August 11, 2005

Quote of the Day (II)

From the IHT:

Asked for his reaction, Mr. Naser, the head of the Iranian delegation, issued a biting retort.

"Today is the commemoration of the bombing of Nagasaki," he told reporters. "The United States is the sole nuclear weapons state which had the guts to drop a bomb to kill and maim and turn into ashes millions in a split second. The United States is no position whatsoever to tell anyone and to preach anyone as to what they should or should not do in their nuclear program."

Translation: As long as the United States appears to be making a muck of it in Iraq, tied down and slogging through clumsily, we'll more or less do as we effing please.

P.S. And Rummy's whining about cross-border arms smuggling makes us chuckle. How infinitely worse it could be if we really wanted to scuttle you with our all in Iraq. Consider yourself warned...

Yes, like Clintonian fecklessness led our enemies to question the seriousness of our national purpose and resolve, so will a half-assed Iraq fiasco that leaves us looking a paper tiger. No, we're not there yet. But it's possible we end up there, just maybe...yes, even despite assorted blogospheric eminences who've generously advised us we've already won. Now, you might say there is no way the Iraqi insurgents could defeat us militarily on the battlefield. They've been 'defeated' after all! But let's talk turkey and cut through the B.S., shall we? Precipitating a gradual U.S. withdrawal, with militias taking up security in the Shi'a south and Kurdish north (rather than a pan-national army with a multi-ethnic officer corps that serves as cohesive glue for the nation), with some freed up US troops then being moved into Anbar but still not putting down the insurrection--so that the basic pattern remains one of U.S. withdrawal and Kurdish and Shi'a entente cordiale (for a spell)--with Sunnis seething and large swaths of the country unstable--well, it's a recipe for civil war, no? And states that are wracked by civil war are essentially failed states. Failed states become terror havens. This is all GWOT 101 (or G-SAVE! 101) Iraq's neighbors, of course, have major interests that become threatened if the country splinters as well: Turkey protection of its ethnic kin the Turkomen, and denying the Kurds too many trappings of independence and bases from which to mount operations in Turkey proper, Iran perhaps an appetite for greater Shi'a lebensraum in the south (with Basra increasingly fundamentalist), Saudis (and Jordanians) worried about too much Shi'a revanchism and growing Iranian sphere of influence. It's all too terrible to contemplate.

Now, as Anthony Cordesman point out in the FT (no link available) it's not all doom and gloom (though methinks he is gloomier than he lets on). He believes insurgent numbers are remaining roughly constant and that they have no sanctuaries (for now, anyway). Trained Iraqi forces are on an uptick moving towards the magic 270,000 (I'm hugely dubious of the vast majority of same's caliber and ability to fight alone, btw). Jaafari and Iraq's new leaders, Cordesman goes on, have not proven to be engaging in malicious purges or religious confrontations (though the municipal mayoral coup of the Mayor of Baghdad was worrisome, no?). But, like me, Cordesman is going on faith. That troop reductions will truly be conditional, that political progress will help dampen the lethalness and appeal in some quarters of the insurgents, that there is no "fixed timetable" for withdrawal aside from "reacting to the pace of Iraqi success." Cordesman says this likely means "leaving strong elements of US forces as long as they are needed, and sustaining US military and economic aid for five to ten years." Is this Rumsfeld's strategy? Put differently, does he have a success strategy? Or is he moving to an exit, with the Iraqis who 'couldn't get their act together' left to lick their wounds and ponder ruefully why they couldn't quite grab the ennobled fruits of the so generous American adventure in Mesopotamia? Ultimately, this is the President's show, of course. I believe he still is more devoted to a success rather than exit strategy. But the fact that he hasn't sacked his Secretary of Defense gives me major pause. Could it be, as commenter Joe Britt has said, that Bush is so hands-off he has become dependent on Rummy? That he can't imagine prosecuting the war effort without him? Weak, if so. Very weak.

Posted by Gregory at August 11, 2005 03:54 AM | TrackBack (16)
Comments

Perhaps Bush has yet to wake up to the fact that Rumsfeld was never really interested in nation building. If that is the case he is a big a fool as the left claims him to be.

Posted by: pi at August 11, 2005 04:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I just heard an interview with the well known Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld. His position is that the US has already lost in Iraq and the only question now is how much prestige, money and lives the US will continue to bleed before it gets out.

Posted by: Tom at August 11, 2005 04:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Now, as Anthony Cordesman point out in the FT (no link available) it's not all doom and gloom (though methinks he is gloomier than he lets on). He believes insurgent numbers are remaining roughly constant and that they have no sanctuaries (for now, anyway). Trained Iraqi forces are on an uptick moving towards the magic 270,000 (I'm hugely dubious of the vast majority of same's caliber and ability to fight, btw). Jaafari and Iraq's new leaders, Cordesman goes on, have not proven to be engaging in malicious purges or religious confrontations (though the municipal mayoral coup of the Mayor of Baghdad was worrisome, no?).

I hope Cordesman's right, but I'm really pessimistic at this point. Even if Iraq manages to avoid a full-blown sectarian civil war (a big if), it doesn't look like Iraq's nascent democratic institutions could survive a full-blown power grab by Islamists. I hope there are people in DC working on worst case scenarios.

Posted by: guy at August 11, 2005 05:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By the way, I think if Iraq does go the way of Lebanon, it will be much worse.

Posted by: guy at August 11, 2005 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay. So we pull out of Iraq, whatever that means, and instead put 130,000 men into Afghanistan, perhaps? Do we go into Syria or Iran? NK? China perhaps? Georgia? The Philippines? Venezuela? The Mexican border? Or do we spin 'er down and stop prosecuting the WoT? G-save, whatever.

What is the logic of stopping? What is Bush's logic? If he's promised the country anything, it's war through Jan. 20, 2009 (and I do not mean that as a dig).

What is your alternative to Iraq? I mean, what else can he do? Failure is not an option. No it is not cliche time, we could fail, we could conceivably in some Bizarro scenario be defeated, but how could we surrender? Describe the sequenbce of events you envision.

If we dial down in Iraq, I would only think it is recule pour mieux sauter. We might dial down to a division or two in Iraq, plus major staging capacity, in order to strike east or west.

The only alternative to this involvement in Iraq that makes sense is a major upswing in Adfghanistan, the kind that would be painful and costly, that leads to more bribing/tolerating Karimovs, to NWFP, to perhaps a war with an Islamic nuclear power in a region of interest to other nuclear powers.

I'm not sure whether you think Iraqis are wogs, but the ME is 'wogs' in the sense that the whole ME could not hope to militarily defeat or seriously oppose, let alone annihilate us in a total war. In Central Asia and its environs, indeed, whole armies have been cut to ribbons. In Central Asia, you are rubbing directly up against all the four nuclear powers on earth that might actually use them on the United States. Yeah, let's really push on OBL, be assholes, dare China and Russia to say boo. Let's be stupid.

So no, I think they will keep AF at current levels unless data shows some opportunity to be gained with more (say a surge for a final Tora Bora onslaught). That is not the channel.

Do you want these guys on the homefront? A soldier every block along Wall Street? A soldier every ten feet on the Mexican border? Checking papers every time you turn around?

Do you want to turn 130,000 soldiers into 130,000 James Bonds and Hercule Poirots and send them through EMEA doing police work to beat AQ? No really, I'm not ribbing you. What next?

Sorry to sound evil, Macchiavellian, Manichaean, whatever, but isn't the logic of further conflict inevitable? Are we done? Are they? We're not withdrawing to 1291 borders, I trust. Or will that satisfy OBL & Co.? Perhaps some other year?

Creveld is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. I doubt the final result will be neat and pretty ("Switzerland," forsooth!) but if there is giving up, look for it sometime after the inauguration.

We can either win or we can lose. That is the choice. Bush understands this. Hopefully, the next President will too.

Believe it or not, we must indeed stay the course. It would help to have better PR/domestic politics and indeed to remedy some mistakes/problems. I don't object to raising another hundred thousand men, either, but the Visions 2020 indeed included projections for military scenarios at these levels.

Oh, and if you mean NK or Iran, the answers to those problems do not involve massive US forces. They will give the Navy and Air Force something to do.

The best thing would be for everybody to get behind and push.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's funny that the break-up of Yugolslavia and all the horrors there caused so much angst, but now after the civil wars, it seems more stable there, no?

Basically the Iraq war is like occupying all of Yugoslavia and forcing the ethnic groups to re-constitute Yugoslavia.

Maybe an Iraqi break-up wouldn't be so bad.

Posted by: Aaron at August 11, 2005 06:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"What is your alternative to Iraq? I mean, what else can he do? Failure is not an option. No it is not cliche time, we could fail, we could conceivably in some Bizarro scenario be defeated, but how could we surrender? Describe the sequenbce of events you envision."

Nearly every western country that has been involved in an insurgency has prattled that "failure is not an option". Eventually it was an option for most of them. The US military simply cannot sustain the troop numbers in Iraq for more then another year or so without doing very serious damage to the army and marines.

The likeliest scenario I can see would be a pull out of American forces that leaves a tottering government in place. After a "decent interval" the government collapses and you get either a shia dictator or civil war.

Posted by: pi at August 11, 2005 06:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, pi, my question is what happens in the rest of the world? Not to mention, won't things in Iraq be rather worse than now?

That damage may in fact be done. Or we may rob Peter one more time, or, as I suggest, raise a levee. But we will prevail. When I say failure is not an option, I mean that we cannot afford to lose. Whatever is necessary to be done, will be done. We will have at least a division or two there for decades. As I think BD was hinting, those could be the troops from say Germany.

