January 26, 2005

Why Continued Optimism on Iraq?

The reaction to intransigent Sunni brutality and the relative Shiite quiet must not tempt us into identifying Iraqi legitimacy with unchecked Shiite rule. The American experience with Shiite theocracy in Iran since 1979 does not inspire confidence in our ability to forecast Shiite evolution or the prospects of a Shiite-dominated bloc extending to the Mediterranean. A thoughtful American policy will not mortgage itself to one side in a religious conflict fervently conducted for 1,000 years.

The Constituent Assembly emerging from the elections will be sovereign to some extent. But the United States' continuing leverage should be focused on four key objectives: (1) to prevent any group from using the political process to establish the kind of dominance previously enjoyed by the Sunnis; (2) to prevent any areas from slipping into Taliban conditions as havens and recruitment centers for terrorists; (3) to keep Shiite government from turning into a theocracy, Iranian or indigenous; (4) to leave scope for regional autonomy within the Iraqi democratic process.

The United States has every interest in conducting a dialogue with all parties to encourage the emergence of a secular leadership of nationalists and regional representatives. The outcome of constitution-building should be a federation, with an emphasis on regional autonomy. Any group pushing its claims beyond these limits should be brought to understand the consequences of a breakup of the Iraqi state into its constituent elements, including an Iranian-dominated south, an Islamist-Hussein Sunni center and invasion of the Kurdish region by its neighbors.

A calibrated American policy would seek to split that part of the Sunni community eager to conduct a normal life from the part that is fighting to reestablish Sunni control. The United States needs to continue building an Iraqi army, which, under conditions of Sunni insurrection, will be increasingly composed of Shiite recruits -- producing an unwinnable situation for the Sunni rejectionists. But it should not cross the line into replacing Sunni dictatorship with Shiite theocracy. It is a fine line, but the success of Iraq policy may depend on the ability to walk it.

Henry Kissinger & George Schultz, writing in the WaPo.

A few quick points. I wholeheartedly agree that we must not allow relative Shi'a quiet (or quietism) in Iraq to, rather fancifully, have us breathlessly cheerleading some grand era of friendly Shi'a reawakening through the Middle East as necessarily a positive for the U.S. national interest. That said, I find the talk of some Shi'a bloc extending towards the shores of the Med rather hyperbolic (Iran to Baghdad to Alawite Damascus (Allawites considered Shi'a friendly as both sects are worried about Sunni majoritarianism) and so (via Syria's domination of Lebanon) extending onwards to Beirut's southern slums. But the bottom line is as Kissinger and Schultz state: we shouldn't put our chips wholly on either side of the Shi'a or Sunni divide (some observers seem, because of their disquiet with the Sunni in Iraq, to be getting a bit carried away about how cozy and swimmingly all would be should the Shi'a get to flex all the muscle). Note, thankfully, Negroponte and Co. are not going down this foolhardy road. Wisely, we appear to be ensuring there is real Sunni political muscle at play post Jan 30th.

I'd also like to echo Kissinger and Schultz's prioritization of the four issues they list re: the U.S. exerting its leverage post elections. It's indeed critical to stave off the perils of a crude Shi'a majoritarianism (whether theocratic, indigenous, or Iranian-backed); to ensure no Taliban-like zones of operation a la Fallujah take root again; to prevent any one political grouping from amassing a Baathist-style monopoly on power; and, finally--to ensure some 'breathing space' via regional autonomy arrangements and the like--so as to maximize the chances of a unitary polity remaining extant.

