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Baghdad: A comparison
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sometimes it is just best to let the numbers speak for themselves:
Since the launch of the 14 February operation, the number of civilians killed in Baghdad has dropped to 265, compared with 1,440 killings from mid-January to mid-February; a drop of 82 percent. By contrast, terrorist deaths are up in Baghdad: 94 dispatched from mid-February to mid-March, up from 19 killed in the 30 days prior.

Similarly, Baghdad suffered 102 roadside bombings in the February-March period, a 37-percent decline from 163 during the January-February period. Other statistics include: 36 car bombs in February-March to 56 in January-February (down 36 percent); 109 mortar attacks in February-March to 204 in January-February (down 47 percent); ten kidnapping incidents in February-March to 98 in January-February (down 90 percent); and 22 assassination incidents in February-March to 519 in January-February for a staggering drop of 96 percent.
Standard disclaimer: early, just beginning, long way to go, not fully implemented yet, may fail, may not make a difference, etc. etc.

Regardless, some encouraging numbers.
 
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The Mahdi army has been told by al-Sadr to lie low. They do not want to be disarmed or engage the Americans directly. They know the plan is for the US to claim success after the surge and leave before the 2008 elections. Then they will not have to worry about the Americans getting in their way. We can claim peace with honor, the Mahdi army can resume action (but like in Vietnam, once we leave we’ll forget about it), and the corruption and sectarian violence will continue.

Antiwar.com reports on deaths in Iraq; consistently it’s been near 100 killed and 100 injured. That hasn’t shown much change. Yesterday 366 were injured, three times the norm, but 22 were killed, so apparently the violence yesterday injured more than killed, since they used chemical weapons.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Say that you’re right, Scott, that they’re lying low until sometime in 2008, and everyone knows this is the Iraqi government’s last chance. Wouldn’t you say, Scott, that a 12-to-17-month lull in sectarian violence might be a good thing? Wouldn’t you say that this could give the Iraqi government some time to strengthen itself in relative peace instead of being buffeted by much greater levels of violence?

And if so, isn’t the surge creating precisely the "last chance" for Iraq’s government to turn around its behavior that the surge’s supporters were hoping for?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
isn’t the surge creating precisely the "last chance" for Iraq’s government to turn around its behavior that the surge’s supporters were hoping for?
It is, but they probably won’t change. That will be the end of the line for Congress. Opponents of the war will have the ammunition to force withdrawal. Then we will see the real “killing fields”.









 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
And if so, isn’t the surge creating precisely the "last chance" for Iraq’s government to turn around its behavior that the surge’s supporters were hoping for?
Well there’s more to it than that. If the insurgents are gone and the result is peace, what do they have to offer the people of Baghdad if they return?

There’s more to this than just giving the government a chance. It is also giving the citizens of Baghdad a chance at relative normalcy. After many years of war, who do you suppose they’ll be most inclined to support? The entity which has brought them that relative level of peace or the one which promises renewed war?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well there’s more to it than that. If the insurgents are gone and the result is peace, what do they have to offer the people of Baghdad if they return?
If you expect the surge to do that, you really are engaged in wishful thinking. The Mahdi army lies low, insurgent groups outside of Baghdad regroup and simply shift positions. The US military doesn’t have the capacity to handle more than a few geographic areas at a time. The Iraqi government is still riddled with corruption and informants. The anger and hatred of the ethnic violence, with about 1000 dead every two weeks continues.

The fact of the matter is that all this is trying to do is create a kind of lull or ability to find a face saving way out. Nobody will really be defeated. Certainly political stability won’t be the result. Every step of the way, McQ, you’ve bought the most optimistic line. Every election, every event, was seen as a turning point. Slow progress was the mantra for some time. But it’s constantly deteriorated. You’ve never as I’ve seen admitted you were wrong (you do seem to have a problem doing that), you’ve always redefined what success means and what you’re looking for, always making disclaimers that allow you to have wiggle room. And, no doubt, when we leave, you’ll join a crowd that will say "we could have won if only..." Open your eyes! Sectarian violence of this sort does not end quickly. Those hatreds don’t die, our actions have unleashed something that will probably take a generation to play itself out. It didn’t have to be this way, Sunni and Shi’ite weren’t blood enemies in 2003, and in fact it took a year and a half of attacks before Sistani’s voice for calm was overcome.

Note I am stating this clearly and without disclaimers. I am convinced this is accurate. If it doesn’t happen that way, then shove this back in my face and I’ll admit I’m wrong. No mushiness, no shifting definitions of success or rationale for why we need to be there or not. This is clear and straight forward.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
In some respects you are both right - we don’t know how long each side can wait it out and who gains more strength with time, though I would suspect the government gains more strength than Sadr. And if results keep improving US public opinion will swing back to support.

Keep in mind countries like Sri Lanka, Philippines, India, Colombia, all manage to exist despite large insurgencies in their territories. Making a bet against Iraq’s government may not be the smartest one. What’s the odds for an insurgency to win historically?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

In some respects you are both right - we don’t know how long each side can wait it out and who gains more strength with time, though I would suspect the government gains more strength than Sadr. And if results keep improving US public opinion will swing back to support.
I think public opinion is pretty set — once a "war" loses support, it doesn’t gain it back. I think the best one can hope for is that the peace with honor moment (probably early 2008) coincides to renewed efforts by regional powers to work to deflate Sunni-Shi’ite violence in order to avoid a wider war. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria need to actively support such an effort; there are signs, especially with Ahmadinejad diving in his approval ratings (he made the error of overestimating his power — a common error), that fear of a wider war is changing the calculus in the region.

I would be delighted to admit that my prediction above was wrong, though I think we’d have to accept that Iran would emerge in a stronger position than before 2003 (but the good news is that that is only really likely if Ahmadinejad continues his slide).

I believe James Fish wrote elsewhere that the Sunni-Shi’ite violence was inevitable afer Saddam’s fall, just like the violence in Yugoslavia was inevitable. I’m not convinced, though clearly arguments can be made both ways. I don’t see anyway to see Iraq as worth the cost; right now it appears that a face saving way out is what most people seem to want.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What’s the odds for an insurgency to win historically?
That depends on the definition of “win” China and North Vietnam were winners. The Sandinistas won, then lost and now have won again in a normal political process. Other insurgencies are continuing without conclusion. It’s an iffy process. If you have outside help it helps, if the government reforms under pressure it hurts. I expect the odds are against the normal insurgency, but Iraq is not your typical insurgency. It’s sectarian and tribal, pitting age old enemies with long memories against each other.

It was considered “raciest” to question if Arab countries are able to support democracies. It is no longer the time to be politically correct. The question must be asked. Can Arab countries support western style democracy? The answer may be NO. If that is the case we are spitting in the wind and should cut our losses. I hope the answer is YES, but I am developing questions.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://

It was considered “raciest” to question if Arab countries are able to support democracies. It is no longer the time to be politically correct. The question must be asked. Can Arab countries support western style democracy?
No, they can’t support democracy yet. That’s not racist, that’s simply a recognition of reality. Democracy is a very tough type of government to implement, and requires a variety of cultural factors to be in place, including an ability to compromise, tolerant diverse views, and see it as OK when the opponent wins power (knowing that you’ll get a chance to compete again in a few years). The Arab world is the child of the Ottoman Empire, which kept out cultural changes that made Europe ready for democracy. Even then France had trouble (the first Republic became a Napoleonic dictatorship/empire, the 2nd Republic voted itself out of existence, the third gave in quickly to the Nazis, and the 4th collapsed because of Algeria), Germany’s first democracy gave way to fascism, as did Italy’s. The US had slavery for 80 years, and women couldn’t vote for 140.

The Arab world can’t sustain democracy at this time. They can start a process that can lead there over time, but it won’t look like what we would want for our lives. Focus on human rights, trying to build rule of law and accountability over time. That’s the path. In Iraq, the sectarian differences are too intense. I almost think it would be best to partition the country.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott Erb you ae a Doofus...so let us rehash. The bad guys lie low for 18-24 months..and do what?

How’s this for a plan, we Republicans lie low for the next 18-24 months, BUT THEN WE SPRING INTO ACTION IN NOV. 2008! Yeah that’s right we don’t do anything, but lie low, but we spring into action in Nov. 2008?

Wanna make book whether the next Congress is R or D? Wanna make book as to whether the next President is R or D, with that plan?

Insurgencies either move forward or die...after 18 months, dude the foot soldiers may have a FREAK’N REAL job and when the boss says, "Let’s go to war" isn’t it possible that a goodly number are just going to say, "Can’t got to work over-time that weekend."

