June 13, 2005

The Perils of Over-Optimistic Narratives

More, shall we say, Wretchardian sophistry:

Yet the question remains: if the insurgency is losing then why is the level of combat constant or increasing? The only answer, admittedly one that will not convince everybody, is to point to the pattern of operations. In 2004 the insurgent strategy was to co-opt or infiltrate government security forces. That failed and the insurgents are now meeting government forces in combat, a fact attested by the losses the Iraqi police and army are taking in the fight.

Heh. Let me translate this in plainer English for you friends. It's kinda good news that newly trained Iraqi forces are being killed in large number. Means the outmatched insurgents have finally been forced to take the fight to the enemy, see! Before, the insurgent strategy was more one of stealthfully co-opting or infiltrating government security forces. They were safer then, not yet actively engaging the enemy, and so losses (all around ostensibly) were fewer. Except, even per the statistics Wretchard bandies about (somewhat like a lugubrious actuary), there were 1,300 Iraqi Forces felled pre--2005 (there are just shy of a 1,000 killed so far this year--a number that will likely rise to 2,000 or so by year end). Not really a dramatic difference, all told. And, in my view, not causally linked to whether insurgents are more trying to infiltrate the Iraqi Army or whether they are more waging live battles with us and our local allies. The bottom line is that nascent Iraqi military forces have been slaughtered like lemmings month after month, often in quasi-quotidian moments, as they await picking up their paychecks (often the only reason they're there) or registering papers at the local municipality building. The heavy fighting continues to be done by the Americans (Wolf Brigades and such notable exceptions aside), in the main, because most Iraqi forces can't face the insurgents head-on without the best fighting force on the planet (that's us) leading the charge. They're not ready for prime-time and solo action. To divine a real pattern from all this regarding the numbers of Iraqi forces killed (that they have moved from infiltration to active fighting) is chimerical. Clear?

But I digress. Wretchard advises that the insurgent infiltration strategy (of the new Iraqi Army) has failed. But this last contention is not evidenced in the least but merely stated as accepted fact. I have significant residual concerns that train and equip has been infiltrated by a variety of foreign and unfriendly domestic agents. (B.D. worked on the 'train and equip' effort for the Bosnian Federation Army--which became infiltrated by a good many Iranian agents at certain junctures. How much you wanna bet they've done a better job of it closer in the 'hood? And that's just foreign agents...there's a good dollop of Baathist sympathizers in the mix too). The reality is that the insurgents are busy, not only placing IED's (a "steady dribble" of them, you might say), fighting us and nascent Iraqi Forces, but also very much still busy infiltrating the new Iraqi Army. And they're, in all likelihood, doing a much better job of it than Wretchard breezily lets on. Go here for more detail.

All this aside, you'd think, wouldn't you, that if more Iraqi Forces are dying, than fewer of our guys would be, no? After all, there taking over the fight, per Wretchard, right!?! Certainly if the insurgency had been "defeated" (or if it is "losing" as Belmont Club puts it more, er, ponderously today), things are on the up and up? But alas, we are losing at least as many men as last year as Wretchard is reluctantly forced to concede: "From a statistical point of view combat in Iraq has been as deadly as the year previous". (Hmmm, one wonders: are we losing fewer men from a non-statistical point of view, perhaps? Just curious). And this, of course, without having to deal with the nettlesome Moktada al-Sadr in 2005.

Wretchard also writes:

Nor is it clear that it will be "far cheaper, easier and quicker for an insurgent force to regenerate than for a counterinsurgent force to regenerate" where the insurgents come from the Sunni minority while the counterinsurgent force comes from the Shi'ite and Kurdish majority of the population.

People just don't get this, do they? Are we really going to send in legions of peshmerga or closet-Sadr supporters into Ramadi, Fallujah and the Sunni bad-lands of the Syrian border? Why not just send some Sunnis to go relieve themsleves in the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, say, or send some revanchist Shi'a to do a spot of score-settling in Anbar Province? The counter-insurgent forces, to be effective, must come from the population itself (or at least have a good dollop from the area in question). Otherwise we risk lighting the conflagration of sectararian strife and, god forbid, civil war.

