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The "Iraqi Awakening"
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, May 10, 2007

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line gives the following assessment of Iraq based on a Washington Post story of yesterday:
The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon will begin deploying 35,000 new troops to Iraq in August as replacement forces in order to sustain the increase of U.S. troops there until the end of the year. Moreover, according to the Post, U.S. commanders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that the troop surge will need to last into the spring of 2008.

The Post also provides its analysis of the situation on the ground. It reports that great progress has occurred in Anbar province, where violence has dropped dramatically due to cooperation between local tribes and U.S. forces. As a result, the U.S. may be able to reduce its presence there soon. This is the kind of success that, if replicated elsewhere (especially in Baghdad), could turn the tide and make the war politically sustainable here at home.

However, results elsewhere are decidedly more mixed. In Baghdad, according to the Post, we have succeeded in halting Shia efforts to purge Sunnis from their neighborhoods. For the most part, Shia expansion appears to be "frozen where it is." Moreover, sectarian killing is down. These are significant achievements — our efforts are materially improving the situation in Baghdad. However, as we feared, insurgent attacks and bombings do not seem to have subsided appreciably.

It is true that the surge is not complete. But it sounds like the additional forces will concentrate on the outskirts of Baghdad. Though it's possible that progress there will bring benefits to Baghdad, it seems at least as likely that what we're seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year.

The question becomes whether this sort of progress — an end to Shia expansion, significant reductions in sectarian violence, but continued high levels of terrorist attacks and the continued lose of 50 to 100 American lives per month — will be sufficient to make the war politically sustainable in the U.S. The answer, I believe, is no. Under the scenario I've sketched (which, to be sure, cannot be said at this point to be the only possible outcome), the war will continue to lose support and, except in very red states, so will Republicans who still support it.
I think Paul realistically points out the political reality of the situation as it now stands. If what we are seeing now is what we are seeing in August or September then I think whatever remaining support there is for the war will shrink rapidly. And especially politically.

Baghdad is indeed going to be the focus of the media and the discussion about the war for that time period. And as we were told, American casualties most likely will be higher as our soldiers move out into the population as the surge's COIN doctrine requires. But there are things happening in other areas which point to the possibility of progress if they're replicated in Baghdad and it's environs.

Bill Roggio, who I had the honor to meet and talk with at the Milblogger's Conference, has a great piece on that which he posted recently. I'll quote a few passages but first want to make a quick point.

Paul talks about Anbar and the fact that things are going well there. But he doesn't touch on why. The why is Sunni tribal leaders have turned against al Qaeda and are actively fighting and killing them. In Anbar there is only one enemy and that enemy is al Qaeda, and al Qaeda is losing.

In Baghdad there is more than one enemy, but the enemy that is the most brutal and causing the most casualties is again al Qaeda (and their mass bombings). Obviously one of the ways to show progress in Baghdad is to replicate the cooperation among Iraqis there toward fighting al Qaeda's presence and their ability to indiscriminately bomb and kill. The lesson to be taken from Anbar is how to do it. The key is tribal leaders. Interestingly, the Anbar lesson is now being applied to another province where violence is increasing because of the displacement of AQ from the surge areas.

First however, the dynamics of what is known as the "Anbar Awakening" as Roggio explains it:
The Anbar Salvation Council, the group of tribal leaders and former Sunni insurgents, continues to expand its base of support in the Sunni community both inside Anbar province, and beyond. Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor reports on a major development in Anbar province. The Anbar Salvation Council, led by Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Rishawi, has turned the Albu Fahd tribe against al Qaeda. The Albu Fahd was one of the six original Anbari tribes to support al Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq. These six tribes are known in some military intelligence circles as the "Sinister Six". The Albu Fahd [described as the Bu-Fahed] has now joined the Anbar Salvation Council and pledged to throw its weight behind the fight against al Qaeda.

"Winning over the Bu-Fahed tribe was a coup," said Mr. Dagher, who covered the tribal meeting where the Albu Fahd moved into the camp of the Anbar Salvation Council. "It had been one of Al Qaeda's staunchest supporters, and traces its lineage to the birthplace of the puritan form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism in the Saudi Arabian province of Najd. It formally threw its lot behind Sheikh Abdel-Sattar Abu Risha."

