you waste no ink in declaring a continued presence hopeless, I've yet to hear any serious thought, except from me, about the negative consequences of a withdrawal/surrender. You won't even engage the thoughts I've presented several times.

Why? Are you thoughtless?

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 12:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You won't even engage the thoughts I've presented several times.

It seems you define 'engage the thoughts' as 'agree with you'. No matter what we say on these subjects, you will continue to declare we have not 'engaged' until we say we agree with you.

For example, I wrote:

Of the various consequences you foresee, I would say that some are indeed likely, some less likely, and some, such as the ones mentioned above regarding Egypt and China, quite far-fetched.

For the sake of discussion, I will stipulate to any list of consequences you like. My question is, how are those consequences to be prevented, as opposed to being postponed for a few years?

How is that not 'engaging the thoughts'?

It is true that I have not explained why I think your predictions regarding Egypt and China are far-fetched. That's because you haven't made any argument for them, but only asserted them.


Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NOBODY has said a frickin thing about consequences of what y'all advocate , except your dismissive ONE SENTENCE which included the words China and Egypt -- that's IT in regard to the CONSEQUENCES of your policy vision.

Clearly, you're all very impressed with yourselves.

But, based on the above, why should anyone take you seriously?

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 02:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, you have presented no thoughts that are worth discussing, and yet people have discussed them at length. You have presented nothing to indicate that the fairy tales you spin might come true, beyond your opinion. You are entitled to your opinion, but you aren't particularly entitled to be taken seriously. That's a gift, not an obligation.

But OK, try this on. The biggest obstacle the iraqi government faces just now is us. They meet in the Green Zone which questions their legitimacy. We dictate to them. We insist that any combined mlitary operations will be under our command. We treat them at best like junior partners in their own country. Their people don't see them as a legitimate government, they look like a puppet government.

So if they can tell us to go away and we go, they get a whole lot of legitimacy that they don't have now. That might be enough for them to establish order in many many places.

With us gone they can allow the Ba'ath party to run for office and get whatever standing they happen to get. That reduces a great big sunni grievance. Would sunnis accept the iraqi government? If it accepts sunni militias as part of the army, and stops attacking them, and doesn't impose on them too much, quite likely.

There are the death squads to deal with. They started small and snowballed, retaliation on retaliation. But given reconstruction without us interfering, and the general sense of hope with us leaving, that might die down. Many iraqis believe that the USA has trained, funded, and directed many of the death squads. They will expect it to stop without us, and that might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So there's a strong chance that iraq will do very well without us and won't dissolve into civil war after all.

Americans naturally believe that nothing good can happen without us making it happen, but it isn't true. In particular, our military isn't particularly good at making good things happen. The army's fundamental mission is to kill people and blow stuff up. Naturally when somebody else is killing people and blowing stuff up, we try to compete with them to see who can kill the most people and blow up the most stuff. that's fine when there's a defined battlefield we can win on, but not so good for an occupation. No matter how good we are at killing iraqis and blowing up their stuff, it doesn't get them to stop killing people and blowing up stuff.

What works for getting people to stop doing that sort of thing is to persuade them to stop. Like, Ahmed goes home to visit his grandmother, and she asks him what he's doing. "I'm fighting to drive the foreign army out of our country." "Oh Ahmed, how wonderful! You're so brave. Try to survive to kill more of them, don't die right away." But then, the foreign army is gone and Ahmed visits his grandmother again, and she asks him what he's doing now. "I'm fighting to make the takfirs all run away." "What? You mean like Mrs. Mazoul down the street who makes the wonderful halva? She told me people were threatening her, and I couldn't imaginei what kind of person would be mean to an old lady like that! You have to stop it. I don't know what got into you." "But mimi, if we don't do it to them they'll do it to us." "Then you should work to protect us. And protect Mrs. Mazoul, she needs it." It matters what the grandmothers think. That matters a whole lot more than what our soldiers think. Our soldiers can only kill people. Grandmothers can make them wish they were dead.

Of course when we pull out it will look like a defeat and islamists will feel emboldened. But there won't be nearly as many of them, because one of the big things that they use to get recruits will be gone. A lot of people will figure that the good guys won and they can stop fighting now. Are we better off to admit defeat or are we better off to keep stirring them up to try harder to defeat us, and then we get defeated anyway down the road? We're the big thing that gives the fanatical islamists something to be fanatical about.

Then there's the oil. We've said all along that we don't want to control the oil, we just want iraqis to sell it to the highest bidder. Left to themselves, iraqis will do just that. And every billion dollars that we don't spend occupying them is a billiion dollars we can use to buy oil.

Right down the line, what we're doing just digs us in deeper into the bad consequences you predict from changing course.

Is there any reason to prefer your predictions to mine?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 22, 2006 02:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

C'mon folks, there's downside to everything.

As serious policy advisors, what is the comprehensive downside, in the context of the worldwide conflict in which we are engaged, to a withdrawal from Iraq?

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 02:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

j, I didn't think it possible, but you continue to amaze.

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 03:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I PREFER your predictions to mine.

thing is about pre-dictions, it's about trying to anticipate, informed by the past history of human nature, and more to the point by recent Iraqi history, what will ACTUALLY take place. preferences aren't really allowed in the prediction business.

