December 14, 2005

E-Mail of the Day

Matt Chanoff writes in with a very interesting note:

Iím new to your blog (directed there from Andrew Sullivanís) and very much appreciate your commentary, particularly the piece highlighting Henry Kissingerís views on Iraq. Kissingerís point that, if we signal a withdrawal, ďÖthe political factions in Iraq will maneuver to protect their immediate assets in preparation for the coming test of strength that will seem to them inevitable between the various groupsÖĒ is directly parallel to Kissingerís experience in Vietnam in 72 Ė í74. At that time it was called ďplanting flags.Ē

But this sort of commentary will do nothing to stop it. The political dynamic surrounding the war here on the home front is all about concretizing a plan for winning and leaving. The President is painting himself into a corner where, if heís losing or proved clueless, heíll need to defer to people who want a timetable, and if heís winning, heíll have to signal it by starting to incrementally withdraw troops.

The challenge is to figure out a way to transform the political dynamic here so that it doesnít undermine the chance to actually win there. My thought is that maybe instead of a timetable, we propose a roadmap. Domestically, a published roadmap could benchmark progress in a way that allows us to evaluate the administrationís strategy, and alleviate pressure for symbolic troop withdrawals. In Iraq, it could co-opt many of the people who want the U.S. out.

I think this roadmap idea may have legs. Can commenters help sketch out what the major roadmap milestones would be, and can we put something together that makes sense and can maybe get pitched around to people who might be interested in such an effort? At minimum, it seems to me, we need to a) wait out the inevitable emergence of highly controversial constitutional amendments and such that will rear their heads; b) ensure the creation of a fully trained and equipped Iraqi National Army with a multi-ethnic officer corps, mixed units, and a proven track record of success operating against hardened insugents without significant U.S. military personnel embedded (but perhaps with U.S. logistical and air support still); c) ensure, to a reasonable degree of comfort, no super-regions or flash-points like Kirkuk set off crises impacting the integrity of a centralized state; d) fix oil revenue sharing in a manner that will not unfairly prejudice the Sunnis; and e) monitor relations with neighbors, particularly Iran, Syria and Turkey (because of the Kurdish issue) to an extent that the prospects of a regionalization of the conflict are deemed de minimis. This is rapid fire and off the top of my head, as the hour is late, but I want to get people thinking on what the key road map components would be, so am offering up examples. Time frames must be implanted in all this too, and I'd welcome suggestions on when the kinds of things sketched out above might be accomplished in reader's views.

Posted by Gregory at December 14, 2005 05:10 AM | TrackBack (1)

Greg, shouldn't our goal be to provide security and stability in Iraq?

Shouldn't the means to achieve that goal be the training of Iraqi military and police that is capable of containing, and ultimately defeating, the indigenous insurgency?

Call it a roadmap, call it a timetable, hell call it a breakfast cereal for all I care, but the primary criteria has to be training the Iraqis to provide their own safety and security. If we can't do that, then we need to get out now. And if we can do that, we need to get out as soon as the job is done.

What we really owe the Iraqi people is an end to using their nation as the "central front" in our "war on terror". The vast majority of Iraqis don't want us there, and according to the BBC poll, less than one half of one percent of Iraqis see the withdrawal of American troops as the worst thing that could happen to their country.

So if you want to say "we'll maintain current troop levels for another two years while we train 200,000 Iraqis, then begin drawing down our troops on the basis of 1000 Americans withdrawn for every additional 2000 trained Iraqis" you will have a policy that makes some sense.

But when you start talking about completely amorphous "political" goals like " a) wait out the inevitable emergence of highly controversial constitutional amendments and such that will rear their heads" you are simply avoiding the reality of Iraq.

BTW, the very first "goal" is easy to achieve --- put an immediate end to the idea that the US wants to establish permanent bases in Iraq.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 14, 2005 01:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Roadmaps", "Timetables"... These are concepts that appeal to people who in their hearts and minds never left campus. People who think they should be able to write term papers for a living cannot ever be permitted to make policy in any field of human endeavor. Gnostic garbage and promiscuous verbiation is never the answer unless one is seeking tenure.
A simple and adequate policy statement is this:
Build good things and kill bad people till it's time to come home.
In vast detail that means: (a) The US would like to go home; (b) The Iraqis would like to be able to handle their own affairs on their own; so (c) Whenever as all parties agree that it's feasible and prudent, we will leave in stages or en masse; (d) in the meantime we will do and foster as many constructive things as we can and kill as many bad people as possible so as to hasten the happy endpoint.
A "roadmap" is just another invitation for like Carl Levin, Howard Dean and similarly maliciously motivated politicians and journalists tp carp, condemn and undermine. We are at war. There are times when we have to suck it up and accept the imperfection of the choices presented and of the people who decide. I am unfamiliar with any instance in human history when intellectuallizng was more valuable to a war effort than loyalty, patience and perseverance.