As of last September, the leadership of 25 of the 31 Anbari tribes were cooperating with the government under the aegis of the Anbar Salvation Council, while six folded under the black banner of al Qaeda in Iraq's Islamic State.
That has led to the template being applied in Diyala province as well:
Al-Fahdawi's efforts seem to be snowballing in Diyala province. Yesterday, two Diyala tribes, the Karki and Shimouri, "signed a peace agreement at the home of the Mujema tribal leader in Diyala province, Monday," and "promised to 'consolidate and unify to battle all insurgents that penetrate among [their] tribes.'” Seven other tribes announced joining the Anbar Salvation Council in late April. The Anbar Salvation Council's national political movement, the Iraqi Awakening, is set to meet in Baghdad in May. And most surprisingly, the Adhamiya Awakening has been established in the troubled Baghdad neighborhood to fight against al Qaeda.
This is an extremely important development which is not getting the coverage it deserves because, frankly, most reporters don't understand the intricacies of the tribal culture and what their banding together means to al Qaeda. But as Anbar is proving, they are a formidable force which, when cooperating with the government, can indeed turn the tide of the military component of the war. And the phenomenon is spreading, even into Baghdad.

With the surge, to this point, we've been successful in cutting down sectarian violence. But we've been unsuccessful in countering al Qaeda's suicide bombing campaign. So the result has been a mixed bag. Expanding the "Anbar Awakening" to the "Iraqi Awakening" as this group of tribes is attempting, will pointedly see a focus, in Baghdad, of attempting to counter al Qaeda and defeat them.

If that can be accomplished in a relatively short time, it is indeed possible that a measure of progress may be visible, at least on the military end, by the fall.

The interesting thing is that we're going to hear (and in fact are now hearing) that we're trying the same old failed approach in Iraq that we've attempted before. Folks, I'm sorry, but this is nothing like what we've attempted before and, despite political pressure, we ought to give it the time and support it needs to get a good read on whether or not it will succeed. It's all about political will.

To quote MG Batiste, who is now associating himself with the dishonorable VoteVets organization:
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE: Well, first off, I think we have got to complete the mission in Iraq. We have no option; we need to be successful; we need to set the Iraqi people up for self-reliance.
I agree, and supporting and using the Iraqi Awakening movement as well as the new COIN strategy is best way to proceed.

UPDATE: Here's another post by Roggio detailing the Diyala Salvation Front and its war on al Qaeda.
 
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To quote MG Batiste, who is now associating himself with the dishonorable VoteVets organization:
I see, you are the arbiter of what’s honorable — if you disagree with them, they are dishonorable. Sigh.

The post looks to me like an attempt to seek out any positive news you can find, ignore all the negative (I could list it all, but I’ve done that in posts the last couple days) and try to bolster your position. One can do that from all sides of the debate, of course. It also looks like you’re creating for yourself a nifty way of not having to admit you were wrong — when the US leaves and the public judges this a failure, you can say "after mistakes were made the Administration finally got the right strategy, but then the politicians and the public didn’t have the strength to see it through." You can blame the media and the anti-war crowd, and even people like Batiste.

I hope the good news is really indicative of a change. I doubt it, but for the sake of the innocents in Iraq who have suffered immensely the last four years, I hope that this does work — it doesn’t look like there is much chance of anything else being tried soon. But if the violence doesn’t subside, if the insurgents don’t just adapt, the militias aren’t reigned in, then at some point I hope you are willing to rethink whether or not this is the best approach. Then, perhaps, people with a variety of views about US policy can address what has to be done moving forward to address long term problems in Iraq and the region.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Many liberals who were in the "get out now and no alternative" LN camp have followed the CNN/NYT signals and are now echoing the "give it a chance and respond with appropriate changes" LN. Sort of like attending a concert and watching the Director point the wand at the flute section for a short solo.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
The post looks to me like an attempt to seek out any positive news you can find, ignore all the negative (I could list it all, but I’ve done that in posts the last couple days) and try to bolster your position.
Erb however, by very great contrast, can only claim that whatever is negative about our being in Iraq is enduring and increasing, and that all improvements are illusory, fleeting, or declining.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’ve said for years, defeatism only leads to defeat.