Your version is a little more like it's A WONDERFUL LIFE.

(and you forgot interested parties like Iran, Syria and.....al quaeda)

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 03:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

. . . the billions of muslims round the world who might like a more liberal existence . . .

If I were such a person, I would be hoping for the U.S. to leave my country alone, not to strangle its economy, bomb it, invade it, and turn it into a Hobbesian nightmare. I wouldn't expect that to lead to 'a more liberal existence'.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 03:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

THAT'S IT, dt?

tht's your policy prescription for all the variables that possibly go wrong with an Iraq withhdrawal?

dt, I take you seriously here....


Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 04:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

instead, we should be talking with people who have other people assasinated in order to BRING DOWN DEMOCRATICALLY-ELECTED GOVERNMENTS....

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POWER....TO THE PEOPLE......

POWER TO THE PEOPLE RIGHT NOW.

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" I were such a person, I would be hoping for the U.S. to leave my country alone, not to strangle its economy, bomb it, invade it, and turn it into a Hobbesian nightmare. I wouldn't expect that to lead to 'a more liberal existence'."

If I were such a person, I would be hoping for islamists to take power, to slaughter anyone perceived as an opponent, to violently suppress dissent, to remove women from public life, to engage in mutilation of female genitilia, to re-start the rape rooms, to revert to a command economy, to shutter free media, and to never, ever.....let millions upon millions express their personal preference in free, open elections.

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 05:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

If I were such a person, I would be hoping for islamists to take power . . .

In Iraq the U.S. invasion brought Islamists to power. A person who doesn't want Islamists in power, would also be likely not to want an American invasion.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 05:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

this is the ultimate cop-out.

"we think what you did was wrong, with negative consequences, so we will reverse what you did, but any negative consequences to our reversal are also your fault. there's no reason to discuss the possibility of possible negative consequences to our reversal, and because of your intial responsibilty we are absolved of any responsibility for anything."

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 06:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In Iraq the U.S. invasion brought Islamists to power. A person who doesn't want Islamists in power, would also be likely not to want an American invasion."

this is mind-$%&#ing logic.

actually, it's the US WITHDRAWAL that will bring the islamists to power -- on a sea of money. and not only in Iraq.

don't you see that??!!!?


Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 06:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Since we're going for the 200 mark, I'll reopen the discussion of Greg's post. I think we've beaten the policy issues to death, but there are some aspects of Greg's political analysis I think are worth exploring.

Before the election, Greg was explicit in hoping for a Democratic victory. He wrote that he ' couldn't agree more with Andrew Sullivan' that the president and his administration 'need a metaphorical two-by-four in the face'.

The emphasis is on how decision-making in the White House will be impacted by the fact of defeat, rather than on any positive contribution to policy-making by the Democrats themselves.

This perspective is reinforced in the current post. It's about how the Republicans, now jolted into awareness of the need for a new policy, can fashion a more hawkish policy while fending off any effort by the Democrats to actually influence the process.

Democrats are to be mollified by a regional diplomatic initiative, even though Greg admits that 'non-ideological Republicans' already support it. On the crucial question of troop strength, Democrats are to be put off with symbolic 'benchmarks', while Greg hastens to say 'Republicans must resist any automatic triggering of troop withdrawals' which would make the benchmarks relevant to the real world.

To even hope for the Democrats to fall for something so transparent, strikes me as more than a little insulting.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

actually, it's the US WITHDRAWAL that will bring the islamists to power -- on a sea of money. and not only in Iraq.

don't you see that??!!!?

Neill, I'm not going to spoon-feed you links on something so well known. If you don't know how the occupation has empowered Islamists in Iraq, you're way too underinformed for this discussion.


Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 06:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ME: DT, but who will bring Islamists to power, you or me?

DT: it makes no difference really, becuse you set the ball rolling, so whatever happens as a result my direct decisions now, is your fault because of your initial majority-supported decison.

ME: Oh.

Posted by: neill at November 22, 2006 07:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Early in the post, Greg alludes to 'Democrats who see their victory in the recent elections as a mandate to begin troop withdrawals in Iraq.'

In the last paragraph he asserts that 'the broad center of American society likely realizes that a rapid-fire withdrawal from Iraq will lead to a massive, full-blown civil war that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, perhaps even ultimately millions.'

Although he doesn't say so explicitly, I think Greg means to suggest that Democrats fitting the above description are self-deluded.

I mean to dispute that proposition. This will require working through some other issues raised by Greg's words, so this may take three or four comments. (Getting awful close to that 200 mark. This one will be around 193.)

Is it true that 'a rapid-fire withdrawal from Iraq will lead to a massive, full-blown civil war that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, perhaps even ultimately millions'? I don't know.

Iraq is in civil war, and I don't care to wrangle over qualifiers like 'full-blown'. The death toll may have already topped a hundred thousand. I don't take the notorious Lancet study as gospel, but I don't think its estimate of 600,000 dead is particularly far-fetched.

The level of violence is trending upward, as all parties to the conflict recruit more fighters and spread the fighting to previously quiet areas. The pattern is sadly familiar.