As for 'tottering,' that could have described the USA in its early days fairly well.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 06:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aaron, while it would be quite a change in plan, I imagine arguments could be made, and I am not wedded to a unitary state.

Perhaps an alternative is to go really hog-wild and form a Kurdistan with aspirations for the Kurdish territiry of both Syria and Iran (and Turkey if they don't play ball). They would have oil wealth (would they be landlocked?), be terrific fighters, and have enormous incentive to be faithful allies. Even a Kurdistan within Iraqi Kurd areas could serve as a base of operations.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 06:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Seriously I hate to sound victriolic, but you guys are toast in Iraq. It was a really stupid idea in the first place followed up with an incredibly poor execution.

Posted by: Jeremy at August 11, 2005 07:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

not so much vitriolic as shallow. which 'guys' are you? you don't think that so much as you hope it. which is foolish because they don't like you either. what do you think happens?

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 07:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

not so much vitriolic as shallow. which guys are you? you don't think that so much as you hope it. which is foolish because they don't like you either. what do you think happens?

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 07:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting points.

Failure is not an option in Iraq. But Iraq in its current form is bound to fail. What can be done?

The only way for the country to become pacified is division, through partition or division. This is going to be hard for Iraq's neighbours but it's the only way.

Posted by: vox populi at August 11, 2005 09:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't think you could successfully partition Iraq. An ethnic group would inevitably get royally screwed with regards to oil. Not to mention where'd be tied to supporting a tiny kurdish state that is surrounded on all sides by enemies. Think a weaker and less self sufficent Israel.

Posted by: Pi at August 11, 2005 10:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Clintonian Fecklessness.."

Greg, Why would you be compelled to throw that into the mix?

Do you have Terrets syndrome? Are you just mindlessly sucking up to your fan base? Is that your idea of being cute?

It was Ronny Raygun that sent us into Beirut and then, almost immediately, out again, tail between legs.

It was the same actor turned POTUS that dealt with Iranian hostage takers; supplying them with advanced weapons.

I could go on, but you get the point......

If you want to be taken seriously, Greg, you can't always have an approach that is at the intellectual level of college inter-fraternity rivalry.

Posted by: avedis at August 11, 2005 12:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,
As I have said previously I agree with you on getting rid of SecDef. The question is if POTUS gets rid of Rummy, who would be the successor? Who in their right mind would take the job? The Neocon bull pen appears to be tapped out. It certainly couldn't be someone who is seeking an even higher office in the future. Since the Vietnam-Iraq analogy is so popular, I will look back to Washington insider and presidential confidant Clark Clifford, who reluctantly accepted the post after MacNamara was ushered over to the World Bank. The only person who would fit the bill would have to be an elder statesman with no axe to grind while having demonstrated complete loyalty to the Bushes. That person is none other than former SecState SecTreas and WHCOS James A. Baker III. That being said, I repeat my previous question. Who in their right mind would take the job?

Posted by: Bret Eagan at August 11, 2005 03:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg:

Calm down. take a walk. You sound agitated, almost Sullivanian.

I too am troubled by some of the hints from DoD lately, and I also would like to see Rummy sacked, etc. But youre too focused on everything pessimistic, I think.


1. See todays WaPo. An unnamed military source affirms that major withdrawls are NOT likely in six months, probably not for at least a year.

2. No, a civil war does NOT mean a failed state. Civil wars are not uncommon in the third world, but failed states are. Algeria has had a civil war going on for years - it doesnt look much like Somalia. Sudan had a civil war, a very nasty one, yet never became a failed state. I think it might be worthwhile to actually sit down and think about what we mean by a failed state, a civil war, etc. Theres too much panicy throwing around of loose terms in both the MSM and the blogosphere.

3. Im not sure about the pessimism on Iraqi forces. I suppose if you knew nothing about Iraq for the last two years except Rummy press conferences, and then suddenly saw the (apparent) reality, youd be shocked and depressed. But who at this blog is in that situation. We've heard over the last 16 months, claims that ALL Iraqi units are essentially worthless. It seems now that quite a number are NOT, and that many are improving every day. There was a USToday article the other day, whose headline was how this particular Iraqi unit was getting poor support from the Iraqi MoD. A problem, to be sure. But when you read the article, you came away impressed with how determined, and relatively competent the troops themselves were. Diyala province has already been turned over to Iraqi forces. Mosul seems to be largely in their control, and largely calm, even the Sunni half. The Iraqi force already seem to be doing much of the work in and around Baghdad.

4. There seems no prospect that the militias will substitute for the Iraqi forces. They wont go away anytime soon, perhaps. Have you noticed that Hezbollah is still armed in Lebanon - yet Lebanon is not currently in civil war, a failed state, or a base for AQ. I doubt that 40,000 Peshmerga, half way incorporated into a regional guard, will make Iraq a failed state. The strength of the Shiite militias in Basra is a concern, but similarly doesnt mean a failed state.

5. The mayor of baghdad, IIUC, had defied the provincial council and governor. It will take awhile for them to get clear on procedures in conflicts like this. All in all, i think we need to remember that Iraq remains a third world country. Thats not gonna change in years, even if they are a multiparty democracy.

6. Id like to see a multiethnic officer corps. Do you have evidence to suggest that any particular group is excluded from the Iraqi officer corps? Whats the metric here? And how perfect does it have to be to make US withdrawl reasonable?

7. I think shifting US forces to Anbar makes perfect sense. To the extent that the war in Iraq is one of intell gathering, raids on homes, patrolling to give local people a sense of security, I think the advantages to using Iraqi troops are HUGE. American troops have comparative advantage in larger, more conventional operations. AFAICT the latter are largely happening in Anbar, and the job in Baghdad, Mosul, etc is more the former. And if things DO go to hell, US troops in Anbar can come back to Baghdad if necessary. We also have the option of moving troops over the horizon to Kuwait.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 11, 2005 03:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A couple of comments:

First, I doubt Greg's "translation" of this Naser fellow's comments is quite accurate. The ability of the Iranian government to coordinate its policies on nuclear development and Iraq is less evident to me than it apparently is to many commentators. It isn't even clear to me that Iran is pursuing just one policy in Iraq; there are at least two, pursued by different part so the government and operating to some extent at cross-purposes. Nor does it appear to me as if Iran has decided what it wants to do with respect to nuclear weapons development.

What is clear is that Iran, like Pakistan and India, resents the idea implicit in the arguments of western arms controllers that the United States and other longstanding members of the nuclear club can be trusted to have nuclear arsenal, but their countries cannot. They think we think that if they get The Bomb they are more likely to use it. Since that is precisely what we do think, we can do no more than note the sentiment while continuing to do our best to prevent proliferation to this particular country, which has only intangible reasons for wanting an expensive nuclear weapons program and many tangible reasons for not wanting one.

With respect to Bush and Rumsfeld, I'm afraid I've little to add to what I've said before. Bush, unlike most successful Presidents in the past but like the vast majority of modern aspirants to the office, prepared and prepared well to be a Presidential candidate, and a candidate only. As to the substance of foreign policy and defense he was little more than a novice when he entered the White House, which is not the best place to begin one's education on such difficult subjects. Apart from this, Bush while quite intelligent is unfortunately lazy, shrinking not just from the substance of policy but from the awkward personnel decisions that are sometimes necessary when subordinates run into trouble and have to be replaced. Replacing a cabinet secretary means changing a part in most administrations; in this one it would leave a yawning vacuum in the policy making process. Of course this suggests that Bush is a weak President -- at this moment in our history he dominates the domestic political scene, but in terms of making policy he can appear strong only in areas where his opposition is weak, or in those where he can delegate policymaking to someone else.

Posted by: JEB at August 11, 2005 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just a piece of advice, avedis: people who can't spell President Reagan's name correctly needn't trouble other people about their levels of intellect or maturity. Dumbass.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Since that is precisely what we do think, we can do no more than note the sentiment while continuing to do our best to prevent proliferation to this particular country, which has only intangible reasons for wanting an expensive nuclear weapons program and many tangible reasons for not wanting one.

JEB, if this is a reference to Iran not having "tangible reasons" to want a nuke....I beg to differ.

Let me put it this way....If Saddam had a nuke in the spring of 2003, do you really think the US would have ever seriously considered invading?

Iran has a very tangible reason to want a nuke --- its the only credible deterrent of US aggression.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 11, 2005 03:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

t's funny that the break-up of Yugolslavia and all the horrors there caused so much angst, but now after the civil wars, it seems more stable there, no?

I think the problem is that there were in fact horrors, and they caused much angst. Civil wars kill a lot of people and otherwise harm many more. One of the principal reasons we invaded Iraq was because of Saddam's human rights record -- it's not hard to conceive of a civil war generating comparable atrocities.

Posted by: guy at August 11, 2005 04:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually the one thing nuclear weapons are guaranteed to avoid is the indignity of knowing that most Americans could not find your country on a map. Or that they identify your country most with terrorism and insisting that women dress in ridiculous costumes.

But "deterring aggression" sounds a lot better, and has the advantage of having been used before, as the justification for every ICBM the Soviet Union ever built. Incidentally, since we're talking about reasons Iran might not want nuclear weapons: the United States has lost over 1800 men in Iraq from all causes since the invasion over two years ago. Iran, a country less than one-quarter our size, lost more than 15 times that many people within minutes the last time it suffered a major earthquake. Now it is true that some of the holy men in Iran don't value human life in quite the same way we do, and think it more important to spend billions on nuclear weapons than on preventing a similar disaster the next time a major earthquake strikes. And like the Soviets they will always have a few anti-American Americans willing to speak up for them. The point is that Iran is a developing but still largely poor country with many needs more pressing than the mullahs' vanity. Its political leadership as a whole may not act on this, but it wouldn't be wise to proceed on the basis that this had been decided yet.