Dr Erb you just blend off into extremely silly because you have decide, a priori that we have lost in Iraq or that we could NEVER have won. That being the case, no news is good news, to you.

Bottom-line: You’re being an idiot, yes personal attack. If Iraq is peacegful for 18-24 months, dude that’s called VICTORY! Only in Erb-land is a government in control of its own territory, with a modicum of peace considered only a defeat...I’m pretty much done with you.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Bottom-line: You’re being an idiot, yes personal attack.
That’s fine. Your rant was so silly and devoid of substance that you essentially discredit yourself. I will agree that if Iraq is peaceful for 18-24 months that will be good (I can see why you want to define that as victory, but it’s a pretty bottom of the barrel definition for victory). But right now that’s not happening, and I doubt it will.

Only in Erb-land is a government in control of its own territory, with a modicum of peace considered only a defeat...I’m pretty much done with you.
Only in Joeville does that statement come close to describing Iraq. Hint: Iraq is not at peace, the government isn’t in control of its own territory, and I think you know that. Your style is less that of someone confident they are right, then someone who really hates the idea of admitting he is wrong.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Yesterday 366 were injured, three times the norm, but 22 were killed, so apparently the violence yesterday injured more than killed, since they used chemical weapons.
That’s actually today (Saturday) — and the figures now are 7 GIs and 58 Iraqis killed, 399 injured. Unless these figures start really showing improvement, any claims that the surge is "working" can’t be believed.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I will agree that if Iraq is peaceful for 18-24 months that will be good (I can see why you want to define that as victory, but it’s a pretty bottom of the barrel definition for victory)
Why does the “V” word have to enter this? We are striving for a peaceful Iraq that is not a threat to it’s neighbors or it’s own citizens. If our actions are altruistic, then victory is irrelevant. We will have succeeded in making the world a better place, and should be happy with that. Victory is a term of hubris. If our actions are not altruistic, we are engaged in the unjust war, Bush’s opponents charge. Altruism doesn’t mean a total lack of self interest, but a subordination of our interests to the interests of those we try to help. The bottom line is a peaceful world is in our best interest.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Scott Erb you ae a Doofus...
It is so nice to see this discussion take on such a respectful tone. It assures me I am dealing with rational people. NOT
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
No, the mistake was that YOU are the doofus:
"Victory is a term of hubris."
That statement is assinine on its face, regardless of the particular discussion.
"If our actions are not altruistic, we are engaged in the unjust war, Bush’s opponents charge. Altruism doesn’t mean a total lack of self interest, but a subordination of our interests to the interests of those we try to help."
You are obviously a victim of the LN, which states that (after we get through beating on Bush for no WMD) we went into Iraq to create a paradise of democracy - which sets the goalposts so far down the field that they will never be reached.
Unlike Professor Erb, and perhaps yourself, I don’t know why we went into Iraq. Perhaps, like all prior history, we will know 30 years from now, when documents are released and people are free to speak. Maybe we will never know, for sure. I certainly am too smart to accept the LN reason for the war. Why? Use your head. What fool [BusHitler, perhaps] would believe that we could create a wonderland in Iraq? Ten thousand liberals shouting that we went into Iraq to create a dreamland democracy does not make that a fact.
Sometimes, I believe, a foreseeable bad situation like we have in Iraq is the best situation available in the real world. Perhaps that was the case for going into Iraq. Makes a lot more sense to me than the LN.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
First: Where are these numbers from? Sure, they’re from the "Patriot Post", but where are they from after that? I’ve heard that some things are down, but some of these stats I don’t trust worth spit, with ample reason (example: civ deaths).

Second: not to riff off Scott, but to improve on him: indeed, deaths are down because we bullied/cajoled Iran/Mahdis into giving our system a shot. And sure, that’s a good thing. But there’s no reason to believe it’s a good thing that is going to lead to any further good things.

You can talk the Shiites into a truce and casualties will drop. But Sunni attacks ain’t dropped worth a nickel. And there’s no reason to believe that we can halt Sunni attacks, i.e. "win". Unless of course, we negotiate a truce with them, too. And what do they want?

Oh, hey, it looks like they want withdrawal.

So we have 1/4 a peace for 30K extra troops, when we might have had near-total peace for... leaving.

Cheers.

PS: Take note, anti-Iranian mad dogs: we’re teaming up with the Sunnis, whose representatives in Iraq refuse to stop blowing up American soldiers and who refuse to negotiate, in order to go after Iran, whose representatives in Iraq for the most part have avoiding fighting with us the whole time and who all we had to do to sweep through their territory was ask.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
"...not to riff off Scott, but to improve on him..."
Translation: "Let me riff off Scott (Damn!, we may fly the LN here after all). OK, next liberal wolf, I’ll drop off and you take up the LN from here.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Hint for next liberal: work up a variation on the Rumsfeld "We don’t know what we don’t know" speech to come back at me. That will be clever, it will invoke the LN discrediting of Rumsfeld and you can’t come right out and say: "My God, the man doesn’t even pretend he knows why we are in Iraq and how to interpret each days reports! Not only that, but he make no claim of expertise on Middle Eastern politics for the last 20 years. How to deal with such a...a...well, certainly no one in the left blogoshere..."
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
That statement is assinine on its face, regardless of the particular discussion
.

It is asinine only for those who do not realise that ego is the enemy of success. To trott out Victory in a case where success is what is needed is jingoistic bovine scatology at it’s worst. Save Victory for when it’s needed.

Don’t assume that we don’t agree means my politics are liberal. They are not. They also are not bullheaded conservative.

If we are to debate the issues of the day, could we not at least maintain a degree of civility. Calling each other names is like children squabbling in a sandbox. I’ll propose a compromise. I will take your opinions in good faith, and you take mine likewise.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
"...could we not at least maintain a degree of civility."
Typical liberal tack. You and I, and I hope, all readers, know that I have not seriously maintained that you are a doofus. Obviously, I was attempting to be clever. Sometimes when we attempt to be clever we are not and we are all the worse for that. Sometimes we are semi-clever, as in this case, and that makes for interesting reading. Every once in a while, we acheive cleverness and that is.... a reason to make blog comments.
"To trott (sic) out Victory in a case where success is what is needed is jingoistic bovine scatology at it’s worst. Save Victory for when it’s needed."
No, this statement is bovine scatology at its worst.

"Save Victory for when it’s needed."
For a non-liberal, you certainly appear to be applying "nuance" a lot.

By the way, "I’m not a liberal" means "I’m a liberal, but I don’t want to be tagged with the excesses that many liberals commit and this is an easy way to dodge when someone tries to hang them on me."

We need a victory in Iraq, even if we don’t know what that is for many years after we reduce our presence there. What we don’t need IMHO is a liberal victory such as we achieved in VietNam. You appear to be an erstwhile warrior in the campaign for just such a victory. Why I should be civil to such a person escapes me.
"I will take your opinions in good faith..."
Typical liberal lie. Are you a liberal? If it walks...
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Just for fun, let me explain the "bullheaded" conservatives to you. You see, they have built their opinions up from a base in principle (whether or not you or I agree with their principles) therefore they do not easily change. Liberals, on the other hand, adopt their opinions, pre-packaged, from the LN. Therefore, when the NYT makes a wind change it is no problem to make the change right along with them (unless one misses that op-ed). Liberals are often non-plussed at the "bullheadedness" of conservatives.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
By the way, "I’m not a liberal" means "I’m a liberal, but I don’t want to be tagged with the excesses that many liberals commit and this is an easy way to dodge when someone tries to hang them on me."
I am sure this would surprise the Goldwater Campaign. If you would like to understand the political philosophy of one of “Barry’s Boys” read the essay on neo-libertarianism on this site. It is a good fit for me.

One is ill served by jumping to conclusions.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Just for fun, let me explain the "bullheaded" conservatives to you. You see, they have built their opinions up from a base in principle (whether or not you or I agree with their principles) therefore they do not easily change
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"Emerson
Thare seems little else to say. Goodnight
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Ah yes. I remember Mona. Libertarian she was, from her comments about herself, having read Hayek et al. Of course, her substantive comments would have leave one to believe that she was a rabid leftist Democrat, not to mention her unquestioned support of and allegiance to Mr. Greenwald. This mention of his name will likely set off her alarms and draw her back here for a canned defense of same.

Handsome is as handsome does.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Ah yes, civility. Goodnight.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Robert Fulton -

I’d like to offer some friendly advice to you and anyone else who feels compelled to spend time on debate. You can take it or leave it depending on the merits as you see them, but I’ve found after years of debating that some things work better than others for me.