Certainly U.S. forces are restraining intercommunal violence to some extent, so their departure could be expected to accelerate the rise of violence somewhat . But the forces are stretched thin, and lately have been concentrated into a few large bases. The effect of their withdrawal may not be proportionately very great.


Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 11:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Certainly U.S. forces are restraining intercommunal violence to some extent, so their departure could be expected to accelerate the rise of violence somewhat . But the forces are stretched thin, and lately have been concentrated into a few large bases. The effect of their withdrawal may not be proportionately very great.

I'm curious what US forces are doing to restrain violence.

Are we doing airstrikes on rebel cities?

Are we interposing forces between the warring sides and telling them they can't get at each other?

Are we patrolling at-risk neighborhoods and killing or detaining death squads when we find them in government-vehicle convoys?

Sometimes we control the civic violence by killing people who otherwise might have been killed by iraqis.

Here's the one thing I see that could reasonably be called restraining violence -- sometimes we move into an area in force and search it and find weapons caches and munitions. Whatever weapons we confiscate won't be used for secular violence, except that we tend to give them to the iraqi army which has budget problems and they might get used anyway. However, the immediate effect of disarming some militias and not others is to make those militias and the people they protect easier targets. So I doubt that we're actually doing much to reduce the violence that way.

Can you think of some other way that we reduce violence in iraq?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 22, 2006 02:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


J Thomas:

I'm curious what US forces are doing to restrain violence.

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/060410fa_fact2

'McMaster and the 3rd A.C.R. had been stationed in Tal Afar for nine months. When they arrived, in the spring of 2005, the city was largely in the hands of hard-core Iraqi and foreign jihadis, who, together with members of the local Sunni population, had destabilized the city with a campaign of intimidation, including beheadings aimed largely at Tal Afar’s Shiite minority. By October, after months of often fierce fighting and painstaking negotiations with local leaders, McMaster’s regiment, working alongside Iraqi Army battalions, had established bases around the city and greatly reduced the violence.'

'McMaster’s point man in the effort to stabilize the city was Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hickey, a squadron commander. . . . while American and Iraqi soldiers moved block by block into the city, encountering heavy resistance that often took the form of three-hour firefights, Hickey began to study the local power structure. For several months, he spent forty or fifty hours a week with sheikhs from Tal Afar’s dozens of tribes . . . Hickey, during his conversations with sheikhs, was educating himself in the social intricacies of Tal Afar’s neighborhoods, so that his men would know how a raid on a particular house would be perceived by the rest of the street.'

'“There are two ways to do counterinsurgency,” Major McLaughlin said. “You can come in, cordon off a city, and level it, à la Falluja. Or you can come in, get to know the city, the culture, establish relationships with the people, and then you can go in and eliminate individuals instead of whole city blocks.”'

'I asked what would happen if, as before, the Americans withdrew from Tal Afar.

'“What? No American forces?” The Mayor could hardly comprehend my question. “It will take only one month and the terrorists will take over. At a minimum, we need three years for the Iraqi Army to be strong enough to take control of the country . . ."'

'From Tal Afar, I flew by helicopter to an airfield a few miles north of Tikrit, called Forward Operating Base Speicher. . . . After Tal Afar, it was dismaying how little soldiers at Speicher knew about the lives of Iraqis. . . . Speicher provides a more representative picture of the American military’s future in Iraq than Tal Afar. The trend is away from counterinsurgency and toward what, in Washington, is known as an “exit strategy.” Commanders are under tremendous pressure to keep casualties low, and combat deaths have been declining for several months, as patrols are reduced and the Americans rely more and more on air power.'

'Some military leaders are feverishly trying to institutionalize the hard-won knowledge from cities like Tal Afar, in time to make a difference in this war. At the training base in Taji, just north of Baghdad, there is now a counterinsurgency academy where incoming officers attend classes taught by those they’ve come to relieve. . . . The question hanging unasked over the workshop at Fort Leavenworth was whether it was already too late to change the military’s approach in Iraq.'

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 04:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Niell,
I have to hand it to you for determination in the face of reality. Most of the architects,advisors and supporter of this fiasco have long since given up. The reckless and wild eyed optimism of Perle, Krauthammer, Fukayama, Lewis, Kissinger and according to private accounts Rumsfled is all gone. If they no longer believe why should people who were skeptical from the begining?

The only believers I can find are niel, the decider and William j. stuntz and please dont mention people who are constitutionally obligated to "support the mission" like Abizaide. All of this combined with the bloodiest month in Iraq since the invasion lead me to the conclusion that whole policy is bankrupt and counter- productive. Iraq was not a threat to the US and will never become the threat to the US that Pakistan always has been. So why continue?

Posted by: centrist at November 22, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Is it true that 'the broad center of American society likely realizes that a rapid-fire withdrawal from Iraq will lead to a massive, full-blown civil war that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, perhaps even ultimately millions'?

The question is not just whether the civil war will happen, but whether withdrawal will 'lead to' a civil war that would not happen, or would have a death toll of less than two hundred thousand, if the U.S. did not withdraw.