Posted by: JEB at August 11, 2005 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pluk, you're just so smart. No, we would never invade a country with a nuclear weapon, even if it were a single, crappy, weak, huge, scarcely deliverable WWII style bomb. Naw, that's why the Russians didn't institute a huge buildup of forces in Eastern Europe, and why we didn't in Western Europe, because nations with nuclear weapons just don't get invaded. That's why North Korea is scrapping all their artillery and armor parked along the DMZ, because now they know they are safe from us wicked neocon warmongers. Hey, look at China and Russia.

No, sure, we would just let Saddam do whatever he wanted. We have no way, no way at all of dealing with that sort of threat. In fact, we didn't invade Iraq either in 1991 or 2003, because we were so afraid of his CBW that we didn't know what to do. We were helpless, absolutely helpless in the face of this threat. And we sure wouldn't try to stop him before he got more.

Go ahead, pluk, look at some maps, follow the invasions, and show us all exactly how many nuclear weapons of what type, delivered how, would have been needed to stop the coalition(s). Hint: If you were thinking that one Hiroshima bomb will destroy every tank or AFV within a hundred-mile radius, think again.

Oh, no, we have no idea how to deal with nuclear weapons on a battlefield. All that testing was absolutely useless. We really are morons, we deserve to die. Now I understand you so much better. Schmuck. You fling around these little axioms of yours as if they were proven theorems. And of course anyone who disagrees with them or you is, to say the least, defective.

The reason we want to stop proliferation isn't because we can't invade a nuclear country. It's because we would really have to mess them up doing it.


...


Guy, maybe "these things have to happen every five years or so. ...Ten years. (...Five centuries, whatever.) Gets out the bad blood."

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 06:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, p.s., pluk: "US aggression." I suppose nobody in the world, like say Russia, is a threat to them. Nice to show your bias.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good bye Greg. I used to enjoy coming to visit, but of late you have become completely unhinged. It must be comforting to know that Rumsfeld and Bush are the source of all evil in the world.

Posted by: Marlin at August 11, 2005 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can only imagine how Greg would have treated Lincoln in 1863

Clearly the need to blame and take heads has come and looks like Rummy is the desired target

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 11, 2005 09:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not all... but a lot of evil thats for sure... and you forgot mendacity

Posted by: Jeremy at August 11, 2005 09:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and seriously you guys can rabbit on with all your theories about how you are really winning despite this costing you 100 troops and 5bn a month but you've had more corners than F1 circuit now and it looks to most people with some common sense that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train...

138 000 troops can't control the country and you army doesn't have any more... come on... who ya kiddin?

Posted by: Jeremy at August 11, 2005 09:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeremy: you've had more corners than F1 circuit now

Probably not a good analogy, since most Americans don't watch F1 (myself being an exception), and this would be lost upon them. The Americans that do watch auto-racing watch NASCAR, and those tracks don't have any corners. :)

Posted by: fling93 at August 11, 2005 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

as you wish... more corners than Manhattan...

Posted by: Jeremy at August 11, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nichevo,
Raygun was a joke; a holdover from the eightees that originated because Ronald Reagan had, as a principle focus of his administration, the strong desire to place technologically unproven and very expensive laser ray armed stations in space.

But a young pup like you wouldn't know about such things, I guess.

At any rate, you're a true conservative. When the truth hurts, attack the messenger.

Posted by: avedis at August 11, 2005 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It still makes no sense Jeremy - and I have watched F1 and work in Manhattan :)

In any case - clearly you feel Iraq is one giant clusterfuck

So how do you propose we prosecute the war on terror Jeremy?

The Bush plan seemed to be to move against a rogue state and begin to reshape the wider ME

What plan do you suggest in its place

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 11, 2005 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, avedis, I know where it came from. It was jejune then and it's entirely played out now. (And I never knew that spelling the president's nickname "Ronny" was part of the joke. Most people used "Ronnie.")

Either way, again, no reflection (well, no positive reflection) on your intellect or maturity, to see you still think it funny or otherwise effective... but "fecklessness" is too much for you to bear.

As for truth...where? What else but the messenger is there to attack? You don't want a substantive discussion of 1980s foreign policy or SDI, you want to hit and run, you want to put snick on people's names. "Ronnie Raygun" is just another shopworn trope that serves you and your brain-brothers as a substitute for thought, or at least argumentation. In the typical leftist projection syndrome, you accuse others of that which you do yourself ("Tu quoque," IIRC).

...Oh, not to mention: "Terrets syndrome?" Oh yeah, ayurvedis*, astounding display of your superiority. You sure make Greg look like a "frat-boy**" and yourself not. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, yeahhhhhhh***.

* Did you get that one? Let me know if you need me to explain it to you.

** No, I apologize: you correctly wrote out the word "fraternity" in its entirety. Good lad. And yet, you seem just the type who would think to "call your country a cunt."

***Imagine this in the voice used by Yell-O in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (Have I dated myself satisfactorily yet?)

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, avedis, did I mention that you should write "principal" where you wrote "principle?" But of course standards are for squares...and you are so very, very hip...

Posted by: Nichevo at August 11, 2005 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So anyhow, now that you've gotten that out of your system maybe you're ready to address the question. Was Reagan's retreat from Beirut and his willingness to deal with terrorists a demonstration of "fecklessness"? And don't you think that our enemies might have learned at least as much about American resolve from those incidents as they did from whatever it is that Clinton did or didn't do to earn Greg's - and other conservatives' - labling as "feckless"?

Posted by: avedis at August 11, 2005 10:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We could still win in Iraq, whatever "win" means, if we were willing to put the proper strategy in place and devote the necessary resources to achieve it. We haven't done that in two and a half years, and it looks like we're looking for the door next year, so let's close this chapter now and marshal our resources for the next phase of the struggle against militant Islamism. The people and resources that we have lost in Iraq are sunk costs, as cold as it is to say that, and can not be a reason to stay.

"Half-assed fiasco" puts the situation nicely, but that's what you get when you're driven by network-centric ideology and refuse to listen to the knowledge that's presented to you. At the tactical and operational level we've done some brilliant things in Iraq, but there is no better word for our strategy as a whole than "half-ass".

If you disagree, fine; educate me in concrete and practical terms on what our political object is in Iraq, and what our theory of victory is to achieve it. Do you really think we can afford to "stay the course"?

I'll tell you, I've talked to a lot of leaders returning from the theater, and have studied the situation professionally for almost a year, and I haven't been able to figure out our plan. I have yet to hear anyone come up with more than a bumper-sticker strategy- "train and equip".

To my mind it's fish or cut bait time, folks; we are blowing through resources that we are going to need in the future, which might be understandable if we were committed to victory, but the only commitments that I have seen from our leaders are rhetorical. I absolutely don't want to lose in Iraq, but unfortunately I think the only difference between "losing" now and "staying the course" is time and more lost people and money.

Posted by: T-Bone at August 12, 2005 12:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Guy, maybe "these things have to happen every five years or so. ...Ten years. (...Five centuries, whatever.) Gets out the bad blood."

If "these things have to happen every five/ten years or so", then invading Iraq was almost certainly a mistake.

Guy

Posted by: guy at August 12, 2005 01:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Speaking of the Iran question and some angles to pay attention to for Iraq, Hilzoy has a good post up.

"...we are blowing through resources that we are going to need in the future, which might be understandable if we were committed to victory, but the only commitments that I have seen from our leaders are rhetorical..."

True enough, the idea of asking people to sacrifice is beyond the political will of present leadership, which speaks to weakness.

Posted by: wd at August 12, 2005 04:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You need to calm down. The panic in your voice is reminiscent of Andrew Sullivan a year ago, and there simply is not yet cause for panic.

I agree with you: the situation is not rosy. I agree largely with your military criticisms. The military track in Iraq leaves much to be desired, and the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld would not be an unwelcome development, though I'm not convinced he's been quite as horrible as you portray. The insurgency will continue to rage for some time. Too many good people are going to continue to die, and I'm not convinced that US policy is doing everything it can to prevent that.

But the situation is neither bleak nor dire. The political track in Iraq is going, by any measure, very well:

The insurgency has no significant popular support. The Shi'a and Kurds are behind the government, and the Sunnis are reconciling. For the most part, we have won the battle for hearts and minds. That is a hugely significant achievement. Insurgencies cannot win without at least some support from their populations. The insurgency is hugely unpopular in Iraq. The insurgency can bleed us, but it cannot defeat us unless we withdraw.

Furthermore, the different groups in Iraq have sat together and are pounding out a compromise, and, although we are all holding our breath for Monday, I don't think they will fail. Again, this is no small achievement. Ethnic tensions are present and are a concern, but if these groups can get together and work out a constitution--an actual constitution, no less--a civil war is not in offing, at least not yet.

The buildup of the Iraqi military is happening. It's not going as quickly as we would like, and the Administration is to be faulted for inflating training figures. But the insurgency's numbers do not seem to be increasing, while the Iraqi military is. Furthermore, the reports that we have heard so far generally indicate that the Iraqi recruits possess a vital characteristic that cannot be instilled by training: a desire to fight for their country. The army is not one of recruits fighting as little as possible on behalf of an occupying army for a paycheck.