In my experience, when someone proposes a modicum of civility, it’s typically smart to agree as quickly as possible and hold his feet to that fire as hard as you can. Then you get a race to the top, where the victory goes to whoever makes the better argument, instead of a race to the bottom, where everyone wastes time and neurons on name-calling, mockery, and speculation on motives. Better yet, offer civility before your opponent does, and look like the bigger man.

If he says he’ll take your opinions in good faith, promise to do the same, and then—with that promise safely archived where everyone can see it—force him to represent your arguments faithfully when debating with you.

If he publicly gives himself a label, let him prove it: ask him as many irksome questions as you can. He can either strain to be consistent, or admit he was being a bit sloppy with his terms... or maybe he really does fit the label, and then you’ll know the truth about him.

Trying to be clever or insulting gives your opponent tons of room to maneuver. He can back out at any time, assuring himself that you are the one at fault, that it’s your problem that you can’t see the "truth" of his arguments. Instead of facing your arguments, as good as they may be, he can focus all his attention on the insults and vague language you employed.

But if you never mischaracterize his arguments, and just break him down point by point, he’s backed into a corner. He can either retreat quietly and leave the field to you (whether or not he realizes he’s wrong), or he can admit he was wrong, or he can try to lay down smoke by resorting to uncivil behavior—at which point, you can call him on it because he promised to be civil. And then you have all kinds of leverage over him until he scrambles back to civility.

Then you don’t even have to lob insults. Everyone who’s watching—including him—will come to their own conclusions. And that’s a thousand times more damning.

This is time-consuming, because it doesn’t avail you of any shortcuts, but the really dangerous part is, you have to be willing to play by the same rules, and admit when you’re wrong. And hey, we’re all mistaken about lots of things. Let your opponents be your strength, though: if they prove you wrong now, you don’t have to go around mistaken anymore.
-=-=-=-=-=-
Hm, maybe I should make this a front-page post. What do you guys think?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
James Fish, Erb’s a doofus because he has already made his mind up about Iraq:
1) The US is an AGGRESSOR NATION in his mind, in his own words.
2) the US had no right to attack Iraq
3) the CAN NOT win in Iraq, because it MUST NOT WIN in Iraq.
4) because if it wins then AGRESSION PAID!

He doesn’t argue that we can NOT win, he argues we MUST NOT win. So anything that happens is proof of our loss, because as someone once wrote of Schlieffen, "He has made the necessary, the possible."

It is NECESSARY for the US to lose, therefore we must lose. Anything that happens is proof of our failure. Violence rises, we’re FAILING. Violence falls, the Mahdi Army is just lying low. See NOTHING constitutes good news in Erb-land, well paradoxically there is NOTHING BUT GOOD NEWS in Erb-land, as long as you define "good news" to be evidence of defeat.

So here we come to today and Dr. Erb "explains" that the Shi’i and the like are going to "wait us out." Possible, but in the intervening 18-24 months the government and society will be changing and growing. Waiting it out is a non-starter, isn’t it?

How about this, I bury my AK in the backyard, as per the boss’ instructions. Now in the next 18 months the government may arrest my boss who rolls over on me and my cell for a lighter sentence or I lay low but get a job and when the boss calls and tells me it’s time to take to the streets again, well I call the cops AND ROLLOVER ON HIM?

This idea that the JAM can just lay low and wait us out is demonstrably silly and Dr Erb ought to see it, but he CAN’T. The era from 1970-74 saw the NVA waiting out the US, true, BUT the NVA continued their attacks on the ARVN/RVN and US Forces were WITHDRAWING. In this case that is not true and so the JAM and A-Q can’t just ignore the US fores and focus on the Iraqi government. So waiting us out isn’t possible as it was for the NVA in 1970.

And I hope my homey example just suggests why "waiting us out" isn’t an option if by "waiting us out" you mean burying your AK and just doing nothing. After all in most countries we call that LOSING, only in Erb-land when the bad guys go home and od nothing is that VICTORY.

And day-after-day Erb explains why we MUST LOSE in Iraq and day-after-day all news is bad news to Dr Erb and after St. Paddy’s Day and a Guineness I snapped. He’s a "Doofus."

Dr. Erb IS Baghdad Bob. Oh not that he’s pulling for the terrorists, OK he is but only because they’re opposing the nation that must lose, if they were Carmelite Nuns he’d pull for them too, but he is Baghdad Bob because his reporting HAS to be a certain way, "There are no American tanks in Baghdad, we will roast their entrails" not that it was the TRUTH, but it’s what Baghdad Bob WANTED to be the truth. So too Erb the US MUST LOSE this war of aggression or it will see aggression pays, and then aggress against Syria and Iran, and pretty soon the whole Middle East would be transformed and that would be a CATASTROPHE.

Now as to why Iran/Syria/Iraq are so sacrosanct and the UN the arbiter of all that is good, I can’t explain, only the good Doctor can. But I will tell you having seen this day-after-day I simply don’t care to "debate" with Dr. Erb. BTW, this is not my "conclusion" from my reading between the lines, Dr Erb freely admits that the US is wrong and that the UN is RIGHT. The rest are only conclusions I logically derive from his own words and positions.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Bryan Pick, I’d love to see you make that a front-page post.

To rub in some previous points, here’s an article in the American Prospect from Justin Logan of the Cato Institute:


There are some basic problems of logic in his attack on the media. Kagan suggests that American journalists are so invested in seeing the surge fail to pacify Iraq that he is forced to "wonder if the Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does." But then Kagan goes on to use information from, well, American journalists to assemble data indicating that violence in Baghdad has ebbed; that Iraqi attitudes have turned from pessimism; that an oil sharing law is nearing completion; that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior recently conducted a purge of its personnel; and that the Mahdi Army has gone to ground. Kagan closes by pleading that "no one is asking American journalists to start emphasizing the ’good’ news. All they have to do is report on what is occurring, though it may conflict with their previous judgments." But, of course, American journalists have provided the very fodder for Mr. Kagan’s argument.

I pointed this out last week, McQ, when you quoted Kagan in the same way, and you completely blew me off. Maybe because I wasn’t particularly polite. But it would have been more impressive to admit that as Kagan blamed the MSM for not reporting the good news that he knows about through MSM reporting, he was talking out of his butt.

But on to the surge itself:

The more troubling aspect of the Kagan piece, however, is the substantive claim: that the surge is working. The first problem with this argument is that the surge has hardly gotten underway yet. Earlier this month, none other than General David Petraeus remarked that "we’ve just started" with the surge and that only two of the five projected brigades had even arrived. The claim that two brigades (less than 10,000 troops) have transformed Baghdad is either mendacious or simply daft. A more sober view comes from President Bush, who recently announced his plan to send almost 5,000 more U.S. troops into Iraq on top of the 21,500 already promised.

A more honest line of argument, which Kagan flirts with making in his article, is that the recent downtick in violence is partly a result of Shia militias having gone to ground in Baghdad, content to sit out the surge as long as possible, wait for it to fail (a failure manifested by Sunni insurgents’ ability to wreak havoc, surge or no surge), and then reemerge as the protectors of the Shia faithful. The recent bombings during the Shiite celebration of Ashura are one alarming indicator that this process easily could unfold.

But the most damning fact about the "surge is working" narrative is that the violence in Iraq always has been cyclical, with dips in violence occurring every year in the months from January through March or April. So, in fact, the decline in violence Kagan observes was entirely predictable, and indeed was predicted. The Pentagon’s own "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" report pointed out that by the end of 2006, the violence in Iraq had reached its highest level since the war began, and so the downtick should be viewed in that context. But what appears likely to happen is what has happened since the beginning of the war: these temporary downticks do not stop the overall upward trend of violence in Iraq. See page 20 of the most recent "Iraq Index" from the Brookings Institution for glaringly obvious proof of this ratcheting up of violence in the country.

The president and supporters of the war protest that we should "give the surge a chance to succeed" before criticizing it. But since the plan in place defies, for one, the joint Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual authored by General Petraeus himself, this is akin to wishful thinking. (By the metric of Petraeus and countless others, to run a serious counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, we would need 500,000 troops; if we could somehow sequester Baghdad and only fight there, we would need roughly 120,000 troops.)


I’d add here the we are only fighting in Baghdad, essentially. Or at least, as far as the conservative perspective goes. Not that Baghdad isn’t very important, but the same MSM reporting on Baghdad getting a relative decline in violence has also reported a deterioration in, say, Diyala. But the conclusion is that the surge is "working".