According to this poll, released by Fox News, 67% think there will be a civil war which the U.S. will be powerless to prevent.

http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm/fuseaction/viewItem/itemID/12805

I expect a poll asking specifically about the 200,000 figure would be hard to find, so I didn't look. I think Greg has the burden of supporting his own claim.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 22, 2006 05:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Best comment I have heard about the over-hyping of the Baker Panel was the dry remark by Clinton's former Sec. of Defense (and former Republican Congressman & Senator) William Cohen, "Irrational Exurberance"! I.E. the same term that Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan used back in the late 90s to describe the out-of-control Stock Market!

Will have more to say about this thread's subject when have more time after Turkey Day.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
(Even J. Thomas the III or should it be IV, old boy)

Posted by: David All at November 22, 2006 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ramadi in the balance:


The Times of London November 20, 2006


Insurgents on the streets of Ramadi, the city that has been their stronghold for two years. US troops have now moved in to what was a no-go area, with the support of local Iraqi police, whose ranks have swelled from 35 to 1,300 recruits with the backing of tribal chiefs (Reuters)


Fighting back: the city determined not to become al-Qaeda's capital
Martin Fletcher in Ramadi
A power struggle is taking place in the Sunni triangle, with tribal leaders and coalition forces aligning against a common enemy

A convoy of five US military humvees, each with radios crackling and a machine-gunner poking through its roof, sped The Times to a large compound on the northeastern edge of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and most dangerous city in Iraq’s infamous Sunni triangle. The surrounding land had been cleared of trees and brush.A tank stood sentinel beneath the reinforced walls and watchtowers. Inside the heavy steel gates stood a fleet of Iraqi police vehicles bristling with weaponry. It was not your everyday interview.

We halted beside one of the three mini-palaces in the compound, and there on a shaded verandah, dressed in a long black dishdash and white headdress, was the beneficiary of all this protection: Sheikh Abd Sittar Bezea Ftikhan, a Sunni tribal leader on whose unlikely shoulders rest American hopes of reclaiming Ramadi and defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq.

While the world’s attention has been focused on Baghdad’s slide into sectarian warfare, something remarkable has been happening in Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate.

A power struggle has erupted: al-Qaeda’s reign of terror is being challenged. Sheikh Sittar and many of his fellow tribal leaders have cast their lot with the once-reviled US military. They are persuading hundreds of their followers to sign up for the previously defunct Iraqi police. American troops are moving into a city that was, until recently, a virtual no-go area. A battle is raging for the allegiance of Ramadi’s battered and terrified citizens and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences.

Ramadi has been the insurgency’s stronghold for the past two years. It is the conduit for weapons and foreign fighters arriving from Syria and Saudi Arabia. To reclaim it would deal a severe blow to the insurgency throughout the Sunni triangle and counter mounting criticism of the war back in America.

Sheikh Sittar and US commanders believe that the tide is turning in their favour. “Most of the people are now convinced that coalition forces are friends, and that the enemy is al-Qaeda,” the 35-year-old Sheikh claimed in his first face-to-face interview with a Western newspaper.

“Al-Qaeda is now on the run,” Colonel Sean MacFarland, commander of the 5,000 US troops in Ramadi, told The Times at his headquarters just outside the city. But the four days The Times spent embedded with US forces in Ramadi last week suggest that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies are far from defeated, and that this is a battle with a long way yet to run.

“These are the worst days in Ramadi . . . the main groups are all fighting for control of the city,” said one resident, a health worker named Galib Awda.

More than fifty US soldiers have been killed in the city since Colonel MacFarland’s First Brigade Combat Team, part of the 1st Armoured Division, arrived in June, bringing the total to well over 250. US marine helicopters will fly to Ramadi only under cover of darkness.

Before being driven into the city from one of the four big US bases that surround it, I was instructed how, in an emergency, to pass fresh ammunition to the humvee’s machine-gunner. What could be seen through the vehicle’s bullet-proof windows was startling. Once a prosperous trading centre much favoured by Saddam Hussein, Ramadi has been laid waste by two years of warfare. Houses stand shattered and abandoned. Shops are shuttered up. The streets are littered with rubble, wrecked cars, fallen trees, broken lampposts and piles of rubbish.

Fetid water stands in craters. The pavements are overgrown. Walls are pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel. Side roads have been shut off with concrete barriers to thwart car bombs. Everything is coated in grey dust even the palm trees. The city has no functioning government, no telephones, and practically no basic services except sporadic electricity and water supplies. It has been reduced to a subsistence economy.

There are stray cats and wild dogs, but few cars or humans. Ramadi’s inhabitants have either fled, or learnt to stay indoors.

My destination was Eagle’s Nest, a “Combat Outpost” or COP, next to the wreckage of Ramadi’s football stadium where about 120 American and Iraqi troops have been posted since the summer to establish a presence in the city, monitor the terrorists and launch raids.

It consists of a dozen commandeered homes fortified with concrete blast walls, razor wire and Bradley fighting vehicles — the only reminder of past domesticity being discarded children’s toys and broken furniture. Every window is sandbagged top to bottom. Holes have been punched in walls to create passages sheltered from sniper fire. The post has been targeted by suicide bombers, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, and the reinforced glass of the COP’s several observation posts has been cracked by umpteen bullets. In what was once a living room the US troops have amassed a fine collection of insurgent rifles, shells and mortars.