Of course, optimism is no guarantee of success, but it’s better then guaranteeing defeat.

You have to wonder why people with pessimistic and/or defeatist outlooks don’t keep their statements to constructive criticism. For instance, sticking with a line of reasoning/strategy which they feel has a greater chance of success.
In Baghdad there is more than one enemy, but the enemy that is the most brutal and causing the most casualties is again al Qaeda (and their mass bombings).
Sectarian killings going down is a very positive sign. While the numbers are rarely published unless "scores of bodies" are discovered together, I think it’s debatable whether al Qaeda has been causing the most casualties per month. Certainly their bombings cause more per attack (when they are "successful".) I’m not sure of the statistics off-hand, but I would be confident in saying that sectarian killings outnumbered al Qaeda mass attack casualties. If only for the fact that sectarian killings were/are happening every day, but al Qaeda doesn’t seem to have the staying power.

Of course, in the end, it is the mass bombings which get all the press and over-shadow everything else.

And, in the end, the real test is going to be leaving the Iraqis to take care of their own security. The biggest problems up till now have been,

1) Lack of manpower - you can see this in statements from many sources that insurgents/terrorists returned because Iraqi and/or American forces got pulled to a different province/town.

2) Lack of competence - there’s no doubt that the Iraqi security forces are fledgling, and have often not performed up to our hopes.

3) Lack of the political will - the Iraqi government has been to meddlesome and hesitant in a number of instances.

4) Lack of local buy-in - in the places that are relatively successful the local power structures (sheiks/tribes) are engaged with the solution.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I’m with Paul Mirengoff. The "success" case here is tamping the civil war back down to an insurgency. But you’re not going to break the insurgency, so it’s only a matter of time until the civil war re-ignites. Meanwhile, your "tribes" in Baghdad are Sadrites, or Iranian plants like SCIRI. I fail to see them throwing into these organizations.

On a related note, I wonder how the "Adamiya Awakening" competes for influence with this movement:

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/51624/

On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.






 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Erb however, by very great contrast, can only claim that whatever is negative about our being in Iraq is enduring and increasing, and that all improvements are illusory, fleeting, or declining.
Always ... it’s characteristic of those who’ve already concluded all is lost and don’t have the expertise to understand or desire to consider the possibility things are or can change.

As an example, it took 2 years for there to be an "Anbar awakening". But since it has happened, things have changed dramatically in Anbar.

In the case of Diyala province, it’s taken two months to reach the same point as Anbar did in 2 years. I’d say that’s a significant point. Obviously applying a successful template to another province as quickly as possible, as is being done, would point to the probability of even quicker success there.

But understanding and recognizing that as significant and important goes against the previously reached conclusion that "all is lost" and is thus ignored or waved off.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition
Of course they want us to withdraw eventually. I want us to withdraw when we are done. I wish we weren’t in Germany now.

What was the timetable, glassy, or were the specifics left nebulous?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’m with Paul Mirengoff. The "success" case here is tamping the civil war back down to an insurgency. But you’re not going to break the insurgency, so it’s only a matter of time until the civil war re-ignites. Meanwhile, your "tribes" in Baghdad are Sadrites, or Iranian plants like SCIRI. I fail to see them throwing into these organizations.
Of course, a couple of years ago, I’m sure you "failed to see them throwing" in with the government out in Anbar as well.

Yes, the point you and Mirengoff make is valid, but only in a static situation. As we all know, this one ain’t static. The defeat of al Qaeda may be the impetus to change the dynamic which now points to the reignition of sectarian violence once AQ is gone. We’ll see. One step at a time, ’nost. And this is an important step because it is Iraqi leadership (via the tribes) turning the tide against AQ.