Why do I remain, despite it all, quite optimistic about Iraq? Because, truth be told, I still think the "silent majority" (stifle your laughter skeptics!) of Sunnis are in our camp. Put differently, I think that there are more Sunnis who are interested in modernization stemming from reconstruction and secure conditions than those who are dedicated to Baathist restorationist projects, or jihadist tenets, or terror tactics aimed at scuttling a democratic exercise. How about the Shi'a front? I think many Iraqi Shi'a don't want to see Sadr like theocratic encroachments within political governance structures, or Persian Shi'a overly influencing the going-ons in a predominately Arab Shi'a country. And in the North? Because the Kurds know that independence will, in all likelihood, lead to a Turkish intervention in Kurdistan. What do I mean by all this? That each main Iraqi faction understands that a full-blown anti-American posture, or relatedly, the lure of radical and/or maximalist positions--such postures would in all likelihood backfire on the ultimate interests of each of their respective communities. Which is why I think, despite the hard, difficult story of this difficult occupation to date--that we are still on the right course with better than even odds of prevailing.

I'm not alone:

I remain--optimistic may not be right word for it--but it seems to me the strategic architecture or maybe geography of Iraq continues to favor the United States' purposes there. That is to say, it's rather clear that a very large majority of Iraqis would like to go down the path the United States would like them to go down. The Shiite clergy, in particular, remain committed to, essentially, the kind of program we wish reformers would adopt for Iran, which is to say a republic profoundly influenced by the Muslim faith of the overwhelming majority in Iraq, but one in which clerics do not assert dictatorial power over decisions made by voters.

It's interesting that the violence by [terrorist leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi and other insurgents is looking less and less like political violence and more and more like terrorism aimed at preventing the majority from voting. This latest statement from Zarqawi, if it's authentic, in denouncing democracy as inherently opposed to Islam, is very much a minority position within Islam.

So there is a real sense, I think, in which the United States is with the tides of history. Maybe we haven't been swimming very elegantly with those tides, but the current is moving things in our direction. I think that continuing to hold steady, working intensively, and seeking new and more creative and effective ways to help the new emerging Iraqi state develop security forces--so that it can ultimately be the guarantor of its own security--is a very doable policy at this point. I think we should probably stop reading the news every day as if, every time a bomb goes off in Iraq, somehow it's a defeat for the United States. That's not actually what's happening. [emphasis added]

I think that's about right.

A cautionary note, and then I'll stop for tonight. Note this snippet from the Kissinger/Schultz oped:

An exit strategy based on performance, not artificial time limits, will judge progress by the ability to produce positive answers to these questions. In the immediate future, a significant portion of the anti-insurrection effort will have to be carried out by the United States. A premature shift from combat operations to training missions might create a gap that permits the insurrection to rally its potential. But as Iraqi forces increase in number and capability, and as the political construction proceeds after the election, a realistic exit strategy will emerge. [emphasis added]

I don't want us to get too carried away by 'train and equip' as the short-term exit and panacea (though it likely is the mid-term one). There is still much hard work to be done in beating back the insurgents. And by us--not by too hastily trained Iraqi forces. Also, check out this quite alarming data. Remember your 6 P's in all of this. Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. We can't rush this 'train and equipping' effort. If we do, trust me, it will backfire on us big time. Snippets from the CFR Q&A--but be sure to read the whole thing:

Is it possible to measure the level of infiltration?

Not with precision, experts say. Last October, Aqil al-Saffar, as aide to interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said that as many as 5 percent of the Iraqi government’s troops were insurgents or sympathizers, The New York Times reported. Some experts suggest the number may be higher. “Penetration of Iraqi security and military forces may be the rule, not the exception,” Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Security International Studies, said in a January report. Some U.S. commanders agree. “The police and military forces all have insurgents in them. You don’t have a pure force,” Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Sinclair of the 1st Infantry Division told the Associated Press. However, focusing on the size of the infiltration misses the point, Gavrilis says. “I don’t think the [overall] level of penetration is as much as most people think it is, because you don’t really need a lot to do a lot of damage.”

How do insurgents make it into the forces?

All recruits are vetted. It’s the “first line of defense,” Trainor says. But many experts say the vetting of new Iraqi forces has been inadequate and rushed. Many files on individuals from Saddam Hussein’s regime are scattered, destroyed, or contain unverifiable or outdated information of limited use to current commanders. Iraqis lack sufficient personnel to conduct in-depth background checks on the thousands of new soldiers and police officers who join security forces each month. “This is part of the downside of the fact that the most important goal has been to create as large a force as possible as quickly as possible,” says retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international affairs at Boston University.