The 24 hours that The Times spent there was punctuated by the constant rattle of gunfire from across the city, regular explosions and the thump of mortars. US troops killed at least 11 insurgents in that short period after a Bradley was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). An hour before we left another IED blew up beneath an Iraqi humvee 200 yards from the COP. “

It’s very hostile,” said First Lieutenant Matthew McGraw, the US platoon leader. “We get attacked every day.” But not all the fighting is between al-Qaeda and US or Iraqi troops.

Much of it is what the US military calls “red on red”. There are many factions battling for control in Ramadi — al-Qaeda, hardline nationalists, Islamic radicals, former Baathists and the tribal leaders — and that is the background to Sheikh Sittar’s unlikely alliance with the Americans. As one US officer put it, the sheikhs are only “pro-American in the sense that they are fighting the same enemy”.
 
World News

Page 1 || Page 2

Sheikh Sittar is a wealthy man. He owns homes in Oman and Dubai and several luxury cars. He and the other tribal leaders unquestionably prospered under Saddam Hussein, as did Ramadi’s many Baathists. Few cities had more cause to lament the dictator’s downfall, US troops made matters worse with their insensitive early conduct and al-Qaeda skillfully exploited the people’s anger with its promise to expel the infidel.

As al-Qaeda’s fighters tightened their grip on Ramadi, they became increasingly repressive and challenged the tribal leaders’ power. Soon they were kidnapping and beheading innocent people as part of a campaign of extortion and intimidation.

Some sheikhs fled to Jordan and Syria. Sheikh Sittar’s father and three brothers were killed, his father during the holy month of Ramadan, and he says he has himself survived several kidnap attempts. This summer a fellow sheikh was ambushed and beheaded by al-Qaeda supporters, who piled insult on injury by keeping his body so it could not be buried immediately, as demanded by custom.

“We began to see what they were actually doing in Anbar province. They were not respecting us or honouring us in any way, said Sheikh Sittar, speaking through an interpreter.” Their tactics were not acceptable.”

During the late summer he began enlisting his fellow sheikhs in a movement called the Sahawat or Awakening, whose goal is to drive al-Qaeda from Anbar province.

The US military wooed the sheikhs over what one US officer described as “hundreds of cups of chai and thousands of cigarettes”. They agreed that their chosen instrument should be the police force, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats against anyone who dared to sign up. In June there were only 35 recruits; in July Sheikh Sittar sent 300 members of his 30,000-strong Resha tribe for training.

Last month a record 409 new recruits were dispatched to the police academy in Jordan, and 1,300 are now signed up, many of them former Baathists. The US and Iraqi armies have armed and protected them against al-Qaeda attacks, and as fear of al-Qaeda has dissipated, so the process has accelerated.

The beauty of the police is that they serve — unlike the Iraqi army — in their own communities. They know exactly who the enemies are. “The Iraqi police are absolutely the most potent weapon we have right now because they are of the people, by the people and for the people,” says Colonel MacFarland.

“Instead of being afraid of al-Qaeda, now al-Qaeda is afraid of the police. It’s going underground, moving out, and the folks who were sitting on the fence are now coming on our side.”


Inside the heavily fortified Abu Faraj police station, just north of Ramadi, the recruits all said that they had been too frightened to join before. “Right now almost all the tribes are fighting the terrorists — the women, the children and even the dogs are fighting them,” said Major Saidey Saleh, the station commander and former Saddam army officer who bears the scars of four al-Qaeda bullet wounds in his right thigh. At the same time Colonel MacFarland, who arrived in Ramadi fresh from pacifying the much smaller town of Tall’Afar near the Syrian border, has abandoned his predecessor’s policy of merely surrounding the city. He has instead adopted an aggressive “inkblot” strategy of seizing and securing key points within it then radiating outwards.

Helped by the flood of new recruits he has already established a chain of 19 COPs and police stations designed to curtail the terrorists’ freedom of movement within Ramadi. Previously, he said, the US military “controlled” just one road into the city and had to fight its way up and down that.

Colonel MacFarland and his officers say that they are already seeing dividends. They claim to have killed 750 terrorists since June, that the number of foreign fighters has fallen from more than 1,000 to the “low hundreds” and that US and Iraqi forces now control 70 per cent of the city.

They recently found the graves of 200 foreign fighters in a former park. When they recaptured Ramadi’s general hospital they found it occupied by only four wounded insurgents.

They say that the number of attacks has fallen from 20 to 15 a day, that the number of IEDs has fallen from about ten a day to three and that al-Qaeda can no longer stage mass attacks on Iraqi police or army posts. The US installed a mayor last week whose brief is to get Ramadi’s administration back up and running.

Colonel MacFarland estimates that 70 per cent of Ramadi’s population now openly backs the security forces, and says that his priority is to get the telephones working so that people can provide tips about weapons caches without fear of reprisals.

He predicts that by some time next year the Iraqi security forces will be able to take over from the US military and “dominate the security environment in Ramadi”.