Granted, the political track was not handled perfectly in the immediate aftermath of the war. But if you can think of some way that that track could going better since the handover of sovereignty, I'd like to hear it.

We failed in Vietnam because the people we were trying to help were with the insurgency against us and against the government we supported. Here, we have the people against insurgency and (for the most part) with the government we've created. If this political track continues to succeed, with the referendum and new elections going off as the last election did, and the Iraqi army continuing to progress, there is no reason to believe that this political track should not translate into victory. And it is not mere hope, a mere crossing of the fingers. The political track is going extremely well, and, if it continues going even two-thirds as well as it has been, that should be good enough. I acknowledge there is still the possibilty that some calamity will occur and the whole thing will fall apart. But mere possiblity is not likelihood. Polling shows very clearly that the Iraqi people are behind this project, and they are likely to stay behind this project.

Next, the Rummy "whining about cross-border arms smuggling" is really quite big news actually, because the audience was not the Iranians, as you have wrongly assumed, but the Iraqi Shi'a. The Iranians have put their happy face on where Iraq is concerned for some time, trying to snuggle up with the Shi'a. This snuggling should worry us a great deal, for obvious reasons. But the Shi'a hate the insurgency, and they're really not going to appreciate the Iranians pitching in. I don't know what kind of play that news story got in Iraq, but I would hazard a guess that it got a fair amount, and that it has make Iran's favorability numbers drop a least a few points. That, certainly, is good news. The purpose was not to bitch to the Iranians to get them to stop, the purpose was to let the Shi'a know that these are not good people to be in bed with.

Finally, I have one last criticism. Greg, I have appreciated your commentary greatly since I started reading your blog. I (used to?) consider you one of my "big three" foreign policy analysis bloggers, and the best of the three. But this is just ridiculous. Where in the world are you speculating about an early withdrawal? Bush has said, over and over and over and over that he won't. There simply is no reason to believe that it is going to happen, nor is there any reason to believe that Rummy is moving towards such a policy. And where in the heavens do you get the notion that anyone (aside from Joe Biden) thinks its a good idea to have "militias taking up security in the Shi'a south and Kurdish north"? That is just crazy talk. I think your judgement has become affected by fatalistic thinking bred of excessive pessimism. Take a deep breath.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at August 12, 2005 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would just like to quote this, because it bears repeating:

Sudan had a civil war, a very nasty one, yet never became a failed state.

Bloody brilliant, that.

Posted by: amused at August 12, 2005 05:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So anyhow, now that you've gotten that out of your system maybe you're ready to address the question. Was Reagan's retreat from Beirut and his willingness to deal with terrorists a demonstration of "fecklessness"?

Yes.

It was right up there with Clinton cutting and running in Somalia, fighting the Kosovo campaign from 10k feet, and using tomahawks as a substitute for more substanial actions.

And don't you think that our enemies might have learned at least as much about American resolve from those incidents as they did from whatever it is that Clinton did or didn't do to earn Greg's - and other conservatives' - labling as "feckless"?

Difficult to say.
Reagan showed them that it was possible to run off a superpower.
Clinton showed them that it wasn't a fluke.
Bush is trying to undo the damage.

At the very least, Bush is due some credit for not doing what Clinton and Reagan did.

Posted by: rosignol at August 12, 2005 09:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So anyhow, now that you've gotten that out of your system maybe you're ready to address the question. Was Reagan's retreat from Beirut and his willingness to deal with terrorists a demonstration of "fecklessness"?

Yes.

It was right up there with Clinton cutting and running in Somalia, fighting the Kosovo campaign from 10k feet, and using tomahawks as a substitute for more substanial actions.

And don't you think that our enemies might have learned at least as much about American resolve from those incidents as they did from whatever it is that Clinton did or didn't do to earn Greg's - and other conservatives' - labling as "feckless"?

Difficult to say.
Reagan showed them that it was possible to run off a superpower.
Clinton showed them that it wasn't a fluke.
Bush is trying to undo the damage.

At the very least, Bush is due some credit for not doing what Clinton and Reagan did.

(sorry if this is a double, I got an error, and the post didn't show up after I cleared the cache and reloaded the page a few times...)

Posted by: rosignol at August 12, 2005 09:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

T Bone opined "We could still win in Iraq, whatever "win" means, if we were willing to put the proper strategy in place and devote the necessary resources to achieve it. We haven't done that in two and a half years, and it looks like we're looking for the door next year, so let's close this chapter now and marshal our resources for the next phase of the struggle against militant Islamism. The people and resources that we have lost in Iraq are sunk costs, as cold as it is to say that, and can not be a reason to stay. "


Somehow you failed to

A) explain what the proper strategy and level of resources would be

B) explain what should be the "next phase" in our struggle with militant islam


You are asking for education - I am sure many would be glad to oblige but could you clarify your position first

Because it just looks like criticism of whatever the current strategy is - with no alternative suggestion.

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 12, 2005 02:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

whats your problem with my Sudan comment? My point remains, civil wars dont always lead to failed states. A civil war in Iraq (in the sense of something worse than the present insurgency, with the entire Sunni Arab community against the govt) while a highly undesirable outcome, does not necessarily mean Iraq becomes a failed state, or a haven for AQ, depending on the course and outcome of the civil war.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 12, 2005 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here's a question for the people who've commented on the "failed state" idea:

Afghanistan was clearly a failed state that became a haven for terrorism, after its civil war had been mostly resolved in favor of the Taliban and its allies. Sudan had a civil war that was ongoing; it was a haven for terrorism, but discouraged the major terrorist organization after external pressures were brought to bear on it in the 1990s. Whether it was or was not a failed state is a matter for debate. Yugoslavia was very clearly a failed state by the 1990s, but while it had several bitter wars on its territory it did not become a base for terrorism against anyone else. Congo has obviously been a base for terrorism (and worse) against the Rwandan Tutsis and some other regional tribal groups, but not against many other people I know of.

I'm just wondering if our thinking about failed states is based on the fear that any one of them could turn into Afghanistan. With respect to Iraq this is certainly a possibility, but it ought to be questioned. If the country did dissolve into civil war, what would be the position of the various factions on terrorism against outsiders? Would they not be preoccupied with the struggle for power amongst themselves? Would even foreign jihadis come into conflict with secular Sunni Arabs once their American enemy disappeared, and would Iran be driven to cooperate with Sunni jihadis against countries outside Iraq or with Shiite Iraqis against the Sunni Arabs within Iraq?

I don't have a conclusion here, just questions. Military historians frequently warn of the dangers of preparing to fight the last war, and where terrorism is concerned the last war was the one against Afghanistan-based al Qaeda. Any thoughts?

Posted by: JEB at August 12, 2005 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree this "failed state" boogie man is getting a little tired. As I noted in my comments to yesterday's note, the Israeli''s are about to pull out of Gaza - the poster boy of a "failed state" - and I don't hear Greg advocating they reconsider until a more western democratic ethos is developed in the Palestinian polity.

Posted by: wayne at August 12, 2005 06:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

uh, it depends who WINS the civil war, and how. Sudans civil war was not alway directly related to terrrorism - the govt retained firm control of the north, and used that to support AQ, as state policy - when it was no longer in the interests of the state to do so, they stopped (sort of) Afghanistan has a civil war, which devolved into chaos between multiple factions, and then the Taliban WON. And then used its control, and its ties to ISI, etc to support AQ - almost a seemless web of Taliban, AQ, ISI elements. Now if the Northern Alliance had WON, then AQ would not have had a base in afghanistan.

Thats whats relevant in Iraq - IF we leave Iraq to a civil war between Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds, with the Shia in particular lacking a strong force, and the Sunni Arabs establish a Baathist/Salafist parastate, that parastate IS likely to be a terror haven. OTOH, if a civil war means that the Sunni Arab population confronts a united Shia/Kurdish govt, one that has a large, well trained army, that is UNLIKELY to lead either to a failed state OR to a terror haven. The difference between this latter kind of civil war, and the status quo, would be that in the absence of US forces, Shia and Kurds became more extreme, and the Sunni Arab population more united against the govt. Both of these are bad outcomes. But the latter is NOT necessarily a disaster, and the former is not particularly likely under any likely admin strategies, even a get out too soon strategy.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 12, 2005 06:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

look for example at Algeria - where the state, using fairly brutal methods, and backed by the secular population, defeated the Islamists, and was left with a slow burning insurgency that lasts to this day.

Its easy to imagine, if the US say, pulls out 30,000 troops prematurely in spring 2006, and then pulls the rest out shortly thereafter, that a similar situation arises in Iraq. The Shiites and Kurds, without US restraint, and with a more difficult time handling the insurgency without US support, take the gloves off, and play rough - assasinations, population relocations, mass detentions, collective punishments, and the like. which would solidiy the Sunni population against them, but, absent outside intervention on the side of the Sunni arabs, would likely still leave them in position to win by brute force. and would leave a smoldering insurgency, among an unreconciled Sunni arab population.

Which again, is a bad outcome (its not a real useful role model for the region, for ex) , but not a huge victory for AQ.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 12, 2005 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB,

Not sure to what extent the failed state in Yugoslavia played into it directly qua failed state, but many transnational jihadists did receive training, indoctrination and contacts as part of their armed struggle there on behalf of the Muslim population. As for foreign jihadis in Iraq in a hypothetical civil war, I think the Sunnis would need to rely on them in order to add numbers to their otherwise outnumbered ranks. This necessity would breed cooperation at least and until the conflict were otherwise resolved. I wouldn't expect them to kick em out in the middle of a civil war. Afterwards, most likely. Beforehand? That would be self-defeating.

