January 17, 2007

Surgin' Lowry, and Kagan's Latest

(UPDATED BELOW)

(Sigh).

Shorter Rich Lowry: The Administration is basically lying about the number of troops heading to Iraq, perhaps purposefully low-balling the number. No, really. Lowry: "Interesingly [sic], in this case, it is critics of the Bush administration who are buying the administration's spin by believing that 17,500 is a hard and fast number." Frankly, I've hesitated to respond to Rich’s latest (as his arguments were rather on the pitiable/disingenuous side), but for the arithmetically challenged, let’s try this yet another time. The President of the United States has announced we are sending 21,500 fresh troops to Iraq, 17,500 of them to Baghdad, and the remainder to Anbar. Or alternately, per Rich L, CINC is essentially a liar, and we're sending more than that, but Rich can't say that too loud (because then Team NRO would be calling Glorious Leader a dissembler). Regardless Lowry loses, as either a Bushie water-carrier extraordinaire (here's the latest example of his dutiful passing on of Admin talking points) is calling 43 a fibber (quelle horreur!), or Beltway buddy Fred Kagan (that Rich defends with such alacrity) de facto signed on (during the McCain/Lieberman festivities on 17th Street) for a surge-lite of 21.5K-- where originally he said we needed a minimum of 30,000 in late December, and in early December, 50,000-80,000, as Frank Rich pointed out (much more on Kagan's number games below).

Lowry begins by charging:

80,000 was a ballpark of what it would take to secure Baghdad all at once. 50,000 was a ballpark of what it would take to begin to secure it in phases.That's clear, it's all in black-and-white. Djerejian prefers to skip over all that to make the "speculative" smear that Kagan "might have bowed to AEI elders hoping to get the think-tank a good shot at preening that an in-house plan became that of POTUS."

Rich, let me be real plain. I haven't skipped over sh*t. I said Kagan went from 80,000 (on 12/4) to 30,000 (on 12/27). It was the diminution from 80K (or 50K, I flagged this variance in my original piece) to 30K that I thought smacked some of helping facilitate Danielle Pletka emcee'ing another joke event at AEI w/ Joe Lieberman and John McCain--not the 80K to 50K (that's just a cheap strawman Rich constructs, pretending I'm erroneously missing the difference between Kagan's number-crunching for clearing and holding all of Baghdad, versus just part of Baghdad).

Lowry then writes about Kagan that he was just "(f)loating his ballpark figure of 50,000" (Kagan's figure if we mean to just clear and hold select neighborhoods of Baghdad) but later, Fred K sat down with "various military experts and came up with a more detailed plan". Let's translate that, shall we, from Lowry speak to plain English: Kagan was initially mostly talking out of his arse, pulling numbers willy-nilly, and Keane baby-sat some to reconnect neo-con fancy with, so boring I know, Planet Earth.

Or, as Kagan later tells it in a TWS piece from yesterday: "I then put together a team of military planning and regional experts in an attempt to determine with more accuracy exactly how many forces would be required." [ed. note: Better late than never!]). Meantime, the Standard was (displaying cautious editorial control, as is their wont, of course) printing all of Fred K's pre-"expert" consultation cogitations, as they sounded the right chest-beating timarchic notes, you know, the kind that get non-girlie men like Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol excited and out of the shower in the A.M.

But let's leave aside all the Weekly Standard articles which, all told, aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Let's go straight to the source, the Keane-Kagan plan itself. The link is here (click through to the PDF). And, for convenience, here's all the relevant text, at pp. 16-20, and note all emphasis is mine:

Having identified Baghdad as the main effort, we can then consider the problem of securing that city in more detail. There is considerable theory and historical evidence about the numbers of troops required to provide security to a given population in a counterinsurgency. The military’s counterinsurgency manual concludes that a ratio of one soldier for every forty or fifty inhabitants provides a good rule of thumb for such calculations. Colonel H. R. McMaster and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment used a ratio of about one soldier per every forty inhabitants to secure Tall Afar in 2005. American soldiers and Marines in Ramadi have made considerable progress in securing that city, although much lower force ratios have slowed and limited that progress. Major General Peter Chiarelli put down the Sadrist uprising in Sadr City in mid-2004, on the other hand, with one division (under 20,000 soldiers) in a population of over 2 million.The population of Baghdad is around 6 million, which would require, in theory, around 150,000 counterinsurgents to maintain security. It is neither necessary nor wise to try to clear and hold the entire city all at once, however. The Jaysh al Mahdi based in Sadr City has demonstrated its reluctance to engage in a full-scale conflict with American forces, ever since coalition forces defeated Moqtada al-Sadr and his army in Najaf in the summer of 2004. Rather, the Jaysh al Mahdi now needs to preserve its fighters in order to maintain its strength against the Badr Corps in the struggle for control of postcoalition Iraq. Attempting to clear Sadr City at this moment would almost certainly force the Jaysh al Mahdi into precisely such a confrontation with American troops, however. It would also do enormous damage to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki’s political base and would probably lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government. Clearing Sadr City is both unwise and unnecessary at this time.

Many attacks against Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad emanate from Sadr City. There are two ways to resolve that problem. The first is to attack Sadr City by targeting known militia bases and concentrations with discrete strikes. This option initially requires the fewest number of forces. But such operations would almost certainly provoke a massive political and military conflagration. They ultimately will demand high force concentrations and generate instability in the current Iraqi government, as described above. This option is therefore extremely risky. It would be better, instead, to secure the Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods by deploying American and Iraqi forces into them and protecting their inhabitants from all violent attacks coming from any area. This second approach also accords with sound counterinsurgency practice, which favors defensive strategies aimed at protecting the population over offensive strategies aimed at killing insurgents. The first phase of this plan, therefore, excludes military operations within Sadr City and focuses on securing the Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods around the Green Zone and between that area and Baghdad International Airport/Camp Victory. This approach establishes security among a population of perhaps 2 million people, which would require, according to historical norms, between 40,000 and 50,000 counterinsurgent troops. Generating proper force ratios to secure the population in these neighborhoods is much more feasible than generating the force ratios to confront the Jaysh al Mahdi in Sadr City or to secure the entire population of Baghdad at once. Yet securing the population in these neighborhoods is likely to reduce levels of violence elsewhere in Baghdad.

The working group also calculated the forces required for this operation in another way. The area we have identified as being the “critical terrain” in Baghdad (because of its mixed ethnicity and its geographic centrality) consists of about twenty-three districts. Clearing and holding a city district in Baghdad requires an American force of about one battalion (approximately 600 soldiers organized into four companies of about 150 soldiers each). We have considerable evidence about what force levels are necessary for such operations because of recent and current operations in Baghdad. There is now about one battalion deployed in the district of Dora (the area south of the Karadah peninsula just south of the Green Zone). Dora is a very dangerous neighborhood that is difficult to control, and the troops there are barely managing. Dora would benefit from reinforcements or from having the adjoining areas brought more securely under control. Many other neighborhoods that would be cleared under this proposal would require fewer troops because they are less violent and large; some might require more. On balance, current operations suggest that one battalion per district would provide a sufficient overall force level to bring the violence in these twenty-three districts under control.

There are three battalions in an Army brigade combat team or BCT, which, together with all of its supporting elements, numbers around 5,000 soldiers. Twenty-three districts would require eight BCTs (which would leave one battalion to spare as a reserve), or around 40,000 soldiers. Since operations would be going on around the Green Zone and Camp Victory, it would be necessary to maintain additional forces to guard and garrison those areas, amounting to perhaps another BCT, for a total of nine (around 45,000 troops total).

Whether we calculate the forces necessary based on historical ratios or on units engaged in current
operations, the results are very similar: we can reasonably expect that between 40,000 and 50,000 soldiers
could establish and maintain security in the twenty-three critical Sunni and mixed districts in the center of Baghdad in the first phase of an operation aimed at ending violence in the city, securing its population, and securing Iraq
.

The United States currently has approximately 140,000 troops in Iraq, including about 70,000 in thirteen Army Brigade Combat Teams and two Marine Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs—the Marines’ slightly smaller equivalent of brigades). Of the remaining 70,000 soldiers, many are engaged in the enormous task of providing supplies to coalition soldiers and to the 134,000 soldiers in the Iraqi Army, who are almost entirely dependent on American logistics to survive and operate. A large number of American troops are engaged in securing the long lines of communication from Kuwait to Baghdad (600 miles) and from there to U.S. forward operating bases (FOBs) around the country. Around 6,000 soldiers are now involved in training Iraqi Army and police units as well. The BCTs and RCTs are the forces that would be used in clearing and holding Baghdad, so the rest of this report will focus on them, recognizing that the number of these units significantly underrepresents the total size of the American combat presence in Iraq.

Seven BCTs, the largest concentration of the BCTs and RCTs now in Iraq, operate in and around Baghdad. Five BCTs operate within the city itself (although they mostly live on FOBs in the city’s suburbs and drive to their areas of operations to conduct patrols). One BCT operates in the insurgent belts to the north around Taji and the remaining BCT operates in the belts to the south around Iskandariyah (the so-called Triangle of Death). Two Marine RCTs and one Army BCT operate in Anbar. Their bases are located in Ramadi, Fallujah, and al Asad. The remaining five Army BCTs operate mostly to the north of Baghdad in Ninewah, Salahuddin, and Diyala provinces in cities like Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra, and Baquba.

An Army National Guard brigade is stationed in a static defensive position in Kuwait guarding the enormous supply and training areas there. Recent news reports suggest that a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division has been ordered to Kuwait as well, although the purpose of that deployment is not clear at the time that this report is being written. The BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division might be deployed to Iraq to engage in combat missions there in the near future; the National Guard brigade could not leave Kuwait without endangering the security of U.S. supply lines and bases.