Wretchard goes on to sum up:

The Coalition is on the strategic offensive, probably inflicting a multiple kill-ratio on the enemy, capturing its leadership, improving its intelligence capacity and generating ever larger numbers of indigenous combat forces. It is basically ascendant in every measurable military category. On the other hand, the insurgents are counting on making America tire of serial combat victories without apparent end in the belief that if they simply do not admit to loss they will eventually win -- not on the battlefield as Fester and Kos would have us believe -- but on the political front, as they always aimed to do. In a sense, neither Michael Yon nor anyone else can say us when the finish line will be crossed because it lies on a plane which includes, but is not limited to the battlefield. Karl von Clauswitz famously said "War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means." The US military has provided most of the "other means"; it now remains to be seen whether the remainder of its society can provide the rest.

I agree with the estimable Wretchard, all told, that we are "basically ascendant in every measurable military category." And amen for that. That's why I am still cautiously optimistic we will prevail in this war. But I have to strongly disagree with Wretchard still in this last concluding graf. In mondo Belmont Club, the insurgents are waiting for us civies watching dissident channels like the Beeb or CBS to "tire of serial combat victories without apparent end" and sap the war effort at home. Weak-kneed coastal Manhattan and San Fran pansies don't even have the stomach to keep the home fire's burning adequately! Please. Tell that to the grunts in the field. They'll tell us that rosy talk of imminent victory is mostly bunk. The bottom line is we have a helluva hard fight in front of us--and "serial victories" are the least of our problems. What we need is for smart guys in the Republican Party to stop spinning. Every time Cheney says something like "last throes", and months later we're still going hard at it, who is really suffering? The President and the credibility of his Administration, that's who. Let's be more intellectually honest with ourselves, no? Isn't that what leadership and character is about? Look, I'll be among the happiest to be proven wrong. Let the serial victories march forth untrammeled, and let us claim victory soonest. But I fear it won't be that easy. Not by a long shot. But who am I to question the over-optimistic narratives that carry us forward majestically and inexorably towards achievement of strategic, Clauswitzian ends? It can only be because I lack the requisite fortitude and sense of purpose, doubtless, that I dare question whether the insurgency has really been defeated. Or something like that.

MORE: A reader E-mails in:

I felt compelled to write and state my wholehearted agreement with regard your recent posts dealing with the recent output of the Belmont Club. Neither post had a word out of place and you got it absolutely bang on.

To be candid - perhaps unwelcomely - my personal view of the Belmont Club is probably rather less positive than yours. In fact it's gone on a more or less constant downward slope since I first read (and was impressed by) his output way back in the day. I don't deny for an instant that Wretchard is broadly well informed and clearly highly intelligent. However, for my part I have long felt that the BC has been perhaps the leading repository of what a friend of mine who works on The Hill as a professional (ex-U.S. Army Rangers) staffer refers to bitterly as the "hidden good news story", whereby an event that is perceived by almost everyone in the defence community as a disaster or setback and reported as such in the press is invariably somehow portrayed by partisan commentators as a startling example of
geo-strategic genius on the part of the Bush administration. Wretchard is also extremely good at making his arguments appear superficially impressive by the employment of lengthy posts drawing on numerous (often very superficial)historical analogies. However, were we to actually go over his coverage over the past couple of years I strongly suspect that in reality very little of what he has had to say has actually panned out the way he predicted. Not, it has to be said, that any of us (least of all myself) are entirely innocent of this! Everyone makes mistakes, but Wretchard's somewhat belligerent assertiveness doesn't help his case.