But hey, like I said, sure, nothing wrong with being happy that some ######### in Baghdad are dying less frequently than before for a few months, as long as it’s not allowed to obscure that we continue to stand in the way of a genuine solution. At least from where I stand.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Well Glasnost as Baghdad is the CENTRE of Iraq and when things were going poorly in Baghdad we were losing, so now that things have improved in Baghdad it is good news! Unless you’re going to move the goal posts or unless you’re Dr Erb and we MUST lose ergo we ARE losing...

As to standing in the way you’re right we do stand in the way, we stand in the way of the Mahdi Army and Syria nad Iran and AQ from creating THEIR version of Iraq. Now I think that’s a good thing.

And Glasnost we HAVE 500,000 troops in Iraq, 300,000-plus Iraq’s and 150,000 AMERICANS. You and others just don’t want to let the "Little People" fight their war...or rather you want us to fight it for them and when we can’t sustain 500,000 troops in Iraq we need to come home or if we did that, you’d complain that we imposed a solution on the Iraqi’s. The truth is the troops to win ARE there, I think you don’t want to be there so that becomes IRRELEVANT. It takes time, the Malaysian Emergency lasted a decade or more, by your argument the Brit’s ought to have quit.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Erb’s a doofus because he has already made his mind up about Iraq:
Joe finds it easier to assign opinions to others and attack those, rather than actually do the hard work of engaging another person’s opinions as they are stated. But he rarely has real discussion, I don’t think that’s why he’s here.

Second: not to riff off Scott, but to improve on him: indeed, deaths are down because we bullied/cajoled Iran/Mahdis into giving our system a shot. And sure, that’s a good thing. But there’s no reason to believe it’s a good thing that is going to lead to any further good things.
To give credit where credit is due, given the realities (low public support, rising sectarian violence, worries about Iranian influence), the surge plan is probably as good a plan as possible, especially if it’s backed up with multilateral diplomatic action, including Iran and Syria.

I think Jim makes a good point about altruism and making the world a better place; I suspect I’m more skeptical about whether the use of military force to do that will be effective. If I were President I’d make a huge change in policy towards Iran, analogous to Kissinger’s detente with the Soviet Union. It would not be giving in to them, but dealing with them in a fair manner (we don’t give something for nothing, we don’t expect them to give something for nothing). They are the natural regional power and that’s not going to change. We have to deal with the reality.

Ultimately, the key to a stable Iraq is regional. Once we give up more grandiose goals of reshaping the region and look at this as "Ok, we screwed up, this is bad, but let’s try to leave it in shape that they might be able to avoid disaster" we’ll have a chance.

But (and I think I disagree with a number of people on this issue): I believe the level of anti-Americanism in Iraq and the region is so high that our continued presence will ultimately do more harm than good.

So I see two fundamental points of disagreement: a) In general the belief that military force is effective at shaping political outcomes in most cases; and b) a belief that the level of anti-Americanism in Iraq is so high that our presence causes more harm than good. I also don’t believe American public opinion for the war will rebound to the pro-war side even if the surge is moderately successful at pacifying Baghdad. That means I think we are looking at a 2008 exit (though I thought we were likely leaving by the end of 2006, so I’ve been wrong on that issue before).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
glasnost -

That last quoted point seems to be faulty. What are the numbers of troops in the combined ISF-Coalition forces in Iraq? Petraeus must be relying on some level of competence by Iraqi military, paramilitary and police forces in addition to Coalition forces. As there are different elements to a counterinsurgency, the Coalition "surge" seems to me to be just the point of the dagger, while the ISF follows through. Coalition clears, ISF holds.

(P.S. Still deciding whether or not to make that earlier comment of mine a front-page post.)
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Joe, you are right on. "Baghdad Berb" has made his position clear.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
(P.S. Still deciding whether or not to make that earlier comment of mine a front-page post.)
Considering the level of discussion on this thread has not changed, I would again urge you to make your essay on debate a front page article. Maybe it would do some good, but considering the affect it has had on this thread, that may be wishful thinking.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
we HAVE 500,000 troops in Iraq, 300,000-plus Iraq’s and 150,000 AMERICANS.
Of that 500-thousand troops, who many are “trigger pullers” Armies have a logistic tail, people who supply bullets and beans to the troops. During the Vietnam war when we had 500-thousand American troops in country, we rarely had more than 60-thousand in combat. American Armies have traditionally had a longer tail than most, but I would be surprised if we have more than 30-thousand troops in actual combat roles in Iraq. I would presume the Iraqi army has a shorter tail, as we are providing much of their logistics.

Our opponents have virtually no logistic tail. They “swim among the fishes” to quote Mao. Every one of our opponents is essentially a “trigger puller”. The British experience in Burma formed the bases for a formula that states it takes ten anti-insurgent troops to each insurgent for success. That was a jungle environment, so I am not sure the formula is accurate for Iraq, but five to one seems reasonable.

The difficulty for a democracy in fighting a prolonged war can best be summed up: "The majority of people are timid by nature, and that is why they constantly exaggerate danger. All influences on the military leader, therefore, combine to give him a false impression of his opponent’s strength, and from this arises a new source of indecision." - Carl von Clausewitz
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
"I also don’t believe American public opinion for the war will rebound to the pro-war side even if the surge is moderately successful at pacifying Baghdad."

I disagree with you (big surprise) but not in the way you may imagine. First, I do not believe there is a real anti-war sentiment currently in this country. For evidence of that all you have to do is take a look at the attendance in yesterday’s anti-war march in DC. I was there and from my perspective there were as many GOE (Gathering of Eagles) supporters as there were anti-war folks. (Although the NYTimes and the rest of MSM would have you believe otherwise.)

I think American public opinion about the war is more nuanced than that. I beleive there is a general feeling of discontent in this country with the way the war has been managed (Lieberman Vs Lamont in the General Election as partial evidence). Give the people of this country evidence of success and I believe you will see a difference in the poll numbers. Notice, I did not predict there will be such an improvement - I said success could reflect an improvement. As stated in earlier threads, the surge has only just begun. Only one of the 5 brigades which make up the US side of the surge has even entered the country. And to declare victory is by no means a certainty at this time but there are some arguable positive trends.

A far greater concern I have is how the surge will be reported. Will MSM report any successes? To change your quote slightly, Erb, "I also don’t believe American MSM opinion for the war will rebound to the pro-war side even if the surge is moderately successful at pacifying Baghdad." How can the public be swayed when the MSM reporting is so biased against?

If the reporting of yesterday’s Anti-War March in DC is any evidence of their reporting - don’t count on it. The NYTimes made it look like a love in with 30,000 plus in attendance. My own estimate is that there were something less than 10,000 and it was far from any kind of a love in where they spent their time Bush Bashing rather than having any real dialogue about the war.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
The first problem with this argument is that the surge has hardly gotten underway yet. Earlier this month, none other than General David Petraeus remarked that "we’ve just started" with the surge and that only two of the five projected brigades had even arrived.
The first problem with this analysis is it’s wrong. The surge began with the ISF operation in the capital called "Operation Impose the Law" (which has been chronicled on Iraq The Model). And it began a month before Petraeus began the American portion of the surge. The surge isn’t just about American troops. In fact, it is the Iraqi government which has taken the lead in OEL.

The result has been a dramatic decline in lawlessness in Baghdad. Unfortunately for the naysayers, that’s a positive sign.
A more honest line of argument, which Kagan flirts with making in his article, is that the recent downtick in violence is partly a result of Shia militias having gone to ground in Baghdad, content to sit out the surge as long as possible, wait for it to fail (a failure manifested by Sunni insurgents’ ability to wreak havoc, surge or no surge), and then reemerge as the protectors of the Shia faithful. The recent bombings during the Shiite celebration of Ashura are one alarming indicator that this process easily could unfold.
Shia militias have gone to ground ... why?

Because of the surge coupled with the Iraqi operation. And as the numbers indicate, the Sunni insurgents have not shown the ability, to this date, to ’wreak havoc’ in Shia neighborhoods as the Shia militia expected. And that’s with only one US brigade and part of another deployed. That says something about the effectiveness of the Iraqi portion of the operation.

Secondly, although bombings such as Ashura have happened, as the numbers point out, they’re not happening with near the frequency they were.

Pretending that nothing good is happening is contradicted by the numbers, thus the reason for posting them. And if the stated reason that the Shia militias have gone to ground is true, they are taking a great risk if the surge continues to work because they then have nothing to offer the Shia population except renewed violence and strife. That, of course, is one of the purposes of the surge (remove the militia as a viable alternative to the government) and, that certainly seems to be working to this point.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I do not believe there is a real anti-war sentiment currently in this country.
The pitiful turn out at yesterdays anti-war demonstrations seem to support this contention. There is a general discontent with they way the Iraq intervention has gone, but that is a far cry from the anti-war movement we experienced during the Vietnam war.