The current deployment of U.S. forces in and around Baghdad, therefore, provides approximately four BCTs (twelve battalions or about 20,000 troops in all) for conducting combat operations in the city. The equivalent of one BCT is required for base security. Such a force level is evidently inadequate for clearing and holding any sizable portion of Baghdad. The Army and Marine presence in Anbar is inadequate to maintain even the most basic security in that province. The situation in Diyala is almost as dire. Pulling troops from either province to reinforce operations in Baghdad would almost surely lead to the further collapse of those regions. Salahuddin is similarly problematic, while security in Ninewah is extremely precarious. Any attempt to concentrate forces in Baghdad by moving them from elsewhere in Iraq would precipitate greater violence in the outlying areas. Such violence would eventually move down the river valleys to Baghdad and undermine attempts to succeed in the capital, as occurred in 2004. This plan will therefore require a deployment of at least four Army Brigade Combat Teams (approximately 20,000 soldiers) into Baghdad from outside Iraq.

Because of the close relationship between the insurgency in Anbar and the violence in Baghdad, it would be desirable to address both areas at once. In reality, the United States simply cannot make available enough forces to bring Anbar under control at the same time as it tries to secure the critical neighborhoods of Baghdad. A deployment of additional troops into Baghdad will nevertheless both generate and suffer from spillover effects in Anbar. This very real risk calls for a preplanned response. This report therefore proposes to add two additional Marine RCTs to the two RCTs and one Army BCT that are already in Anbar. This force (five brigade-equivalents, or about 18,000 soldiers and Marines) is too small to secure the major cities in Anbar, let alone the entire province. Five brigade-equivalents would, however, suffice to cover the roads from Anbar to Baghdad, intercept insurgents, and prevent the establishment operations would properly support the main effort in Baghdad by controlling spillover effects.

The commander on the ground in Iraq could use the two additional RCTs designated for Anbar elsewhere, of course. It might prove more important to interdict movement between Diyala and Baghdad than to reinforce American troops now in Anbar. In the worst case, the commander could move these regiments into the capital if unexpectedly high violence erupted in Baghdad itself during the clear-and-hold operation there. By deploying these two additional RCTs into Iraq, the commander on the ground will gain the flexibility to respond to unforeseen difficulties or opportunities in and around Baghdad without having to accept any additional risk in outlying areas.

The Army brigade in Anbar, finally, was initially deployed to Iraq in January 2006. By the time the recommended operations would begin, it will have been in Iraq for nearly fifteen months. This plan therefore proposes to send a fresh Army BCT into Anbar to replace that unit, which has already had its tour extended. It would require a total deployment of five Army BCTs and two Marine RCTs on top of the forces already in Iraq. In an emergency, of course, the commander in Iraq could keep the existing brigade in Anbar and use the brigade designated to replace it as a further reserve for deployment in Baghdad or elsewhere. The plan therefore commits four additional BCTs into Baghdad, designates two RCTs for Anbar but makes them available elsewhere if necessary, and designates one BCT that could be used as a reserve in an emergency.

The bottom line here (it's rather confusingly and poorly drafted) is that Kagan calls for 5 BCTs (which he counts as 5,000 each) and two RCTs (which in Kagan's latest TWS piece he counts as "perhaps" 4,000) to be sent to Iraq in addition to the troops presently in theatre. In addition, he wants one BCT scheduled to rotate out to perhaps have its tour extended (quite exhausting after 15 months in theater, but likely to occur in case of an emergency). In other words, per Kagan's very own published plan, he wants a surge of at least 33,000-38,000 new men. Instead, what we're getting is a surge-lite of 21,500--well below what Kagan has repped in his "victory" plan by an order of thousands of men.

Still, let's give credit where it's due. Kagan doesn't give up easy with all the number juggling obfuscation. In his TWS piece yesterday, he goes straight to the Lowry playbook, basically echoing Rich that the Administration is low-balling the public about how many troops are heading into the Big Sandy:

In reality, the U.S. Army does not simply deploy brigades into combat, but instead sends Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs). A BCT includes a brigade as described above, but also additional support elements such as engineers, military police, additional logistics elements, and so on, which are necessary to the functioning of the brigade in combat. In a counter-insurgency operation such as Iraq, these additional forces are fully as important to the overall success of the mission as the combat troops. Sizes of BCTs also vary, of course, but they average more like 5,000 soldiers. Since these are the formations that will actually be deployed to Iraq and used there, I have been estimating deployments on this basis: five brigade combat teams include around 25,000 soldiers; one Marine Regimental Combat Team (RCTs are somewhat smaller than Army brigades) includes perhaps 4,000. So the surge being briefed by the Bush administration now is much more likely to be around 29,000 troops than 22,000--in other words, close to the number of combat troops the IPG recommended, and, when necessary support troops are added, close to the overall numbers I had estimated before the IPG met.

Translation: The Administration is pretty much lying to the American public that the surge will number only 21,500, it's more likely to be 29,000 (which I very much doubt, by the way, given it'll be quite a strain even to scrape up the 21.5K). Or, alternately, if POTUS isn't dissembling: the 21.5K troops being sent are 11,500 short of Kagan's supposed minimum (and if the BCT in Anbar is scheduled out on its normal rotation, we're 16,500 short in case of emergency).

Regardless, and worth noting, Kagan simply isn't pitching straight w/ this passage. He says with the "necessary support troops" added we will get beyond the 29,000 number (again, already inflated in my view, given Kagan's spin). But that's hard to believe. Why? Because BCTs already contemplate some non-combat/logistical support etc. within them, so the number is not likely to increase much if at all, contra his airy floating of same meant to convince underinformed readers that the daylight between his plan and that of the President is de minimis. Again folks, like it or not, the number is likely going to be what the President said it's going to be, some 21.5K for both Baghdad and Anbar. And that's over 11,500 short, as compared to the supposed Keane-Kagan minimum.

So I repeat my question: is Frederick Kagan in support of this surge lite or isn't he? Let me be clear. My intent is not to "smear" Fred Kagan. My intent, however, is to point out that the centerpiece of the Administration's surge plan for supposed "victory" in Iraq was concocted mostly by 30-somethings tossing numbers around somewhat haphazardly, and that the President of the United States has promised troop levels in theatre far below what was recommended even by these supposed policy mavens, who themselves were stretching to get the number down to bow to the grim reality that we simply don't have sufficient troops to get the job done right (meaning "overwhelming force" a la Powell Doctrine, though with 100,000 plus even it's nevertheless likely too late now given Rumsfeld's disastrous bungling for 4 long years). Now the question to them is, how can you support a plan thousands of men short, per your own estimations? Stop fudging, and stop ass-covering. Just answer the question.

But we already know the likely response, don't we? It's embedded in their glorious victory plan at p. 33 in the section entitled "What If? What Next?" (the equivalent of the so-called "Risk Factors" in a SEC filing, for any fellow corporate lawyers out there, except in its far too optimistic prognostications it wouldn't even begin to pass muster at any serious law firm as constituting adequate disclosure). It says, among other things:

--Attacking into Sadr City in the event of an unplanned major confrontation with Shiite militias (although this plan stresses the desirability of avoiding such a confrontation as much as possible [ed. note: Cool, let's hope!])

--Conducting operations against the Badr Corps in southern Iraq in the event of a major confrontation with SCIRI (Again, this can result only from great misfortune or ineptitude on the part of the coalition, since its aim should be to avoid such a confrontation.) [emphasis added]

You heard it here first! When our too few troops get surged in because a gaggle of youngish think-tankers at AEI thought it was a good idea, and Joe Lieberman, Bush and McCain subsequently blessed it, when they likely get enmeshed in fighting with Mahdi or even the Badr Organization (after all, stabilizing Baghdad in large part will mean protecting Sunnis in mixed neighborhoods where Shi'a revanchism is running rough-shod (and vice-versa, in some parts of town), so it's a pretty safe bet we're going to end up in fire-fights with some of these militias and/or related groups in the Baghdad cauldron), Fred and Co. will tell us that it was the result of "ineptitude on the part of the coalition". Or as David Rieff once put it to me, in an E-mail: "Like the Trotskyists of yore, these people are never wrong IF ONLY they had been listened to and allowed to follow their mad utopian schemes to their limit." Yep, that about sums it up. Well, no thanks this time guys. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

Meantime, worth noting, the collective work product of seasoned professionals in the ISG got mostly ignored, in favor of this (mostly) amateurish folly (though Keane improved Kagan's sophomorically amorphous musings some, but again, we don't have the resources to 'do' Keane right, Petraeus' enormous talents aside), and just as important, the chances of sparking a new conflagration with Shi'a militias is going to ratchet up, not to mention Guns of August style spillover with Iran. Some at AEI would be thrilled, of course, if this is how it played out--but make no mistake--it would compound the massive blunder that has occurred in Iraq to date into an unmitigated catastrophe of historic proportions, with significant ramifications for decades to come for the United States' strategic position in the Middle East, not to mention elsewhere around the globe.

This time, however, if it comes to all this, let's be sure to ascribe blame in the right quarters, to the maximalists who continued to promise us victory, when instead intense region-wide damage control initiatives (many of them diplomatic) should have been the priority. Let's remember who helped drive us over the cliff, in other words, if the faith-based adventurism we're seeing w/ Kagan et al. ends up, as is so very likely, not working as intended by the breezily cocksure authors of this half-baked plan. In the meantime, even if we have to drag them along kicking and screaming, let's also try to keep them just a wee bit honest--by showcasing that we don't have enough resources to do the job right--so as to try to avoid more lives getting sacrificed in vain for a victory that is not achievable in the manner they contemplate--not least by reminding them of the details of their very own plan.

P.S. And don't miss this piece. "Fool's errand". "Too little and too late". Etc.

UPDATE: An informed reader says I'm being too tough on the Keane-Kagan plan because I'm getting a bit hysterical in my denunications of the neo-cons. Perhaps. Putting aside the AEI/NRO etc crew, he asks me to keep in mind that Keane is no idealogue, Odierno is on board, Petraeus too obviously, and that many mid-level officers in the Baghdad area may support a "surge" too. He also says that, if I'm allowed to change my mind on the merits of a "surge", Kagan is entitled to change his mind on troop levels.

