June 12, 2005

The Iraqi Insurgency Is Not Dead

Wretchard, of the Belmont Club:

A casual observer can't help but notice that three apparently unrelated news fronts -- the military war on terror, the EU project and the United Nations -- have risen and fallen together as if they were held together by some invisible current. It's possible that the defeat of the Iraqi insurgency (the subject of an excellent roundup by Bill Roggio at Winds of Change), the shocking setbacks dealt to the EU draft constitution and the continuing investigation into criminal activity at the United Nations are only coincidentally linked. [emphasis added]

I'm not going to spend time sketching the imagined connections between and among hapless Kojo and Kofi; Jacques, Gerhard and Dominique; and the Iraqi insurgency. But, with all due respect to Wretchard, it would have to be quite a "casual observer" indeed who would write so breezily of the "defeat of the Iraqi insurgency." This is such utter flimflam and snake oil, and needs to be called mightily lest too many people on the Thinking Right (of whom I count a good deal of Belmont's readership) buy into the "last throes" spinnage making the rounds. Even the Bill Roggio piece Belmont links to (ostensibly to buttress his absurd contention that the Iraqi insurgency has been defeated) is more about a temporary success in Baghdad than the defeat of the insurgency. The first sentence sets the tone: "Operation Thunder has temporarily put a dent in the car bombings in Baghdad." Well then, game over, yes? The insurgency has been quashed! Most assuredly, it appears the insurgency has taken some major hits in Baghdad and pulled up camp Anbar way. Yes, this is a positive development. And it would be an even more positive development, of course, if we had enough guys on the ground in Anbar to decimate them when they decamped there rather than see them live to fight another day instead.

From the Roggio WoC post Wretchard links:

James Janega of the Chicago Tribune reports on the scarcity of US and Iraqi troops available to secure the Anbar province. He estimates 4,000 Marines are patrolling about 30,000 square miles of territory. For good or ill, the strategy in the Wild West of Anbar appears to be one of establishing distinct garrisons in locations such as Qaim, Haditha and other locations, patrolling the territory, conduct search and destroy missions at opportune times when targets and threats materialize, and waiting for Iraqi security forces to train up and deploy to fill the security needs of the region.

Bill puts it quite delicately when he says "for good or ill." Let's be plainer, shall we? It's manifestly for ill.

From the Chicago Tribune piece Bill links:

To reach his battalion stationed at the town of Al Qaim, Marine Col. Stephen Davis must fly more than an hour by helicopter to the edge of 30,000 square miles of dusty badland that is Iraq's most dangerous territory.

Another battalion under Davis' command is split between bases in Haditha and Hit. The towns are 20 miles from Davis' home base at Al Asad but take two nerve-racking hours to reach by Humvee.

His third and final battalion is 150 miles away from Al Asad in the town of Rutbah. The unit's outposts on the Jordanian and Syrian borders are so distant that radios sometimes fail to reach them.

Between those forces are dozens of towns where Marines suspect the heart of Iraq's insurgency has taken refuge. To patrol the region, the Marines must traverse miles of pockmarked desert roads on which it is assumed every pothole hides a land mine.

This is western Anbar province, where in the last month Marines have launched two major sweeps to ferret out the militants they believe are behind an increasingly bloody insurgency. Hundreds of Iraqis--civilians and security forces alike--have died in a monthlong wave of suicide car bombings and other attacks that military leaders say were plotted in this region.

According to intelligence officers, militants use the province's washed-out canyons and remote towns for protection and sneak across the Syrian border almost at will. Davis' Marines are supposed to stop them, a daunting task even if the Marines weren't spread out and short-handed.

Insurgents in a region that is hundreds of miles across in any direction are opposed by Davis' three battalions of roughly 1,000 men each--all three of them short 150 men--plus a force that varies between about 200 and 1,000 at the Al Asad base. Until January, there had been four fully manned battalions in the area.

Over the same period, Marine units throughout Anbar and its restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi have dwindled from 13 battalions to nine.

By now, military leaders had expected Iraqi forces to make up the shortfall. But training in Anbar has lagged, and construction has yet to begin on bases for the Iraqi troops. American liaisons don't expect to see the soldiers until fall.

In the meantime, Davis is under no illusion that his sweeps last month in Al Qaim and Haditha have quelled the insurgency, and he promised this week that more large operations would follow. On an enormous wall map in his office, he pointed to vast regions where U.S. troops never have patrolled.

"Sooner or later, I would like to get here," he said of a stretch of canyons and high desert near Saudi Arabia. Then he pointed to another desert region closer to Syria, with trails and scattered settlements. "And then maybe up here." [emphasis added]

"And then maybe up here". Meantime, the enemy regroups, rests, and gets ready for another week or two of carnage in Baghdad down the road. This is one of the reasons I've always been so infuriated by Donald Rumsfeld. He's constantly dangled 'train and equip' (yes, like ill-fated Vietnamization) as some form of panacea. Be patient little ones, he avers, as we train the Free Iraqis--only they can pick up the mantle and finish the job. His Jacksonian disdain for really seeing true democratization take root in Iraq is plain for all smart people who care to see. But quit the unpatriotic carping Djerejian, and get on the train [no pun intended], right? Don is the Man with the Plan! Except he's always pushed doing the train and equipping job too quickly--tossing inflated numbers out to a gullible public and often fawningly imbecilic Pentagon press corps (look 'ma, 150,000 Iraqi troops fully trained! And it's not even summer yet!). As I've said for months and years now, you can't rush 'train and equip'. It'll come back and bite you in the ass, to put it plainly.

Again, from the Tribune piece:

U.S. officials estimate more than 150,000 members of Iraqi security forces are now trained and equipped, for the first time outnumbering American troops in Iraq. But only a single unit of 30 reconnaissance troops has been sent to western Anbar.

The original Iraqi National Guard units formed in the province after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 were reviled by locals and not trusted by the American troops they were supposed to help and eventually replace. Recently they were quietly disbanded, said Maj. James Whitlatch, the Marine officer assigned to help develop Iraqi security forces in western Anbar.

"There was an urgency [at first] . . . to produce a large quantity of soldiers," said Paul Hughes, a retired Army colonel who was director of strategic policy for the former Coalition Provisional Authority and drafted plans to rebuild Iraq's military.

Authorities quickly learned that haste was counterproductive.

"If you try to stand something up right away, the people most likely to volunteer are likely to be the scoundrels. You have a mixed bag of quality," Hughes said. "It failed miserably because we didn't know who they were."

A more serious or honest Secretary of Defense (think Frank Carlucci or Cap Weinberger) would have grasped this well before. He hasn't, and I'm not even persuaded he has yet today, but here we are (and if you think the 150,000 troops "trained" are truly ready to stand and fight and win--well, put down that crack pipe buddy). And the problem is, and contra Wretchard, far from having defeated the insurgency--we are just settling in for a long battle ahead.