Look, if the majority of tribes in Iraq buy into the government and decide to make it work, Dan Quayle could be the Prez and all would go just fine. That’s part of what is happening with the movement called "Iraqi Awakening".
On a related note, I wonder how the "Adamiya Awakening" competes for influence with this movement:
Oh, please ... all that’s happened here is that the magic 50% level in a weekly poll has finally been reached and suddenly it’s news. There’s been a significant portion of Iraqis who have wanted us out since the beginning.

Personally, I’d be fine with them voting for us to leave. I’d be wheels up in hours. But if you read closely, it was a "nonbinding" referendum. Funny how that works, huh?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Erb however, by very great contrast, can only claim that whatever is negative about our being in Iraq is enduring and increasing, and that all improvements are illusory, fleeting, or declining.
Not really, but those who have not seen progress and have seen increasing problems have been right for four years. That may change, but given the track record, I’ve become skeptical. I’ve heard so many times "this new policy is working, things are turning around, there is slow progress to report..." and every time it falls apart.

Moreover, the reason it falls apart is not being addressed: the problems in Iraq are driven by corruption, an ineffective government, and sectarian rivalries. Unless these core problems are solved, just getting momentary security in this province or that is at best very short term. That’s why I noted a peace with honor moment is possible, but since the problem isn’t primarily a military one, the solution is not just trying to stop al qaeda or the insurgency. Insurgencies can go quiet for months or longer to wait for a time of opportunity. If the core problems exist in Iraqi institutions and political culture, then the violence will arise again.

Polities are complex things. Americans tend to think that if only you get rid of the bad leaders and give people a chance for democracy, they’ll grab it and it’ll work. That rarely happens, and when it does, it’s usually because ground work has been laid to make it work. Iraqi instability is rooted in the political culture of the Ottoman Empire, the border drawing of the British and French, a century of violence, colonialism, and authoritarian rule, and nearly 25 years of Saddam’s policies. The error you make is to assume that the problem is one of stability/security, and that if we can defeat these groups and establish security, stability will follow. You seem to see it as a tractable problem: the enemies are X, Y, and Z, they aren’t as strong as us militarily, if we have the will, we’ll defeat them. Then things will get better. I’m saying that X, Y, Z spring from these core societal problems and they or groups like them will keep popping up until these core problems are solved.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Of course, a couple of years ago, I’m sure you "failed to see them throwing" in with the government out in Anbar as well.

They’ve thrown in with the U.S. military, not the Iraqi government. However, the potential for an Anti-Al-Quieda backlash in Anbar has been noticeable for a long time - I’d say I noticed it as early the bad reaction to Zarqawi’s hotel bombing in Aqaba.

The question is the level of instrumentality of the trend - in other words, to what extent does "dislike of Al-Quieda" equal successfully making them dissapear?
AQ isn’t gone in Anbar, as last week’s truck bombings in Ramadi, the supposedly Totally Cleaned Out Place, seem to indicate. The insurgency continues in Anbar. US troops continue to die there. There’s just a significant chunk of people against it. It could be argued that all we’ve really done is succeed in getting the level of resistance to AQ in Anbar up to a Sunni-Sunni civil war, roughly on the same level of resistance AQ already faces in Baghdad (Sunni-Shiite civil war).

To a certain degree, I am surprised to see the Baathists in Anbar throw in with us against Al-Quieda. However, this doesn’t equal support for America. It equals prioritizing Al-Quieda over America on the enemies list. Assuming US troops keep a front-row role masterminding Iraqi politics, eventually Al-Quieda will be beaten into dormancy, or into moderation on the local, Iraqi, level (note the emergence of Hamas Iraq as an example of how that would go) - and the US will once again be, in the eyes of Sunnis, propping up an illegitimate Shiite majority in Baghdad, and they’ll go back to blowing us up at full participation rates.

Baathists vs. Islamic fundamentalists is an old split in the Arab world. There’s some precedent for this. However, the Sunni-Shiite split is equally old and deep. I don’t see the political reconciliation neccesary for the end of dysfunction happening except in the context of a specific and promised US withdrawal. That’s been my position from the beginning. It continues to be my position.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Oh, please ... all that’s happened here is that the magic 50% level in a weekly poll has finally been reached and suddenly it’s news.