It also doesn't help that his posting has become increasingly overt in its political partisanship, with numerous sweeping condemnations of "the left" and unpleasant sneers at... well pretty much everyone but the Republican right really (I speak as somebody who cheerfully considers himself to be on the right hand side of the political spectrum - but hackery is hackery). My tolerance of his output probably reached its nadir when he implied, in what I felt was a rather cagey and undignified manner, that Associated Press photographers were guilty of collusion in the murder of Iraqi electoral workers ("questions must be asked" etc..). In fact, the evidence he marshalled was not only highly circumstantial but tissue thin and soon fell apart under scrutiny. To the best of my knowledge he has at no point withdrawn or apologised but was instead happy to deal in nods and winks and to let people foolish enough to dangle on
his every word (of which, to my continuing bemusement, there are very, very, many) to pick it up and run with it - disastrously in my view. For all the brouhaha about the failure and lack of accountability of the "liberal media", as far as I'm concerned that
little performance pretty much set Wretchard up as the right wing internet equivalent of a Michael Meacher column in the Guardian.

You may well consider this assessment unduly harsh and it may be that you'd be right, but regardless, your recent posts have been an absolute breath of fresh air and have restored my faith in a medium towards which I have become increasingly jaded recently (but this email is already too long as it stands so I won't get started...)

Keep the E-mails coming. Frankly, I don't know if my correspondent is being unduly harsh to Wretchard. There are some posts he writes which I consider of top quality and with which I wholeheartedly agree (for instance, see here and here). That said, I'm not a regular reader of Belmont Club and tend to head over more when Glenn links. So I really don't have a comprehensive feel. But I think I've made it clear over the past couple of days that he's overly optimistic on the war--which is my main beef with him. Regardless, no fear, I'll be moving on to other topics tonight beyond this (ultimately not so important) blogospheric navel-gazing. Recall I'm nine hours ahead of East Coast time still.

Posted by Gregory at June 13, 2005 11:27 AM | TrackBack (19)

wretchard says a number of stupid things - among others, I doubt he really understands what 'correlation' means.

And yeah, I share your concern about continued infiltration of Iraqi forces.

But in defense of him, wrt to the performance of Iraqi forces. Sure most of their casualties have been while being transported, standing in line, etc. But in 2004 what else did they do? In the April 2004 uprising they turned and ran OR they actively joined the insurgency. By the battle of Najaf a few small units were fighting, with handholding from US forces. First time we'd seen that. In December we still saw Iraqi forces running away in Mosul, though at least this time they werent joining the insurgents. And a few fought. On January 30, 2005, Iraqi forces protected the election (with US forces nearby) and did a fairly good job. In the last few weeks an apparently fairly large Iraqi force (if not the 40,000 advertised) have taken the lead in major counter insurgency operations in Baghad, including some open combat. Still with US advisors, and US air support as back up. Sure. But not something that was possible 12 months ago. Ya gotta crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run.

And BTW, I certainly hope we dont send all Sunni Arab army units into the triangle. The Iraqi army needs to be a national army - not just selected province by province. An army is different from a police force.

I agree that a long slog looks likely - though I think there ARE tantalizing hints a corner is being turned -esp the willingness of AMS to negotiate, reports of hostility to the Zarqawi branch of the insurgency even in Anbar province, etc. The kinds of coalition operations we are seeing. But my main reason for agreeing that Cheney should not say what hes been saying is the expectations game. Even IF we have a possibility of a victory soon, what is to be gained from trumpeting that? While much is to be lost if we trumpet imminent victory, and it does NOT take place.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 13, 2005 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you pick leaders that constantly move the goal-posts ("It's the WMD," "It's the Al-Qaeda connection," "It's all about democracy"), or re-jigger strategy claims ("There will be no real opposition," "We'll crush them and be done with it," "It's the flypaper strategy," "We'll seal the borders; that's it"), you are going to get followers that produce the same sort of drivel.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at June 13, 2005 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Slaughtered like lemmings?"

lh does have a point; Iraqi security forces are well advanced overall from what they were a year ago. Whether their progress is adequate, and how much the degree to which it is inadequate is attributable to how late we started building them up, are both good questions. It should go without saying that optimistic evaluations from thousands of miles away should probably be discounted when evaluations by people on the scene are very different. But there is some progress being made.

Posted by: JEB at June 13, 2005 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I still remember in April '04 when Wretchard proclaimed victory in Fallujah.