I guess these are all fair points, but let me just say for the record that, for the past many months, my position on the surge was that it would only make sense in the context of a coherent overarching plan, to include diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran (the latter likely to fail, the former more likely to bear fruit) and absent that, I continue to have exceedingly low expectations for this surge, especially as it's basically under-manned--we don't have enough troops to go about it per best counter-insurgency doctrine.

Indeed Kagan himself always complained we were never sending enough troops into Iraq, as insurgents often retreated from areas where troops were sent to those where our presence was lighter, so that we needed to send more troops to blanket larger areas so as to prevent such (ultimately futile) whack-a-mole. But isn't that what his 'phased' plan allows for in Baghdad, as why won't insurgents cluster/retreat to neighborhoods where U.S. troops aren't, when not mounting ambush style attacks on our forces, that is (plus there are many additional perils presented by such dense urban combat, there is the reality that Iraq now ultimately requires more a political solution than a military one, that chains of commands will be muddied, that Iraqi forces aren't up to it, and relatedly that injection of Kurdish peshmerga forces is troublesome, that a conflagration with Shi'a militias is likely, that previous counter-insurgency operations in Iraq have involved de-populating cities which is not really feasible in Baghdad, and so on and on).

Anyway, why the obvious frustration and anger? Ultimately, perhaps it's the fact that AEI would pull out the pom-poms and host an event asking the American people to think in terms of victory, based on a too thinly-manned surge, and at this tremendously late hour, when it's far likelier in my view to prove another debacle. I found this rather offensive, given the disaster that has unfolded to date, and given the previous dubious policy recommendations of many of those present. And I still can't help thinking Kagan compromised his better instincts regarding how this so-called "surge" is more likely going to turn into a sad continuation of the Rumsfeld "just enough troops to lose" doctrine, so that AEI and the White House would better appear in alignment, by not more loudly decrying the obvious fact that he'd prefer in the neighborhood of 35,000-45,000 troops surged in, and it looks like we're going to get not much more that about half of that (frankly 35-000-45,000 wouldn't do it either, as Richard Haass has recently quipped, a "surge is not a strategy", certainly not at this stage in this conflict with Iraq in a state of civil war).

Still, if and when the troops go in, we can only hope against hope for their success. And I will try to monitor the progress of the surge with judiciousness, despite my opposition to it. Ultimately we must all still hope and pray for some form of ultimate "success" in Iraq, as a deepening of the debacle runs directly contra our national interest, of course. It's just that I fear this plan will make a tremendously bad situation even worse.


Posted by Gregory at January 17, 2007 03:32 AM
Comments

Greg,

That was a good debunking, and I'm glad they are reading your pieces enough to warrant a response, but alas, I don't see them learning a single thing about reality. So sad.

As for Kagan, if he really believes in this fight, why does he not re-enlist and join up in knocking down doors in Baghdad? Why does he ask others to do the dirty work for him?

Posted by: Dan at January 18, 2007 09:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK.

The plan stinks. What do we do beyond carefully documenting our concerns in memos to the file? (Oh, excuse me, passing resolutions without effect about the stupidity of the Plan.)

The inquiry may need to be something other than what is the best policy in the Mideast. Because your thoughts (let alone the thoughts of your commentariat) will be disregarded. Though you may get a hate blog from the Corner or your radio buddy Hugh.

So what to do? How can we PREVENT this President from doing any more damage, without in turn doing permanent damage to our institutions? (I tend to dislike impeachment for this reason -- and the reason that it won't stop the stupid policy for a year or so.)

This is probably the wrong venue to vent about this -- as this is a blog devoted to foreign policy. But, I guess because I see a lot of thoughtfulness about how we can resolve our situation, here, I wonder what the minds here can think up to get us out of the next two years.

To fellow Republicans -- OK. We have disaster, and people are dying for our party's mistakes. What are we going to do about it?

And one thought to the Democrats. Yes, it's often good politics not to interfere when your opposition is self-destructing. But "right but utterly ineffectual" is not the stance I would want to take into the next election, either.

So what to do?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at January 18, 2007 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Boy, a lot of words essentially buying into the notion that Iraq is about a military solution.

I suggest we return the conversation to rights of foreign ownership of Iraqi oil, provisions in the Iraqi constitution to levy taxes, enduring bases, the new American Embassy in Iraq. One CAN win EVERY battle, and still lose the war. Or lose the war and win (Japan re. UK).

In the short run:

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Göring (and Dick Cheney)


but in the long run:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always." - Mahatma Gandhi

What is needed is an apology for the selfish, dishonest way we acted, an acknowledgment that we have no credibility to take the leadership towards a solution, and an appeal to the Region and International community to solve the problem, at US expense.

Then we should really be talking impeachment and prosecution for war crimes for those that lied to justify murder.

Posted by: erichwwk at January 18, 2007 10:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting Lowry uses the term "ballpark" - To get a better idea of the absurdity of Bush's 'plan' - Instead of using diluted definitions of militray formations like Brigades or Divisions - Use the term "ballpark" - We have roughly two and half Yankee stadiums in Iraq now - Bush proposes to add the equivalent of a mostly full capacity Madison Sq. Garden to police one of the most violent, most ferocious cities in the world - with questionable allies honeycombe with enemy spies.

Posted by: Comment at January 18, 2007 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

c'mon Greg - you don't mean to smear Freddy? That's like the shark saying I don't mean to eat you but I can't help my nature. Smear the fat prick and be proud of it - he exudes the obsequious earnestness of the weak in search of an affirmative power that will allow them to believe they're not so weak after all.

Posted by: saintsimon at January 18, 2007 11:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People have been rightly skeptical that Maliki is serious about curbing Shi'ite militias, which is crucial for the plan to work. Well there's evidence that might be happening

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070118/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_070118180930

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments. ADVERTISEMENT

The two commanders' account of a growing siege mentality inside the organization could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia was increasingly off balance and had ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

During much of his nearly eight months in office, al-Maliki has blocked or ordered an end to many U.S.-led operations against the Mahdi Army, which is run by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the prime minister's key political backer.

As recently as Oct. 31, al-Maliki, trying to capitalize on American voter discontent with the war and White House reluctance to open a public fight with the Iraqi leader just before the election, won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted.

But al-Maliki reportedly had a change of heart in late November while going into a meeting in Jordan with
President Bush. It has since been disclosed that the Iraqi leader's vision for a new security plan for Baghdad, to which Bush has committed 17,500 additional U.S. troops, was outlined in that meeting.

Posted by: Jeff at January 19, 2007 01:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People have been rightly skeptical that Maliki is serious about curbing Shi'ite militias, which is crucial for the plan to work. Well there's evidence that might be happening

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070118/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_070118180930

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments. ADVERTISEMENT

The two commanders' account of a growing siege mentality inside the organization could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia was increasingly off balance and had ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

During much of his nearly eight months in office, al-Maliki has blocked or ordered an end to many U.S.-led operations against the Mahdi Army, which is run by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the prime minister's key political backer.

As recently as Oct. 31, al-Maliki, trying to capitalize on American voter discontent with the war and White House reluctance to open a public fight with the Iraqi leader just before the election, won U.S. agreement to lift military blockades on Sadr City and another Shiite enclave where an American soldier was abducted.

But al-Maliki reportedly had a change of heart in late November while going into a meeting in Jordan with
President Bush. It has since been disclosed that the Iraqi leader's vision for a new security plan for Baghdad, to which Bush has committed 17,500 additional U.S. troops, was outlined in that meeting.

Posted by: Jeff at January 19, 2007 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look, if you take the logarithm of the various surge "plans" -- 80,000, 50,000, 30,000, 20,000 -- they're all in the range 4-5. If Lowry weren't so mathematically incompetent (practically a requirement for his trade), he could pimp this as evidence. He could say that Bush is providing troops in the same order of magnitude as the original plan envisaged.

Posted by: sglover at January 19, 2007 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So what to do? How can we PREVENT this President from doing any more damage, without in turn doing permanent damage to our institutions? (I tend to dislike impeachment for this reason -- and the reason that it won't stop the stupid policy for a year or so.)

Well, among other things, Dems are going to introduce statements (resolutions, proclamations, I dunno what the precise nomenclature is) stating explicitly that the Congress does NOT authorize military adventures against Iran. I believe the intention is to give military commanders in the field some Constitutional back-up should Bush decide to launch air strikes. This strikes me as a very necessary thing. A wider war with Iran will very quickly have us all nostalgic for the day when we had ONLY the Iraq disaster to worry about.

And, by the way -- the damage won't stop until Bush and Cheney are gone. Nowadays, impeachment really ought to be considered a public health measure, as controversial as polio vaccinations.

And one thought to the Democrats. Yes, it's often good politics not to interfere when your opposition is self-destructing. But "right but utterly ineffectual" is not the stance I would want to take into the next election, either.

This right after you dismiss the Constitutional recourse of impeachment?!? The fact is that in foreign and military affairs, the executive is inherently more nimble than even the most watchful and "effectual" Congress can ever be. And this is an extraordinary administration. It is almost universally regarded as inept, unscrupulous, and delusional by all informed observers. Extraordinary governments like this one are what impeachment was designed for.

Posted by: sglover at January 19, 2007 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This pissing contest is funny. How can one debate people who mock the "reality based community" and proudly proclaim that they "create their own reality"?

How can a crowd that has been wrong on some many issues with such terrible consequences maintain any standing with the public and the president?
My sense is that in the case of the public...30% would blindly follow anything NRO/AEI/HER put out through their proxies FOX/Limbaugh etc.
The president will go along with anything that has a chance, no matter how slight of saving his legacy.

Next "debate " can be, once the escalation fails, is war with Iran. Debate until some "incident" in the persian gulf "creates its own reality". That "reality' could be a winner for the Repub in 08. Mccain wants the 08 elections to be about Iran. Thinks ahead ...others are!