No, it’s a petition signed on by lawmakers in parliament. It is indeed non-binding, but it’s a mechanism that’s supposed to force an official vote in parliament. No such vote has, as of yet, succeeded in coming to the floor. It still may not come to the floor. But that doesn’t change the underlying reality.


Personally, I’d be fine with them voting for us to leave. I’d be wheels up in hours.

I guess we’ve found our point of agreement. I’d be fine with it as well. Although I would stay in Kurdistan.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I’ve said for years, defeatism only leads to defeat.

Of course, optimism is no guarantee of success, but it’s better then guaranteeing defeat.
But if you’re analyzing something, ones’ analysis should not be based on either defeatism or optimism, but what the conditions are and how they should best be interpreted. One has to remove oneself emotionally from the debate to really analyze well — if one hates Bush, or has an emotional attachment to the military, or has been caught up in the pro or anti side of the debate so long that they see it as battle between those opposed and those in favor, analysis will be greatly biased.

We all do this, we let our biases sneak in because we’re humans and the world is so complex and must be interpreted that almost any belief can be supported with selective evidence and interpretation. That’s why social science is so much less powerful than natural science, rarely can you run controlled experiments in a manner to eliminate this kind of bias.

And I find myself agreeing with much of your analysis below:
And, in the end, the real test is going to be leaving the Iraqis to take care of their own security. The biggest problems up till now have been,

1) Lack of manpower - you can see this in statements from many sources that insurgents/terrorists returned because Iraqi and/or American forces got pulled to a different province/town.

2) Lack of competence - there’s no doubt that the Iraqi security forces are fledgling, and have often not performed up to our hopes.

3) Lack of the political will - the Iraqi government has been to meddlesome and hesitant in a number of instances.

4) Lack of local buy-in - in the places that are relatively successful the local power structures (sheiks/tribes) are engaged with the solution.
Number 4 is important (and evidence about that is the most promising aspect of McQ’s post). As I note above, it’s a matter of political culture and corruption. These things are solved bottom-up, not top-down.

So take an optimistic scenario, what to me seems like a ’best case scenario’ given the current situation: It’s mid-2008 and US troops are withdrawing. Let’s be so optimistic as to say that there has been a significant decline in violence, and locals have turned on al qaeda. Yet corruption remains high, militias still exist, and sectarian violence while down could break out fiercely at any time. The government is still weak and there are doubts about Iraqi security forces. There are lingering disputes about oil and the status of Kurdish autonomy. Both American Presidential candidates vow not to increase force levels in Iraq. If things fall apart, there won’t be domestic will to go back in and try again to fix things.

What then? (And of course, we could also ask the same question about a ’worst case scenaro — the surge failing completely, American and Iraqi deaths up and government collapsing. But in the spirit of optimism, we can put that scenario aside for now!)
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Zarqawi’s bombing in Amman, not Aqaba. Pardon.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Exhibit B:

http://conflictsforum.org/2007/new-front-challenges-al-qaeda-in-iraq/


Don’t confuse these guys with the Anbar Salvation Council.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
They’ve thrown in with the U.S. military, not the Iraqi government.
Not true. They’re now members of the police and the military, urged to join by the tribal chiefs. In that neck of the woods (or desert) you can’t get anymore "government" than that.
The question is the level of instrumentality of the trend - in other words, to what extent does "dislike of Al-Quieda" equal successfully making them dissapear?
Enough that Anbar is now, by all reports, much more peaceful by orders of magnitude, than it was last year. You saw the first hand report from Ricardo Branch right here who said the difference between his first tour there and his present tour are like night and day.
To a certain degree, I am surprised to see the Baathists in Anbar throw in with us against Al-Quieda. However, this doesn’t equal support for America.
It is about support for America. It is about support for their own government. Whether or not they ever "support" America is irrelevant. They want to use us to remove al Qaeda and bring peace ... that’s fine with me.
There’s some precedent for this. However, the Sunni-Shiite split is equally old and deep. I don’t see the political reconciliation neccesary for the end of dysfunction happening except in the context of a specific and promised US withdrawal. That’s been my position from the beginning. It continues to be my position.
Understood. But as I said earlier,
Of course, a couple of years ago, I’m sure you "failed to see them throwing" in with the government out in Anbar as well.
Times and circumstances change. So do priorities. And all we can do at any moment in time is guess what the future will bring. What is happening in Anbar is not at all what many prognosticators figured would happen a couple of years ago, that’s for sure.
No, it’s a petition signed on by lawmakers in parliament. It is indeed non-binding, but it’s a mechanism that’s supposed to force an official vote in parliament. No such vote has, as of yet, succeeded in coming to the floor. It still may not come to the floor. But that doesn’t change the underlying reality.
As I said, the "underlying reality" has been there since day one. This isn’t the first time that sentiment has been voiced. You act as if this is new or has some significance.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It’s odd that success in Iraq is now measured by the defeat of an insurgent organization that didn’t even exist in Iraq prior to our invasion.