Posted by: George at December 14, 2005 01:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I think this roadmap idea may have legs. Can commenters help sketch out what the major roadmap milestones would be, and can we put something together that makes sense and can maybe get pitched around to people who might be interested in such an effort?"

Shiva H. Vishnu, this really puts my blood pressure through the roof. Your emailer has a great idea, but it is *criminal* that the administration has actively resisted taking the lead on this. I mean, shouldn't it be a given that they have a roadmap for the war that goes beyond vague slogans about "victory"? That you would suggest random folks like us blog readers take on the challenge without a *single* suggestion that the administration has been delinquent in this regard has a real Mickey & Judy "Hey, let's put on a show!" feel to it.

Posted by: farmgirl at December 14, 2005 02:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One small quibble, you put this on our "to do" list:

d) fix oil revenue sharing in a manner that will not unfairly prejudice the Sunnis

Now I strongly agree with the goal, but our ability to effectuate such a change depends on our ability to convince the Kurds and the Shiites to adopt such provisions. We can't "fix" or "unfix" the manner in which oil revenues will be shared. Only offer suggestions. Maybe just a pedantic clarification, but one I would offer nonetheless.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 14, 2005 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A published timetable of troop withdrawals would be unwise, especially at this moment, but it would have the virtue of simplicity. A road map such as Greg describes would of necessity consist of a series of conditions, the achievement of every one of which would be a subjective matter. At each stage, opponents of further withdrawals would find themselves denying that the necessary conditions for them existed, putting supporters of the war effort in the untenable position of continually having to say it was not going well, and that therefore it should be maintained.

The key distinction, it seems to me, is not between "road maps" and "timetables" but between a course announced beforehand in detail and one described publicly only in very general, hence flexible, terms. Centcom would be derelict if it did not have detailed plans for pulling units out of Iraq, but there is no reason those plans need to be made public. We didn't announce to the former Iraqi regime the strategy and tactics we would use in invading Iraq; in the face of an insurgency that we must assume will remain active at some level, we would be foolish to announce our strategy, tactics and conditions for withdrawal in great detail.

The flaw in the above argument, of course, is that calls for timetables and road maps are not fundamentally about the tactics we should use in Iraq. They are instead reflections of a lack of confidence among Americans that the Bush administration knows where it is headed and is likely to get there. This in turn reflects declining confidence in Bush himself. As I think this decline in confidence not only profound but well justified I am at something of a loss to devise tactics to compensate for it.

Posted by: JEB at December 14, 2005 04:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess one of the MILESTONES in the ROADMAP might be that the new SOVEREIGN governmnent that will be elected tomorrow might insist on a TIMETABLE for withdrawal. As Rummie is fond of saying, "it is their country". Our job is almost finished.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at December 14, 2005 04:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

**Initially posted in response to the wrong thread, sorry**

Greg, a qualitative roadmap would have been a neat idea a few years ago. It still would be a neat idea. But it won't stem the tide.

The reason is that the American people remember the roadmap George Bush put out in 2002-3. It said, "invade with tank columns, cheering in the streets, hand off to Ahmad Chalabi, over and done in a year and maybe $20 billion".

The American people miss the details, but they get the big picture. If your honest portrayal had been portrayed this way in selling the war, the war would not have been bought.

Furthermore, I understand the US troops as umpire paradigm. And to the Bush admin's credit, the recent busts on Shiite torture chambers are a step in that direction. Honestly, I expected this Administration to try to push that under the rug. But I don't expect them to be able to follow through on this course.

See, you try to be an umpire, but every side wants to make you their tool. The anti-US backlash from the Shiites will come if we try to close too many torture chambers. Iran will MAKE it happen. See Syria/Hizbullah.

When Iranian backed shiite factions with grassroots popularity starting bombing US troops, in addition to the Sunnis our coherent rationale will collapse.