How can vetting be improved?

By slowing the hiring process and increasing the length of training of forces, many experts say. Observing the police and soldiers at work—and whether they are willing to risk their lives in combat situations—is perhaps the clearest way to test recruits’ loyalty, Gavrilis says. Iraqis also need assistance in developing an effective counterintelligence agency within the police and military that can help root out disloyal forces, Trainor says. In addition, a professional Iraqi officer corps will help ensure loyalty. Building such a system from scratch can take years, experts say. There has been more emphasis placed on training and vetting since June 2004, when the military appointed Army Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus to head the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq, the unit in charge of training Iraqi security forces. But experts say procedures still appear to be inadequate. After the Mosul attacks, U.S. officials announced that a military assessment team led by Army Brigadier General Richard P. Formica would reassess security and vetting procedures, both on bases and within the Iraqi forces. [emphasis added]

Given such realities, I wouldn't be surprised if maintenance of 50,000-100,000 American GIs will be necessitated in Iraq through at least the end of Bush's second term. Nor, frankly, would I be surprised to hear that, behind the scenes and in private, many Iraqi factions would welcome such a continued presence. More on all this soon.

Posted by Gregory at January 26, 2005 04:26 AM | TrackBack (12)
Comments

Greg, you wrote:

"Why do I remain, despite it all, quite optimistic about Iraq? Because, truth be told, I still think the "silent majority" (stifle your laughter skeptics!) of Sunnis are in our camp."

Ah yes, the silent majority. The phrase is appropriate. The last time this was invoked to justify massive U.S. military action was in Vietnam. Right up until the last helicopter dusted off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon in 1975, apologists for that war---and political and military leaders as well---maintained that we were supported by the "great silent majority" of peace-loving, democracy-yearning Vietnamese, and that the Viet Cong was only a tiny sliver of insurgency (and "terrorism") that in no way represented this silent majority.

When a majority of people under occupation at best stand by passively and do not actively fight an insurgency, or at WORST actively support that insurgency, harbor it, and allow it to grow, that is not a "great silent majority" that can be counted on or defined as supporters of ours in any way that ultimately matters.

That is Vietnam.

Posted by: DCShadow at January 26, 2005 06:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for the informative post. I've discussed, albeit more briefly, some of the issues raised here on my own blog. I approach it from the perspective of the Lebanon experience. Have a look!

Posted by: Tony at January 26, 2005 07:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When an insurgency, hated by most by not actively opposed by enough of its victime, has a country-sized haven to which it can retreat and prepare its next incursion unmolested: that is Vietnam.

Posted by: Sammler at January 26, 2005 08:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vietnam is a discredited analogy for Iraq DCShadow.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at January 26, 2005 11:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To all those who say Vietnam is not a proper analogy to what we are now experiencing in Iraq, consider this: Vietnam did not become "Vietnam" as we now understand that word to mean "quagmire" until U.S. troops had been fighting and dying there for FIVE YEARS. Our involvement there started in the early 1960's, and for several years after that was very popular with the American public which bought the "domino" theory hook, line and sinker. It was only after the credibility gap started to get exposed that the public gradually began to turn against the war.

FIVE YEARS.

Posted by: BalanceSheet at January 26, 2005 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The incomparable casualty rates alone demolish the Vietnam Analogy, especially as American military involvement has peaked now if it hadn't peaked 6 months ago. Unless there are a couple of superpowers I don't know about who are going to step in and assist the Iraqi 'insurgency' and provide them with a resiliant economic base to fund/supply their efforts indefinately.

The fact is is that Vietnam is cited primarily as it was an American defeat, the same result is wished for in Iraq by those same people.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at January 26, 2005 01:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You want to talk "casualty levels"..........???

We lost 35 troops in Iraq today alone. Just today.