Posted by: praktike at June 14, 2005 02:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look, everyone by now should see what is happening. Absent the foreign jihadis, the Sunnis are fighting in the traditional tribal banditry way. Ambush and retreat. They have small arms and mortars and that's it.

Solution? Use force to break the political will of the tribal bandits and you have only the jihadis to deal with who are foreign and will be slaughtered by the tribal bandits when it's convenient to do so.

Sherman understood the way to victory. Rather than fight a meaningless war of attrition and ambush, force the matter. Take Shia and Kurd militias, and simply march them through Sunni territory like Sherman DESTROYING EVERY PIECE OF PROPERTY THEY CAN. The banditry will stop. Why? People will fight only when they can do so without horrible consequences. They might risk their lives but NEVER their property. Tribal chiefs have considerable wealth, much of it hidden away or not readily moveable. If the area is sealed off and they can't move wealth out, they have a political choice to fight (and lose all their wealth and hence chieftancy) or come to a settlement to STOP FIGHTING and keep their wealth.

[this was btw the choice Saddam gave them].

The terrorists/bandits are not strong enough to resist the Shia/Kurd militias when backed by the US, so why not use the easiest solution and force the matter? Yeah the press will scream but they hate America anyway. Who cares?

Posted by: Jim Rockford at June 14, 2005 03:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You miss the point entirely in talking about how much fight is left in the insurgency. instead ask the question:
"If we have the will to stick it out, does the enemy have a chance to thwart our goals? specifically thwart our goals of a stable, secure, democratic Iraq?" The answer to that question is "NO".

A neat little book called "The Battles that changed history" on my desk here convincingly notes that the 'point of decision' in WWII was passed in December 1942, after Stalingrad, Midway and El Alemain shifted the strategic balance in favor of the allies. D-Day, Anzio, Kursk, the Ardennes and Okinawa were yet to come, and most US casualties had yet to happen, but the Axis powers were toast.

Well, I've got news for you: The 'point of decision' has passed for the Iraqi insurgency and the terrorists. They are toast. It happened the day 8 million Iraqi voters chose a democratic future for Iraq; that, combined with Bush's re-elction, combined with the retaking of Fallujah, combined with Al-Sadr gaving up last October, combined with the people of Iraq having the confidence to turn in terrorists now, created a momentum for stabilizing Iraq and securing a democratic future that the insurgents do not have the capacity to stop. That's what we will call victory when it happens.

Fears of civil war are overblown, as are the 'theocracy' scare-meme: the shiites btw now are agreeing to keep the moderate provisional constitution language on Islam, so there goes that 'theocracy' there; the safe haven of Fallujah was taken, Mosul stabilized (see Michael Yon's reports), and now, with Iraqi forces in Baghdad, they are being pushed on to s**thole towns in the western deserts. BG worries that we don't have enough forces out there - point taken, but a bunch of insurgents in a s**thole campsite in the middle of the desert won't do much to stop civil society from developing in Iraq. Expelling terrorists from Baghdad is a *big deal*.

Belmont's point is that casualty rates dont signal defeat but battlefield friction - friction that we have been creating through offensive operations like Operation Matador and Operation Lightning. Sure we lost 9 men in Matador, but we tok out several hundred insurgents in Al-Anbar.

Our strategic position vis a vis the insurgents is far better now than in the fall of 2004. On the political level, Iraq is more stable and its emerging democracy is proceeding on target.

Last point. Belgravia can't have it both ways: If MSM defeatism isn't responsible for prolonging our stay or inciting the insurgents with false hopes of us 'bugging out' prematurely, neither can Bush administration optimism (let alone blogger enthusiasm) be responsible for us failing to do all it takes to win - it's not as if the war critics are demanding we send more troops, keep them longer, and be harsher in dealing with the terrorists, right?