Posted by: centrist at January 19, 2007 04:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

in light of the recent poll that 49% of Democrats either hope for failure or aren't sure if they do regarding the most recent Baghdad plan......

iraq the model:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
 
Mourning the Fallen Angels of Iraq...

Nothing was more painfully clear than this message; they are killing our future by killing students and knowledge. They are killing the flowers who filled the world with laughter, energy and hope since the first school was built thousands of years ago somewhere on this very land.
65 families or maybe more mourn their sons and daughters today and I know their feeling very well…I've been through it when I lost my loved ones and I know what their obsessions are telling them; why did send them to school? Did I have to, was it the right thing to go on with our lives and defy terror? Oh God, they threatened and they did it but what future would we have if my son didn't go to school!?
Why did I let her go? Oh God help me answer my bleeding heart.
A policeman says: the cell phones didn’t stop ringing in their pockets and purses but there was no one to answer…they were gone.
The ringing will keep me awake tonight angels of Iraq…you were the bravest when you chose to go on in the face of danger. I will not close my eyes tonight; your phones and your voices echo in my head waking up the demons who want revenge in cruelty that splits heads from shoulders.
Isn't this sight enough for the world to stand with us? Doesn't it look clear now? Damn you if you watched this and saw only new numbers for your counts.
I bet my life on it; tomorrow students will go to their schools again carrying their books, wearing their best clothes. Even if one student remains I bet you these crimes will not stop life from going on.
Please, go light a candle for their souls and let the world hear your voice…let's expose the criminals and let's fight them with all the strength we can find so that our sons and brothers can walk to school every day.
Oh, angels of Iraq, I mourn you like I mourned no one else.

Posted by: neill at January 19, 2007 07:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My dear Neill, if we "hope for failure of the current effort in Iraq", it's only in the sense that we want this damned administration to come to its senses, pull out of Iraq, and start using America's military strength instead in the places and in the ways that it SHOULD be used to maximize our chances of winning the obviously crucial worldwide struggle against both Islamic Fascism and Megaterrorism. Exactly how many of us opposed retaliation of any sort after 9-11? How many opposed the Afghan War? How many think we should take no action to minimize the chances of GENUINE nuclear terrorism? Goddamn few.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 19, 2007 08:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why do so many of you demand that folks like Kagan enlist? Why should he enlist and not you? Because you are against continuing the war or adding more troops? Do you think that any soldier or Marine who shares your view should be able to opt out of service?

Also, are you aware that not everyone has the aptitude to serve? I've never seen what Kagan looks like, but if he's as fat as you folks claim, he wouldn't even pass a the MEPS physical, let alone make the minimum requirements of the APFT. Does that mean he shouldn't be allowed to comment on military policy? Should limit debate on military policy solely to a junta of currently serving servicemen?

I'm all for commentators getting their hands dirty -- it would be great to read Greg's missives from the front (Mesopotamia Dispatch?) -- but there isn't any moral or political obligation for them to do so. Claiming there is, from the safety of your keyboard, remains a tired cheap shot which adds nothing to the discourse.

Posted by: Dave P. at January 19, 2007 08:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM:

"...pull out of Iraq, and start using America's military strength instead in the places and in the ways that it SHOULD be used to maximize our chances of winning the obviously crucial worldwide struggle against both Islamic Fascism and Megaterrorism"

Please enumerate those "places" and "ways" and especially how they would outweigh the fantastic propaganda victory for the jihadists and the enormous destructive impact on the anti-jihadist alliance of a retreat from Iraq.

Posted by: neill at January 19, 2007 08:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM:

"if we 'hope for failure of the current effort in Iraq', it's only in the sense........"

Posted by: neill at January 19, 2007 09:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All very amusing.

What is missing from the discussion is that the two prior urban clear and hold counter-insurgency operations that the US military has undertaken in Iraq - Fallujah and Tal Afar - both involved significant depopulations. In the Fallujah case it involved at least 80% of the population leaving the city and in Tal Afar it involved at least 50% of the population leaving the city. The population in both cities is still well below pre-operation levels and, more pertinently, there is still neither security nor stability in either. Given that Baghdad has a population of 6 million and is well-nigh impossible to sterilise from a media point of view, the consequences of the strategy, which I seriously doubt will really be implemented anyway, would be hideously public. I don't see any consideration of how the plan is going to deal with hundreds of thousands of displaced Baghdadis ( unless that's the point of the plan - win the war in Iraq by getting rid of as much of the population as possible ).

Whilst arguing about the surge numbers is all fine and dandy, what the discussion masks is that the surge has to come on top of an existing 130-140k deployment that is, er, unsustainable. The units that are going to surge are simply going to deploy earlier than scheduled, and the units that they were to replace are going to have their tours extended. A slew of NG contingents have already received 125 day extension orders, and this pattern is liable to continue as the year progresses.

What is further masked by the baseline occupation force level is the massive committment of personnel in the region, and linking back to the US, that provides logistical, planning and service support for the troops in theatre. This, likewise, has to be sustained. Then there is the training component, whether in the US or at bases elsewhere, which likewise has to be sustained. I don't know what the real level of committment is, but the number deployed on the ground in Iraq is only part of the story.

Posted by: dan at January 19, 2007 12:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not sure if everyone has seen these videos of the US military in Iraq or not, but they are pretty amazing: Hopefully our 'surge' will not include too many of these types...
http://minor-ripper.blogspot.com/2006/12/winning-hearts-and-minds-part-three.html

Posted by: MinorRipper at January 19, 2007 01:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Claiming there is, from the safety of your keyboard, remains a tired cheap shot which adds nothing to the discourse."

If we removed all the Republican tired cheap shots which add nothing to the discourse, it would be pretty one-sided, wouldn't it?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 19, 2007 01:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dave P.

Why do so many of you demand that folks like Kagan enlist? Why should he enlist and not you?

Kagan used to be in the military. He's in his 30s. If he happens to be overweight, he should lose the weight and put on his uniform and his gun and go be the example.

I do personally believe that if you believe in something, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for that cause. Is Kagan willing to do so?

Posted by: Dan at January 19, 2007 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dave P.:

Age-old wisdom: very easy to natter on about "hard choices" and "the right thing to do" when you don't have your own skin in the game. Very easy to be blithely incompetent if you never run into any pain from being so.

Same reason why venture capitalists want to know if the people they fund have any of their own money in the pot. If you're not willing to put your all in, then you don't really believe in it, do you?

Same thing for all the neo-cons and anyone else who claims that this whole Iraq shindig is The Most Important War since WWII. If you honestly believe it's so important, why aren't you over there fighting, turkey?

Only conclusion I can draw is either a) these people are so much bloody cowards they'd do ANYTHING to not fight, even if the US were to undergo total invasion (in which case they are a security risk and should be treated accordingly), or b) they don't really believe that this is such an important war. Take your pick.

Posted by: grumpy realist at January 19, 2007 04:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have no interest in seeing either Fred Kagan or Richard Lowry enlist in the military. Instead, I'd rather see Mr. Kagan and Mr. Lowry sign up for a basic fifth-grade mathematics class at any one of a number of public schools in this nation.

Never have I seen two individuals so inept at basic multiplication and division.

Also, I'd prefer to see Mr. Kagan and Mr. Lowry take a basic ethics course. No, not at Harvard Business. The president's former PB&J gopher currently attends Harvard Biz, and that puppy doesn't even have an undergraduate degree.

Instead, I suggest that Mr. Kagan and Mr. Lowry each select a religious institution and then simply attend a basic Friday, Saturday, or Sunday school class with the rest of the third-grade students.

Honesty, gentlemen. It will not kill you. Honesty may hamper your offshore bank account a bit, but contrary to what you learned from Adam Smith and Uncle Miltie, your integrity far out-paces your stock portfolio.

Posted by: Mark Raven at January 19, 2007 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Grumpy,
I could not agree more! If it that "critical" that we succeed in Iraq, why not implement domestic policy to match. That would include at least stopping tax cutting, massive arabic language training, some kind of a draft and ramping up civil affair units.

Until I see domestic policy to match...I see all of the Bush middle east rhetoric and actions as either incompetent or cynical.

Posted by: centrist at January 19, 2007 05:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One other thing to keep in mind, particularly if we need to go after the Badr Corps in southern Iraq, is that you should subtract 4,000 from whatever number of troops Bush sends over there. That's the number that the British are planning to reduce their force by. I suspect that, once Gordon Brown replaces Blair, that number goes up rapidly.

Posted by: J. Michael Neal at January 19, 2007 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq did not work out the way the politicians had hoped, but make no mistake, history will record the Iraq adventure a victory for the political and corporate elites in America, if not for the administration of George W. Bush. The neo-realists are now in charge and they are looking at the big picture.
The oil companies are building a huge, multi-billion dollar refinery in Kurdish Iraq. When completed, it will be in position to exploit the vast Southern oil fields—second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Shiite controlled Iraqi 'Government' is on the eve of passing legislation that will turn state-controlled oil extraction over to the big five Western petroleum conglomerates in exchange for decent royalties. Hence the permanent bases (and the world's largest U.S. Embassy at $500 billion and counting).
Our tacit approval of the ongoing destruction of the Sunnis in Baghdad indicates that Bush will go with the 80 percent solution—observe the adminisration’s muted response to the world’s outrage over the way the hangings took place. Sure, we’ll round up a few of the usual Shiia suspects from from time to time, but we will let the majority Shites consolidate power (except in Kurdistan) and hope for the best—the al-Mahdi Army is already the country’s real power base outside of Kurdistan. After the “surge”, in six months or a year, our troops will hunker down in their bases and come out only to put down any incidents that get out of hand. The plan is for the Sunnis to retreat to the barren northwest—outvoted, outgunned, and penned in. Those who won’t leave Baghdad and other dedicated Shiite areas will be pushed out, one way or another. From a power projection standpoint, under 100,000 American troops will secure the Southern oil fields for the Shiites while the refining operation, in Kurdistan or Kuwait, is run by the corporations. Everybody (almost) wins. We can also point something out to Syria and Iran: Don't mess with us or we will turn you into Iraq.
To our political elites and military/industrial folks, this is a real victory. Who suffers and who gains? It may seem crass, but the fact that a bunch of Muslims (Sunnie and otherwise) are dead, maimed, hungry, sick, or just FU does not evoke much sympathy in the US. Centrist Democrats will be tacitly behind this plan, so there is good bipartisan support for continuing, on some level, in Iraq for the long haul (cf. Hillary’s ongoing refusal to demand the troops be redeployed). The plan has some long term risk but very good potential for reward. After we return to our bases and draw down the troops to 60,000 to 80,000, Iraq will disappear from the headlines the same way Afghansistan has. Iraqi “infighting” (don’t call it civil war when 80% of the population is fighting 20%, but ethnic cleansing is quite accurate) will be downplayed, and the Sunnis marginalized. A sort of honorable “victory” will have been eked out, possibly in time for the next presidential election, but more likely early in next president’s term (which is why centrist Dems are on board).
The point is this: there is no way that the US military will be leaving Iraq in the forseeable future, so get over it. All our politicians have to do to ensure voter apathy on the subject is to make sure the casualties are reduced to 10 or 20 a month, like Afghanistan, and we can go on like this forever.
The bottom line: we pay a hundred billion or so a year in military infrastructure to secure delivery of $2.00 - $2.50/gallon gas. Messers. Bush and Cheney's adventure represents only a 1 percent “tax” on the economy. In return, the river of cheap oil keeps the machinery of our profligate country running smoothly, the environment rapidly warming, and the American people fat and happy. This is how the “neo-realists” think.