The umpire paradigm is great. I love it when the US can do that successfully. But you can't be an umpire and an occupying army simultaneously amidst ethnic strife. One group always ends up being the favorites and one group ends up being the chew toys.

Our current ambassdor to Iraq is a smart guy. I commend him. But he's swimming against the tide. The regional actors and the internal - and popular - forces who correspond to them - will never allow America the luxury of making every play nice together. There is too much to gain from discrediting us. The deck is stacked.

Mark my words: any attempt to truly level the playing field and move the US away from a primary role of Sunni suppression will result in armed attacks from popular Iran-supported shiite elements. The attempt will fail.

Having said that, the more visible the US is and the more US people are shooting Iraqis (under any circumstances) the more manipulatable and discreditable we are. Withdrawing troops would make us more, not less likely, to be able to act as whatever mitigating influence we can hope for.

Posted by: glasnost at December 14, 2005 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Im not sure the roadmap idea makes sense, as it seems based around the conditions needed for COMPLETE withdrawl. Really, do we mean to say that we need 138,000 troops and not 115,000 until a certain level of religious and ethnic integration has been achieved in the Iraqi officer corps? Why are 115,000 troops inadequate to advance that integration, but 138,000 are adequate?

My sense is that youre responding to a pro-withdrawl demand that has the reasons for withdrawl all wrong. I remain unconvinced that the US presence is driving the insurgency - what I see driving the insurgency is A. Actual military operations in Sunni areas - which will be just as much a driver when those operations are conducted by Iraqi forces as by US forces. The way to end that source is to increase the number of areas that are secure, and where military operations are no longer necessary - oil spot, clear and hold, whatever you call it. B. The Sunni concern about the political future of Iraq - which can only be dealt with through negotiations. Some thing US presence makes Shiites less likely to compromise. Greg, IIUC, thinks the reverse. I dont know for sure. I suspect we will learn more after tomorowws election. C. Bitterenders and jihadis. Who can only be beaten militarily.

Now you might ask, if I believe this, why am I not an agreement in with Greg in opposing any withdrawl in 2006, and the whole focus on 2006. Because I am also convinced that the US Army is significantly stressed in terms of manpower, and because the US electorate is stressed in its willingess to support an extended commitment (I am not particularly interested in whos to blame - I voted for a writein candidate in 2004 - which I do not regret - I agree with Greg that Rummys departure would help)

Now the question, as I see it, does a small withdrawl relieve these stresses to the point that it makes the longer commitment that Greg wants, more possible. I cant say for sure. But my impressions from what ive been reading on Army recruitment and retention, indicate that a withdrawl large enough to reduce the frequency of rotation back into Iraq, would go a long way to reducing the stress on the Army. And IIUC it would NOT take a huge reduction in US forces to achieve that, esp with the current expansion of the Army underway. And I think many of the people in AMerica who are on the middle, would feel better if some reductions, however symbolic, took place. I suspect that this would be at least as effective, and more workable, than any particular road map or timetable.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 14, 2005 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How refreshing to read your proposed "roadmap", Greg. It corresponds directly to the long established US strategy for victory in Iraq. Nice to see you've finally come round the the Bush administration's position.

a) constitutional development -check, Bush admin policy
b) form & train Iraqi National Army -check, Bush admin policy
c) national stabilty -check, Bush admin policy
d) secure & develop oil resources -check, Bush admin policy
e) regional diplomacy -check, Bush admin policy

But you missed one, "democracy". There's an election in Iraq tomorrow. Surely that counts as a point in the roadmap?

Posted by: Kenneth at December 14, 2005 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An utterly unrelated comment, but haven't the UIA said they will want to negotiate a time table for withdrawl if they form the next government?

Posted by: Shaun at December 14, 2005 09:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The polls that I have seen indicate that most Iraqis want coalition troops to leave but not until the situation has stabilized. My suggestion is that Iraqis hold a referendum on whether coalition troops should leave within six months. If they want us to leave we can leave with a clean conscience and no loss of face. Such a withdrawal would be perceived as morally and politically legitimate and deny the insurgents the ability to declare a victory. If they want us to stay it will provide much needed moral and political support for our presence.

Repeat every six months as necessary.