I expect the main reason for an emasculated anti-war movement, is young men no longer feel a draft, from South East Asia, on the back of their necks. That draft was a driving force during Vietnam, but it is now gone as are the demonstrators.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Back in December, I think we had 10-12 combat brigades in Iraq, which would have made them roughly 35,000-42,000 of our troops. The original extra 21,500 for the surge are, I think, exclusively combat troops, which is how Bush was able to follow up by ordering several thousand extra troops in supporting roles, including combat aviation and MP units (for detaining captured insurgents and the like). The last figure I heard—and this wasn’t too long ago—was that we had about 60,000 American combat troops in Iraq and rising.

Regarding the 500,000 figure: I think Petraeus took our long tail into account when developing his numbers, and that he’s been getting the units he’s asking for. Our "tail" makes our combat troops and vehicles overwhelmingly more potent than those of our enemies.
Also, a rather significant portion of our tail is made up of contractors now, is it not? Those aren’t counted in the American troop count.

If Petraeus really was calling for 500,000 trigger-pullers, I’d like to hear about it, but I’d assume he wasn’t. Feel free to correct me.

Also, not all of our enemies are trigger-pullers. There must be not-inconsequential numbers of people responsible simply for smuggling and transport, financing, weapons hoarding, and feeding/sheltering the insurgents. The "tail" may often double as civilians and grey/black-market businessmen, but that doesn’t mean our enemies have no logistical tail. Their tail is just coiled up underground.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Err, my numbers for December may be off. 10-12 may have been the lowball figure for the number of brigades, and the number of combat troops may be about 4000 per brigade instead of 3500. I just don’t know, and I’m a bit busy so I can’t look the numbers up.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"I would again urge you to make your essay on debate a front page article."
Looks like the PC Sunday Debate Society is getting upset. OK, I’ll take the rest of the day off and I recommend that any other crass, unserious commenters do the same. Then no more time will be wasted on tutt-tutting and the real, serious debate can take place.
sarcasm/humor alert
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Err, my numbers for December may be off. 10-12 may have been the lowball figure for the number of brigades, and the number of combat troops may be about 4000 per brigade instead of 3500.
It depends on the Brigade type (Stryker, airborne, etc) but 3500 is a good average.

Teeth to tail ratio is usually about 1.6:1 to 2:1 support to trigger puller.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
For those who want to differentiate between trigger-pullers and troops, and of course McQ is the person more than me, here goes.
1) Some want 500,000 trigger pullers because that would mean the commit of the ENTIRE US Army, thereby effectively ending the deployment.

2)Some are just interested... as a matter of course.

For 1) "Nuts to you", for 2) the support troops are "trigger-pullers" too you know. That has been an impediment to recruiting...SUPPORT TROOPS in the Army. This war sees the Transportation Corps and others taking casualties at about the same rate as Infantry. The support troops provide their own local security. Do we care if the troops that the troops within 1-5 kilomtres of a FOB are Ordnance or Infantry as long as they provide the FOB AND the neighborhood with a visible security presence? The insurgents STINK as troops, so the REMF’s/FOBBITS are probably better troops than the enemy they oppose. So this dichotomy between trigger pullers and support troops is not an obstacle or as large an obstacle as it might be.

Further, the support troops have an important purpose, Mr Fish. The insurgents AREN’T swimming in Mao’s sea, the locals DO rat them out, BTW. But leaving that point aside, the fact is the US Army has Ordnance, QM, Transportation not as a jobs program but because they are a Force Multiplier for the Combat Arms. Someone has to fold the blankets and issue the grog and someone has to do the combat patrols. The division of labour-thingie works for the Army, too. By employing support troops we allow for continuous, and sustainable combat operations by the combat element. This is something the insurgency lacks, they have to fold their own blankets and do the fighting, and that’s why their fighting is so sporadic.

Ivan Infantryman expends 300 rounds 5.56 mm killing a baby or two, and pumping 4 rounds to little effect into Ishaak Insurgent’s chest (Because EVERYONE KNOWS the M-16 stinks); Ivan just indents for more 300 rounds and Felicia Fobbit issues him 300 rounds- the Hollow Point work best on babies I understand.

Ishaak’s brother Ishmael has to cart Ishaak somewhere to messily die, because Ishmael and Ishaak have no Medical Corps and then he has to wait around for someone to call him and tell him where some AK rounds can be found. Meanwhile Ivan’s back on the street looking for Ishmael and his family.

Bottom-line: the support troops provide a large degree of combat power in this LIC AND they allow the US Army significant advantages for continual war. It’s why the Army created them in the first place.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Bottom-line: the support troops provide a large degree of combat power in this LIC AND they allow the US Army significant advantages for continual war. It’s why the Army created them in the first place.
In reality most support troops are not fighting an offensive war, but instead engaged in force protection. That’s a different mission than that of most combat troops. So while you’re right, they do engage in fighting, it is of a different nature because, for the most part, it is defensive in nature based in a mission of self-protection and survival.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Robert Fulton -
Looks like the PC Sunday Debate Society is getting upset. OK, I’ll take the rest of the day off and I recommend that any other crass, unserious commenters do the same. Then no more time will be wasted on tutt-tutting and the real, serious debate can take place.
sarcasm/humor alert
If you think my post was about "PC" anything or anything but the most mild of "tut-tutting," you missed my argument. I was just pointing out that seizing the high ground not only makes the debate worthwhile (it certainly raises the signal:noise ratio), but tends to be an effective debate strategy (or tactic, depending on how you go about it). There was no moral suasion to my post at all. I said you could take it or leave it.

Edit - Or were you speaking exclusively to Mr. Fish?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
McQ it’s true they are in Force Protection, BUT if they are controlling 3-25 Km-sq. of Iraq in that mission that is also an OFFENSIVE mssion, too, in that it means the insurgency isn’t free to operate there. Dare I say it, but it’s the French Tache d’Huile idea at work. Fundamentally who cares WHY the troops are on the street corner as long as they’re there....It is true that they aren’t going to beat down many doors, or launch many raids, but their Force Protection Mission provides an overall boost to the mission in Iraq.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"Or were you speaking exclusively to Mr. Fish?"
I wasn’t, but given your clarification, it turns out that I was. Sorry. Pomposity and stuffiness put me off.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
the support troops have an important purpose,
I never said they did not. I was pointing out the ratio of combat to support units. Combat units cannot operate without the support. “Amateurs talk about tactics. Professionals talk about logistics.” I certainly did not mean to imply support troops are not in danger. They are, and thier presence is helpfull in providing security.

The American Army is notorious for the length of it’s tail. This is not necessarily bad, a long tail allows longer operations by the head. The insurgent surely have a tail, just one that is short. They don’t need more.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
The American Army is notorious for the length of it’s tail. This is not necessarily bad, a long tail allows longer operations by the head.
Not trying to be argumentative, here, BUT the reason the US Army has a long tail is that unlike say Eretz Ysrael the US Army is fighting about 20,000 kilometres from its home base(s). And that’s something people tend to forget or overlook. The US military requires a TransCom with a Military Sea Lift Command, whatever the Air Force calls it’s transport command, and the US Army’s transportation units. It requires a host of units just to provide food, water, clothes, shelter, and the like that are now thousnads of "klicks" to the rear. The reason it takes 1 guy to fight and 10 to bring up the Coke is that the Coke is so far away...
The insurgent surely have a tail, just one that is short. They don’t need more.
Not striclty true, they can’t afford more nor can they create more. In the absence of a Class III sanctuary and/or air cover the insurgents have to rely on rat lines and advanced smuggling because that’s all that can survive in Iraq.

I’m sure if you ask Ishmael, remember he’s the only one left after Ishaak got those 10-15 M-16 rounds to the chest and died of the Pneumonia, he’d most likely take far more support than he’s got. His actions are extremely limited, because he does NOT have access to a huge support structure.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I wasn’t, but given your clarification, it turns out that I was. Sorry. Pomposity and stuffiness put me off.
Robert my suggestion the essay be published for a wider venue had nothing to do with you. It is a good tutorial how to make effective arguments. I enjoy levity as much as anybody. My only problem with you is your resort to invective. If that is “pompous” so be it.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
The pitiful turn out at yesterdays anti-war demonstrations seem to support this contention. There is a general discontent with they way the Iraq intervention has gone, but that is a far cry from the anti-war movement we experienced during the Vietnam war.
But opposition to the war is much higher than in the Vietnam era. I think (thankfully) most opponents of the war have realized that mass demonstrations and demonization of the other side doesn’t do much good. During Vietnam I think a lot of moderates continued to support the war because of how extreme the protests against the war became. Here anti-war groups are less flamboyant, but more effective.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
But opposition to the war is much higher than in the Vietnam era. Here anti-war groups are less flamboyant, but more effective.
You have got to be kidding. I covered the anti-war demonstrations/riots during the Vietnam war. They were as committed a group as you can get. Comparing to days demonstrations to those during Vietnam is like comparing a firecracker to an atom bomb. Scott, if you think there is more anti-war sentiment today than during the Vietnam war, what are you smoking, and where can I get some. I was there and this time I can tell you defiantly, you are wrong. To days anti-war movement is a pale shadow of that during Vietnam.