Realism and cynicism are not the same thing. Cynics said the election wouldn't work. Cynics will tell you it will take years to stand up the army. Realism will tell you, as US Grant learned, that the enemy is as scared in battle as you are. The Sunni insurgents are at wits end and the rumbles of possibly 'rejoining politics' are not to be unexpected. The insurgency has failed in its core objective and needs an 'out'.

I believe the most realistic view is one of strategic optimism - we WILL prevail - mixed with tactical caution (we really don't know how much 'fight' is left in the insurgency), and an understanding that the costs are yet to be determined, in lives and treasure.

Posted by: Patrick at June 14, 2005 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't understand the post you made a while ago about the vitriolic tone of comments, when your daily blogposts become more and more rancorous, against someone who is not targeting you directly. Are we poopy heads now if we read the Belmont Club? Are we living a lie if we read both of you? May I kindly and humbly recommend a Valium or other flavor of chill pill?

I think it sufficiently obvious as not to require further elaboration that--given the same set of facts--the MSM would be doing a 180 and providing valuable support for our cause. If you want to say Bush has wrapped himself in the flag, is the proper answer to hack or burn it off?

No I don't want you to shut up, make nice, agree with Wretchard, or otherwise be compelled to do what anybody tells you. You certainly do strike a note of carping lately, however. And I don't notice what you are doing that could be considered helping, i.e. what are you suggesting that would actively lead to a desired set of results?

Posted by: Nichevo at June 14, 2005 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Both you and Wretchard are saying much the same thing with differing degress of confidence. He says we are winning. You say we will win. Both of you think we are doing our best to eliminate the enemy. But Jim Rockford has contemplated the path neither of you believe will be necessary, but most certainly would eliminate the insurgency long enough for us to train the Iraqis and get the hell out.

Don't think a seriously heavier hand and lots of killing by the previously oppressed wouldn't stop this insurgency well enough? It's how Saddam did it. And if it worked for him, I guarantee you it will work for the Kurds and Shiites. Just because we are taking the more costly path of subduing the Sunni insurgency via the velvet glove, doesn't mean we can't unveil the iron fist.

Would it be our choice to do so? Of course not. But if necessary, we could. Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Berlin, and Nagasaki all saw the results of our wrath when determined to bring an end to a costly conflict. Have we reached that point? Far from it. Do I agree with the path we are on now? Most assuredly yes. If things got much worse, could America be convinced to turn into that which we most hope to avoid becoming? You bet your sweet bippy. One WMD attack, here or in Iraq would convince many Americans to end this with a ten pound sledgehammer blow to a peanut.

You folks who see catastrophe in every casualty haven't thought far enough ahead to the actual possibilities of a catastrophic attack on American forces. Because the loss of 20000 American soldiers in one swell foop, or the loss of millions of Americans at home would bring this conflict to a swift and most unsatisfactory end, through massive conventional or nuclear attack. Don't think it can't happen, and it wouldn't be supported. When 4 million of your neighbors get incinerated and you may be next, the self preservation instinct becomes very strong.

And frankly, I am tired of everyone saying it couldn't happen. That is the lack of imagination we suffered on September 10th, 2001. Better start thinking how bad it truly could be, and then you'll see how trivial these discussions of bad things in Iraq are. Over 20 million Russians, 6 million German soldiers, 6 million German citizens, and another several million Allied and Axis personnel, not to mention innocents in those countries lost their lives in WWII. Don't tell me this couldn't get a lot worse.

So get off the generals' backs and let them do their job without having to explain every setback in gross and gory detail. They are busy enough as it is without us making it harder on them.

Press on to final Victory. The exit strategy is to win this thing without becoming Saddam. Live with it.


Posted by: Subsunk at June 14, 2005 04:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Rockford Folks... Ethnocentrism at its finest. Mores the pity because when he says something sensible and intelligent most of the time people dismiss it because its buried under ethnocentric bile.

It appears that in your world Jim if you're not white, english speaking and probably christian, then you must not able to have any political aspirations beyond "tribal banditry" nor are capable or anything more than a barbaric subsistence existence (Hanging Gardens of Babylon be damned)

I mean its a great idea to march milita's of a different Religo/Ethic persuasion through another militia's "tribal area" (for want of a better term). All the while encouraging them in "DESTROYING EVERY PIECE OF PROPERTY THEY CAN".