Pogue,

In terms of strategies going forward, Larry Diamond, a former member of the CPA, has some pretty good ideas IMHO:

There are four key elements to a political strategy for diminishing the violent resistance in Iraq. First, the Bush Administration must declare that the U.S. will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Second, we should declare some sort of time frame (but not a rigid deadline) by which we think we can withdraw militarily—if Iraqi groups that are supporting or tolerating the violence will instead help build the new political order. Third, we need to talk directly to the (largely Sunni) political groups connected to the insurgency, some of which have been seeking to talk to the U.S. for almost two years. Fourth, we need an honest broker to help mediate these discussions and build confidence in the process; this might be a small international contact group including representatives from the United Nations and one or two of the European embassies in Baghdad.


Mr. Diamond grading the Bush administration according to these criteria:

The Bush Administration is refusing to take any of these four steps. It won’t renounce the bases because it wants them. It won’t consider any kind of timetable, even without fixed deadlines, even dependent on the cooperation of the other side, because it doesn’t want to look weak, and it doesn’t really know when Iraqi forces will be ready to assume the burdens of maintaining order (against an insurgency that is fueled in part by the lack of an Administration strategy). It has refused to talk to the insurgent groups because, again, it fears this being misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, and because, once you have said about the insurgency, “Bring them on,” they are just “evildoers,” what is left to discuss? They have taken steps to bring the marginalized Sunnis into the political process. The Sunnis have a place on the constitution drafting committee in large measure because of American pressure. I do give the Administration credit for that. But this is only the beginning of a political strategy.

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 12, 2005 08:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yea,Bush is so weak he reminds me of the London Police chief who wants his officers to wear GREEN ISLAMIC ribbons in solidarity with Muslims.

Posted by: Patrick at August 12, 2005 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

There are four key elements to a political strategy for diminishing the violent resistance in Iraq. First, the Bush Administration must declare that the U.S. will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq.

WHY? Was this promise made in post war Germany or Japan? Isn't the issue of bases something for the Iraqi gov't to negotiate - not a bone to throw to the "insurgency"

Second, we should declare some sort of time frame (but not a rigid deadline) by which we think we can withdraw militarily—if Iraqi groups that are supporting or tolerating the violence will instead help build the new political order.

ARE YOU SURE? Aren't the Iraqi groups who are supporting or tolerating the violence interested in the usual power play of Arab politics and/or simply terrified? Why do you assign motives to them that may not be true at all. Maybe a statement about withdrawl will cause more problems - those who support the violence will be emboldened - those who are terrified will not be helped.


Third, we need to talk directly to the (largely Sunni) political groups connected to the insurgency, some of which have been seeking to talk to the U.S. for almost two years.

ARE THEY? If there are Sunni groups "connected" to the terrorists - maybe meeting them halfway isn't a great idea
Maybe there are some Sunni groups who want to use the terrorists in the usual fashion to earn power
Maybe we should not reward this anymore

Fourth, we need an honest broker to help mediate these discussions and build confidence in the process; this might be a small international contact group including representatives from the United Nations and one or two of the European embassies in Baghdad.


RIGHT - so the UN and or the French embassy can ride to the rescue and represent the Sunni terrorist side in the negotiations

Why would you characterize the UN - late of oil for palaces shame - or the europeans ( non CoW I assume ) as "honest brokers"???


Why do you think appeasing the Sunni's who support the terrorists ( and yes - blowing up dozens of children is more than "insurgency" to me ) will help?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 12, 2005 08:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

liberalhawk wrote:
The difference between this latter kind of civil war, and the status quo, would be that in the absence of US forces, Shia and Kurds became more extreme, and the Sunni Arab population more united against the govt.

Not sure about the latter half of your statement -- at least part of the Sunni insurgency is "anti-occupation" and might become more amenable to cooperating with the government after an American withdrawal. OTOH, if the Shia and Kurds become really cavalier about killing Sunnis after a US withdrawal, you might be correct.

Posted by: guy at August 12, 2005 08:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,

WHY? Was this promise made in post war Germany or Japan? Isn't the issue of bases something for the Iraqi gov't to negotiate - not a bone to throw to the "insurgency"

ANS: No we did not make this promise to Germany or Japan, but we weren't facing the same level of resistance/insurgency. Such a move then was not appropriate or remotely necessary, so the analogy is a poor one.

Between the Sunnis, the foreign fighters and the Shiite hardliners, they all agree that we should leave, and are unified in this whereas they might not be otherwise. In fact, even the moderate Shiite parties either want us to leave, or conceal their desire to keep us in-country from the masses because most Iraqi citizens want us out (and that is significant when considering how many Kurds want us to stay). It is not throwing a bone to the insurgency, it is a strategy to isolate the foreign fighters from the Sunni and Shiite nationalists who might otherwise lose the need to cooperate against a common enemy - us - as well as providing an incentive to compel all parties to try to work together to forge a solution whereas now they can over-reach and play greedy while we play cop. Further, the longer we stay the more likely that even those that prefer us around to maintain security will grow weary of our presence. Saudi Arabia would be more analogous in this regard than Germany or Japan.


ARE YOU SURE? Aren't the Iraqi groups who are supporting or tolerating the violence interested in the usual power play of Arab politics and/or simply terrified? Why do you assign motives to them that may not be true at all. Maybe a statement about withdrawl will cause more problems - those who support the violence will be emboldened - those who are terrified will not be helped.

ANS: Not if the statement on withdrawal is contingent on those groups entering into the political process, helping to build a new political order. If they are emboldened and support more violence, we don't withdraw. Or we recalibrate the timetable accordingly.


ARE THEY? If there are Sunni groups "connected" to the terrorists - maybe meeting them halfway isn't a great idea. Maybe there are some Sunni groups who want to use the terrorists in the usual fashion to earn power. Maybe we should not reward this anymore

ANS: There is a distinction between terrorist and insurgent. There are Sunni nationalist/Baathist groups that are not terrorist per se. Some Sunni groups are uncomfortable with the random targeting of civilians. Most Iraqis, in fact, are while many are sympathetic to targeting coalition forces. We should reach out to these groups in order to marginalize the foreign fighters and Salafist Sunnis. This is not a question of rewards, this is a question of trying to end the insurgency. Not marginalizing the foreign fighters means the status quo which is not working. Is it perfect or morally clean? No, but no such solution is. Such are the cards we have been dealing and are dealt.


RIGHT - so the UN and or the French embassy can ride to the rescue and represent the Sunni terrorist side in the negotiations

ANS: Legitimacy, and honest brokership, is in the eye of the beholder. Like it or not, most people around the world, Iraqis included, have more trust in international orgs and NGOs (despite the UN's poor rep in Iraq). At least where there are feuding parties and a conflict in which we have already apparently taken sides, most peoples want what THEY consider a neutral broker. You and I might not trust the UN or think they deserve the monicker, and they are far from perfect, but what matters is that the parties involved trust the process. What is of less relevance is what we Americans think of the UN or the French.


Why do you think appeasing the Sunni's who support the terrorists ( and yes - blowing up dozens of children is more than "insurgency" to me ) will help?

ANS: This is not about appeasing the Sunnis any more than good counter-insurgency is ever about appeasing the insurgents. This is about dividing and conquering and removing the incentive to keep fighting. This is about trying to bring as many as possible into the fold (read: political process) which in turn will weaken the more intransigent and help to splinter and marginalize their ranks. The alternative is to continue along the current path which is not working. As the right-of-center think tank Stratfor put it in January 2005:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas.

Given this, what would you suggest? Do you have a better plan than Diamond's for undermining the insurgency? I'm all ears. It's easy to take the moral high ground, but will it get results?

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 12, 2005 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

shouldnt it be up to the Iraqi govt to decide which groups to negotiate with, and how. While we should nudge them along, for the US to negotiate DIRECTLY with any Sunni forces, of whatever stripe, would seem to substantially undercut the authority of the govt.

Sounds like the shape of the table issue from Viet Nam, no? But here we'ver really got a more or less democratic govt, that really has strong support, at least from two of the three big ethnic groups. It really seems like throwing something important away to have say Khalilzad talk directly with insurgents.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 12, 2005 09:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Bush Administration is refusing to take any of these four steps. It won’t renounce the bases because it wants them."

Theres bases and theres bases. for one, we may need bases for a while, to provide support to the Iraqis against a smoldering insurgency, even after most US troops have left. Secondly, we are likely to want a covert presence in Iraq, as we have in many countries (and as Iran, for ex, has in Iraq) Im not sure we want an openended commitment to withdraw. And besides, the sunnis IN the talks seem much more concerned with constitutional arrangments then with bases. It would seem to be negotiating mistake to offer this at this stage.

" It won’t consider any kind of timetable, even without fixed deadlines"

Evidently the insurgents dont follow inside the beltway politics than, cause its like common knowledge that Rove et al want out, and soon. Premature evacuation and all that. Can somebody buy AMS a subscription to Washington Monthly?

"even dependent on the cooperation of the other side, because it doesn’t want to look weak, and it doesn’t really know when Iraqi forces will be ready to assume the burdens of maintaining order "

which seems to be a reasonable concern, one expressed by Greg in his original post.

"(against an insurgency that is fueled in part by the lack of an Administration strategy)."

the lack of a timetable, or the lack of a strategy?