That makes 40 dead in the past TWO days alone.

You were saying?

Posted by: BalanceSheet at January 26, 2005 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Balancesheet, there's something called context and it's been entirely missing from many quarters when approaching this Iraq conflict.

Source:

http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html

US casualty information was derived from the Combat Area Casualty File of 11/93, and The Adjutant General's Center (TAGCEN) file of 1981, available from the National Archives.

Force KIA WIA MIA CIA
US Forces 47,378 304,704 2,338 766

Legend: KIA = Killed In Action WIA = Wounded In Action MIA = Missing In Action CIA = Captured In Action

Do I need to compare those to the casualty rate in Iraq? Iraq being a conflict many, many orders less intense? Comparing Iraq to Vietnam is as absurd as comparing Vietnam to WW1. Not only are the casualty rates different, the terrain and geography is different, the politics are different, the eras of the conflicts are different, it goes on and on.

As I said, the primary reason for citing Vietnam is that it was an American defeat and that is the conclusion that many anti-war minded people long for, no matter the repurcussions.

Oh and combat fatalities are generally kept separate from accidental casualties, it's misleading.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at January 26, 2005 02:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can anyone point to a link tracking the number of casualties (American military, Iraqi police, iraqi civilian) by various type (ied, beheadings, etc) by the... ah... insurgents?

Posted by: sbw at January 26, 2005 03:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Time will tell whether Vietnam is a very good or very bad analogy, but comparing fatality rates isn't dispositive. See this Slate article, e.g. (An ethical appeal: both authors are former military, and I believe author Owen West is in favor of Bush policy in Iraq.)

Posted by: Strange Doctrines at January 26, 2005 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Casualties aren't really a useful metric indicating success, just as they weren't indicative of much in Vietnam. The key will be if Iraq's security forces can stand on their own, just as the key in Vietnam was whether ARVN could fight without U.S. air support.

Posted by: praktike at January 26, 2005 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You want to talk gobal warming? It's freaking freezing outside today. Pfft. I spit upon global warming.

That's what that "We had 40 casualties in two days" garbage sounds like to me.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 26, 2005 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The obvious reason there wasn't a silent majority in Vietnam was because we didn't push real elections there, and that was because we thought Ho Chi Minh was too popular in the north. So the real test of our commitment to democracy will be if Iraqis choose a theocracy or some other government we strongly disapprove of.

Posted by: fling93 at January 26, 2005 08:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I for one agree that making comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam is in the very least premature, for the following reasons:

Vietnam was a much wider theatre of conflict that Iraq - it was one of the few points in the Cold War era, where boths sides could engage in a proper "Hot" war, and was essentially a follow up from the Korean conflict previously.

As such there was considerably more political, economic and logistical support for the VC, than the insurgents in Iraq have. Whilst the conflict between Islam and the West has some parallels between the Colds War, not least of all that not all of Islam is united in its opposition to the West.

Also as has already been mentioned, the Vietnam war lasted almost a decade, and at no point during tat time was all of Vietnam occupied, as opposed to Iraq where the nation has been occupied since about the first month of the conflict - quite a different proposition.

I still hold some hope that Iraq may not yet become the quagmire that Vietnam was. However that will require dedicated effort and resources - and I hope that if the insugency can be quelled that the rest of the West will assist in rebuilding Iraq into a Viable free state. What concerns me is that Iraq is far from finished and yet the rumblings concering Iran are just beginning - and now is NOT the time to take ones eye of the ball as far as Iraq is concerned. Iraq needs to be sorted before anyone even thinks of tackling Iran....

Posted by: Aran B at January 26, 2005 08:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, the silent majority was never used to describe the Vietnamese - it was Nixon's (or was it Agnew's?) term to describe what became the Reagan Democrats that supported the US efforts in Vietnam despite the colosal folly that had been demonstrated for so many years. They are the same people that baffled the pundit class this year by voting Bush.