Don't believe me, and still chilling on the Cheney-esque "last throes" vibe? Here's a little reality check:

Military operations in Iraq have not succeeded in weakening the insurgency, and Iraq's government, with U.S. support, is now seeking a political reconciliation among the nation's ethnic and tribal factions as the only viable route to stability, according to US military officials and private specialists.

Two years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq conflict has evolved into a classic guerrilla war, they argue. Outbreaks of fighting are followed by periods of relative calm and soon thereafter, a return to rampant violence. Despite significant guerrilla setbacks and optimistic predictions by a host of American commanders earlier this year, the Sunni-backed insurgency remains as strong as ever, forcing American officials and their Iraqi allies to seek a political solution to the bloodshed. Pentagon officials and current members of the military interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We are not going to win the unconditional surrender from the insurgents and have no choice but to somehow bring them into society," said retired Army Colonel Paul Hughes, an Iraq war veteran who is now at the government-funded US Institute for Peace. "To think there will be one climactic military event to end this is foolish. Those who cling to that don't understand."

Indeed, recent comments to that effect by Vice President Dick Cheney —who said on May 31 that the insurgency was in its "last throes" — took many US officials and analysts by surprise, Pentagon officials and others with extensive knowledge of the war said in a series of interviews. The available data, they said, simply do not support such a claim...

...New US government analyses suggest that the insurgents — led by Sunni nationalists, remnants of Hussein's police state, and foreign extremists waging holy war — have vastly more staying power than previously thought.

Following the successful American offensive in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah last fall, which killed at least 1,000 insurgents, there was a dramatic reduction in attacks, according to US military officials. After Fallujah, some US commanders and Pentagon planners had expressed optimism that US troop levels could be reduced following Iraqi elections. But since the Jan. 31 Iraqi elections, the insurgents, relying on steady streams of funding and weapons, new recruits, and staging areas in Syria and possibly Iran, have struck back with a vengeance and US force levels have remained constant.

Despite US estimates that it kills or captures between 1,000 and 3,000 insurgents a month, the number of daily attacks is going back up. Down to about 30 to 40 a day in February, attacks are now up to at least 70 per day, according to statistics of US Central Command.

An internal Army report in April said that rather than what some saw as a drop in the number of daily attacks earlier this year, the insurgents had simply shifted their focus away from US forces to attacks on more vulnerable targets, which were not being fully tallied at the time.

"The insurgency is still mounting an effort comparable to where they were a year ago," said Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer and specialist on counterinsurgency operations who directs the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank in Washington. "We do something we think will change things, but a month or two later casualties and the level of violence are back to where they were."

Still not convinced? Check out this piece too, which doles out the good and the bad in equal portion:

Even worse, the soaring death toll since the new government was formed a month ago has blown a huge hole through the Bush administration's political strategy that assumed the elections, assembling of parliament and subsequent creation of a broad-based government would isolate and shrink the insurgency. It hasn't.

There are, in fact, signs that stepped-up government and U.S. counter-insurgency operations are delivering significant blows to the guerrillas. Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Thursday that the massive deployment of 40,000 troops of the new Iraqi army and security forces across 23 districts of Baghdad this week had killed 28 guerrillas and netted 700 more suspects.

Further, U.S. military-intelligence reports suggest the active forces in the insurgency are increasingly composed of foreign jihadi fighters who have flocked into Iraq to battle U.S. forces there.

However, the bad news is that so far the vastly increased wave of car bombings and other guerrilla attacks across the country since the announcement of the new Shiite and Kurdish-dominated coalition government continues with no end or even lessening in sight.

Some 48 people were killed in bombings and other violence across the country Thursday, and the violence in Baghdad continued Friday with several bomb attacks on U.S. military convoys.

Since the new government was announced, far from sucking the air out of popular Sunni support for the insurgency (as so many American pundits had confidently predicted), the opposite appears to have happened. Some 825 people have been killed, and U.S. troop fatalities are running at the highest level in several months.

Iraqi civilians are being killed at the rate of 20 a day, a figure that would yield 7,300 more victims over the next year. The Iraqi government announced Thursday that the insurgency has killed 12,000 civilians, including 10,000 Shiites. That does not include the number of Iraqis who have been killed in firefights between U.S. forces and the insurgents. Estimates for that vary wildly from 20,000 to 100,000 -- both figures factoring in those who were killed during the intense but highly successful three-week campaign to topple Saddam Hussein in March-April 2003.

Vice President Dick Cheney said this week that the insurgency was on its last legs. Other optimistic assessments have argued that the current wave of attacks is a desperate last-ditch attempt to de-legitimize the new government before it can get established.

This assessment should not be dismissed out of hand. If the wave of arrests of hundreds of suspects this week in Operation Lightning leads to significant intelligence breakthroughs in penetrating the guerrilla networks in Baghdad, it might produce some light at the end of the tunnel. But it hasn't happened yet, whereas the continued wave of death, maiming and generalized terror is all too tangibly real.

U.S. military analysts privately acknowledge that the level of training and leadership of the new Iraqi security forces leaves a great deal to be desired. The current Pentagon civilian leadership erred badly in decreeing that they be run up in such large numbers from scratch.

I agree that Cheney's assessment can't be dismissed out of hand. Who knows? Machiavelli said half of life was skill and half of it was luck. Our troops, under major manpower restraints, are showing skill and great courage day in, day out, in pursuing a robust and sophisticated counter-insurgency campaign. And if all the cards fall just the right way (lotsa luck!) over the next weeks, just maybe this will prove to be the last gasp of the Iraqi insurgency. But let's not lie to ourselves friends. Cheney's assessment is a very optimistic one indeed. And it's not B.D's, either. Mine's not worth too much, of course. I'm just a business-person with a laptop and hi-speed connection blogging out of hotel rooms with none of the intelligence available to me. But, incidentally and importantly, it appears I'm not alone:

Even if the insurgency cannot be quickly eliminated -- and very few if any U.S. military analysts believe that it can be -- if the current counter-offensive and strategy proves successful, it could be reduced to a far lower level of daily attacks and casualties than we are still seeing. And that would buy time both to upgrade the officer cadres of the Iraqi security forces and to explore political strategies for eliminating popular support too.

But if the insurgency continues to rage at its current levels of activity, the pressure will be on the White House and the Pentagon to come up with new answers -- and fast.