Posted by: Michael Haitch at January 19, 2007 06:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Centrist: Agree, if this war is so bloody important, why are we waging it in such a unsacrificing manner. Even in Vietnam, we had a draft and belatedly, a tax surcharge to help pay for it. Between incompetency and cynicism, I would go with the latter; though even this cynical policy has been executed pretty incompently!

Greg: So are you saying that if the Administration's latest Iraq Policy were a Corporate Filing with the SEC, it would be rejected & lead to a SEC Investigation?
(Fade to Law & Order theme)

Posted by: David All at January 19, 2007 06:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the generals quoted in the link states it best: It's not possible to win a war that's not in your interests.

Posted by: Tillman Fan at January 19, 2007 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Me: "If we 'hope for failure of the current effort in Iraq', it's only in the sense that we want this damned administration to come to its senses, pull out of Iraq, and start using America's military strength instead in the places and in the ways that it SHOULD be used to maximize our chances of winning the obviously crucial worldwide struggle against both Islamic Fascism and Megaterrorism."

Neill: "Please enumerate those 'places' and 'ways' and especially how they would outweigh the fantastic propaganda victory for the jihadists and the enormous destructive impact on the anti-jihadist alliance of a retreat from Iraq."

My pleasure, since my position on the subject is now very close to the positions of not only such noted left-wing America-haters as John Derbyshire and Andrew Sullivan, but -- as of last night -- to Charles Krauthammer's:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/18/AR2007011801509.html

Krauty has noticed the same, er, logical peculiarity in Bush's current argument that Derbyshire did:
(1) We absolutely HAVE to win in Iraq.
(2) We can't win unless al-Maliki cooperates and stops simply trying to massacre the Sunnis.
(3) If al-Maliki doesn't cooperate, we'll pull out of Iraq.

So, we need to have some credible course of action that we will follow if al-Maliki doesn't cooperate. Krauthammer, it turns out, favors our staying not only in Kurdistan (as I and Sullivan and Derbyshire and a lot of others do):

"We say to Maliki: Let us down, and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you fend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province, where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your Baghdad civil war without us. We will be around to pick up the pieces as best we can."

Whether one actually favors our staying in some places besides Kurdistan or not, however, one of the main reasons for staying in Kurdistan is exactly the one Krauthammer mentions: we need some nearby base of operations from which we can bomb the shit out of any large al-Qaida bases that start to appear in Iraq, the way they appeared in the Taliban's Afghanistan. "Staying in Anbar Province" and trying "keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area" may or may not be practical, especially since the clear evidence is that these dunderheads can bungle even a one-front war against al-Qaida and the remaining Baathites in Iraq -- but those are strategic details, which I'm not qualified to discuss. In any case, this eliminates Neill's nonsense about "the fantastic propaganda victory for the jihadists and the enormous destructive impact on the anti-jihadist alliance of a retreat from Iraq."

What else should we do with the troops, Neill? As I've said on this site only about a billion times, our top priority -- by an enormous margin -- is dealing with the threat of genuine nuclear terrorism. Even the continued existence of al-Qaida is trivial by comparison -- historians may yet end up regarding 9-11 as ironically fortunate for alerting the US to the danger of nuclear terrorism, so that the first terrorist attack on America killed "only" 3000 people instead of 300,000. Greg is a lot more skeptical about ANY military action against Iran's nuclear program than I am, but the principle is the same: the top priority use for our military, overwhelmingly, is to have the ability both to try to stop Iran's nuclear program (whether by actual military action or the credible threat of it) AND to deal with any sudden crises resulting from the fact that North Korea and Pakistan already have it. Dealing with bin Laden and his loathsome merry men, while important, comes next. Trying futilely to stop the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq comes dead last. (And I'll add that this also applies to the troops we currently have in Bosnia and Kosovo, and those that we might have used to try to stop the massacres in Sudan. We have much bigger fish to fry, before they fry us.)

Oh, and for your trying to throw my "If we hope for the failure of the current effort in Iraq..." phrase in my face: please grow up. You know, or should know, damn well that what I meant -- as pointed out by that other notorious left-wing America-hater John Cole ( http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=7807 ) -- is that we don't want the Administration to start this goddamn fool's errand in the first place: "I am willing to bet that most people who responded 'No' actually were responding that they hope Bush's plan is not implemented. I have serious doubts that half the country (including 20% of Republicans) wants us to lose the war or doesn’t know if they want us to win." Yep.

So can you please knock off the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" routine? It just makes you sound even dumber and more hysterical.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 19, 2007 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Postscript from Noam Scheiber on the same subject -- again pointing out what should be obvious:

http://www.tnr.com/blog/theplank?pid=73014

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 19, 2007 07:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Casey said if things go well the troops can start coming home in a few months - since one tactic the bad guys might wish to employ by means of foiling putative surge is to 'wait it out' don't you think it's a bit silly to be telling them to do exactly that, I mean if you're goal is to, like, kill them?

Posted by: saintsimon at January 19, 2007 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If they don't come back in 9 months or so the army's broken anyway, so Casey might as well get whatever US public opinion benefit he can from it.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 19, 2007 11:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan-

"I do personally believe that if you believe in something, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for that cause. Is Kagan willing to do so?"

The problem with using red herrings is, well, we all can...and then the debate runs in circles.

Presumably, you want to fight AIDS in Africa; presumably, you thought killing the Taliban et al in Afghanistan was worthwhile; presumably, you believe in higher eduction for inner-city youth.

Kindly list for us when you were in Africa, Afghanistan and the hood. And let us know how you sacrificed leg and limb for the cause. An absence of said information will serve as proof that youre a fraud.

I think that's the sum total of your ridiculous argument.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 20, 2007 01:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan-

"I do personally believe that if you believe in something, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for that cause. Is Kagan willing to do so?"

The problem with using red herrings is, well, we all can...and then the debate runs in circles.

Presumably, you want to fight AIDS in Africa; presumably, you thought killing the Taliban et al in Afghanistan was worthwhile; presumably, you believe in higher eduction for inner-city youth.

Kindly list for us when you were in Africa, Afghanistan and the hood. And let us know how you sacrificed leg and limb for the cause. An absence of said information will serve as proof that youre a fraud.

I think that's the sum total of your ridiculous argument.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 20, 2007 01:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan-

"I do personally believe that if you believe in something, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for that cause. Is Kagan willing to do so?"

The problem with using red herrings is, well, we all can...and then the debate runs in circles.

Presumably, you want to fight AIDS in Africa; presumably, you thought killing the Taliban et al in Afghanistan was worthwhile; presumably, you believe in higher eduction for inner-city youth.

Kindly list for us when you were in Africa, Afghanistan and the hood. And let us know how you sacrificed leg and limb for the cause. An absence of said information will serve as proof that youre a fraud.

I think that's the sum total of your ridiculous argument.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 20, 2007 01:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Apologies for post repetition. An accident.

-resh

Posted by: resh at January 20, 2007 01:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM:

"...pull out of Iraq, and start using America's military strength instead in the places and in the ways that it SHOULD be used to maximize our chances of winning the obviously crucial worldwide struggle against both Islamic Fascism and Megaterrorism."


This seems to denote that there is a significant component of this struggle that is idealogical.

How would an American withdrawal from Iraq likely influence the ideological component of the global struggle against jihadism -- given numerous predictions by jihadists of the decadent, weak nature of America? (answer A)


BM:

"What else should we do with the troops, Neill? As I've said on this site only about a billion times, our top priority -- by an enormous margin -- is dealing with the threat of genuine nuclear terrorism."

How should we USE the troops to deal with the threat of genuine nuclear terrorism -- and where? What is the metric for success? (answer B)


When one puts on A and B on a scale, which one, in all their intricacies, is heavier?

The jihadist ideology is the motivator of our enemy in this struggle. Weapons, whether nukes or ied's, are merely tools.

Will a withdrawal from Iraq, proving jihadist prediction, weaken jihadist ideology?

Or will jihadist defeat on the battlefield for all to see weaken jihadist ideology?


Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 02:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Will a withdrawal from Iraq, proving jihadist prediction, weaken jihadist ideology?"

"Or will jihadist defeat on the battlefield for all to see weaken jihadist ideology?"

Good question!

The answer is, evidence that the jihadists are wrong will weaken jihadist ideology. Evidence that jihadists are necessary will strengthen it.