Seriously, if you believe there is a silent majority ready to rise up against Bush’s Iraq adventure you are in for a sad awakening. There is a lot of grumbling, but I don’t see anything close to the passion of Vietnam.

As for the effectiveness of today compared to Vietnam, remember, the anti-war movement forced a president, LBJ, out of office then, today they couldn’t even get rid of Joe Lieberman.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
You have got to be kidding. I covered the anti-war demonstrations/riots during the Vietnam war. They were as committed a group as you can get. Comparing to days demonstrations to those during Vietnam is like comparing a firecracker to an atom bomb. Scott, if you think there is more anti-war sentiment today than during the Vietnam war, what are you smoking, and where can I get some. I was there and this time I can tell you defiantly, you are wrong. To days anti-war movement is a pale shadow of that during Vietnam.
I’m not kidding. In polls opposition to the Vietnam war never was over 50%. For Iraq, it’s well over 50%. In Vietnam the anti-war crowd was much louder, but not as widespread. You are right that the anti-war movement is less strong; but Vietnam had more support from the "silent majority."

Though, to be sure, I’d have voted or Lieberman and I’m against the war. That’s the thing about this anti-war sentiment. It’s not as intense and emotional. Yeah, I disagree with Lieberman about the war, but I think he’s a good Senator. His support for the war is not enough to invalidate his career. Heck, I did vote for Olympia Snowe, and she supported the war. Her Democratic opponent did not and made that an issue, but I agreed with Snowe on more economic issues and she at least was questioning some aspects of how the war is being fought.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You are right that the anti-war movement is less strong; but Vietnam had more support from the "silent majority."
The “silent majority” during Vietnam was silent because they were earning a living, there kids weren’t being drafted, and they lived a good life. They were silent, because they didn’t give the war a thought.

The general discontent against the Republican party today is because they are in the middle of a political debacle. The public is mad at the GOP for a lot of reasons, overspending, corruption, the Plame affair, the recent Libby trial, so they take their anger out by opposing the war in Iraq.

The anti-war left would have supported Johnson, had be made conciliatory gestures towards them. His “Great Society” was the centerpiece of liberal activism during the 60’s. LBJ thumbed his nose at the left and they turned against him.

Opposition to the war, today, is formed by many factors other than just anti-war sentiment. It’s become a good way for the public to indicate their dissatisfaction with the Republicans. That skews the results. In judging polls one factor that must be taken account of is the intensity of the opposition. In that area, Vietnam has it all over today.

Iraq is the Republican’s “Tar baby”, everything the public dislikes about the administration, and there is a lot to dislike, sticks to the war.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Shia militias have gone to ground ... why?

Because we asked them to.

Because of the surge coupled with the Iraqi operation. And as the numbers indicate, the Sunni insurgents have not shown the ability, to this date, to ’wreak havoc’ in Shia neighborhoods as the Shia militia expected.

Those numbers aren’t saying the same thing to me as they are to you. The drop, where there has been a drop of any statistical significance, say oh, greater than 10%, is very likely attributable to the Shiites sitting out, not increased effectiveness at shutting down the Sunni violence. We’ve taken one layer off the problem. The easy layer. And we didn’t do it, I might add, with force.

Well Glasnost as Baghdad is the CENTRE of Iraq and when things were going poorly in Baghdad we were losing, so now that things have improved in Baghdad it is good news!

Sure, things improving in Baghdad is better than not improving. But the question remains: what does it mean, strategically? Not much.

Pretending that nothing good is happening is contradicted by the numbers, thus the reason for posting them.

See above. It’s a good thing in and of itself when less people die, but it doesn’t mean we’re winning. It means our stalemate is mildly less ugly.

That last quoted point seems to be faulty. What are the numbers of troops in the combined ISF-Coalition forces in Iraq? Petraeus must be relying on some level of competence by Iraqi military, paramilitary and police forces in addition to Coalition forces. As there are different elements to a counterinsurgency, the Coalition "surge" seems to me to be just the point of the dagger, while the ISF follows through. Coalition clears, ISF holds.

Bryan, the kindest way I can put it is, the number of Iraqi ISF on paper isn’t very well related to the number in real life. Just cause Petraeus is relying on it, doesn’t mean it’s there. You’ve been... following the past couple of years, right? Is there some reason to believe that insurgents and death squads are about to lose their ability to infiltrate and corrupt Iraqi forces?

There must have been twenty separate occasions in the past three years where the US holds, leaves, and then the Iraqis buckle like belts. It’s well-documented. That’s why we’ve... requested more US soldiers.


Oh yeah.

Making an effort to remember to do this:

the surge began with the ISF operation in the capital called "Operation Impose the Law" (which has been chronicled on Iraq The Model). And it began a month before Petraeus began the American portion of the surge. The surge isn’t just about American troops.

Well, it is mostly about American troops, but I concede that the surge arguably began with the change in strategy of 2006.

By the way, if you’re relying solely on Iraq the Model for your perspective, you are being taken. I can give you a list of 10 Iraqi bloggers. Omar and Mohammed are guaranteed to be the most positive, as they have made their fame and fortune sucking up to us. They can be relied upon to emphasize the positive, to put it kindly. To put it unkindly, they are a poor picture of the average Iraqi.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Mr. Fish’s resort to the racist "tar baby" metaphor is so offensive that, oh my, I just can’t think of what to say. Cindyb help me out here. Not to mention Professor Erb’s flagrant pandering: "I voted for Olympia Snowe" in response to charges of being "Baghdad Berb". I feel like I am watching "Entertainment Tonight". What happened to a real marketplace of ideas? Berb gives us pandering, Fish gives us flagrant provocation; all we need is a non-substantive offensive remark by notherbob2 and we will have a trifecta.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
"To put it unkindly, they are a poor picture of the average Iraqi."
To put it unkindly, Glasnost, you wouldn’t know what the average Iraqi thinks if he crapped in your mess kit.

 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Glasnost et all, it is too early to judge the effectivness of the surge in Iraq. Early reports are almost always wrong. The motivations of the religious opponents are unclear at the moment. Give it time. "All action takes place, so to speak, in a kind of twilight, which like a fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are." - Carl von Clausewitz. Patience is what is needed now.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Seriously, what the hell do you know about what the average Iraqi thinks? I posit that no one, including the average Iraqi, knows what the average Iraqi thinks. So why are we subjected to male bovine feces like this? Glasnost, if you needed a set-up, you have the floor.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Mr. Fish’s resort to the racist "tar baby" metaphor is so offensive that, oh my, I just can’t think of what to say
There is nothing raciest about the term “Tar baby” it denotes a sticky situation and has as much to do about race as the term “niggardly” (niggardly >adjective ungenerous)
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
glasnost -
That last quoted point seems to be faulty. What are the numbers of troops in the combined ISF-Coalition forces in Iraq? Petraeus must be relying on some level of competence by Iraqi military, paramilitary and police forces in addition to Coalition forces. As there are different elements to a counterinsurgency, the Coalition "surge" seems to me to be just the point of the dagger, while the ISF follows through. Coalition clears, ISF holds.
Bryan, the kindest way I can put it is, the number of Iraqi ISF on paper isn’t very well related to the number in real life.
I think everyone is aware of that to some degree, including Petraeus.
Just cause Petraeus is relying on it, doesn’t mean it’s there.
Just because some of the ISF are incompetent or corrupt, doesn’t mean that it can’t be taken into account when planning an operation.
You’ve been... following the past couple of years, right?
Yeah, I’ve been following the war by paying attention to many perspectives (including those that disagree with each other), and your snark isn’t helping your point.
Is there some reason to believe that insurgents and death squads are about to lose their ability to infiltrate and corrupt Iraqi forces?
Lose it entirely? No. But there is reason to believe that the effectiveness of the ISF has changed over time, and that there are indeed committed soldiers and police in the security forces. By gauging how effective those forces may be, Petraeus may be factoring them into the surge.
There must have been twenty separate occasions in the past three years where the US holds, leaves, and then the Iraqis buckle like belts. It’s well-documented. That’s why we’ve... requested more US soldiers.
There have been many more occasions where they haven’t buckled, and have restored a much greater degree of order and turned on Al Qaeda and other groups. Petraeus did a very good job of this while he was in charge in western Iraq.