" It has refused to talk to the insurgent groups because, again, it fears this being misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, and because, once you have said about the insurgency, “Bring them on,” they are just “evildoers,” what is left to discuss?"

My impression is that there have been discussions with local sheiks, and of course the govt has reached out to the AMS and other groups. Who else is there? Al Ansar? The Baathists? The local smuggler/kidnapper types?

" They have taken steps to bring the marginalized Sunnis into the political process. The Sunnis have a place on the constitution drafting committee in large measure because of American pressure. I do give the Administration credit for that. But this is only the beginning of a political strategy."


It would seem the rest of the strategy is to follow through, and move toward Sunni participation in the next round of elections.

If we really are training good Iraqi forces, is this the right time to reach out further into the insurgency? Without getting all death throesy, if the admin is even half right about the training program (say within a standard deviation of Joe Biden) then the insurgency is pretty much at peak now (which doesnt mean the decline from peak will be fast) militarily. Why negotiate when theyre at maximal strength. If a political strategy is needed to achieve a military win, military success could advance the political strategy


Posted by: liberalhawk at August 12, 2005 09:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay Pogue, I'll bite.

If I were king for a day, here's a very rough draft of my plan.

Stop Loss everyone in the military for the duration. Longer tours in theater. Triple the amount of FAOs and Arab/Persian linguists.

Make folks in SF decide if they want to do direct action or irregular warfare. If they want to do DA, send them to some kind of super-Ranger unit that will specialize in breaking down doors. Get SF back to its roots, and back into the business of living and operating within the population. Get all of the conventionally-minded people out of SOCOM, especially if they are to retain the lead in the war on terror. There can be nothing conventional about that fight.

Build the basics of a force which is heavily trained in human intelligence (especially police-type databases), cultural anthropology, community policing, and is willing and able to live and act within the population, with the eventual aim of being able to control the behaviour of all aspects of the population. That will take a while, so in the interim, double the number of forces on the ground so that we're not playing whack-a-mole with the insurgents.

Unify the chain of command. Identify one individual who will direct all US efforts in Iraq, military and civilian. Everyone in theater-military, State, CIA, US AID, etc.-works for him. He reports directly to the president.

Identify the political goal. At this point I think is has to be at best a Shiite-led federation, with a significant voice for the Sunnis and Kurds. I have severe doubts if that's possible, but if it's not, there are few other options than civil war, so let's suspend doubt for the moment. Mobilize all diplomatic efforts possible in support of quietest ayattolahs like Sistani, minimizing political Shiites like Sadr, but do everything possible to limit the imposition of sharia as the sole source of law. We have to play a very smart game with the Shiite ulama.

Implement a strong public diplomacy program aimed at the Iraqi people, shrewdly playing on divisions within the populace while extolling the virtues of the central government and the danger of civil war.

Sell the war to the American people! The polls are not looking good, and the war will be lost most quickly if the American people don't support it. If the war is as important as it seems, make the case why, again and again and again. And I mean practical issues, not abstractions such as "democracy", "noble cause", etc.

At the end of the day, the only advantage the insurgents have is their invisbility. We can kill what we see, so if we control the population, we will be able to see and thereby kill the insurgency. But we are in a race against time, and my fear is that unless drastic measures are taken, we have essentially already lost the race.

As I said this is only one battle. As for next phases, I'm keeping very careful eye on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Not that I am advocating military action there, but I think they are the main sources of our problems, and they will need to be dealt with eventually, through whatever means are appropriate. Both are truly nightmare scenarios, and could potentially make our problems in Iraq look minimal in comparison. That's why I am so worried about what the war in Iraq is doing to our military and our national will. We cannot afford to have a broken Army next year, as Gen McCaffrey fears.

Posted by: T-Bone at August 12, 2005 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The atomic bomb on Nagasaki killed about 30,000; the atomic bomb on Hiroshima about 65,000, including those who died from radiation over the next fifty years. Many survivors are still alive, including some Australians who were interned just four miles from ground zero at Hiroshima... That is not "millions." In fact, it is many fewer than would have died from a final invasion of the Japanese homeland plus more dying in Japanese captivity. Thus, our atomic attack on Japan was, on balance, an act of to reduce the killing, not increase it. The anti-war Left has captured the history books so thoroughly that most people in the West are not aware of these irrefutable facts.

Posted by: exguru at August 13, 2005 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq should have followed the five principles and four stages outlined by Sir Robert Thompson in his 1966 textbook.

The five principles are: (1) having the goal of an independent state based on (2) the rule of law to be achieved by (3) separating insurgents from the domestic population through police work by local police, (4) securing base areas of the government first, and (5) having an overall plan to do all of the above. The four stages are (a) clearing, (b) holding, (c) winning, and (d) won.

American strategy has understood the need in Iraq for (1) and (2) and has made progress toward both. But US strategy has lacked (5) and does not understand how to do (3) or (4) because it fails to grasp that (a) is impossible without (b).

The question is whether the Iraqis who replace us will learn from our mistakes. The key to security is not to build up a large army to conduct sweeps to no lasting effect. It is to build a large (and local) police force with modest army units on call in order to arrest insurgents who are turned in by civilians. The police once on the ground have to stay there.

There is no necessary reason why, if enough Sunni Arabs participate in elections in October and December, a properly executed plan to bring security to their communities (and others) cannot be carried out. The two things that could derail this from happening are stronger interference by neighboring countries and factionalism within the three main Iraqi groups. But so far neither of these dangers has risen to a decisive level.

Posted by: David Billington at August 13, 2005 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin, on Larry Diamond’s points. #1 is short-sighted, and won’t win anything anyways from the people that are violent enough to fight in the first place; nonstarter. #2 likewise; good PR, but that’s as far as it goes. #3 is simply awful; from the IRA to the Tamil Tigers, what do terrorists tend to do? If they can develop a popular movement they will have a political arm and a militant; when one fails the other steps in, like a team of draft horses to pull the process to a conclusion that is horrible anyway you cut it. The failure of these groups to go political has, rightly, sidelined them from the political mainstream, talking to them will not only discourage defections from their agenda, will legitimize them…without winning anything anyways. How’s Hamas, the PLO, or Hezbollah these days, by the way? Somehow Diamond offers #4 which is, impossibly, worse than #3, for an ‘honest broker’ in Iraq. Yeah, right. The second largest oil reserves in the world, in a critical geopolitical area with an international community with massive self-inflicted infirmity to their credibility from their behavior in Oil-For-Food, and every other project they’ve ever had. How’s the, UN-mediated, peace in Palestine or Kashmir by the way these days? Hmmm.

Your exposition of a counterinsurgency seems less like divide and conquer than unite and retreat…Not a single item on that list will have the slightest effect on the ability of the insurgents to fight, doesn’t address money, logistics, control of the areas involved, establishment of police, security, and military forces, and on and on. In fact, the concrete things that we can do, such as extending control into Al Anbar, directly contradicts political engagement with the insurgents. Remember Fallujah I, anyone?

I would agree with David Billington except to say that a) preceeds b) for a reason. The insurgency may be able to survive an uprooting by US combat sweeps, but it does not profit from them. On the other hand, sweeps and other operations can shape the battlefield, offset their digging in (spoiling) until the US is ready to go in and hold territory. AQ seems to be doing an excellent job of isolating itself, and the insurgency, from the rest of the country all by itself. Finally securing bases requires having bases to begin with; the North and South of Iraq required native levies to be secure before the US entered into heavily compromised Sunni areas, with those Iraqi troops there, more power can execute missions further inland.

Even with double the troops in-country, that might not allow the US to prosecute those initial bases more vigorously, and so might not allow the US to extend itself into a wider posture, or it might be the exact thing required provided that other factors remain constant. Holding that territory is vital, but I would not dismiss precursor actions as quickly as I believe you may be inclined to. Remember the Thunder Runs? These reconnaissance patrols allowed the US to both publicly challenge the defenders (and humiliate them in front of the impetuous) as well as firming up intelligence and self-confidence of the US before Baghdad. Precisely none of that profits the insurgency. Its a spoiler, and while we still need to take territory, the Fabian strategy is still applicable until we are ready.

We took Baghdad. We'll take Al Anbar. Al Anbar is a vital conduit of logistics, and moral, support all the way to Baghdad. Attainment of this objective will allow the US to put the Sunni insurgency down far better than political intrigues.

Posted by: Brad at August 13, 2005 08:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad,

Good points. Our operations have at least kept the insurgents from feeling safe in any part of the country and our presence has given the Iraqis breathing room to build up their forces and meet their constitutional objectives. All of the bad news about militias and theocrats-in-waiting so far hasn't really changed these new realities. I hope they don't in the months to come.

My concern is with the security future and we want to make sure that the Iraqis understand what they have to do on the security front. What needs to be done next really can't be done by us. The key seems to me not the number of Iraqi troops or their combat readiness that everyone over here worries about. What matters is the mix of troops and police and how and for what purposes they are deployed. I hope this is clear over there.

Posted by: David Billington at August 14, 2005 12:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is clear here in Washington that the Administration is committed to a drawdown strategy in early 2006 based on optimism about the political track and some degree of faith in the growth of Iraqi security forces. Yet the insurgency remains unweakened in numbers and stronger in terms of the power and effect of its attacks. The question of popular support is more complicated but it is clear that the insurgents enjoy a degree of safe haven, resources, and recruiting success within the Sunni triangle area.