On this last, should we be suprised that the President's numbers are at the worst levels they have been at since he's assumed the Presidency? As a supporter of this Administration, dare I suggest it's in part because people sense drift in the Iraq war effort? (On the domestic front, don't miss Newt Gingrich's quite surprisingly Carter-like malaise musings here). And that they want straight talk (no, "death throes" ain't gonna hack it)? Which is that we will likely need to be in Iraq for at least several more years full stop. In at least the numbers we are currently in theater with. This is assuming, of course, that George Bush is fully serious about seeing this effort through the right way. I believe he does which is why I supported him against Kerry who made manifestly clear (to me, at least) his basic lack of interest in securing a democratic outcome in Iraq. Like Kerry, and unlike Bush, I don't think Rumsfeld really gives two shits about securing a truly democratic outcome in Iraq. But Bush is President, and so has a wider panoply of strategic interests to consider, and he is advised by his Secretary of State and others outside civilian DoD like at the NSA, so that he better understands what an abject failure it would be if we declared a too nascent Iraqi Army ready for prime time, and then retreated hastily. Not only would this prove a strategic disaster on par with Vietnam, but it would also have been to lose the lives of thousands and thousands of Americans, Coalition Forces, and Iraqis in vain. I know this must weigh on this President heavily. Unlike cheap political hacks like an Atrios or Kos, say, he has to hold and kiss and hug the families of those killed in this horrible war. Like only a Commander-in-Chief can, he must reckon with the human costs of this war when he huddles with those whose lives have been torn apart because of the decisions only he could ultimately make. The better we should all try to be more honest about the challenges ahead, no?

This is why I am so incensed by the too rosy assessments of the state of the war effort (especially by smart people like Wretchard who should know better). Adults need to stop scoring this like a parlor game. Criticism=treacherous disloyalty to POTUS. Praise=omniscient Rummy rules us happy serfs so wisely! As a Bush supporter, let me give my level-best, most honest criticism here. We never put enough troops in theater and barely have enough there now. We are resource-constrained, and doing the best we can short of increasing the size of the military (which is getting increasingly problematic, see here) or re-instituting the draft (not kosher in the era of Paris Hilton and the Apprentice). What's the best way forward? If we could scrap a few more battalions together to go into Anbar Province that wouldn't be a bad start. Short of marching into Teheran or Damascus (the height of folly), we also need to continue to move towards better securing each of those long borders (today, more Syria's as Sunnis are our biggest challenge; tomorrow perhaps, Iran's, as the Shi'a might become more problematic if we are seen to be overly protecting the Sunni in the future) using every single rational means conceivable and at our disposal. Meantime, we need to continue these commendable efforts to get other parties (the Euros and the U.N.) to help present a united front to the Sunnis to persuade them to enter the political process. Basically, we need to continue to as robustly as possible prosecute a fierce counter-insurgency, while bringing the Sunnis into a political process (the more we get them in, the more this becomes us against foreign jihadists and Baathist restorationists--less so the broader swaths of Sunni nationalists). And, finally and critically, we need to continue the training and equipping effort of a multi-ethnic, cohesive Iraqi Army. Systematically, patiently, and on our own sober, realistic schedule. Sans McNamaresque dubious number-crunching exercises and the tiresome Rumsfeldian spin. The job won't be done until we have a multi-ethnic officer corps shown to be working together well, 200,000 Iraq forces willing to fight and die against, not only Baathists and jihadists, but also die-hard Sunni nationalists that have been totally radicalized and prove unwilling to enter the political process collaboratively. At the same time, we need to remain in Iraq to continue to act as guarantor of minority rights, of nascent political governance structures, and so on.

Do I still think this is all possible? My heart and head still say yes. But, ostensibly like the American people at large, I am getting more and more concerned about our willingness to really see this effort through the right way. As a supporter of this war, and if it turns out that we don't end up doing the job right, I'll have to bear that burden on my conscience--of course an infinitely cheaper cost indeed--compared to those whose lives will have been lost in vain. I still hope and trust it won't turn out this way. To speak as honestly as I can about the challenges that still await us in theater is my small contribution towards helping avert such a catastrophe.

UPDATE: More on the real state of "train and equip" from John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise. Meantime, I'm being subjected to "no s--t, Sherlock" snark from Dan Darling of Winds of Change:

So when I read Greg Djerejian's post explaining that the Iraqi insurgency isn't dead yet my reaction is, to put it quite bluntly, "No s--t, Sherlock!" There is a difference that needs to be understood, however, between the insurgency being dead and it being defeated.

To employ once again over-used World War 2 analogies, the Germans were beaten by 1944 but they still managed to kill quite a few people over the next year and a half.

Similarly, the Iraqi insurgency proved that it could never succeed in its ultimate objective (evicting US troops from Iraq and reestablishing some kind of Sunni hegemony over the country) on January 30 in which they utterly failed to expand their attack zone outside the Sunni Triangle area. That's where the vast of majority of the fighting and terrorist attacks were taking place on January 30 and that's where it's still taking place today. So in that sense, nothing has changed except for the ever-increasing disregard for innocent life among the insurgents.

Dan's a blog-pal and all that, but c'mon. Let's quit this silly rhetorical jousting about whether the Iraqi insurgency has been defeated or is dead (I could just have easily titled my post the "Iraqi Insurgency Is Not Defeated" if that would make Dan happier--as Wretchard's post almost made it sound like all was well in Iraq now that the EU Constitution had gotten the heave-ho and Kofi is feelin' the blogospheric heat or such). Am I supposed to applaud the fact that we will no longer have Sunni hegemony over Mesopotamia--perhaps with Saddam himself coming out of prison (with fresh undies to boot) to preside over a neo-Baathist Round II tutelage of Ye Olde Glorious Preserve?

No, of course the insurgents cannot force our troops out of the country for the foreseeable future if ever and, no of course the Shi'a are now going to run the show in the main so that Sunni hegemony won't be restored anytime soon. But the goal of our intervention, WMD aside, was not just to unseat Saddam and screw the Sunnis. It was to create a viable, democratic Iraqi polity (with minority rights protected) to serve as a show-case and inspiration for the region at large. Surely an embittered Sunni para-state embroiled in terrorist/insurgent activity for another decade isn't what Ken Adelman had in mind? Or a stagnating nation-state negatively impacted by a protracted civil insurrection, increasingly hobbled by the real risks of a civil war if we can't bring the Sunnis into the political process better (and better beat back the insurgents), with near constant carnage in its capital city and other key population centers. Is this what it means for the insurgency to have been defeated? If we are going to define down the goals of our Iraq intervention so bloody low then, hell--yes, we've won. No, the insurgents aren't "dead." But they've been "defeated" all right! Bravo. Saddam isn't coming back, and the Sunnis are gonna get the short-end of the stick. Sweet! Next stop Iran (or Syria), yes? Faster, please--lest us unsophisticates not grasp the "regional" implications at play (Darling: "we need to readjust our paradigm to view Iraq as part of a regional campaign.") But of course. I await this panoramic tour d'horizon with alacrity. But I hope the "paradigm" sketched out begins in places like Anbar Province and Baghdad Dan, because we are quite busy indeed in such locales just now.