There is no way of corroborating such claims in a city that is still so dangerous and inaccessible. There is no guarantee that the new police force will not eventually disintegrate into armed militias loyal to the sheikhs. But for once the insurgents are bleating. Harith al-Dhari, head of the hardline Muslim Scholars Association, denounced Sheikh Sittar’s tribal leaders last week as “thieves and hijackers” fighting the “honourable resistance”.

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

The Times of London November 20, 2006
Fighting back: the city determined not to become al-Qaeda's capital
Martin Fletcher in Ramadi

The article is here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2461268,00.html

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 03:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

centrist, reality is a completely relative concept.

which is why the enemy's weapon of choice is pictures in OUR MEDIA, because they know their real battlefield is in the minds of American voters, of course influenced by what they see on their TV.

to get a better sense of what is happening on the front lines, and not hearsay from reporters in hotel rooms depending on Iraqi stringers of questionable allegiance, look at the computer logs of soldiers on the front line at

milblogging.com

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

thanks, dt, i'm a tech 'tard....with a sticking A key...

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 04:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

guys,

don't you see?

we may have thought it so, but this has never been about defeating America on the physical battlefield.

this is a battle to defeat the American mind, . with pictures.

and they're winning....

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 05:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

to get a better sense of what is happening on the front lines, and not hearsay from reporters in hotel rooms depending on Iraqi stringers of questionable allegiance . . .

This is one of the most pathetic of hawkish talking points, as it insults the memory of all the correspondents who have lost their lives in Iraq.

You just posted a Times of London article that included the following:

Before being driven into the city from one of the four big US bases that surround it, I was instructed how, in an emergency, to pass fresh ammunition to the humvee’s machine-gunner. . . . My destination was Eagle’s Nest, a “Combat Outpost” or COP, next to the wreckage of Ramadi’s football stadium where about 120 American and Iraqi troops have been posted since the summer . . . The post has been targeted by suicide bombers, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades . . . The 24 hours that The Times spent there was punctuated by the constant rattle of gunfire from across the city, regular explosions and the thump of mortars.

The article also quoted from interviews with Colonel Sean MacFarland, the U.S. commander at Ramadi, a platoon leader, some other American officers, and Iraqi police recruits.

Your suggestion that professional reporters fail to provide a 'front line' perspective is belied by your own posting.

look at the computer logs of soldiers on the front line at

milblogging.com

Thanks. I'll check it out.

Are you familiar with The Mudville Gazette?

http://www.mudvillegazette.com//

It was recommended to me some time ago for the same reason. I spent some time going through the archives of several of its milblogs. I'm sorry, I just didn't see this alleged vast difference between the pictures emerging from the milblogs and from the MSM.

What I read in the milblogs reminded me a lot of similar accounts from Vietnam. Naturally the all-volunteer force has higher motivation and morale (about a third of those who fought in Vietnam were conscripts). The Vietnam force was much larger, and there wasn't such a feeling of being stretched thin as frequently comes through in stories from Iraq. But on the whole it's the same story, of a counterinsurgency campaign at best stalemated and at worst being slowly lost.

[The 200 mark has been passed. This post will be # 204]

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 06:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

dt: been there, got the t shirt, not really worth your time...

(DON'T GO THERE)

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 06:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al Quaeda's America: Bleeding Bull

al Qaeda wants an "American Madrid"
By Walid Phares


The Washington Times. November 22, 3006

The latest audio by al Qaeda's Iraq commander -- posted 48 hours after the midterm elections -- sends a clear signal to the readers of the jihadi strategic mind: Al Qaeda and its advisers around the world want to provoke an "American Madrid." Portraying the United States as a bleeding bull in disarray, the war room projects its wish to see America's will crippled. The video attempts to do the following:

1. Convince the jihadists that the United States is now defeated in Iraq and beyond. While no reversal of the balance of power has taken place on the ground, the jihadi propaganda machine is linking the shift in domestic politics to a withdrawal from Iraq. It projects the change in Washington as a crumbling of the political process in Baghdad and America's foreign policy. Interestingly, others in the region are also "announcing" the upcoming defeat of America in the war on terror. Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah declared: "The Americans are leaving, and their allies will pay the price."


2. Spread political chaos at home. Jihadists portray the Democratic takeover of Congress and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (and maybe others) as signs of American weakening in the resolve to fight jihadism. The video had a potential to frustrate U.S. citizens if it is not accurately interpreted by experts. Americans may end up believing that the message reflects the situation in the Middle East and that it is a logical outcome of a faulty U.S. policy. If the Bush administration and the new congressional leaders do not respond adequately to the video, some "chaos" of this sort may ensue.

3. The terminology used in the videotape is a powerful indicator that al Qaeda's political network relies on Western-educated minds, familiar with political processes in the United States and serving as advisers to the jihadists. A regular al Qaeda emir does not use the term "lame duck." It is more likely that a U.S.-based cadre, who understands the impact of political jargon on domestic audiences, had suggested the use of this word. Abu Hamza al Muhajir's use of the term batta arjaaa (lame duck) is striking to any native speaker of Arabic. This term does not exist in Arab culture, let alone in jihadi rhetoric. Its use is yet another proof of the Americanization jihad has undergone. Thus, Iraq's al Qaeda is using the term as a weapon -- something most likely requested by the jihadi brains operating on the other side of the Atlantic.