I suspect that the extra US troops we’ve ordered, particularly because of their highly combat-oriented (rather than support-oriented) composition, are there because this will be the largest clearing operation of the entire war, requiring a concentrated attack in many places at once. Isolating and moving into several different parts of the Baghdad at the same time requires a more intense deployment of resources than isolating one smaller city at a time along the desert ratlines.

It’s no accident that for a long time, the violence has been more and more concentrated in and directly around Baghdad, while Coalition operations were clearing out strongholds and ratlines in other parts of Iraq. Yes, sometimes the "holding" part of the "clear and hold" wasn’t carried out as well as it should have, resulting in repeated operations in the same cities, but much of the time it was quite successful and netted us a great deal of momentum against AQ and others. We learned a lot, and one of the things we learned is that Iraqis can do some patrols (and other parts of the "holding") better than Americans can. We also learned ways of getting the locals to be more confident in us and to get the more receptive locals to cooperate. We saw huge spikes in the amount of human intelligence offered to our forces. We rolled up large numbers of Al Qaeda and knocked out other "unfriendlies."
Much of this background hasn’t been reported in the MSM (ask just about anyone you know what the US strategy in the Anbar campaign was... or just say "western Iraq"), but here we are. I was seeing this trend and calling at least a year ago for the hammer to be brought down on Baghdad, because our enemies were increasingly being forced to concentrate their forces there, and it looks like that hammer was in the cards.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Mr. Fish. When you first used the term "raciest" I, along with, I presume, most of your readers, assumed that it was a typo. As I am careful never to miss-spell any words in comments I make here and I presume that other commenters are as well, I gave the matter no further thought. However, observing that you are a wordsmith, when you used it again (did I suspect a setup? Yes) I checked it out. As a result, I would like to request that you use more specific terminology in future as the "Word" Thesaurus gave the following list of synonyms for the word "raciest":

racer
racetrack
rachis (?)
rachitic (?)
racial
racial discrimination
racing model
racing vehicle
racism (your usage, I believe)
racist
rack
rockety
racketeer
rackets
rackety
racking
raquetball
racy
radar
radiance
radiant

Did I check out "rachist" and "rachitic"? Hell no. What do you take me for; an effete liberal geek? Still, I wonder what those words mean.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
I was seeing this trend and calling at least a year ago for the hammer to be brought down on Baghdad, because our enemies were increasingly being forced to concentrate their forces there, and it looks like that hammer was in the cards.
I am glad to find someone who has reached the same conclusions I have. It’s been lonely trying to explain Iraq to those without knowledge of the military. You can’t expect journalists to understand something they have never studied, and that has resulted in a depiction of what is going on in Iraq that bears little resemblance to reality.

The same thing happened during the Tet offensive in Vietnam. The press reported what was a tremendous victory as a defeat. They didn’t understand the Viet Cong had been wiped out in an ill-advised attack. We now know Tet was designed by the North to eliminate the southern based VC, who had been becoming more independent over time. We seceded in making that happen, but the public were told we lost. That was the turning point that forced an incompetent LBJ and his stooge McNamara out of office, and spelled eventual doom for the South Vietnamese.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
”That was the turning point that forced an incompetent LBJ and his stooge McNamara out of office, and spelled eventual doom for the South Vietnamese. “
Obviously you do not read the NYT. The Tet Offensive, like the Surge in Iraq, showed the futility of continuing further involvement of U.S. forces and the need to re-deploy or withdraw immediately. Oh yes, there were several rumored (check the MSM to determine if such rumors were well-founded) chances for victory, but the consensus (of the MSM) was that it was over and time to pull the plug. Will we never learn?

sarcasm/humor alert
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Glasnost. You have the floor. Glasnost? Beuhler?
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Bryan, pardon my snark. It’s a bad habit.

On the other hand, last post it seemed like you were suggesting that we actually had 500K troops, because we can count all the iraqis, and I did indeed intend to suggest that this isn’t accurate.

I suspect that the extra US troops we’ve ordered, particularly because of their highly combat-oriented (rather than support-oriented) composition, are there because this will be the largest clearing operation of the entire war, requiring a concentrated attack in many places at once. Isolating and moving into several different parts of the Baghdad at the same time requires a more intense deployment of resources than isolating one smaller city at a time along the desert ratlines.

I can’t agree with this interpretation. I’ve read quite a few descriptions of the new US deployment strategy of setting up widely dispersed command posts all over Baghadad for US troops to cohabit with the locals at all levels. It seems to me like the strategic change we’re implementing is precisely the end of trying to use Iraqi troops for the hold phase, but instead attempting to have US troops both clear and hold.

The problem, of course, or at least one of the problems, is that we don’t have enough troops to ’hold’ across the whole country. Today’s NYT described quite accurately - corrobrating with USArmy statements, how the Sunni militants have pulled back to the "outer rim" of Baghdad, i.e. precisely where we run out of US troops to "hold".

It remains to be seen whether heavy, constant, dispersed US troop presence is really enough to shut down or heavily suppress insurgency wherever it is planted of course. All we know so far is that it’s irritating enough that insurgents prefer to redeploy and base outside of it, when they have that convenient alternative.

I have yet to see evidence that any Iraqi force can hold any Sunni territory on their own. Please feel free to contradict.
Notherbob, my point was as follows: Iraq the Model is an inferior source of knowledge in comparison to reading about 10 Iraqi blogs and forming opinions from there, and are easily the most optimistic of the bunch. I also freely charge their optimism as partially derived from a client/service relationship they’ve developed with the pro-war right. A lot like Ahmad Chalabi, pre-war.
I don’t have any certainty what the average Iraqi thinks of course, but those who seek all the info they can find about it know more than those who stick to one lousy, convenient source.

Shorter version: I don’t trust Iraq the Model, and I don’t have be down with the average Iraqi for that, anymore than have to have a perfect knowledge of the average Egyptian to distrust what Hosni Mubarak tells me they’re thinking.

If you can manage a non-deliberately-insulting response, I’m all ears. I doubt it, but I don’t mind humoring Brian. If being civil is a waste of time, it won’t last.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
glasnost -

You could be right about the mission of the American troops, but from the President’s remarks, it seemed to me like: US brings in a lot of combat troops in a short time, embeds with a much greater number of Iraqi units, then they clear their respective areas. The ISF we’re embedded with get some combat training alongside a much smaller force of Americans, rather than just logistical help or technical support. But we don’t exactly play cops as pure American units.

I’ve been very busy lately (hence my inability to post on the front page but for a few times) and haven’t been able to read about the surge nearly as much as past operations. The sheer number of combat troops, though, seems suggestive: we really want to bring the hammer down and clear some time and space for the Iraqi government to work, and leave behind the forces to carry on the mission. I’ve heard about operations by ISF despite my lack of time, too, which leads me to ask why I’m hearing about those if they’re, as you suggest, not there in such significant numbers.

Anyone have any actual numbers on ISF present in Iraq and in the Baghdad area? Military, paramilitary, police?

And if the insurgents are being forced to pull back to the outer rim, doesn’t that limit the kind of damage they can do to the government and give us the initiative for dividing and conquering different sections of the rim? Doesn’t that limit the scope of the sectarian violence?

Thank you, by the way, for "humoring" me. It’s time-consuming, and does seem tiresome when your opponents resort to cutting corners on rationality, but in my experience it does make you out to be the more mature person in the debate. It requires persistence, though, to be credible.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
I just re-read the President’s remarks. He did mention some "holding," but I don’t know what that means specifically for American combat troops. I’m all ears.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Long Version:
” Iraq the Model is an inferior source of knowledge in comparison to reading about 10 Iraqi blogs and forming opinions from there, and are easily the most optimistic of the bunch. I also freely charge their optimism as partially derived from a client/service relationship they’ve developed with the pro-war right. A lot like Ahmad Chalabi, pre-war. I don’t have any certainty what the average Iraqi thinks of course, but those who seek all the info they can find about it know more than those who stick to one lousy, convenient source. Shorter version: I don’t trust Iraq the Model, and I don’t have be down with the average Iraqi for that, anymore than have to have a perfect knowledge of the average Egyptian to distrust what Hosni Mubarak tells me they’re thinking.
Shorter version: “ I don’t trust Iraq the Model, and I don’t have be down with the average Iraqi for that, anymore than have to have a perfect knowledge of the average Egyptian to distrust what Hosni Mubarak tells me they’re thinking.” [Not an actual quote.]