Posted by Gregory at June 12, 2005 03:11 AM | TrackBack (14)

but POTUS always adjusts so well when he's found to have made mistakes, right Greg? Enough so that all of us that saw no strategic adjustments, just convenient tactical ones, were not paying attention according to you...

I think you're too glib and underestimate the American people if you, like the politicians, feel that the draft isn't implementable because of "the times we live in." Let's not kid ourselves or be glib about it... the draft was never popular nor will it ever be. It's not the failing of the populace but a failing of our leaders to be honest with us about the sacrifice that a long standing conflict like this entails.

One thing I've noticed about the left/right divide on this war is that the folks that are fervently for the war truly believe that we're in an almost cataclysmic struggle for our existence at the extreme. Even the moderates on that side of the Iraq war question believe that the struggle against Islamist fundamentalism is the Cold War of our time.

If this is the Cold War for our time, where is the sacrifice that marked my parents' generation? It's too easy to blame the "Paris Hilton" and "Apprentice" era... one has to simply look at our country's compassion after September 11th to see that it's just not true. The lines to give blood. The thousands of volunteers heading to New York City to help. The millions donated to charities. The many young men and women who left comfortable jobs to join the military or government service.

Let's not forget that after a while we were told to go shop, things were normal, and except for the occasional bump to orange, those of us still working and living in the U.S. couldn't tell much was different.

You missed out on your opportunity to have leadership see this out the right way. With a new President but a Congress still firmly in Republican hands, the policy would've been one you would've liked. I would've liked to see the debate that would've come of having a Congress and a White House that actually tried to, you know, check and balance each other.

I wonder whether you're a Bush supporter or a supporter of the foreign policy you perceived the Bush administration of following...

Posted by: just me at June 12, 2005 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: McNamaresque

For my 2c, I would say that McNamara should be to some extent exonerated from his position as chief number-fudger over the casualty numbers et all in Vietnam. Having just watched "The Fog of War," it seems like McNamara was less (although not entirely without) responsibility for the inflations.

That said, you also have so many more vogue things to choose from for dubious accounting metaphors. Speaking of which...when anybody hears the expression 'corporate transparency' do they think of a slowly clearing shower curtain with a very naked Ken Lay inside and a very leering Ralph Nader on the outside?


Posted by: Scott Nowers at June 12, 2005 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" I know this weighs on the President heavily."

How do you know this? I've seen no evidence of any such anguish.

Posted by: Linkmeister at June 12, 2005 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

for some odd reason i can't see this post on my main blog page but i take it from comments that it is up and live. linkmeister, you will please note that-- before seeing any of these comments--i edited (in very minor fashion) the language you quote. apologies for any confusion. best,gd

Posted by: greg at June 12, 2005 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it's sad and disturbing that Greg even has to bother writing up a post debunking the 'defeat of the insurgency'. If they've been defeated, who's killing all these Iraqis?

Posted by: guy at June 12, 2005 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

FYI. BTW, note in the tranny that Joseph Biden is on your side here and ... he would have been a major player in a Kerry admin. I know Kerry didn't wax Gersonian enough for you, but that should be food for thought, methinks.

Posted by: praktike at June 12, 2005 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In the last two weeks the number of suicide bombs seems to have sharply reduced.

Posted by: spaceman at June 12, 2005 08:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As much as it pains me to say so, Frank Rich may have been right on the mark in his Memorial Day op-ed in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/29/opinion/29rich.html?ex=1275019200&en=84dac23c54198202&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss) when he said:

“Bothered as New Yorkers may be by what Charles Schumer has termed the "culture of inertia" surrounding ground zero, that stagnation may accurately reflect most of America's view about the war on terror that began with the slaughter of more than 2,700 at the World Trade Center almost four years ago. Though the vacant site is a poor memorial for those who died there, it's an all too apt symbol for a war on which the country is turning its back.”

It’s going to take a long time and a lot more deaths to make Iraq work. Even with Bush throwing in all he has, do you really think it will be enough if more and more in the political class are opposed to seeing things through? And if life seems to go on without more terror here in the homeland?

Posted by: claire at June 12, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

greg wrote:
What's the best way forward? If we could scrap a few more battalions together to go into Anbar Province that wouldn't be a bad start.

How? Where are the troops going to come from?

Posted by: guy at June 13, 2005 12:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, now you're cookin' with gas. Far and away the best, most provocative TBD post I've read so far. Excellent and compelling reading. Keep it up.

Posted by: The Cunning Realist at June 13, 2005 12:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


But in the last four months, the number of US casualties has gone up (though June is only part of the way through, the current pace would continue this trend):

Period US Avg
6-2005 35 2.92
5-2005 80 2.84 (including 8 coalition casualties)
4-2005 52 1.73
3-2005 36 1.29 (including 4 coalition casualties)

And as Greg noted, the number of attacks per day have been increasing over the same period of time.

It's hard to say that the most important trends are moving in the right direction.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 13, 2005 12:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If you've paid any attention to my prior posts you know I think our lack of resources devoted to this effort bordered on the criminally negligent. Ditto for the refusal to fire Rumsfeld after abu Graib (wouldn't that have slaked much of the media's lust for Gitmo "atrocities" stories.) A $.50 gas tax would have made this a shared sacrifice, etc., etc., etc.

We have to live with the leadership we have, not what we would like it to be. In a post you linked to several months ago, I compared our current situation to the Reconstruction era in the former Confederacy. Recall that even with much more popular support (in the north at least), with much more willingness to devote resources, and with the superhuman statesmenship of Robert E. Lee asking for cooperation with the victors, it still took decades for a very unsatisfactory peace to emerge. In the elections of 1868, four years after Appomattox, three states (Texas, Mississippi and Virginia) were still in too much turmoil to participate in the Presidential elections. Northern troops did not leave until 1877, only after giving up on their primary objective -- empowering a sullen, unapprciative minority population that refused to take advantage of the feedoms they had died to offer them.

If Saddam Hussian had to assign thousands of troops to the airport road to crack down on organized crime gangs, what is going to be our definition of security in that country? Look at what a panacea democracy has been for Mexico in the last 100 years and then tell me how Iraq is going to resolve it's ethnic divisions. I supported this war - I think it could have been fought much better - but now is the time to define victory down and set a series of defined benchmarks for withdrawing our troops. If Baghdad is reasonably secure, the Constitution gets written, and the Iraqi armed forces can ramp up to pacify the rest of the country we should be ready to leave.

Posted by: wayne at June 13, 2005 01:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg -- you are ignoring the elephant in the room.