Second, I've always wondered why the US is so cavalier about Turkish threats to interfere with an independent Kurdistan. If Bush really wanted to put his high-blown rhetoric into practice, he coulc acknowledge our debt to the Kurds for standing by us after so many betrayals and not turning to terror as so many others have.

Posted by: wayne at January 26, 2005 09:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree that the silent majority want democracy.

If they didn't then the neobaathists and neojihadists wouldn't have to resort to using violence against Iraqis - who bear the brunt of MOST attacks. They could stage massive non-violent protests if they represented the majority - anywhere. They use ruthless violence because that's they ONLY way they can control people who out-number them and disagree with them.

To me, this PROVES that most Iraqis want democracy.

Will some be intimidatd? YES.
Will enough turn out to turn the tide.

I'm positive they will.
I have faith in the humanity of Iraqis.
People who don't are racists or demagogues.
Most of them are on the Left.

I blogged on this here:

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2005/01/iraq-who-is-attacking-whom-and-why.html

Posted by: reliapundit at January 26, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for the run on sentences - hit the wrong button when correcting post.

Posted by: wayne at January 26, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does anyone remember any time recently --- like in the last 30 years --- that Henry K has actually been right about anything?

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at January 26, 2005 11:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is it appropriate for Bush to use the American occupation and so called "democratization" of Japan from 1945-1951 as an analogy for whats going on in Iraq?From my understanding,Japan had already had a brief period of democracy in the 1920's and was on the way to starting a government based on the British system.Has Iraq ever come close to this sort of thing?Is Bush just talking?

Posted by: F at January 27, 2005 12:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The goal of the insurgents - neobaathists, Salafis and others - is power, pure and simple. But let's face it, the reason so many Shia want to vote is the same reason: power. If the Shia felt that the vote would absolutely be rigged against them, or would somehow end up not representing the Shia majority in the assembly, then they'd be against it. The Sunnis oppose it because it cements the loss of power that they've held for 400 years. If the new regime dominated by Shia assumes full and complete control over the government - whether theocratic or not - and locks out Sunnis the way the Baathists locked out the Shia then this insurgency will continue indefinitely. Democracy is about a lot more than elections - just take a gander at the numerous African nations (Nigeria, for example) that experience elections followed by bloodshed, corruption, crackdowns, coups, and then another election. Democracy requires the growth and nurturance of civil institutions and a strong middle class. Elections, even if free and fair, are a critical component of democracy but they shouldn't be imbued with too much on their own.

Also, trying to parse the Iraqi population for the "silent majority" is a fool's errand because there is no way, under the current conditions, that the will of the silent majority can be expressed. I believe that, in theory, 80% of Iraqis want democracy and elections. I also believe that, in theory, about 80% want to vote. Elections themselves, after decades of dictatorship, are a wonderful thing - even if far from perfect. But to suggest that anyone who points out that many Iraqis won't vote out of fear is an act of "racism" or "demagoguery" is just stupid. It's sure easy from the comfort of America or elsewhere in the West to excoriate those who won't put their lives on the line to vote. Considering the monumental idiocy of putting indelible ink on the fingers of voters - thus inviting insurgents to murder voters for days after the election - I don't think the fears are irrational at all.

Posted by: Elrod at January 27, 2005 12:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe things can work out relatively well in Iraq, but it will take time, patience, money and above all American willingness to take continued casualities over the next several years at a rate of about 500 to 1,000 deaths a year, perhaps more, of US soldiers. The insurgency is not likely to grow beyond the Sunni minority (at least we better pray it does not), but neither is it likely to be descisively defeated, in the next several years. Guerilla warfare is not usually resolved quickly one way or the another. It is more a matter of one side or the other being gradually whittled away. Even the best counter-insurgency effort will take years and may never completely defeat the insurgents, just reduce them to a nuisance. Given problems of insurgent infilitration into the Iraqi Army (is this what is meant by Iraqi National Guard) and Police in Sunni areas, recruiting, training and turning the bulk of the counter-insurgency effort over to them will take anywhere from 2 to 5 years.