So what do the speechwriters want to achieve with these kinds of tapes? They aim at sapping American public morale during a time when reorganization is taking place in the U.S. government. Reading from the jihadi wishful thinking, the audiotape of al Muhajir and the statements made by other radical Islamists send the following message: Americans are being thanked for removing Mr. Bush's party from the leadership of Congress, which the jihadists attribute to the war on terror rather than U.S. domestic problems. Al Qaeda's audio tells citizens in the United States that they were wise for having responded positively to the previous messages by Osama bin Laden. Al Masri's words aim at convincing the American public to pressure their newly elected legislators to pull U.S. forces hastily from Iraq.

In short, al Qaeda wants an American Madrid: it wishes that a change of power in January would be accompanied by a change of national determination, not just a change of course within Iraq. In the Salafis chat rooms, the commissaries explained to their audiences, that the Democratic Party victory in Congress means that America is now divided and al Qaeda can push to create more cracks in the system -- as it has successfully done in Spain. The masters of the forum, emulating al Masri's audiotape, said not only that "we got their soldiers on the run in Iraq," but "we got their citizens on the run on their own soil" referring to the November electoral outcome. They promised that with more killings in Iraq, they will break the will of Americans at home; and that the new Congress, seeking to fulfill one of its electoral promises will force the Bush administration to pack up and leave the Middle East.

In Washington, both the administration and the new congressional leaders failed to seriously respond to the al Qaeda message. Grave mistake; for ignoring the speech would help convincing the jihadists that America is divided and crumbling and would embolden them to strike further, not only in Iraq but also inside the United States. The silent treatment works in favor of the Salafi combatants: It only leads them to believe that they are right and that their strategy is working; just as Allah had crushed the Soviets in Afghanistan, he has divided the Americans. It is, therefore, imperative that Washington strikes back in a unified manner at every opportunity that arises. It must tell the dreamers of a terror caliphate that American democracy will not serve as a weapon to defeat freedom worldwide.

Walid Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America."

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 06:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

centrist, reality is a completely relative concept.

which is why the enemy's weapon of choice is pictures in OUR MEDIA, because they know their real battlefield is in the minds of American voters, of course influenced by what they see on their TV.

to get a better sense of what is happening on the front lines, and not hearsay from "our" reporters in hotel rooms depending on Iraqi stringers of questionable allegiance, look at the computer logs of soldiers on the front line at

milblogging.com

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 06:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

dt: been there, got the t shirt, not really worth your time...

Huh? You're suggesting that, because I offered some thoughts, I'm suggesting that others shouldn't look for themselves and form their own opinions? I didn't suggest any such thing, and I wouldn't.

Perhaps you would. Perhaps you're projecting.

You're such an ass, Neill.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 07:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You're suggesting that, because I offered some thoughts, I'm suggesting that others shouldn't look for themselves and form their own opinions? I didn't suggest any such thing, and I wouldn't.

Perhaps you would. Perhaps you're projecting.

You're such an ass, Neill.

"It was recommended to me some time ago for the same reason. I spent some "time going through the archives of several of its milblogs. I'm sorry, I just didn't see this alleged vast difference between the pictures emerging from the milblogs and from the MSM.

What I read in the milblogs reminded me a lot of similar accounts from Vietnam. Naturally the all-volunteer force has higher motivation and morale (about a third of those who fought in Vietnam were conscripts). The Vietnam force was much larger, and there wasn't such a feeling of being stretched thin as frequently comes through in stories from Iraq. But on the whole it's the same story, of a counterinsurgency campaign at best stalemated and at worst being slowly lost."

Actually, DT, what you're doing here is saying, "on the whole it's the same story, of a counterinsurgency campaign at best stalemated and at worst being slowly lost."

that's called "steering away" from something...DT.

this is all about defining "reality" for readers, isn't it DT? don't want to let them read what's not good for them, eh , DT?

people will decide for themselves, without your editorializing. as people are wont to do.....

Posted by: neill at November 23, 2006 07:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

that's called "steering away" from something . . .

Nonsense. That people draw different conclusions from the same material is all the more reason for someone to want to check it out for themselves. And anyone reading this thread can tell I'm strongly in favor of withdrawal, so I'm obviously not unbiased.

The shoe may be on the other foot. Many hawks spread this meme about the milblogs telling a different story from the MSM, but they refuse to discuss specifics. The person who directed me to The Mudville Gazette wouldn't say just what sorts of things he had read that supposedly showed the U.S. is winning. All he would say was 'read the milblogs'. As long as no one actually reads them, the hawks don't have to get specific or defend their conclusions.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 09:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Walid Phares, quoted by neill:

In Washington, both the administration and the new congressional leaders failed to seriously respond to the al Qaeda message. Grave mistake; for ignoring the speech would help convincing the jihadists that America is divided and crumbling and would embolden them to strike further, not only in Iraq but also inside the United States. The silent treatment works in favor of the Salafi combatants: It only leads them to believe that they are right and that their strategy is working; just as Allah had crushed the Soviets in Afghanistan, he has divided the Americans.