What are the insurgents and what do they want?

Largely, they are a mix of Sunni Tribalists/Baathists (same thing really) playing the old bandit game; and the Jihadis. The latter are foreigners and so very unpopular and will be dispensed with once the Sunnis feel them excess baggage.

The tribal militias/bandits are much tougher and dangerous. Their goal is to destablize the government and shoot their way into power.

However, they have no air force, artillery, tanks, or anything else. So they can ambush and set off suicide bombs but that's it. ONCE a regular Shia and Kurd Army that possesses these tools and the ability to confront and destroy all opposition the bandits will have the choice to submit or to die. It's that simple.

Realistically the banditry makes no sense, but historically the Sunnis were aided by the Brits as their colonial surrogates. Now they face 80% of the population which would have no trouble simply sweeping through areas and summarily shooting all males of combat age. Brutal and bloody but how these sorts of tribal wars are settled. The forces that can produce a very destructive regular army capable of beating tribal bandits wins.

Really everyone in DC hoped to avoid this through the power of wishful thinking and PC, but that's what it will come down to. A political settlement brought on by the mass killing (and likely, economic destruction of people's livlihoods ala Sherman's march to the sea) to drive home the point that's it's both deadly and ruinous to engage in the banditry. At some point the butcher's bill for the 12,000 or so Shias will come due and it' won't be pretty.

I think we are about six months to a year for a Shia "March to the Sea" except unlike Sherman I believe the Shia forces will kill a lot of Sunnis. Making their point in the usual ME way.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 13, 2005 02:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Look at what a panacea democracy has been for Mexico in the last 100 years

But Mexico hasn't been a democracy for most of the last 100 years. The PRI ran a one party state until recently.

If Baghdad is reasonably secure, the Constitution gets written, and the Iraqi armed forces can ramp up to pacify the rest of the country we should be ready to leave.

I think that is the plan. Troops have already been drawn down some 30,000 since the beginning of the year. I don't quite see how that fits into the more troops theme. Was it a mistake or are things on schedule? We don't know, and the news is not likely to help us decide.

Posted by: chuck at June 13, 2005 02:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The fact that Mexico has been a quasi-democracy was exactly my point. Iraqis are going to vote on tribal or ethnic grounds for the foreseeable future, and the "democracy" will consist of how the tribal leaders organize their own PRI.
The main point of my comment was that we are not willing to verbalize what exactly we are willing to accept as "victory."
I believe the wor was regretable but necessary, I also beleive that we never promised to turn Basra into Santa Barbara in 18 months..
We have dug up the nuclear components from under the rose gardens, Dr. Germ is not chanting "bubble, bubble toil and trouble" over her vats of hemorragic fever spores, and the other dictators have learned that they can't pay $25K to suicide bombers' families and get away with it. To me that means if we left tommorrow we could claim victory. We are now giving the Iraqi's a chance to improve their lot, but this is essencially their war from here on out. More troops would have been helpful before, but absent a specific tactical mission would not help now.

Posted by: wayne at June 13, 2005 02:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I posted the paragraph below in the comments of the last thread about Iraq and didn't get any responses. I'm going to post it again because I think our ability to maintain current force levels in Iraq is an open question and one whose time component I've only seen glancingly referred to elsewhere.

"I'm not an expert on the military, but I don't imagine our current troop level (factoring certain withdrawl of 3600 Polish, Ukranian, and Bulgarian soldiers, and possible British, Italian, and whoever withdrawl) is sustainable with recruiting numbers the way they are (and that's not even considering the change to the military brought by lowering standards, retaining bad apples, and emphasizing large bonuses). Plus, at some point casualties and the cycling out of veterans, even after stop-loss, will begin to really take a toll. Are we sure that staying another 2 years minimum can be accomplished in light of the change to the numbers and nature of our military? What are the consequences if we are wrong and there is no effective resolution to the insurgency and the violence? It seems to me that we cannot continue much longer on our current trajectory, but I'd love to find out why that's incorrect (for good or ill)."

Posted by: SamAm at June 13, 2005 03:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can somene tell me when the defeat of Germany took place in WW2? A date, please.

I feel comfortable saying that even though Germany was defeated shots were continuing to be fired.

The insurgents are defeated as a force. They can't win a single engagement with the U.S. military.

Has the killing ended? No it has not, nor is it near the end. But insurgency is probably no longer an accurate term to use.

If you want to say the terrorists are continuing to fight, fine with me. But, the insurgency should now be seen for what it has become... terrorists randomly killing innocent people.

Posted by: wow22 at June 13, 2005 04:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Assuming it is true that Sec. Rumsfeld truly does disdain seeing true democratization take root in Iraq, why is his disdain "Jacksonian?" Which Jackson are we talking about here: Andrew? Thomas Jonathan? Henry? Michael?

A minor point at such a moment, I suppose. Rumsfeld has since January of 2001 been focused on military transformation with a view to possible future conflicts in places other than Iraq. His war plan in spring 2003 was consistent with the objective of smashing Saddam, accounting for WMD (if any) and leaving in fairly short order -- a fairly sensible assessment of America's priorities in Iraq that unfortunately had to be, and was not, revised when it developed that all the intelligence pointing to an Iraqi WMD threat was wrong and another objective for the war had to be, shall we say, emphasized.

That objective was democratization, liberalization, transformation. Much discussion is now occurring as to the sincerity of President Bush's administration in pursuing this objective; this strikes me as likely to be unproductive. It is rather the improvised nature of the objective that is the problem here. Problems that might -- I use that word advisedly -- have been negotiable in the summer of 2003 were left to grow because the definition of American success in Iraq was still in flux and the time available to achieve it unknown. We are surer than we were then about what we want, but less well placed to bring it about.

Would a deeper commitment to Iraqi democracy and more thorough preparations for bringing it to term in 2003 have made the situation we face now less difficult? I think it could have. But it might not have. After all, from the standpoint of security the most unwise step taken in the months after Baghdad fell was the dissolution of the old Iraqi Army. Had this not been done, the Army would have stood as by far the strongest Iraqi organization in the country; it would have been bound to dominate Iraqi politics as soon as the American army left. Democracy in Iraq would have become what it is for most Middle Eastern countries, a hope for the distant future.
Dissolving the Army was probably a necessary step toward achieving an Iraqi democracy, but it was not a sufficient step, and whether it served American interests -- the only ones that matter at the end of the day -- may be questioned.

Of course, blame avoidance and political damage control rather than strategy or philosophy are the most likely explanations for Rumsfeld and (especially) Cheney issuing happy-talk statements about the state of operations in Iraq at this time. An administration always focused like a laser on its domestic audience and prone to equate the appearance of doubt with the reality of weakness sticks to an optimistic line as a matter of tactics in the never-ending domestic political struggle. I have little to say about this aspect of administration policy.