Posted by: David All at January 27, 2005 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(Sorry I left my conclusion out) Iraq is not Vietnam, neither is it post-war Germany or Japan. It is Iraq with its own history. For a historical preccendent perhaps the best one would be the Iraqi Rebellion of 1920 (and its aftermath) against the British, who three years earlier, driven out the Ottoman Turks and proclaimed that they (the British) had come to liberate Iraq, not to occupy it!

Posted by: David All at January 27, 2005 01:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kissenger and Schultz put forth what should be obvious to anyone. Henry's gone a little daft; Schultz always was in over his head. Iraq is our little Vietnam. The 37 soldiers killed today bring the total to over 1400 dead Americans. 1400 Americans died so Iraq could have an election that will put a Shiite majority in control of a country. 1400 Americans died to get rid of a butcher named Saddam and the people replacing him have already resorted to Saddam like tortures. In the first few years of Vietnam we lost less men than we've lost in Iraq. It's a long slog; the enemy is pouring in; and we've got to start looking for space for another wall in DC.

Posted by: Logan O'Callaghan at January 27, 2005 02:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PS: It'd be nice if we'd read again about the American Revolution when we consider the term silent majority. Then the silent majority was solidly behind whoever would be the winner in the battle. The forces fighting for independence were so small that except for the extreme incompetence of the British and the fortuitous arrival of the French from the Indies we'd still be ruled by a royal family. Like Washington's small army, the insurgents in Iraq are small but determined to win. I would not be willing to bet against them especially since the USA despite our protests has a history of running when the going gets tough. (I don't mean that our troops run since I believe the Marines and Army are the finest and bravest fighters in the world. I'm talking about the politicians running.)

Posted by: Logan O'Callaghan at January 27, 2005 02:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Logan, if our political leaders (Cheney & Co.) cut and run in Iraq, it will because majority of people in the USA have turned against the Iraq War.
Oh, Logan, I do believe that support for the American Revolution did involve the majority of the American people, at least most of the time.

Posted by: David All at January 27, 2005 02:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Um... I know I'm going to get flamed for this but oh well...

I say this with NO disrespect intended to the troops in Iraq who are no doubt doing a great job under the circumstances. However I hate to break it to some of you, but the regular US infantry are far from the greatest troops in the world, certainly in days gopne by anyway. I've spoken with Veterans from WW2 and Vietnam who were unanimous in their opinions of US troops - often the best equipment, but not always the best Soldiers.

I can't speak for today (although i have no reason to beleive otherwise) but certainly during that period by and large the best Regular infantry in the Western World were from the UK and commonwealth nations.

Posted by: Goober at January 27, 2005 04:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Irrelevant Goober (even if correct), because they are not there in any numbers to make any difference. You fight with what you have.

Posted by: Systolic at January 27, 2005 05:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not to be politically incorrect here but the Germans were probably the best soldiers in the world. Thankfully there weren't enough of them to bleed Russia to death.

Posted by: Elrod at January 27, 2005 08:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Logan, it's this kind of analogy with Vietnam that I find the most absurd:

'In the first few years of Vietnam we lost less men than we've lost in Iraq. It's a long slog; the enemy is pouring in; and we've got to start looking for space for another wall in DC.'

It's like you're comparing timelines from two separate conflicts and expecting them to pan out in the same way, which cannot be regarded as sensible. Where, are the enemy pouring in from? Where's Iraq's China? Where's Iraq's North Vietnam? They don't exist. Iran and Syria are providing supplies and financial assistance but they're not exactly superpowers. US forces took the casualities they did in Vietnam as they were fighting well trained, motivated irregular forces as well as top of the line regular North Vietnamese troops using the best equipment and methods Red China and the USSR could provide.

What's most apparent from the casualty levels is how sensitised to casualties most people are today. To paraphrase Mark Steyn, the total number of casualties taken in Iraq would have been considered a miracle by any previous generation.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson at January 27, 2005 09:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew? Do you not see the problem?