Shorter version: “I don’t like what Iraq the Model says and , hey, who can trust the Egyptians?” [Not an actual quote.]

Even Shorter version: “ I am full of what you say is in my mess kit.” [Not an actual quote.]

Now for the “Be-nice-to-the-nice-liberal-and-give-him-the-benefit-of-the-doubt- treat-him-like-he-was-rational version:”
“Iraq the Model is an inferior source of knowledge in comparison to reading about 10 Iraqi blogs and forming opinions from there.”
I agree.
Reservations: “...about 10 Iraqi blogs.” In liberal-speak: the NYT said in an op-ed that ”many “ Iraqi blogs disagree with Iraq the Model.” So, how many is many? Say 10, what the hell, who’s counting.
”I also freely charge their optimism as partially derived from a client/service relationship they’ve developed with the pro-war right.”
This one is tougher, since I agree with you about the relationship. However, given that the right will abandon the Model if the optimism is proven to be unjustified… let’s call this one a draw.
”A lot like Ahmad Chalabi, pre-war.”
I would say exactly like. So what? Your contentions are “a lot like” the contentions of the left that we would be bogged down for months with heavy casualties in subduing Baghdag. So what?
“I don’t have any certainty what the average Iraqi thinks of course…
” If you can manage a non-deliberately-insulting response…”
NOW I understand your temerity in responding. How In ThE HELL! can I “respond without being insulting” when you insult my intelligence by burying your response: “Yes, notherbob2, you are exactly correct, I am totally full of sh*t in my previously-represented-to-be-factual comment about what the average Iraqi thinks” in the middle of a “let me put out my front porch in the hope that you will respond favorably” comment?

Hey, I don’t know. I admit that I don’t understand liberals. Let’s just call this one more situation in which that is the case. That is as close to a personable response as I can get. Sorry. Happy to see that you are reaching out, if that is, indeed, what this represents. Did you deliberately pick an impossible situation?
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Professor Erb’s flagrant pandering: "I voted for Olympia Snowe" in response to charges of being "Baghdad Berb".
Huh? Response? I hadn’t even noticed a Baghdad Berb comment, you give yourself too much credit.

I also note you don’t counter anything I wrote.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
“...about 10 Iraqi blogs.” In liberal-speak: the NYT said in an op-ed that ”many “ Iraqi blogs disagree with Iraq the Model.”

Your insinuations about the source of my opinions on the normalcy of Iraq the Model are not correct.

http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/

http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/

http://ejectiraqikkk.blogspot.com/

http://iraqiblogger.blogspot.com/

http://astarfrommosul.blogspot.com/

http://afamilyinbaghdad.blogspot.com/

http://baghdadgirl.blogspot.com/

http://baghdadtreasure.blogspot.com/

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

http://fayrouz.blogspot.com/

http://www.roadstoiraq.com/


How In ThE HELL! can I “respond without being insulting

You’ll have to figure that out on your own. Here’s another post where I exercise restraint. Your grace period is ticking. I could call that last post less insulting than others. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it "not insulting."
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
That depends on the definition of “win” China and North Vietnam were winners.
They didn’t win as insurgencies. They won as armies in the field.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Well, if I recall correctly, going by Mao’s book, the insurgency is just one phase that’s supposed to progress to more concentrated, higher-intensity war over time to land the kill.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
I took a look at one of your listed Iraqi blog sites.

It was a propaganda site that had only entries like this on it:
”An American sniper on the roof of one the buildings in Ahdamiya neighborhood opened fire on a small bus, the bullet caused the burning of the bus.
The passengers who were traveling with the bus [a family] and the driver, miraculously managed to escape the fire.”

“The Americans planned to make him a suicide-bomber.”

Robert Fisk in Egypt: The US and the West want to divide you, invade you and control your oil.”
I know. You just googled “Iraq blog” and wrote down ten sites, thinking (as, in my experience, most liberals do) that I would not bother to look at even one site before cooking up a response. I did not bother to look at any more listed sites. If you are serious and you read propaganda sites like this often…
Why do I feel that you owe me an apology for wasting my time? How do you justify behavior like this? Your lack of credibility when challenged is insulting.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Give me a break, bob:

Round 1:
First you accused me of knowing nothing about the "average Iraqi". I suggested that people who read lots of Iraqi blogs know more about the average Iraqi than people who just read Iraq the model.

Round 2: You accused me of not actually reading Iraqi blogs, but just guessing at what Iraqi blogs think from reading the New York Times. I responded by finding 10 iraqi blogs that I’ve looked at at various times.

Round 3: You pick the most wacked-out, viciously anti-American blog on the list, (not that that most of them on there aren’t mostly America-critical, because they are - my point was that Iraq The Model is the most pro-American, optimistic blog in the world, thus not representing the "average Iraqi") and somehow claim that because I put an anti-American blog on my list of Iraqi blogs... what? I’m a terrorist? This represents my personal opinions?

If I link to an Al-Quaida affiliate website to demonstrate what Al-Quieda is thinking, does that make me "unserious" because Al-Queida thinks some crazy sh*t?

The question is, "what does the average Iraqi think?" If you want to ignore out blogs by Iraqis because they hate America, or even because they’re written by ignorant, inaccurate people, by all means, go ahead. But whether you like it, or whether it’s accurate, doesn’t make it not representative of Iraqi opinion.

Next you’ll find the site on there that spends half its time on pictures of cats, and accuse me of being a homosexual because I look at it. This has been fun and all, but I’m finished with you. Have a nice day.

PS: Iraqi blogs vary widely in quality. That’s because they’re written by real Iraqis. I’d ######### you look at all ten of them and try and learn something you didn’t know about Iraq, but you might have to deal with people who say unkind things about America in the process, and I’m not sure you could handle that.

PPS: Bonus question: why wouldn’t ten Iraqi blogs selected, essentially, at random - as anyone trying to understand Iraqi opinion ought to do - contain at least one site devoted to Anti-American propaganda? Is Anti-American propaganda somehow not representative of the Iraqi media environment?




 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Glasnost, your response reminds me of an old lawyer joke. In response to a complaint that his dog had bitten a neighbor, the attorney rose to say: "Your Honor, I have three things to say in response to this charge: One, my dog is the sweetest little puppy you could ever want to see; Two, she has never bitten anyone, ever; and Three, I don’t own a dog."
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Well, if I recall correctly, going by Mao’s book, the insurgency is just one phase that’s supposed to progress to more concentrated, higher-intensity war over time to land the kill.
—Bryan Pick


Bryan,

Well, in Vietnam the VC insurgency was largely settled in ’68. After that the NVA had to carry the water, and they were a pre-existing convential force supplied by the Soviets and Chinese.
The question is, "what does the average Iraqi think?" If you want to ignore out blogs by Iraqis because they hate America, or even because they’re written by ignorant, inaccurate people, by all means, go ahead. But whether you like it, or whether it’s accurate, doesn’t make it not representative of Iraqi opinion.
—glasnost
Glasnost,

So, we are to determine Iraqi opinion by "averaging" Iraqi blog opinion?

I suspect that if we "average" American blog opinion, we would find out something like: "Brad Pitt is hot, and American Idol is cooooooooool!", or some such.

I generally find that quality counts for more on the internet that quantity. It’s like reading the papers: you don’t average the New York Times reporting in with the Enquirer and Star; it used to be you read the NYTs and ignored the rest (now you ignore them all and go for quality blogs).

Put another way, I certainly do want to "ignore out" inaccurate and ignorant blogs; I don’t read blogs because the blogger has a typical view, but because he shows some level of insight. I guess us "wingers" are funny that way . . .

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Don, it depends on the purpose in question. As a consumer of news, to satisfy my personal craving for intelligent solutions to things, I read healingiraq.blogspot.com, not roadstoiraq.com. As an analyst trying to understand Iraqi opinion, I should...

be reading Arabic-language websites. But I can’t read them. So I read, yeah, lots of Iraqi English language-blogs and basically average them.

Finding out what I really believe about Iraq, any given factual event, etc., is a different purpose than figuring out what Iraqi opinion is about things in order to predict Iraqi behavior, and form evaluations of policy success or failure that depend on Iraqi opinion. They take different approaches.

To use your example, if you want to know what the average New Yorker thought about something, reading the NYTimes by itself wasn’t neccesarily the right way to find out, even back in the day.

If you wanted to figure out if a political platform was going to sink or swim, averaging US blog references to it for positive, negative, and uncertain would be a great place to start.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

 
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