I would make one suggestion, however, for Zalmay Khalilzad to consider when he takes up his duties at our embassy in Baghdad. The worst case for most Sunni Arabs in Iraq is the civil war the insurgents have been trying so hard to start with their attacks on mostly Shiite and Kurdish civilians and policemen. American spokesmen have not emphasized the possibility, preferring soothing words and deference to Shiite leaders who have been trying very hard to do nothing that would inspire their followers to seek revenge. Perhaps it is time that changed.

A prominent American official who dwelt at length on the worst case might contribute a great deal to the cause of avoiding it. Call it constructive brinksmanship, the recruitment of Sunni Arabs into the political process as an alternative to the destruction of their community, to their impoverishment, to their exile. The insurgents pressuring the Sunni Arab population are desperate men; to resist, Sunni Arabs may need a reason to feel desperate themselves.

Posted by: JEB at June 13, 2005 04:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Jim Rockford that the way ahead is probably a murderous attack on the Sunni by Iraqi government forces. Not that we would ever support such a move, but that it is the way of the ME.

If we bleed our forces down over the next half year to appease the opposition, that very fact might spark the government to go all out before we become irrelevant to their problem through our own immobilizing weakness on the ground.

I wonder whether the first signs of this gathering execution would be troop movements to advantageous positions, followed by declaration of martial law by the government. Thus making all armed individuals and vehicles in motion fair game to be taken out, for starters.

What a disaster for the US if this comes about! This may be yet another reason to maintain our force levels there for a long time.

Posted by: mannning at June 13, 2005 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is nice ti speak of our efforts to get other to help out as commendable; when Kerry suggested that this should be done during the campaign it was ridiculed and mocked. Time does give us a better perspective as to who was smarter and better informed.

Posted by: Bill at June 13, 2005 06:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"I'm not an expert on the military, but I don't imagine our current troop level...is sustainable with recruiting numbers the way they are.... Plus, at some point casualties and the cycling out of veterans, even after stop-loss, will begin to really take a toll. Are we sure that staying another 2 years minimum can be accomplished in light of the change to the numbers and nature of our military?"

These are (sadly) necessary questions to ask. However, the prospect of civil war in Iraq could be an incentive to peace. If the Shias and Kurds are open to the Sunni Arabs, the latter may accept inclusion before a new constitution takes effect rather than boycott a new government and then fight a civil war that the Sunni Arabs cannot possibly win.

The problem is that if the Sunnis do not buy into the new constitution this fall, or are too intimidated by the insurgents to do so, we may well face the difficulties you mention. If there is a confrontation with Iran over that country's nuclear program, then all bets are off regarding Iraq's stability.

What the United States needs is a larger strategy to make the world more secure in the long run, a strategy that can survive local setbacks in the same way that the Cold War policy of containment survived Vietnam. Instead, we have defined our present global strategy in terms of changing one country and preventing the next terror attack against our homeland.

Posted by: David Billington at June 13, 2005 07:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I appreciate your posting on this issue, and your support for the war, very much. However, I must say that if you are looking for a balanced view of what's happening over in Iraq I'm not sure that the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune are two exclusive institutions you should use for sourcing your article. I find it interesting that both Michael Yon and Major E. (see quotes and links below) have a much more nuanced/positive view of the situation, and both of them have been in Iraq for extended periods of time. James Janega has only been in Iraq for a short period and Brian Bender appears to be writing out of Washington DC. I also find that your intense personal dislike for Rumsfeld is tending to color your objective view again.

Battle for Mosul-Part III

"In each engagement, the Americans were decimating the enemy, chiseling off chunks of combatants, and seizing and destroying their weapons and explosives. The harder the enemy fought the more fighters they lost; they were facing a foe that was better equipped, more resilient, and a lot harder than the enemy expected. After months of intense fighting, Coalition forces changed the ground conditions dramatically. The Coalition now owns the open roads, while the enemy scrambles to hiding places in the alleys. The challenge has always been to hold Mosul without destroying the city. It remains the order of the day."

Major E. Reports

"In summary, our two-part mission of stabilizing the security situation and strengthening the fledgling effort toward democracy is moving forward... We are not winning bloodlessly but we are winning, and this is a mission worthy of sacrifice. The troops see the ground truth and generally agree with this, which is why morale is high based on my conversations with troops all over theater. The casualties that we still take are caused by a resilient and bloodthirsty enemy who thinks nothing of murdering innocent women and children in the name of Islam, but we are slowly grinding them down."

Posted by: Marlin at June 13, 2005 07:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The first step in quelling the insurgency is a change in US policy toward the region --- especially with regard to Iraq's neighbors like Syria and Iran. As long as Bushco continues to signal its desire to overthrow other ME governments, those governments will continue to have incentives to place a low priority on securing their own borders with Iraq.

But lets face it, our situation in Iraq is completely untenable, because we have no real allies in most of Iraq -- only those who consider the US presence a necessary evil who will turn on us the moment their own goals are achieved.

Nor do we have any of the support from the international community that will be needed to deal with Iraq. The US can talk all it wants to about the importance of international co-operation, but when the Bush regime simultaneously insists upon sending a John Bolton to the organization that symbolizes international co-operation, it is signalling to the world that all the talk about working with the international community is just that--talk.

And those who think that "the way out" is to allow the Shia and Kurdish militias to go on a campaign of genocide against Iraq's Sunni minority are apparently unaware that Iraq is not a island in the middle of an ocean, but (except for Iran) is surrounded by nations with substantial Sunni majorities.

Its time for honest conservatives to admit the obvious -- that the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the Bush regime was a mistake, and that those who opposed the war were right.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 13, 2005 01:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, let me say that the argument that a withdrawal today would somehow mean that the sacrifice of our dead and wounded would have been "in vain," as Greg put it, is morally indefensible. We deposed a vicious tyrant, and gave the Iraqis a shot at running their own affairs. That is accomplishment enough. It is not our job to guarantee a positive outcome for Iraq. And the idea that we have to send more soldiers to their deaths in order to justify the deaths that have already occurred is, when you stop to think about it, grotesque. I suspect if you polled the families of the dead and wounded, you wouldn't get too many saying "Yes, please send more of other people's children to their deaths so my boy wouldn't have died in vain." Second, the fundamental issue is whether the situation in Iraq continues to justify the enormous committment in blood and treasure, the continuing weakening of our armed forces, and the enormous loss of our international standing, so that we are less and less able to meet other challenges that are almost certain to arise. To this observer, the answer is - clearly - no. Even if you argue Hussein was a mortal threat (something that in retrospect is very far from a certainty), today Iraq is not. We may indeed leave a mess if we depart, but it already is a mess, and the investment now required to "unmess" it is no longer in the national interest of the United States - even in the increasingly unlikely event that in three or five or seven or ten years we could say we "succeeded."