Posted by: cllam at December 15, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

disagree friends, & i'll be glad to share why.

the perception still continues - it is the left, enabled by media, fed by academia, siezed brazenly by the dhimmicrat party and grasped as a ray of hope by the terrorist vermin - that the issues are defined by this same left, even unto the alternatives that are ostensibly offered by "the right" - it's like a choice between hard left cut'n'run on one side, and "left-lite" on the other. Why... why should this be so, and continue to be the paradigm - anything worth defining is thus by default, defined by the Left - that we presuppose to be our reality?

We've a ghost or two to exorcise here, you'll recall. Vietnam which we abandoned (true, due to a democrat vote which reneged on materiel support & air strikes in '75, but this stain affects us all, hence the 'we') in precisely the same manner which the left wants us to emulate this time around.

We've got to obviously win the WOT, and the first thing we need to do is grab this bull by the balls and define it as we see fit. Fuggedabout da Left - let the Roe Effect take care of them.

Accordingly, here are the Golden Rules on how to protect America and win the WOT:

1) If an idea gets the dhimmicrats pissed off, then we're on the right track.

2) If any ideas or actions find favor of ANY sort amongst the dhimmicratic leadership, immediately CEASE and DESIST, change your action, and check for opposition reaction IAW Rule 1.

Remember, fellow Citizens, it takes 47 muscles to frown, 14 to smile... but only 4 to pull a trigger!

Semper Paratus

Posted by: JR the Coast Guard Vet at December 15, 2005 03:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The right scares me because it seems to not have reached the 20th century. Milestones etc. are basic management tools for complex projects, imperfect with flaws (discussed in many management books) but they provide standards for measurement, evaluation and rethinking. Obviously those who are unaware of this have never heard of companies like Lockheed or been in a management position.

I for one would like some accurate measures. Finally we we creating civilian provincial teams to work with the new government. We are no longer relying on centralized control from the Green Zone inplemented by the military and contracters.

One of the first roles of these teams is to start gathering estimates of the facts. We need to know crime, the Baghdad coroner reports 8,000 deaths this year (few of which made the papers,) most shootings, it's said that in Shia areas crime is reduced, we can start getting numbers. We know money into the health care system has increased from almost nothing to 700 million per year, but also have reports many clinics lack basics. Start getting numbers, start fixing problems.

We haven't done this. The right says we shouldn't that it's blue sky, academic non real management except we need to have guesses how many "phanton soldiers" are in various units, placed there for officers to collect pay, to get a guess on the troops in those units. Contrary to Limpbowel and others you can't use imaginery troops to make an imaginery reality.

Study and document the situation, inspect everything you can including the prisons, lay out the facts to the American people and the world. grab a handful of situations you can solve and solve them. And yes use timelines and milestones. Specific estimates can be made on how long it takes to get antibiotics to clinic x and even all clinics. If the goals are failed find the reasons for failure.

If these stupid rightwingers were running WWII we'd never have had D-day because it was a milestone tied into other milestones and timelines. We'd be sitting in Nebraska broadcasting on tube radios that we were winning.

I wish these guys would figure out that double plus good thinking didn't realy defeat eastasia in 1984 and that not all setbacks were caused by double plus ungood thoughts. But the concept is too difficult.

Which is why the situation may be hopeless, though fortunatly the president is showing some signs of waking up.

Posted by: angela at December 15, 2005 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg wrote:

b) ensure the creation of a fully trained and equipped Iraqi National Army with a multi-ethnic officer corps, mixed units, and a proven track record of success operating against hardened insurgents without significant U.S. military personnel embedded (but perhaps with U.S. logistical and air support still)

It seems as though you, as well as most people, have overlooked one very important point, while the INA is important to securing the borders and stopping the influx of foreign insurgents, the police are what is necessary to keep local security. And this is where I feel the biggest challenge is for the future of Iraq. Unlike the Army it is much more difficult to integrate the police forces in a multiethnic way. Furthermore, they are the most prone to corruption; for example, the recent uncovering of basement torture facilities were the work of local police forces, not the military. You can split up the localized militias into multi-ethnic nationalized military groups, but police are an all-together local matter.
Yet, if a viable economy, with labor mobility, is to take root one must have autonomous police force that enforces and obeys the laws in a non-arbitrary way. Beyond just the obvious magisterial problems, e.g. traffic, investigating tactics and enforcement standards also need to be codified and uniformly implemented. This issue needs to be at the top of the list right next to the INA discussion. Because until the police are established in a viable and unbiased manner their will be no security in Iraq regardless of how well the Army performs with or without American help.
How to accomplish this is another question, I leave that to those who know the complexity of the area better. I would however offer one opinion on the matter and that is this: the military should *not* be training police. Perhaps an NGO, maybe another Arab nation, but not the US military; police and Army are two very different, yet equally important, beast, they should be treated as such.