Of course that has absolutely no possibility of igniting a civil war does it? The Iranians would have nothing to say about "marching" Shia based militias around like you own them either would they? Although I strongly suspect you wouldn't care because you just attack them too.

Afterall political nuance and consideration of ethnic and religious ojectives is wasted on such savages.

Of course you can always point to WWII which really was the last theatre of conflict in which the US actually won a resounding victory. Despite the fact that the political and ethnic basis on which WWII was fought are utterly different we can compare them all the same. After all its not about conflict between nations with imperialistic agendas as opposed to conflict between nations and transnational groups with Religo-Political Agendas. Its really about good guys and bad guys.

The sad thing is that you're right about the need to quell the insurgency, its just that your assumptions that you've made in how to deal with it are so ethnocentrially warped that all you'd do is turn the region into a bloody conflagration, in which not only would the economic shockwaves be disasterous, but would ensure the region would be racked with bloodshed for years to come. Which in the long term would fundamentally screw the World's economy which is so dependent on oil at this juncture.

BTW 5 years of Occupation under the Gestapo couldn't break the back of the European Resistance movements, what on earth makes you think you can do it in months, with less troops and much less intel? Now thats a comparison worth thinking about.

Posted by: Aran Brown at June 14, 2005 08:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is worth reading this comment by Wretchard in the discussion following "The Fourth Conjecture". We are not talking about a nut here. The man is optimistic, and finds parallels in less recent history, just as many other commenters are pessimistic and find parallels only in Vietnam.

Wretchard's criticisms of "The Left" can be grating, but he has never descended to the level of the EMail that you saw fit to honor with its own post.

Posted by: sammler at June 14, 2005 09:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I bet Andrew Sullivan has a smile on his face now that Greg smacked Wretchard.

Posted by: john marzan at June 14, 2005 12:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i was right, after checking sullivan's site.

i also sense greg was just looking for a reason to do what he just did.

Posted by: john marzan at June 14, 2005 12:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Wretchard's criticisms of "The Left" can be grating, but he has never descended to the level of the EMail that you saw fit to honor with its own post."

duh! you have to ask greg why he posted that in the first place.

and like andrew sullivan said, don't forget about abu ghraib...

Posted by: john marzan at June 14, 2005 12:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I don't understand the post you made a while ago about the vitriolic tone of comments, when your daily blogposts become more and more rancorous, against someone who is not targeting you directly"

actually the whole right and center right blogosphere seems to be going off on a bender. Sully vs Glenn on Abu Graib. Wretchard and Dan vs Gregg. Assorted nastiness of tone at Winds of Change. I attribute it to post election comedown, Schiavo, judges, and the general dismal mood on the right.

Yglesias as actually as readable as anybody these days. If only he didnt have so many wacko "Hilary is a fascist stooge" type commentators! :)

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 14, 2005 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When wasn't Matt Y. as readable as anybody?

Posted by: washerdreyer at June 14, 2005 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What we need is someone to confront the overwhelmingly pro-insurgent propaganda aired on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and take your pick of major Arab papers.

Qu'ran desecration accusations? Old news. Al Jazeera was airing them since 2003. Most of the time they were man-on-the-street quotes that neither needed to be confirmed or corroborated. Actually make that terrorist-on-the-street interviews. The best being the accusation after Fallujah that soldiers ripped Qu'rans in half and peed on them, or after Operation Matador that soldiers destroyed a mosque and painted crosses inside and on the Qu'rans.

Abu Gharaib torture? Old news. Since the first house-to-house search in Iraq, Al Jazeera has aired interviews with men and women saying the US soldiers were trying to steal their gold and see their women nude. Who can forget the night vision goggles help them spy on our women accusation? That was stunning not for its audacity, but for how wide spread it was. An inkling of the Al Jazeera propaganda to come.

I wont touch the over-optimistic terrorist/Baath outlook from the war or the insurgency afterward. Too easy.