Posted by: Czapnik at June 13, 2005 01:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too am puzzled by the sentiment I've seen, here and elsewhere, which treats a Sunni-Shia-Kurd civil war as a possible unfortunate but neccessary outcome. Nothing could be further from the truth. But what I find puzzling about such speculation is that it comes from war supporters. Let me put it in no uncertain terms; a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq would be a result of the failure of the United States and the Bush administration, and not a major or minor vindication of its actions and decisions. Such a conflict needs to not happen. I doubt too it will work as a threat to bring the Sunnis to the negotiating table, for they'll ignore it if they doubt it will be backed up, and if they believe it possible they'll just keep fighting.

The US must do everything it can to stop an Iraqi civil war from occuring. But of course, we haven't.

Posted by: SamAm at June 13, 2005 01:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A prominent American official who dwelt at length on the worst case might contribute a great deal to the cause of avoiding it. Call it constructive brinksmanship, the recruitment of Sunni Arabs into the political process as an alternative to the destruction of their community, to their impoverishment, to their exile. The insurgents pressuring the Sunni Arab population are desperate men; to resist, Sunni Arabs may need a reason to feel desperate themselves.

Dude, you really need to get yourself a regular blog. I think this is exactly right. And Jim Rockford makes excellent points as well.

Look, it's very easy to get discouraged over the carnage that is been happening over the past couple of weeks in Iraq. But the question is what is exactly happening? Which part of the Iraqi army is failing to keep up? Why? Who is being slaughtered? Who is doing most of the killing? And more importantly, will it help them achieve their ostensible goals, political or otherwise? It seems to me that if you tried to answer these questions, from the insurgency's point of view, the answers would lead them down a political black hole. Here is an article that articulates my position far better than I.

Some key quotes:

(...)Next, the insurgency decided that killing members of Iraq’s nascent army and police force could do the trick. But two years of brutal killings have failed to reduce the number of new recruits or slow down the training and deployment of new units.

Once it had become clear that killing Americans and Iraqi Army and police recruits would not stop the march of history, the insurgency switched to the tactic of killing Iraqi Shiites at random. And once that had failed, random killing was extended to Sunni Kurds and Turcomans. With the insurgency’s hope of provoking sectarian wars dashed, we are now witnessing a new phase in which even Sunni Arabs are being killed indiscriminately. The insurgents know how to kill but no longer know whom to kill. Nor do they seem to know why they are killing.

By adopting an extremist posture the insurgency has forced many Iraqis who, for different reasons, resent the occupation or do not like the new government, into the position of passive onlookers. Most people are prepared to march, go on strike, practice civil disobedience, vote, or even take personal physical risks in pursuit of political goals. Some are even ready to sacrifice their lives for deeply felt convictions. We saw a demonstration of all that in Iraq’s first free election last January when millions turned out to express their support for democratization. But when it comes to killing people at random, whether through car bombs or suicide attacks, only very few on the margins of humanity would be attracted. Having excluded the vast majority of the Iraqis from its field of vision, the insurgency has invested its hopes in the necessarily diminishing number of potential random killers and suicide bombers.

Politics being the art of the possible, the insurgency’s discourse consists of a jumble of impossibilities. It is impossible to imagine a new Iraq ruled once again by Saddam Hussein or Izzat Al-Duri, his No. 2 who is the insurgency’s principal ringleader. Nor could one imagine the Palestinian-Jordanian terrorist Abu-Mussab Al-Zarqawi entering Baghdad as a victorious “Commander of the Faithful” to build an Arab version of the Taleban’s now defunct rule in Afghanistan. Anyone with any knowledge of Iraq would know that few Iraqis would find either of those options as attractive.

Paradoxically, the insurgency’s supposed goal of driving the US-led coalition out of Iraq could, if realized, prove suicidal for the insurgents.

and this

In the first few months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the insurgency might have benefited from an American retreat. At that time the insurgents, especially the remnants of the Baath paramilitary and security organizations, still had a virtual monopoly on weapons in Iraq and thus would have been in a position to regain power by killing large numbers of unarmed Shiites and Kurds as they had done on other occasions since 1968.

Now, however, the “other side”, that is to say the Shiites and the Kurds who together represent 85 percent of the population, are also armed and can fight back both through their own paramilitary organizations and the newly created army and police force.

Of greater moment to the insurgency is the fact that the US-led coalition, constrained by American and international laws and conventions, cannot fight with the same degree of brutality that Al-Duri and Zarqawi regard as routine. But what if the fighting is left to Shiites, Kurds, and even some Arab Sunnis, who have a personal score to settle with Al-Duri and Zarqawi? They would certainly not be concerned about the Marques of Queensbury’s rule. The Iraqi insurgency’s future is dim because Al-Duri and Zarqawi are seeking total power at a time that Iraqi politics, and beyond it the politics of the greater Middle East, are being recast on the basis of power sharing and compromise. Because they want all of power they will end up having none of it. The insurgency may continue for many more months, if not years, in the area known as Jazirah (island), which accounts for about 10 percent of the Iraqi territory, plus parts of Baghdad. It may continue killing people but will not be able to stop the political process. Its history is one of a string of political failures.

Over the past two years it has failed to prevent he formation of a governing council, the writing of an interim constitution, the transfer of sovereignty, the holding of local and general elections, and the creation of a new government.

This year it will fail to prevent the writing of a new constitution, already being drafted, the referendum to get it approved, the holding of fresh parliamentary elections, and the formation of a new elected government in Baghdad.

To paraphrase an Arabic saying, the caravan will continue its journey while the wolves howl.

Sorry, I ended up quoting most of the article, but, needless to say, read the rest.

A few posts by a reporter based in Mosul, Micheal Yon are also worth the read. Here , here but especially this if your time is limited. Also, I notice you don't have any links to milblogs. They are definately an invaluable resource.

As an aside, I'd like to say that were this criticism coming from the Left, I would dismiss it completely out of hand from the getgo. And I say this as someone who, believe it or not, pre 9-11, pretty much shared p.lukasiak's world view. The Left, in terms of foreign policy debate is pretty much useless for the foreseable future, except for a few brave souls. But because it's criticism from you, I take it seriously. So while I disagree to a point and don't share your antipathy towards Rumsfeld, I'd like to say, on the whole, keep up the great work.