Pogue, we are in much worse shape than the Union in 1863. The Union was suffering tactical defeats but gaining strategic strength. Our situation is the reverse. Lee worshipers fail to realize that the Confederacy's Napoleonic operational concept was strategically flawed. Lee lacked the capability to defeat the Union strategically in the North and should have adopted an insurgency doctrine, drawing the slothful and less-motivated Union force into an occupation and COIN quagmire from Viriginia to Missouri. Rummy has done far worse than Scott, McClellan, Meade, and Pickett yet Bush sticks with him whereas Lincoln demonstrated significantly less patience.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 14, 2005 04:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, I think we agree fundamentally. American power will not crush the insurgency, but America has the ability to delay until Iraqi power can do the job.

POTUS, a couple of things; victory in this case against the insurgents is a species completely apart from its numbers, its lethality, or its combat power. Growing power, if that is the demonstrable case, which is still conjecture and often contradicted, must be measured against the very demonstrable increases in Coalition plus Iraqi military gains. In other words, its just swell that the insurgents may be at or above their efficiencies of the last two years, but if the Coalition has doubled its manpower (addition of Iraqi forces) while increased in lethality (learning curve) as well, then the match up, as always does not favor the insurgency.

Or am I wrong? Tell me how the insurgency wins if they cannot control any territory? Even Mao Zedong accepted that territory is key to success, as have every other movement of this type: even Al Qaeda had Afghanistan. So it appears that unless the insurgency can dissuade the Coalition from pressing into Al Anbar and elsewhere, the insurgency could double and triple in combat power but to no avail…it cannot even secure the basis of its continued existence, much less dominance. And that is the underlying assumption behind these comparatives, the insurgency vs. the Coalition + US military + Iraqi Army + Iraqi Police + SOCOM + Interpol et al; who can push who out of the country. If the insurgency cannot forcibly seize territory it will depend on the good graces of its enemies and Almighty Gawd. Somehow I doubt either one is feeling charitable to the head-“liberators” and jumpin’ jihadis.

It seems trite but virtually every army I can think of was at least as powerful when the war was over as it was when it started, even the massive armies of WWII where Germany was just entering full wartime production at the close of 1944 and Japan was impressing its ENTIRE population into service in preparation for its defense. I know, I know, conventional warfare is different than unconventional, but again, the Baathists and Al Qaeda are not the League of Justice meets the X-Men; the insurgents operate firmly within the writ of physical reality. That reality makes the insurgency vulnerable on many more fronts than the Coalition such as legal prosecution. Go ahead and try to make the North Vietnamese Army illegal in Vietnam, they’ll laugh at you. Ain’t easy being a rebel these days, facing civil dangers from your fellow citizens, peace officers and evil jarheads with big metal phallic symbols.

Evidence points to much more trouble with the insurgency, especially split between pro-Baathist i.e. last tyrannical regime that killed 400K people or pro-Sunni Islamist, aka the kind folk that brought you the Mosque bombing, than to the Coalition, even comparing best case versus worst case.

Posted by: Brad at August 14, 2005 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David, I think we agree fundamentally. American power will not crush the insurgency, but America has the ability to delay until Iraqi power can do the job.

POTUS, a couple of things; victory in this case against the insurgents is a species completely apart from its numbers, its lethality, or its combat power. Growing power, if that is the demonstrable case, which is still conjecture and often contradicted, must be measured against the very demonstrable increases in Coalition plus Iraqi military gains. In other words, its just swell that the insurgents may be at or above their efficiencies of the last two years, but if the Coalition has doubled its manpower (addition of Iraqi forces) while increased in lethality (learning curve) as well, then the match up, as always does not favor the insurgency.

Or am I wrong? Tell me how the insurgency wins if they cannot control any territory? Even Mao Zedong accepted that territory is key to success, as have every other movement of this type: even Al Qaeda had Afghanistan. So it appears that unless the insurgency can dissuade the Coalition from pressing into Al Anbar and elsewhere, the insurgency could double and triple in combat power but to no avail…it cannot even secure the basis of its continued existence, much less dominance. And that is the underlying assumption behind these comparatives, the insurgency vs. the Coalition + US military + Iraqi Army + Iraqi Police + SOCOM + Interpol et al; who can push who out of the country. If the insurgency cannot forcibly seize territory it will depend on the good graces of its enemies and Almighty Gawd. Somehow I doubt either one is feeling charitable to the head-“liberators” and jumpin’ jihadis.

It seems trite but virtually every army I can think of was at least as powerful when the war was over as it was when it started, even the massive armies of WWII where Germany was just entering full wartime production at the close of 1944 and Japan was impressing its ENTIRE population into service in preparation for its defense. I know, I know, conventional warfare is different than unconventional, but again, the Baathists and Al Qaeda are not the League of Justice meets the X-Men; the insurgents operate firmly within the writ of physical reality. That reality makes the insurgency vulnerable on many more fronts than the Coalition such as legal prosecution. Go ahead and try to make the North Vietnamese Army illegal in Vietnam, they’ll laugh at you. Ain’t easy being a rebel these days, facing civil dangers from your fellow citizens, peace officers and evil jarheads with big metal phallic symbols.

Evidence points to much more trouble with the insurgency, especially split between pro-Baathist i.e. last tyrannical regime that killed 400K people or pro-Sunni Islamist, aka the kind folk that brought you the Mosque bombing, than to the Coalition, even comparing best case versus worst case.

Posted by: Brad at August 14, 2005 06:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

if you're going to blame someone, blame the europeans, esp france... they did not commit enough troops. our supposed "allies" left us hanging. well, we should hang them. they wanted to see us lose. fuck 'em.

Posted by: al at August 14, 2005 10:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad,

I agree that the insurgency has no future, if the civilian populations of the three main groups in Iraq reach agreement to form a state and if the new state proceeds with a proper strategy to pacify the country.

The danger is that the Shias in northern Saudi Arabia will be inspired to press for equal rights. The foreign radicals in the Sunni triangle will also move against Saudi Arabia if their prospects in Iraq dim. Shia and Sunni insurgents in Saudi Arabia will use Iraq as a sanctuary and it is not clear to me that the new government in Baghdad will have the ability (assuming it has the will) to prevent the use of its territory for this purpose. If the insurgents turn to other targets before they are truly defeated in Iraq, their networks may survive to lend support for insurgency in neighboring countries.

A nuclear Iran in 2010-2015 may prompt Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear technology and weapons from Pakistan, especially if we are reluctant to stand up to a nuclear Iran. A Bin Ladenist regime in Saudi Arabia will of course try to get nuclear weapons as fast as it can. A crisis in Saudi Arabia isn't inevitable. But we need a more comprehensive policy for the region and for the world if we are to avoid continuing to lurch from one crisis to another.

Posted by: David Billington at August 14, 2005 07:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad --

I don't quarrel with your analysis that the insurgency will weaken in the face of real political consensus by leaders and populations. Any decent textbook on insurgency would agree. The insurgency will face a critical test with the growth of Iraqi security forces to avoid the perception that it is anti-Iraqi rather than anti-American.

But what metrics can we use to evaluate progress on that analysis? One of my pet peeves with the CPA and Administration has been the citation of reconstruction projects, economic activity, and other civil society benchmarks as a metric of success. These so called successes are often disconnected with the political balance of power that really matters (see my post on Dirty Secrets of War at nationalinscurity.blogspot.com).

Any estimate of insurgent strength would ultimately draw from a variety of reports but the data on numbers of insurgents and number of attacks and scale of attacks is certainly one of the most compelling quantitative calculus and on that score we have no evidence of progress. Rather, things are getting worse. That doesn't mean that attacks might not actually increase as an insurgency is actually weakening (or in its "last throes" as one top Administration official optimistically assessed), but one would likely see other evidence of weakness against that data and I haven't seen any such evidence. Perhaps others do.

The point of these comments isn't to paint doom and gloom but to be honest about where we are. Those on the left or the right who bias their assessment of the situation in order to stroke egos or political points are committing one of the worst strategic sins.

Ironically, the Iraq insurgency is a transient phenomenon (unlike Vietnam, Palestine, or Northern Ireland). Even if the insurgency forces a retreat of US forces, it won't put Zarqawi or a Baathist in charge a la Ho Chi Minh. Rather, the insurgency would yield to a political struggle, likely violent, among the ethnic factions with an Iran-supported Shia group the likely victors.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 15, 2005 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS, I’m agnostic on judging the level of the insurgency based on numbers alone or many of those metrics; 50,000 may or may not be 50,000 capable fighters. It could even be that the number of competent fighters or cells have dropped in half but the level of part-time supporters, and that could be merely criminal enterprises that may or may not be committed to any specific goal or political solution and probably does include them, has increased. It could be the reverse, as well, 50,000 Navy SEAL insurgents, bad to the bone. Likewise for casualties, wounded and killed, which estimates do not include the causalities inflicted or the geographic distribution of the fighting. On one hand, any offensive movement will increase both casualty counts but may or may not bring the conflict closer to the end; some attacks succeed, some do not.

Metrics are fine, but let’s not forget that what wins wars are less the weight of material and paperwork, but also speed and agility, and that matters for counter-insurgency as well as for anything else. Geography matters, we hold more and are taking more of Iraq under our control. The split in the insurgency matters, and matters a lot; it is far more portentous than mere numbers could tell you. This is especially so if one side of the insurgency cannibalizes the other, such as Baathists versus Al Qaeda, much less tribal factions versus one or both on top of the Coalition and Iraqi nationals. And on and on, the general details far, far outweigh the spreadsheets.