So, if islamic scholars have a big discussion about the meaning of islam, and they reach a consensus that killing the innocent is not compatible with islam, that will do more than anything else could to prevent muslim jihadists from exploding a nuke in a US city.

But a bloody defeat complete with atrocities will strengthen the jihadis.

A lot llike us. If we thought it was vitally important to win in iraq, we'd be pushing to strengthen the military until we could win. We'd want a draft, and we'd want to set up a giant training program to teach arabic to the mass of our troops, and we'd collect the taxes to pay for it all. Impending defeat would stiffen our resolve.

But when we don't see the need -- when the WMDs were never there and Saddam is gone and the iraqis already have as much democracy as the US army can give them, we don't have the will to draft soldiers.

How about you? Are you campaigning for a draft? You aren't serious about winning unless you do.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 20, 2007 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

' "Will a withdrawal from Iraq, proving jihadist prediction, weaken jihadist ideology?"

"Or will jihadist defeat on the battlefield for all to see weaken jihadist ideology?"

Good question!

The answer is, evidence that the jihadists are wrong will weaken jihadist ideology. Evidence that jihadists are necessary will strengthen it. '

You can learn these important skills and MORE in.....How Not To Answer A Question 101.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 06:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jihadis love death.

liberals love defeat.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 06:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

given JT's skittishness perhaps there is a genuine national security threat in even addressing such subversive questions:

Will a withdrawal from Iraq, supporting jihadist prediction, weaken jihadist ideology?

Or will jihadist defeat on the battlefield, for all to see, weaken jihadist ideology?

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 06:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, Neill I'll try to spell it out in small words this time for you.

Jihadis currently are a tiny percentage of muslims. They get stronger by recruting more people, and weaker when fewer people want to be recruited.

If we withdraw from iraq and a lot of muslims decide we don't look like as much of a threat as we did before, that weakens jihadis. Fewer people who think of us as a great big threat hurts them. On the other hand if we look weakened but still very dangerous that might strengthen them.

If we defeat jihadis on the battlefield (hard to do since they try to avoid battlefields after losing so decisively there before) and that makes us look like a big threat, that strengthens jihadis. But if jihadis don't look like they're actually fighting for anything worthwhile and we defeat them, that weakens them a lot.

So the big thing for us to do to weaken jihadis is not to look like a serious threat to islam. We strengthen them by making headlines about how we're in a long war to beat islamofascism. We strengthen them by providing quotes about how important we think it is for them not to follow sharia law. We strengthen them by dropping bombs on civilians etc. We strengthen them by providing stories about sexual torture for interrogations.

We weaken them by providing reconstruction and good treatment for iraqi civilians, and by respecting their customs wherever we have bases in their countries, and by generally respecting their religion etc.

Those things are more important at this stage than winning and losing battles. At this point it's a question of their resolve. Most of them haven't particularly chosen sides yet, and they'll choose sides partly on how much of a threat we look like to them. If the time comes that we're fighting a billion or so muslims, then when we win or lose in one theatre that results in 200,000 muslims either being free to fight as they choose or else they're subject to our occupation or extermination and unavailable for the war effort, at that point the battles themselves will be the important thing.

HTH.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 20, 2007 10:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT:

"If we withdraw from iraq and a lot of muslims decide we don't look like as much of a threat as we did before, that weakens jihadis."

(I completely disagree. The jihadis will have 'defeated the 'Great Satan', it will be a historic victory for jihadism. It will be clear to all that Allah smiles on them. bin Laden was right after all)

"Fewer (non-combatant?) people who think of us as a great big threat hurts them."

(I suppose that's right.)

"On the other hand if we look weakened but still very dangerous that might strengthen them."

(rather fuzzy, not sure who is being referred to here.)

"So the big thing for us to do to weaken jihadis is not to look like a serious threat to islam. "

(What do you mean by 'a serious threat to Islam'? The folks who attack the young regime and fellow innocents think democracy is 'a threat to Islam', or them, or both. If these same folks are largely taken out of the picture, what are we left with? and who then sees us as a threat?)

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 02:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan,
The Neocons are sacrificing.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

Bush's answer to Jim Lehrer. I don't recall actually ever seeing "terrible images" on Fox but I seldom watch it.

Posted by: Russ at January 20, 2007 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT:

"Most of them haven't particularly chosen sides yet, and they'll choose sides partly on how much of a threat we look like to them. If the time comes that we're fighting a billion or so muslims, then when we win or lose in one theatre that results in 200,000 muslims...."

They'll choose sides based on who's likely to win.

If it comes to fighting 1 billion muslims, we're dead meat. As it is, relative muslim vs non-muslim birth rates of our (soon-to-be-non-) allies are horrifiying.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT:

"Most of them haven't particularly chosen sides yet, and they'll choose sides partly on how much of a threat we look like to them. If the time comes that we're fighting a billion or so muslims, then when we win or lose in one theatre that results in 200,000 muslims...."

They'll choose sides based on who's likely to win.

If it comes to fighting 1 billion muslims, we're dead meat. As it is, relative muslim vs non-muslim birth rates of our (soon-to-be-non-) allies are horrifiying.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To add one more element to J. Thomas' points, that's why there are so few jihadists in the US. For the most part, Muslims are permitted to integrate into US society as much as they want to. Aside from the wingnuts like Virgil Goode, the rights of Muslims are respected. And so there are very few Americans involved with that movement, because they do not feel threatened.

Even in a time of profiling in airports (which doesn't work), when paranoid people do things like get them thrown off of a flight, they turn around and proclaim that they are Americans with the right to pray and travel, both.

Somebody (digby?) recently commented that the heart of the current conservative movement is fear. Fear of brown people. Fear of gay people. Fear of marijuana. That's what neil is mainlining--groundless fear--to advocate horrific policy that makes things worse.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 20, 2007 05:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If it comes to fighting 1 billion muslims, we're dead meat.

When we really decide that this is a life or death struggle, and are morally prepared to pull the trigger, we could exterminate a large chunk of the muslim population in about 30 minutes.

Even if all 1 billion muslims were to join the jihad (which they won't), they lack our power projection capability. The argument that Iraq is the only thing keeping them from marching down Main Street to forcibly convert/kill us is laughable.

Posted by: xyz at January 20, 2007 05:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill,

The point is that the US is not fighting jihadists in Iraq. The US is fighting an insurgency directed at an imperial invasion by a foreign power. In Afghanistan, the US was fighting a government that was in fealty to foreign jihadists. When that government fell, the jihadists went away to the mountains on the Pakistani border.

In Iraq, one side (of the three major sides) is despised by the jihadists. The US is providing the Sunni jihadists with a tremendous propaganda tool by 1) attacking Muslims and 2) creating a Shiite state where there used to be a Sunni state.

Yes, it's true that when the US withdraws bin Laden will announce that the Crusader (not the Great Satan--that's an Iranian label) has been defeated by pious martyrs. That doesn't change the fact that the US does not have the will to conduct this imperial occupation. That's doesn't change the fact that the president's latest feeble attempt to salvage something out of this disaster isn't going to work. The measures that would have worked--following the Powell doctrine, stating the objectives honestly and resourcing the 10-20 year nation-building project--would have been laughed out of the room.

This is the ultimate in underwear gnome policymaking. There are a few hundred spineless legislators who are should burn in hell. The constitution was devised to prevent just this kind of madness.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 20, 2007 06:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill 3:46 pm: "They'll choose sides based on who's likely to win."

I'm a newbie here, but don't religious fanatics choose sides based on their religious indoctrination, not based on an unemotional calculation of win/loss?

I don't follow your argument, neill.

And do you agree or disagree with Djerejian's post today that the "surge" is militarily insufficient to "win"? Why?

Posted by: sfHeath at January 20, 2007 06:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, jihadists have essentially no hope of "winning" without getting the mass of the muslim public behind them.

In iraq they're losing something like 30 to 1 in terms of kill ratios -- jihadist versus US troops. This is not exactly "winning". It certainly isn't the kind of winning that gets people all excited to go do more of it after the original goal ia achieved.

You assert that muslims will go with whoever looks like they're winning, independent of who they think is right. That's a stand that's far more appropriate for atheists. People who follow a religion tend to go with what the religion says is right. And islam does not hold with slaughtering the innocent. We can get them to disregard that by slaughtering lots of innocent muslims -- then they'll have the choice between supporting jihadists who do wrong but are on their side, versus letting us do evil to them. But we don't have to give them that choice.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 20, 2007 06:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The argument that Iraq is the only thing keeping them from marching down Main Street to forcibly convert/kill us is laughable."

I could not agee more... neill and his ilk on Fox/Linbaugh spouting at length about "well they have not got us since we invaded Iraq" tripe, with the great uniformed masses nodding in agreement. The next two largest members of the "coalition of the willing" have been hit and hit hard with numerous attempts at large scale terror. The UK and Spain were not "saved" by invading Iraq...but we were?

Posted by: centrist at January 20, 2007 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jack:

"The point is that the US is not fighting jihadists in Iraq. The US is fighting an insurgency directed at an imperial invasion by a foreign power."

(not A but B)

"In Iraq, one side (of the three major sides) is despised by the jihadists."

(actually A and B and C)

"Yes, it's true that when the US withdraws bin Laden will announce that the Crusader (not the Great Satan--that's an Iranian label) has been defeated by pious martyrs. That doesn't change the fact that the US does not have the will to conduct this imperial occupation."

(I'm afraid you're right. Which, along with allied demographic trends, doesn't augur well for the future of the West. We all know where there IS a deep reservoir of willpower.)

"The measures that would have worked--following the Powell doctrine, stating the objectives honestly and resourcing the 10-20 year nation-building project--would have been laughed out of the room."

(Because such a policy couldn't be sold.)

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 06:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sfheath:

"neill 3:46 pm: "They'll choose sides based on who's likely to win."

I'm a newbie here, but don't religious fanatics choose sides based on their religious indoctrination, not based on an unemotional calculation of win/loss?

I don't follow your argument, neill.