Posted by: Mike at June 13, 2005 02:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. One of the articles indicates that negotiations with the Sunnis are a sign of a change in strategy on the US part, due to the stubbornness of the insurgency. I dont agree. AFAICT it has been US policy to negotiate with parts of the Sunni community, to defeat the insurgency politically, since June 2003, when Allawi became PM. That his ability in theory to talk to the Sunnis was one of the reasons he was made PM. That there is more progress on that front now is due to Sunni arabs, including pro-insurgent ones like AMS, deciding that the insurgency will NOT win, and therefore that negotiations are the best way to retain some Sunni power.
2. Im not convinced the military situation is so dire that MORE US troops are needed. No, we cant lock down Anbar. But we CAN do repeated big ops in Anbar, apparently since fewer US troops are needed in Baghdad and elsewhere. Increasing the number of US troops would, I think, send a very bad message about our confidence in the new Iraqi forces. Who, despite past Rumsfeldian exagerations, apparently ARE coming a long way. Time and Gen Petraeus doing their jobs. ANd I think there IS something to the left line that too many US troops are a problem. Lots of what has to be done is searching homes, detaining people, running check points. Plenty of evidence that having US troops do that is at least somewhat counter productive on the hearts and minds front. The division of labor - have Iraqis do the grunt work in politically sensitive ops, like op Lighting in Baghdad, and have the US forces focus on the more conventional like ops - makes sense.
3. There ARE positive signs. the attacks on the Iraqi forces, especially on new recruits etc do not seem to have slowed pace of recrutment. The attacks on civilians have not stopped the political process. At some point in a guerilla war, the guerillas have to make their attacks count. We may not be at Dan's 1944, but perhaps early 1943 would be a better analogy?
4. The draft. I dont think instituting it to get more troops for Iraq would be a good idea. Theres a lot we can do in recruitment, given sufficient resources. Which we could get, with, say, tax increases.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 13, 2005 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree w/ this post above: http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/archives/004617.html#14330

The Defense Department has taken a beating in the press for what appears to be shortcomings by the State Department. As Rumsfeld has said, you go to war with the army you have. We have been stretched thin, especially given our other military commitments throughout the world. Do you not think Rumsfeld would put another battalion in theater if he could? Where are all these mythical troops supposed to come from?

The "shoudda had more troops crowd" needs to explain where we were going to find these men. It's like blaming Rumfeld for not using the "kill only evil men" bomb. You just can't understand what's holding him back.

Posted by: Charles at June 13, 2005 04:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There will be car bombs going off in Iraq for the next 50 or 100 years. The insurgency has been "defeated" in so much as that it is percieved by a great majority of the Iraqis as an abomination and is politically dead. In the end, the US cannot by itelf, "defeat " the insurgency militarily. That will be up to the the Iraqi people and it's democratically elected govt. The fact that that Iraqis deplore the insurgents, demonstrates that "defeat" is inevetibale and simply a matter of time.


Posted by: joe at June 13, 2005 05:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't have time to comment more than to say I thought this was an excellent post. But Greg, can you edit the URL in Claire's comment (@ at June 12, 2005 09:04 PM) to not be inline? It's blowing the column width. Thanks!

Posted by: fling93 at June 13, 2005 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Charles: I agree with you. The draw down in the 90s depleted the regular force. If the hard liners had their way there would have been no invasion of Afghanistan (500,000 required with a 6 month build up) and Iraq (500,000 required and a six month build up). The war on terror would never have started and we would be discussing political solutions until the next 9/11. Find and kill those who want to kill us. The strategic deployment of force will always beat the Russian method of steamrolling over everything. Especially if you want to have any kind of relationship with the people on the ground.

Posted by: davod at June 13, 2005 08:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some interesting debate - great post Greg. I don't really have anything to add except this...

I'm somewhat reminded of the attitude of British troops (and the folks back home) in the early August of 1914 marching off to war comfortable in the knowledge that the "war would be over by christmas". I have a feeling now the same realisation that those troops and their relatives at home felt by mid 1915, is now sinking into the American Public.

Isn't it amazing that despite all the advances we've made socially and technologically, we still manage to repeat some of the same fundamental errors generation after generation....

Posted by: Aran Brown at June 13, 2005 10:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think we are about six months to a year for a Shia "March to the Sea" except unlike Sherman I believe the Shia forces will kill a lot of Sunnis. Making their point in the usual ME way.

I pity the poor person who has to go in front of the American people and apologize for accidentally assisting a genocide.

I'd guess 90% of the people who supported the war and didn't believe that Saddam was behind 9/11 justified the war on the basis of providing an example of working democracy in the Middle East. The start of "draining the swamp". Once that's in the junk-heap, and it is clear that more lives are lost under the new regime than under Saddam, there are are going to be a lot of angry people wondering just what American lives and money were spent on.

Posted by: Tom West at June 14, 2005 12:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Was my previous comment censored? And if so, why? Surely it was not impolite.

If this is to become some sort of echo chamber, just say so and I'll gladly save you the bandwidth of my humble visits.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 14, 2005 06:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

nichevo:??? whao? i haven't censored anything...what comment was lost? in this thread? if so, i'll poke around the software. sorry about any misunderstanding.

Posted by: greg at June 14, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

D'oh! A google of apologies, BD. Posted on Overoptimistic Narratives, not Iraqi Ins. is Not Dead. Didn't see my post. I would be obliged if you would delete this and my previous post. I was confused at work today, they ran together. Didn't seem like your style. Sorry again.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 15, 2005 05:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Was Germany defeated by November of 1944?

Of course.

Was the war over.?

Of course not.

In fact casualty rates increased very significantly for about two months (Battle of the Bulge).

So it may be true that the insurgency is defeated and yet there is much fighting to do.

BTW your new format requires using the left/right scroll bar. Very hard to read. I use Netscape 7.2

The Adventures of Chester seems to have fixed a similar problem.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 15, 2005 11:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The insurgents are defeated as a force. They can't win a single engagement with the U.S. military.

We tried to tell the North Viet Namese the very same thing. It was true then, as well, and they didn't listen either. A successful insurgency avoids engaging the enemy at all costs, General Genius.

Consistently brilliant, Paul Wretchard of Belmont Club was never more so when he noted on January 13 how

Middle Eastern warfare, beginning in modern times from the Franco-Algerian war in the 1960s favored a strategic withdrawal by its militarily weaker forces into social redoubts, defended not by concrete fortifications but by nearly impenetrable barriers of kinship, language and religion. America might deploy a million men to Iraq and physically control every inch of ground, but unless it could reach into this social fortress it could never successfully engage the enemy.

Bullseye, Mr. Wretchard. Mabrook.

I bet Wretchard quietly shredded that post.

From Bullseye to bullshit in six short months. You armchair tactical hacks on the right crack me up. Stick to the grand strategery you misunderstand so well.

Posted by: Col. Bat Guano at June 15, 2005 01:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Posted by: tramadol at June 25, 2005 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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