Posted by: Randall Bennington at December 15, 2005 06:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If the Democrats of today were running the US during WW2, they would have surrendered. They would be carping about why Roosevelt was fighting Germany when it was Japan that attacked Pearl Harbour, and they would have said it was our fault anyway.

The US strategy in Iraq is all about milestones. This is distinct from the Democrats who insist on a timetable, independant of milestones.

So in case you missed them, here are the milestones met so far:

1) Regime defeated - check
2) Saddam captured -check
3) Soveriegnty passed to Iraqi Interim Authority - check
4) Presidential election in January, 2005 -check
5) Constituional referendum, Sept. 2005 -check
6) Election of Legislative Assembly, today -check

And ongoing:

7) form & train Iraqi security forces - 200,000 strong and rising
8) Electrical production -higher than before the invasion
9) Reconstruction -oil, water, education, healthcare, etc

The recent Iraqi opinion poll revealed that 70% of Iraqi's are "positive" about their current situation & 69% expect it to improve in the next year. Is that not a good indicator of progress?

Posted by: Kenneth at December 15, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear Greg;

The roadmap idea is excellent. I believe it should incorporate indicators that measure concrete, day-to-day developments in various parts of Iraq such as the number of kids going to school, the number of households with 24/7 power, the number of surgeries performed, stock exchange volume, import/export figures, unemployment figures etc. Once it has been determined how many and what benchmarks give a full picture of relative stability in the country thresholds can be set.

Such yardsticks are used by international agencies to assess standards of living and quality of life. The usual indicators such as infant mortality, longevity, literacy and household income are perhaps too long-breaking to be used here; though they ultimately are the measure of relative well-being.

The problem with indicators such as national security or political stability or ethnic or racial quiescence is that they are difficult to measure and subject to interpretation.

Thanks again for your very thoughful suggestion.

Posted by: billb at December 15, 2005 06:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Angela, your comment on D-Day warrants a quick response. While there was a tremendous amount of detailed planning indeed down to the details of what each soldier would carry on his back, the decision to launch was made by Ike and a few of his aids after several weather related delays. From the moment of launch, much of the planning went out the window. The paratroopers landed in the wrong places. Of the first 1,000 soldiers to land at Omaha, less than a few dozen survived the first few yards and most drowned or were machine gunned. When it was all said and done, the improvisation of a few very brave and very committed men saved the day and allowed progress past the seawall. (German miscalculations helped as well.) It was not a matter of "dumb right wingers" or "dumb left wingers", but rather the fog of war that throughout history has laughed at the best made plans.

As I do so often, I agree with JEB that tying troop withdrawals to specific events will serve little more than to precipitate arguments as to when and if those events have occurred. If we are going to consider a roadmap in any sense, it has to focus on the certain elimination of presently existing threats to the overarching objective of a secure and non-facistic Iraq. First and foremost among those is the killing or capture of al-Zargawi. As long as he remains functioning in his neferious ways, he assumes the dimension of a mythical figure that single handedly opposes the crusader. Symbolism seems to play an exaggerated role in the Arab mind and removal of this symbol is an essential prerequisite to the kind of progress that will lead to an endgame.

Talking about schools and constitutions and sharing of oil wealth and regional cooperation or autonomy is all fine and dandy, but until some Allah blessed Iraqi soldier (with some Marines backing him up) picks him off, and destroys that symbol of resistance, we will be forced to measure progress in ways that the ordinary Iraqi will find difficult to understand.

I am not saying that will end the resistance, but it will be a major setback and it will be some considerable time, if ever, before someone else can achieve that mythical status.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at December 15, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You want a roadmap? Milestones" Yardsticks? Benchmarks? Progress reports? Gosh, what a great idea! I wonder why nobody thought of that before? Oh wait, they did...

Read all about it, if you really want to know what's happening in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Posted by: Kenneth at December 15, 2005 08:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's delightful, JR.

Tell me, how many muscles does it take to raise your arm, bend it up at the elbow, and turn your wrist (right wrist of course) 90 degrees...I mean, in addition to the four you already mentioned? Try it out.

Posted by: flitterbic at December 16, 2005 03:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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