And do you agree or disagree with Djerejian's post today that the "surge" is militarily insufficient to "win"? Why? "

the 'choosing sides' was referring to the iraqi public in particular and down the line the muslim world.

as to whether the envisaged force and, more importantly, the plan is sufficient, I have no idea. I find all the 'informed' posturing on this question quite amusing.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT:

"...jihadists have essentially no hope of "winning" without getting the mass of the muslim public behind them.

In iraq they're losing something like 30 to 1 in terms of kill ratios -- jihadist versus US troops. This is not exactly "winning". It certainly isn't the kind of winning that gets people all excited to go do more of it after the original goal ia achieved."

the jihadist battlefield is the American/Western mind, their weapon is blood on American/Western TV screens. we are completely unarmed for the fight on this battlefield. infact, we act as bearer-of-arms for the enemy in this regard.

their goal, their victory, is to get us to quit and go home. kill ratios are irrelevant in their war.

we are not their only enemy. they are also battling moderates for the heart and mind of the muslim world. the ultimate battlefield for them.


Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill: "The 'choosing sides' was referring to the iraqi public in particular and down the line the muslim world"

Haven't I read that something like 60-70% of iraqis now support attacks on U.S. troops? I think in the pro-U.S./anti-U.S. aspect, the choice has been made.

And now it sounds like you're talking about iraqi insurgency instead of al qaeda-style "jihadists" that you mentioned in your previous comments. which is it?

Posted by: sfHeath at January 20, 2007 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think a generalized choice, or tipping-point, has been reached.

since the blowing up of the golden dome, violence in Iraq is much more synergized. the current force movement is an attempt to reverse that, to pacify Bhagdad and give more breathing room to the government and the army in order to mature and be able to extend their control.

If we leave now, the government will fall, replaced by ......?

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 07:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill: "If we leave now, the government will fall, replaced by ......?"

Have you been listening to anybody besides President Bush? There are plenty of ideas about how to salvage Iraq, starting with the Iraq Study Group - I won't endorse any of the plans, but they seem to have a more reasonable chance of stablizing the country and the government than this ridiculously under-resourced "surge" plan that GWB is running with.

I'm tearing my hair out worrying about all of our soldiers being put in harm's way because of a "plan" that almost all commenators say is guaranteed to fail.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 20, 2007 07:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


neill:

'They'll choose sides based on who's likely to win.'

There's some old-fashioned colonialist racism. We're brave and noble and fight for what is right, while the wogs are cowards who 'respect force'.

It's self-flattering for Westerners to think our domination of the world has been based on such 'intrinsic' differences, rather than on a technical superiority that is likely to be quite fleeting in the long run of history. In a way it's already over. The age of the Maxim gun has long passed, and we live in the age of the AK-47 and the IED.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 20, 2007 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DT,

You made my point better than I ever could have.

SFHeath, glad there were no 'commentators' 'commenting' on Washington's unlikely plan, after being kicked round all summer, to cross the Potomac at night to ambush a much larger British force. In that case, we wouldn't be having this exchnge.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 08:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I won't endorse any of the plans, but they seem to have a more reasonable chance of stablizing the country and the government than this ridiculously under-resourced "surge" plan that GWB is running with."

Based on what? Tell me why Bush's "unreasonable" plan won't work in exquisite detail.

The ISG was DOA -- by all accounts.

Negotiations that offer a reasonable chance of splitting Syria off from Iran should be considered, I think.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Yes, it's true that when the US withdraws bin Laden will announce that the Crusader (not the Great Satan--that's an Iranian label) has been defeated by pious martyrs. That doesn't change the fact that the US does not have the will to conduct this imperial occupation."

(I'm afraid you're right. Which, along with allied demographic trends, doesn't augur well for the future of the West. We all know where there IS a deep reservoir of willpower.)

"The measures that would have worked--following the Powell doctrine, stating the objectives honestly and resourcing the 10-20 year nation-building project--would have been laughed out of the room."

(Because such a policy couldn't be sold.)

I did not follow the ABC business. On the first point, it augurs fine for the West. There was no reason to pick this fight. The quicker the US gets out, and starts engaging in the methods that work--diplomacy, international institutions, less bellicoseness, talking to enemies--the quicker things will get better.

Al qaeda is not the difficult problem. The difficult problems are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sinai peninsula.

On your second point, I'm glad we agree. Do you not also agree that an invasion and occupation that would not have the support of the American people should not have been initiated? That it was a terribly misbegotten decision to launch this war with inadequate numbers of troops, no clear objective and no exit strategy?

And I have to say that I find this deep-seated fear of what the brown people will do America kinda bizarre. Have you been to Egypt, to Africa?

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 20, 2007 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the abc business is about your points contradicting each other.

as to the merits of diplomacy with jihadists and those who encourage the return of the 12th imam, I think you delude yourself.

the majority of the american people supported the launch of the war. unfortunately the majority doesn't get that if your enemy doesn't have an exit strategy neither should you.

as to the emerging influence (and propportion) of muslim populations, what do you think the favorite male baby name in Belgium, and much of Europe, is?

Muhammed.

Posted by: neill at January 20, 2007 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill: "Tell me why Bush's 'unreasonable' plan won't work in exquisite detail."

I will refer you to THE BLOG WE ARE COMMENTING ON for a much more exquisitely detailed response to your request than you'll find anywhere else. You're starting to look like a real troll.

"In that case we wouldn't be having this discussion."

I would guess that there are some differences between Washington's ambush and Bush's "surge". I'm no military historian, but I bet that the element of surprise was one.

"as to the merits of diplomacy with jihadists"

Your casual identification of islamic peoples with jihadists shows again your own assumption that islam breeds jihad. I'd like you to get back to justifying the position that America changing strategies in iraq would lead to a worldwide upsurge in jihad, which I don't think you completed.

I have to go now. Work calls.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 20, 2007 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well done, Mr. Djerejian. Being led by a group of inexperienced, rich kids, who don't know how to deal with mistakes is taking a costly toll on our nation. Demonstrating their flawed attempts to fix a mistake once again by compounding the error is useful. My hope is to limit the damage they do until the end of George W's term and repairing the damage they have done can begin.
Then these people can be marginalized to the fanatical fringe where they belong, trials for their lawbreaking can begin and our country can refocus it's resources on solutions that really work. Until then, this dark time for our country continues. Like children who don't understand the meaning of the word "no," these people of privilege are emotional cripples, experts at capturing the oppourtunity of leading but cannot lead.
Denying your failures and fixing problems with money may work in their personal lives but in a position of responsibility this lack of maturity is disasterous. Their power fading, this is when they become most dangerous and all we can do right now is try to prevent ourselves from falling with them into the abyss. These next 2 years will be the most dangerous of our time.

Posted by: markw at January 20, 2007 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, you have given us a collection of misleading assumptions and you have not defended any of them.

You make a big deal about muslim birthrates. What solution do you suggest for that?

We could nuke them and reduce their population. Is that your solution?

We could occupy them and sterilize them, or maybe give them Norplants etc and let the best collaborators have children as a reward. Is that it?

We could get US women to do what it takes to raise the christian US birthrate to muslim levels. We might start by making abortion and contraception illegal, and we heavily subsidise children of citizens -- say free food, free healthcare, free schools, and a generous welfare allowance per child, to every woman who has children. Maybe tax women who somehow delay their pregnancies.... Is that your plan?

OK, in the very short run, what about this surge plan? The difference between a surge and an escalation is that after the surge we withdraw a bunch of soldiers. We have to do that regardless because we're over-extended, we don't have sufficient troops available. Do you think the iraqi army will be ready to take up the slack when we partly pull out? Our military people mostly don't. The obvious solution is to start training a lot of new soldiers right now, so they'll be ready when the surge ends. Even if we don't need them in iraq, we'll need them in afghanistan or iran or wherever. It isn't like they'd be wasted. So why aren't you telling us we need a draft?

If we're in a significant long-term war with muslims, why aren't we training lots of soldiers in arabic? We're going to need arabic speakers. Even though a lot of muslims speak other languages like Pushtu or tagalog or english, still they're supposed to learn arabic. Arabic would help a whole lot. But we mostly aren't doing it. Why aren't you telling us how important it is to teach arabic in the public schools to as many young people as we can? It's unnecessarily bloody to fight wars with people we can't talk to. But my daughter's school is switching to chinese, not arabic.

In all ways, you are failing to follow the obvious consequences of your claimed beliefs. You are not taking the war seriously.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 20, 2007 10:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"You make a big deal about muslim birthrates. What solution do you suggest for that?"

There is no solution, especially in a Europe with 3 babies per muslim family compared to 1 baby per non-muslim family. If muslims are at 30% of Europe now, with that relative birthrate they'll probably be close to 50% by 2020 or so.

Numbers like I'm talking about make a huge difference come election-time. When it comes to alliances shifting, this is going to make a big difference.

America's birthrate is about double that of non-muslim Europeans, and we are much more successful at assimilating our minorities. But potentially we face a lonelier future as a democracy.

p.s. you're right that we need to expand the size of the military, and I hope they're learning arabic.

Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 12:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, according to the Mudville Gazette, the "surge" is sort of a figment of staffing and scheduling, and doesn't really exist as a separate, newly-formed tactic at all - at least not the numbers currently being discussed.

Posted by: Bill Quick at January 21, 2007 01:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

as to the merits of diplomacy with jihadists and those who encourage the return of the 12th imam, I think you delude yourself.

So you would, what, kill all the Shiites? Would you follow up with the Christians who are banking on the apocalypse?

the majority of the american people supported the launch of the war. unfortunately the majority doesn't get that if your enemy doesn't have an exit strategy neither should you.

Yeah. They gave the president the benefit of the doubt when he said, in the strongest possible terms, that the US was in danger from Iraq.

He lied. And they don't believe him anymore. Can you name anything more repellent in our history than this?


as to the emerging influence (and propportion) of muslim populations, what do you think the favorite male baby name in Belgium, and much of Europe, is?

Muhammed.