Quick thought experiment. You’re given marching orders and you have a choice of objectives. One is far better equipped, far better armed, far more experienced, in a better position with far more troops and material. Which one do you take? Depends. Depends on what you can do, how fast you can do it, where you can do it and who you are doing it to. Suppose you know the general has been aching to surrender on his own, just a fact. Suppose the rag tag force actually will fight and fight hard. Moral factors can and will outweigh materialist factors if you have good generals; whatever you think of Rumsfield, we have good generals, better than Zarqawi and UBL.

And David, I share your apprehension at the thought of Iraq becoming a base for future terror expansion, but I think the counsel of time is most appropriate.

Posted by: Brad at August 15, 2005 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad: "And David, I share your apprehension at the thought of Iraq becoming a base for future terror expansion, but I think the counsel of time is most appropriate."

I would also like to think that patience is best here; my concern is that the spread of nuclear weapons is less conjectural than the spread of terrorism. I appreciate your willingness to debate the points I've tried to raise in this thread and I don't want to veer further off topic. It may not be useful to consider the consequences of a nuclear Iran until the matter is resolved one way or the other. But I wonder if, insofar as it is possible to judge our efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons from what is publicly known of these efforts, there is anything more you think we could do?

Posted by: David Billington at August 15, 2005 04:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

WHY? Was this promise made in post war Germany or Japan? Isn't the issue of bases something for the Iraqi gov't to negotiate - not a bone to throw to the "insurgency"

ANS: No we did not make this promise to Germany or Japan, but we weren't facing the same level of resistance/insurgency. Such a move then was not appropriate or remotely necessary, so the analogy is a poor one.

ANS2: So the Nazi's made a fundamental mistake - had they operated as terrorists for a few years we would have negotiated with them to withdraw?


Between the Sunnis, the foreign fighters and the Shiite hardliners, they all agree that we should leave, and are unified in this whereas they might not be otherwise.

NOW we are taking orders from the terrorists?


In fact, even the moderate Shiite parties either want us to leave, or conceal their desire to keep us in-country from the masses because most Iraqi citizens want us out (and that is significant when considering how many Kurds want us to stay).

WHAT about the 8M who voted - do they want us to leave asap?
Of course they want us to leave eventually - but why should I accept your terrorist driven message instead of the Iraqi's people's message from Jan 30th?


It is not throwing a bone to the insurgency, it is a strategy to isolate the foreign fighters from the Sunni and Shiite nationalists who might otherwise lose the need to cooperate against a common enemy - us - as well as providing an incentive to compel all parties to try to work together to forge a solution whereas now they can over-reach and play greedy while we play cop. Further, the longer we stay the more likely that even those that prefer us around to maintain security will grow weary of our presence. Saudi Arabia would be more analogous in this regard than Germany or Japan.


BUT it doesn't isolate the terrorists - it emboldens them. We can't change them - or change the thousands of years of arab politics overnight.


ARE YOU SURE? Aren't the Iraqi groups who are supporting or tolerating the violence interested in the usual power play of Arab politics and/or simply terrified? Why do you assign motives to them that may not be true at all. Maybe a statement about withdrawl will cause more problems - those who support the violence will be emboldened - those who are terrified will not be helped.

ANS: Not if the statement on withdrawal is contingent on those groups entering into the political process, helping to build a new political order. If they are emboldened and support more violence, we don't withdraw. Or we recalibrate the timetable accordingly.


ANS2: HAVEN'T we made it clear we have no long term goals of occupation. Isn't that a "statement on withdrawl"? They have been emboldened and support more violence in my view.


ARE THEY? If there are Sunni groups "connected" to the terrorists - maybe meeting them halfway isn't a great idea. Maybe there are some Sunni groups who want to use the terrorists in the usual fashion to earn power. Maybe we should not reward this anymore

ANS: There is a distinction between terrorist and insurgent.

NOT to me They are defined by their actions


There are Sunni nationalist/Baathist groups that are not terrorist per se. Some Sunni groups are uncomfortable with the random targeting of civilians.

THATS nice to hear


Most Iraqis, in fact, are while many are sympathetic to targeting coalition forces.

ARE most sympathetic to tagetting CoW forces? Was there a poll done? I understand they are less upset by an IED that blows up a humvee than the terrorist bombing of a school - but aren't most people interested in the future ( the 8M who voted )


We should reach out to these groups in order to marginalize the foreign fighters and Salafist Sunnis. This is not a question of rewards, this is a question of trying to end the insurgency. Not marginalizing the foreign fighters means the status quo which is not working. Is it perfect or morally clean? No, but no such solution is. Such are the cards we have been dealing and are dealt.


WE Need to play the cards we have - I just don't think any showing of weakness or lack of resolve will help


RIGHT - so the UN and or the French embassy can ride to the rescue and represent the Sunni terrorist side in the negotiations

ANS: Legitimacy, and honest brokership, is in the eye of the beholder. Like it or not, most people around the world, Iraqis included, have more trust in international orgs and NGOs (despite the UN's poor rep in Iraq).

ANS2: AND why to the Iraqi's have such confidence in the UN?


At least where there are feuding parties and a conflict in which we have already apparently taken sides, most peoples want what THEY consider a neutral broker. You and I might not trust the UN or think they deserve the monicker, and they are far from perfect, but what matters is that the parties involved trust the process. What is of less relevance is what we Americans think of the UN or the French.


I AGREE - what is important is what the Iraqi's think of the UN
You seem to think they trust and like the UN - on what basis?


Why do you think appeasing the Sunni's who support the terrorists ( and yes - blowing up dozens of children is more than "insurgency" to me ) will help?

ANS: This is not about appeasing the Sunnis any more than good counter-insurgency is ever about appeasing the insurgents. This is about dividing and conquering and removing the incentive to keep fighting. This is about trying to bring as many as possible into the fold (read: political process) which in turn will weaken the more intransigent and help to splinter and marginalize their ranks. The alternative is to continue along the current path which is not working. As the right-of-center think tank Stratfor put it in January 2005:

The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas.

Given this, what would you suggest? Do you have a better plan than Diamond's for undermining the insurgency? I'm all ears. It's easy to take the moral high ground, but will it get results?

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 12, 2005 09:09 PM | Permalink to this comment


A MIRACLE? Hardly. What is needed is resolve

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 15, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, Pogue, I've thrown some ideas out there, now you tell me, what does "resolve" mean? Whose resolve? I know our soldiers and Marines have all the resolve they need, it's the politicians and the generals who lack backbone, not to mention freaking common sense. "Resolve" manifest in what manner? To what end? Empty words are no longer enough, man, if you're gonna throw your two cents in and expect to be taken seriously, you'd better come up with something that can be implemented. Otherwise, you're just talking trash.

Posted by: T-Bone at August 15, 2005 06:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here are a few suggestions

Cut off the enemy propaganda - treat al Jazeera like we did Radio Berlin

Cut off enemy supplies - treat Syria and Iran as enemy states - not inviolate territory

There are 2 to start

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 15, 2005 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No, avedis, first I'll let you apologize for your lack of English communications skills, then I'll decide if you're worth answering. You want Bushitlersatanetc 7 Co. to apologize for everything they've done wrong. Show some leadership, set an example.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 15, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad --

Again, metrics are measures of progress NOT indicators of future success or failure. My point was simply to demonstrate that we aren't making progress on that most important metric, not a strategic argument about whether we can win.

On your strategic analysis, I don't have big issues but I'll make a couple comments:

Agree that calculus of firepower and materiel don't matter much. Speed and agility are more relevant to a manuever warfare or transformational warfare concept -- not insurgency. In the Iraq insurgency context, the insurgents clearly have more speed and agility (as well as the initiative).

Control of geography is important but WHERE and HOW you control it and don't control it is the key, not how much. As long as the insurgents have sufficient areas/access to hide, recruit, equip, and organize, geographic control isn't that critical. Clearly the Sunni triangle offers plenty of such places. The geography argument is a bit like saying that US friendlies control more global territory than Bin Laden.

I'm also not sure our generals are better than their generals on the subject of insurgency inside Iraq. I greatly respect my old JCS Balkan counterpart George Casey, but he was trained in a US Army that wanted no part of this type of mission and therefore did not prepare for it. The insurgency leadership has far greater understanding of the terrain and culture and far more emphasis on insurgency and COIN in their experience. I'll give our guys big edges in leadership and tactical operations, but that's only part of the game. Also, my discussions with Army officials lead me to believe that the most knowledgeable US officers on fighting this insurgency are at low-medium field grade, not flag grade.

The Army is changing by the way. Schoomacher understands the problem, as does the new leadership of Wallace at TRADOC and Petraeus at CAC. They don't yet have the answers but they understand the problem.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 15, 2005 10:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,
Those are external solutions that don't address the local level of the populace, which is the level that the insurgency operates. Not that they are necessarily bad ideas, but they are insufficient in and of themselves. But what exactly do you mean by "treat Iran and Syria as enemy states"? Invasion? With what assets, to what political goal? Airstrikes? Again, where, with what, and to what end? Embargo? Are we willing to go toe to toe with Russia and China over Iran? At this point in the game, if you are going to advocate action, you need to be very specific, and make sure you've through all the implications.

POTUS B,
I know for a fact that the highest levels in the Pentagon have been briefed on methods that will work, even if they would disrupt our very concept of our forces. Their response: "Yes, that's the right way to do it, but we don't have time to do it that way." To which the briefer replied, "How is doing it the wrong way going to get you to the answer any faster?" Followed by uncomfortable silence.

Posted by: T-Bone at August 17, 2005 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Columnists
Think Tanks
Law & Finance
Security
Books
The City
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by