And if you are concerned about Iraqi forces dying in increasing numbers, what are your thoughts on the post-explosion eulogies given by the bombers family, or often by video tape themselves. What are your thoughts on the major Islamic religious leaders listing item and verse about how suicide attacks on civilians is a legitimate way to wage holy war. What about the Al Jazeera column that listed the rationale for killing civilians in various different occupations, each one loosely [or fraudulently] tied to US forces?

Please spare me the Wretchard is overly optimistic dreck. The mainstream media and the left have ignored the inhuman conduct by insurgents and terrorists to the point of marginalizing themselves almost completely.

Posted by: Cog at June 15, 2005 02:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uh, after spending three months with a Marine Infantry platoon in Fallujah (I head back in a week for 4 months) I think you and Wretchard are wrong.

Posted by: JD at June 15, 2005 03:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So tell us, JD, what is right?

Posted by: Nadine at June 15, 2005 04:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Eh? Greg and I aren't in a feud ...

Posted by: Dan Darling at June 15, 2005 04:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"All this aside, you'd think, wouldn't you, that if more Iraqi Forces are dying, than fewer of our guys would be, no?"

I guess this would be "BD stupidity" in response to so-called "Wretchardian sophistry". If total number of coalition deaths goes up, then US deaths could both decrease as a percentage and remain constant or even increase in absolute numbers.

Your comment is doubly pathetic because in addition to being algebraically untrue, it's unnecessary to your otherwise reasonable objection that W doesn't offer much evidence to support his claim that infiltration has failed. Apparently you've been reading too much Sullivan, where snark passes for thought and ad hominem is the ultimate form of argument.

Your last paragraph is also pretty dopey. W suggests that the terrorist strategy is to sap the US political will so the US withdraws. This seems non-controversial. It also seems like it has a distressingly high likelihood of succeeding due to the relentless negative news coverage and due to the empirically-confirmed fact that Manhattan and SF pansies *do* lack the fortitude to keep the home fires burning. In that context, you may be right that it's tactically unwise for war supporters to issue too-rosy assessments. (Though it's possible that some counter spin helps offset the MSM drumbeat...) But it hardly seems you should be *offended* by W's post . I know you are the Center of the Universe, but do you suppose it's possible that you aren't the target of his commentary and that his scorn is aimed at others more deserving?

Posted by: James at June 15, 2005 07:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You instantly start your argumentation with an ad hominem against wretchard, who never would do something like that, is everything but a hollow sophist and surely deserves better.

Do you not want people to read further or do you have aspirations for a Liberal career?

Posted by: christian speicher at June 15, 2005 08:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good discussion all. My vote goes to Patrick. US Civil war also followed the pattern of ascending causalties after the 'tipping point'. Also, I believe if you read more WOC (Chrenkoff's huge post http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/006997.php) and focus less on military your balance is better and your outlook will be less pessimistic.

Posted by: jdwill at June 15, 2005 12:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here's my 2 cents. Our side has control of the oil fields and other economic assets. Eight million voters won grudging legitimacy in Europe and the intelligencia. A critical mass of Sunni leadership is now willing to go on record desiring to participate in drafting the Constitution. The "insurgents" have been reduced to brigands, no matter what their "success rate" is in inflicting mayhem on society. I think Wretchard is basically right that we have passed a tipping point, but maybe he could have expressed it better.

Posted by: wayne at June 15, 2005 09:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I suggest that mixing sarcasm and serious argument is like mixing horseshit with ice cream – the horseshit isn’t improved, but the ice cream becomes “decidedly inferior”.

I also suspect that Wretchard already knows this.

Posted by: Tom Paine at June 15, 2005 10:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I asked you when you made this same comment on Belmont - since you have better intel than most, please tell us what you mean.

I imagine most readers go to Belmont for an outlook that is different from the obviously unreliable self-loathing and chronic depression in the MSM. Same reason we come here, I suppose. Same reason we used to read Sullivan.

Posted by: tony at June 16, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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