And your point is? All Muslims are terrorists and should be killed at birth? I live three blocks from a mosque. Up until a couple of months ago, I got my daily paper at a Yemeni bodega. Why do you hate America? Why do you hate our freedoms? Why do you want to undermine our constitution?

I know the answer, of course. Racist paranoia.

We're past that Neill. There's room in this country for a Muslim Congressman. And that's also, just by the way, how we have and wil continue to stop extremism and terrorism. With tolerance and a celebration of diversity.

You gotta have It's A Wonderful Life in your holiday DVD collection. Fast forward to the part where Barrymore talks about "garlic eaters" and reflect.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 21, 2007 02:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Greg, according to the Mudville Gazette, the "surge" is sort of a figment of staffing and scheduling . . .

All it actually says is 'no units are going to Iraq that weren’t already planning on going'.

It's always been obvious that the 'surge' would be primarily a matter of accelerating planned deployments and extending existing ones. I don't know if MG is correct to say that it will be exclusively so, but it wouldn't surprise me.

and doesn't really exist as a separate, newly-formed tactic at all

I have no idea what this means.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 21, 2007 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jack,

Gaddafi:

"There resigns that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million muslims of Europe will turn it into muslim continent within a few decades."

American withdrawal from Iraq will further radicalize the muslim world.


follow events in Europe.

Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

heath,

Please, YOU tell me why Bush's 'unreasonable' plan won't work in exquisite detail.

Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 05:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack:

"I live three blocks from a mosque."

A lot of people lived three blocks from a mosque -- a particular one in Frankfurt, Germany on 09-10-11.

What did that proximity impart to them exactly?

Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 05:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I would guess that there are some differences between Washington's ambush and Bush's "surge". I'm no military historian, but I bet that the element of surprise was one."

Nice dodge, heath.

My point was directed at your contention that 'commentators' nearly universally pre-condemn the change in strategy as a failure.

Regardless of actual strategy, had similar 'commentators' had their SAY about Washington's risky strategy, they likely would have pre-condemned it as a failure. And quite possibly stifled it in its cradle.

And the key turn-around orchestrated by Washington in the Revolutionary War would never have happened.

Nor would what we know as America.

Nor would the world as influenced by America.

If not for that one gamble, taken by a desperate but committed general, everything we know would not exist.

So Bush will lead, as he was elected to do.

Lincoln was possibly even more reviled in his time. But lead he did, until he was ended by an assassin's bullet. And, thank god, it turned out as something we are now proud of in our American march.

But the general perception then was altogether different.


Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 07:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank you, neill. You've shown to me that it is a mistake to include emotional color and perspective in my posts. You've been hammering away at this remark I made about my own fear in reading all this commentary, and twisting it to suggest that I think the CiC should take orders from them. Though I'm more scared than I have been since the threat of superpower nuclear holocaust in the 80's, the observation is irrelevant and I withdraw it. So can we drop the time travel fantasy what-ifs? We'll have to agree to disagree that Bush's Iraq fiasco is comparable in any way to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. So how about responding to my actual point and not ignoring it any more?

You had said that "If we leave now, the government will fall, replaced by ......?" and I wanted to show you that is a false choice. I think it's videogame analysis. Despite Bush's assertions, people have been coming up with reasonable plans for years. Not all of them can be equated with your statement. I agree, the "surge" is an attempt to reverse the sectarian violence, but it's not the only option. It's just the one that worsens troop morale by extending war zone service, rushing deployment, and committing them to daily battle. That's why I'm against it.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 21, 2007 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

neill: "Please, YOU tell me why Bush's 'unreasonable' plan won't work in exquisite detail."

I don't get this demand. Is all this some kind of verbal pro wrestling for you? Are you looking for an opening to lay the smackdown? Or are you interested in reasoned debate? I said I agreed with Djerejian's post and I don't know why you need me to rephrase it.

I will explain my use of the word "unreasonable" though. I think it's unreasonable, in the literal sense, for Bush to think "What I've been doing for the last four years really hasn't worked. I must need to do the same stuff even more." That is unreasonable planning.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 21, 2007 06:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, the burden of proof is on you to show that Bush's plan is absolutely guaranteed to succeed.

Your position has been that the result of failure is so bad we can't possibly accept it.

So, suppose that Bush's current plan has a 50% chance to succeed. Or even 70%. Is that good enough? No. that' accepting a 30% chance of an unacceptable outcome.

After this surge is over the army will be worn out to the point we have to have a sharp reduction in troop levels. We're betting the war that we won't need many troops in iraq after that. Is that OK? Clearly not.

If the war in iraq is so important, if it's vital to win, then we need to triple the size of the army within a year. We have to start right now or the troops won't be trained.

Why aren't you calling for a draft, right now? Unless you demand a draft starting now, you aren't serious about supporting the war. You just want to gamble that the current half-assed measures might work.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 21, 2007 06:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I shouldn't have said that I agreed with Djerejian's post. It's more accurate to say that the post convinced me. Since it doesn't convince you, show me where and we'll debate it.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 21, 2007 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT, yer a hoot....

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 02:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

heath,

greg doesn't like kagan's plan, I get that.

is it petraeus' plan exactly? does it take into account use of the best iraqi troops? does it tke into account new, genuine, commitment from Maliki et al?

not so sure.

is greg's take kinda like reacting to shadows shifting on a cave wall?

kinda.

it just doesn't seem like the best investment of energy to me.

what would our host LIKE to do? if it's stabilizing iraq mainly by talking to Achm....jd or Assad, I've got a stiff, not THAT decomposed corpse resembling the former Monsieur Arafat who may well have a higher level of commitment to stability in the region.

I know I'm being told not to buy the somewhat weathered doggy in the window (scratching at fleas), but when I look to the next window, I see.....nothing.

I reach for my wallet. I am going to buy.

Question is what.


Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 05:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, call for a draft or admit that you want a half-assed attempt at victory and a likely defeat.

You have given no sign that you're serious about avoiding defeat.

Call for a draft or else surrender.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 22, 2007 05:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JT, you got me. I'll follow your advice.

I'll embrace defeat.

I'll surrender to surrender.

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 06:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, I'm disappointed in you.

You do want victory, don't you? Don't you want to support the troops? Don't you want to stop the islamofascist menace?

Call for the draft. We aren't going to win in iraq without one. Not likely. And you do think the result of losing is unacceptable, don't you?

Call for a draft.

If we're going to lose then we should cut our losses and shore up our defenses elsewhere. Our losses are bigger if we put it off.

But if we can win with more troops, surely you think we ought to. Demand a draft if you intend to win.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 22, 2007 12:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry I was away for so long. Work kept me busy, and Neill really got me thinking about what I thought was best for Iraq. What is success? What is keeping us from achieving it? I know this essay doesn't directly answer your questions, Neill, but I offer it for consideration.

My ideas are in significant part informed by the excerpts I've read of the book "Imperial Life Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

Security without reconstruction will never hold. If the U.S. and Iraqi forces were to succeed in providing "security" in Baghdad, but unemployment was still near universal and working electricity was still rare; if fresh food and water were still unreliable; if there were still no openings for Iraq to create its own supply lines -- Then the insurgency would re-build from scratch. The sectarian violence would escalate. The terrorist entrenchment would be masked by the continuing chaos. The only way to truly end the threat of all three enemy sources of violence is through reconstruction, not military action.

Three years ago, if Reconstruction had been handled intelligently and successfully, the insurgency would have withered; sectarian violence would be far less widespread and deadly; and we would have the military resources and opportunity to wipe out the Al Qaeda blossoming in Anbar province. Instead, fueled by pipe dreams of being hailed as liberators, and bungled by Bremer's team of inexperienced partisan flunkies, the reconstruction failed to provide even basic services to the country, and many Iraqis (understandably with even less patience than the American public) found the situation intolerable. They took up arms against the obvious enemy - the foreign army building permanent bases in their country - and became insurgents.

If America were to withdraw 100% tomorrow, disappearing from Iraq entirely, there would be no more insurgency. And I don't know of any evidence, nor does it make any sense to me, that the insurgents are also all sectarian death squads and international terrorist cells. It makes more sense that those who had the main goal of kicking out the U.S. would proceed to defend their country against other threats - Iran, Al Qaeda, etc. Attacking the insurgency is, in the long run, counter-productive; all you can do is defend against it until Reconstruction is complete and you can leave.

The sectarian violence seems, to me, analogous to the gang problem or racist violence in the U.S. The absence of gainful pursuits due to unemployment and the opportunity given by lack of police protection provides the opening for prejudicial hatred to be enacted and reciprocated. If people weren't so powerless on the national level, they wouldn't take their anger out on the targets of their bigotry.

And finally, terrorist cells are enabled by support of the population and chaos in the country. After all, as we now know, there was ZERO Al Qaeda presence or influence in Hussein's Iraq. But until a) Iraq is stabilized, b) U.S. presence is no longer an irritant, and c) the people on the street are against them, the terrorist threat cannot really be addressed. Once those are all accomplished, America can really return to what should be its primary goal - fighting terrorism.

This is what success in Iraq looks like to me. The only way to achieve it is to complete Reconstruction. We squandered our opportunity to do it ourselves. Iraqis need utilities they can count on and a productive, exporting economy. We don't have the resources to create that anymore, in the current hyperviolent reality of Iraq.

This why Bush's "surge" is just a surge of meat to the grinder. It perpetuates violence instead of removing its cause, and increased chaos and violence in Iraq is what failure looks like to me.

The only way to make success happen is through diplomacy, and that's why it doesn't even occur to Bush. Because America would have to admit, officially and to the entire world, that invading Iraq was a horrible mistake. Because we would need an incredible amount of military support from other countries to create an overwhelming defensive force in protection of the industries and utilities. Because the western conservative ideology would have to be abandoned in Iraq for five to ten years in favor of state-run industries. And articulating clearly and specifically what "victory" looks like in Iraq is something that Bush has been completely unable to do.

Posted by: sfHeath at January 23, 2007 01:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

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


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