This makes no sense. For officials of both parties to ignore the message is a united response, or non-response.

If elected Republicans had called attention to the message, it would have boosted the efforts of their surrogates to make partisan hay out of it, and forced the Democrats to make the counter-argument that the Republicans were playing into the hands of the jihadis. If what the 'Salafi combatants' want is American disunity, the silence Phares complains of was a setback for them.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 10:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A power struggle has erupted: al-Qaeda’s reign of terror is being challenged. Sheikh Sittar and many of his fellow tribal leaders have cast their lot with the once-reviled US military. They are persuading hundreds of their followers to sign up for the previously defunct Iraqi police.

Most analysts say that al qaeda is not particularly significant, that they have perhaps 1500 people compared to the million or so armed insurgents. Is it true that this small splinter group has controlled Ramadi for 2 years?

Last month a record 409 new recruits were dispatched to the police academy in Jordan, and 1,300 are now signed up, many of them former Baathists. The US and Iraqi armies have armed and protected them against al-Qaeda attacks, and as fear of al-Qaeda has dissipated, so the process has accelerated.

So we're arming and training somebody.

Helped by the flood of new recruits he has already established a chain of 19 COPs and police stations designed to curtail the terrorists’ freedom of movement within Ramadi. Previously, he said, the US military “controlled” just one road into the city and had to fight its way up and down that.

Clearly the previous approach wasn't working.

Colonel MacFarland and his officers say that they are already seeing dividends. They claim to have killed 750 terrorists since June, that the number of foreign fighters has fallen from more than 1,000 to the “low hundreds” and that US and Iraqi forces now control 70 per cent of the city.

2/3 of all the foreign fighteres were in Ramadi? What the hell? How do they make these estimates?

They recently found the graves of 200 foreign fighters in a former park.

OK, how do they know they were foreign fighters? By the shape of the bones? The type of fillings? The clothing?

They say that the number of attacks has fallen from 20 to 15 a day, that the number of IEDs has fallen from about ten a day to three and that al-Qaeda can no longer stage mass attacks on Iraqi police or army posts.

Well, that's an improvement. They were getting 10 attacks a day on one road and now it's only 3 a day across the whole city.

There is no guarantee that the new police force will not eventually disintegrate into armed militias loyal to the sheikhs.

???? Is there any possible interpretation that they're anything else now? The sheikhs *provided* those men for us to train precisely because they wanted us to arm and train their militia! What other interpretation is possible? But that isn't a bad thing. They're trying to establish order, and they are opposed to some group of insurgents.

But for once the insurgents are bleating. Harith al-Dhari, head of the hardline Muslim Scholars Association, denounced Sheikh Sittar’s tribal leaders last week as “thieves and hijackers” fighting the “honourable resistance”.

In the best case that looks good. So either the experts are all wrong about al aqaeda in iraq, and there are so many foreign fighters that they've been oppressing the iraqis. Or therei's some sort of iraqi-on-iraqi warfare going on there, and one side is trying to dupe us into supporting them against the other sides, calling the other sides al qaeda. To me the latter looks far more plausible.

So one of these factions is getting us to train and arm their militia and call them police, they're getting us to set up firebases for them to attack their neighbors from, and they're winning control of the city. Presumably the ones that we are supporting are the ones that used to do the majority of IED attacks, and they've stopped.

My destination was Eagle’s Nest, a “Combat Outpost” or COP, next to the wreckage of Ramadi’s football stadium where about 120 American and Iraqi troops have been posted since the summer . . . The post has been targeted by suicide bombers, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades . . . The 24 hours that The Times spent there was punctuated by the constant rattle of gunfire from across the city, regular explosions and the thump of mortars.

We might eventually be able to pack up and leave Ramadi, leaving it in the hands of a sunni militia that claims loyalty to us instead of opposition to us. Good start! But it sounds like there's a lot of killing left to do first.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 23, 2006 11:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is sadly inevitable that we will be arming and training former enemy Iraqis.

The point is to leave Iraq in the secure hands of Iraqis, who accept centrally elected Iraqi politicians as the top leaders.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 23, 2006 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Niell is correct that the terrorists are winning in the media.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 23, 2006 04:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Tom Grey:

The point is to leave Iraq in the secure hands of Iraqis, who accept centrally elected Iraqi politicians as the top leaders.

The person the elected parliament would have chosen for prime minister was unacceptable to the Americans, so he was replaced by a relative nonentity with no power base of his own, who seems to have become a front for one of the Shi'ite militias.

The Shi'ites can't even work out an acceptable power sharing arrangement among themselves, much less with the Sunnis. That means a Sunni town like Ramadi won't be pledging allegiance to any central government any time soon.

The U.S. is not losing a fantasy war in the media. It is losing a real war in a real place called Iraq.

Speaking of fantasy, here is an excellent article:

http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=142383


Posted by: David Tomlin at November 23, 2006 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tom Grey, I see no reason to think we have any former enemies in iraq.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 24, 2006 12:37 AM | 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.


More About the Author
Email the Author
Recent Entries
Search



The News
The Blogs
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
Security
Books
The City
Epicurean Corner
Archives
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:
www.vikeny.com

Powered by