I completely sympathize with the anguish that 'balancesheet', and others, are feeling in light of yesterday's tragedy.

He's right, you know. And you need to stand corrected - are you that blind to the problem?

We, as a nation, simply can no longer allow private ownership of motorized vehicles. 11 dead in one fell swoop? What did the President expect would happen, what with all of this talk of "freedom" and "ownership"?

I got to tell you, it's people lik.... what? I don't...

Oh. No, I AM talking about the crash... I...

Oh. The HELICOPTER crash. I see...


Nevermind.

Posted by: Tommy G at January 27, 2005 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In response to Andrew's comment about Iraq not having a China or North Veitnam to support the insurgents-- Is that not more reason to be concerned by the insurgents tenacity and determination up to this point?I mean, they dont have the support of a powerful nation like China backing them,but dammed if they aren't doing a pretty good job of disrupting ALL forms of normal life in Baghdad.

Posted by: F at January 27, 2005 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Gregory that things will probably eventually turn out well in Iraq, simply because of the interests of the main groups.

Kissinger and Schultz are right about what the Shiites need to do, but they are a little off in that they think the US can have real influence here. The problem is the US has no real levers of power.

It can't threaten to pull out if the Shiites don't do what it wants, because that would leave the country to the insurgents. On the other hand, the US can't threaten to stay in if the Shiites want it to leave, because they have enough people who own guns to throw the US out in a day.

The result is the US just has to go along with what the Shiites want. Fortunately that turns out to be pretty sensible.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at January 28, 2005 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jernigan said some of the classes were also reading the book "Because of Winn-Dixie," about a homeless dog.
"The kids love it," she said. "That is what I think motivated them that much." Those classes raised the most items, beating the classroom goal of 100 each.
Taken from http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/local/10733986.htm
looking for dog books, go to http://www.dogbooks.mypetdogs.com

Posted by: interesting dog books at January 28, 2005 05:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Clearly the iraqis aren't getting support from any significant foreign country -- if they were they'd be shooting down our helicopters.

Any of the countries that oppose us could smuggle arms to the iraqis if they wanted to. See, the USA is a modern nation so no people, drugs, or weapons get through our borders unless our government approves. (haha) But iran, turkey, syria, jordan, and kuwait aren't as well organised as we are and third parties can smuggle lots of stuff in and out of them. However, the russians wouldn't do it because we could play tit-for-tat and supply the chechens. The iranians are clearly putting it off -- they threaten to do it if we attack them. The syrians have little to lose -- we've already declared sanctions on them to soften them up for attack. The harder we have it in iraq the longer it will take us to attack syria.

Our other enemies who might do it include india, pakistan, china, serbia, international terrorists, etc. Our european enemies mostly wouldn't do it because they have too much class. Our south american enemies would mostly be too afraid, our african enemies are mostly too weak.

Britain and australia wouldn't do it because they're our allies. Several dozen neutrals and client states wouldn't do it because they're neutrals or our client states. Call it a round 100 nations that would consider themselves our enemies; probably no more than a dozen would seriously consider arming iraqis with the sort of things that drove the russians out of afghanistan.

So it's different from vietnam. All we have to do is wait for the iraqis to run out of bullets and artillery shells and RPGs and they'll have nothing left to fight us with. We could never adequately interdict the vietnamese supplies so we couldn't win in vietnam. But so long as iraqis can't get outside supplies we can win there. All it takes is to deny them everything they need to fight -- weapons, ammo, food, water, electricity, that sort of thing -- and the iraqis will eventually have to surrender. This is the essential difference between iraq and vietnam. Every other way it's quite similar, but that difference is crucial. The iraqis are already down to around 100 pounds of explosives apiece, and when those are gone they have no way to get more because none of our enemies will give it to them.

As long as those assumptions hold true, it's different from vietnam and we have the chance for a military victory.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 30, 2005 06:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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