Remember what victory was going to look like?

We were going to have an ally in the war against terrorism. (Any chance of Iraqi brigades heading off to Afghanistan in the near future unless they’re funded and carried there by the US?)

Iraq was going to be a beacon of democracy and liberty in the Middle East. (The notion that Western-style democracy might be inconsistent with Western-style liberty was never addressed in any Presidential speech I ever heard.)

Those were the major points. Minor ones included the war paying for itself, the occupation being easy and short, and sharia not becoming the law of the land.

Now, it appears that the best case is a weak pro-Iranian central goverment with ongoing ethnic cleansing and a quasi-independent Kurdistan.

This is victory? This is worth the ongoing cost of blood and treasure? Conservatives believe that there is some shred of American respect left in the world that justifies an ongoing occupation of a country we still don’t understand?

wow, I always thought that liberals, not conservatives, worshipped the patron saint of lost causes.

ps: I would have thought that a military man would have been more respectful of the words "honorable" and "dishonorable". Pity that your disagreement with the general and the organization cannot be debated without using such strong language.

 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
It’s odd that success in Iraq is now measured by the defeat of an insurgent organization that didn’t even exist in Iraq prior to our invasion.

Remember what victory was going to look like?
No, I don’t Francis ... and neither do you.

But I do know that any progress or hint of progress in Iraq certainly upsets you and some others.
ps: I would have thought that a military man would have been more respectful of the words "honorable" and "dishonorable". Pity that your disagreement with the general and the organization cannot be debated without using such strong language.
I called the organization dishonorable, and it is. They’ve proven themselves to be a pack of liars.

I said nothing about the general’s honor.

You’re welcome to try to pin "dishonerable" on me if you have the same sort of evidence available.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

This is victory?
McQ got upset when I described Iraq as a failure. Your post explains why that word is appropriate: if a policy doesn’t achieve its goals, it has failed. Not even the most ardent hawk thinks we’ll get what people talked about back in 2002 and 2003.

So yes, victory and success have been defined down to defeating a group that wasn’t there when we invaded. The supporters of the war committed a major error: they went beyond military victory as the metric of success to one of creating desired political outcomes in a country they understood primarily through pro-American anti-Saddam dissidents.

But in all the noise, we shouldn’t forget the claims of 2003 and the reality of today:
Now, it appears that the best case is a weak pro-Iranian central goverment with ongoing ethnic cleansing and a quasi-independent Kurdistan.

This is victory? This is worth the ongoing cost of blood and treasure? Conservatives believe that there is some shred of American respect left in the world that justifies an ongoing occupation of a country we still don’t understand?
And, of course, we can’t forget that there have been similar claims of "progress is being made, there are signs of success..." consistently over the last four years.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It’s odd that success in Iraq is now measured by the defeat of an insurgent organization that didn’t even exist in Iraq prior to our invasion.
Even George Tenet emphasizes that Baathist Iraq gave material support and refuge to Al-Qaeda on occaision—and if they come there in numbers to be killed by us and by local forces, where is the downside? How does that increase their strength?
Remember what victory was going to look like?
What it will look like in 50 years or so, all other things being equal, which is plenty good enough—a developing 2nd world nation of imperfect stability. You need to explain how leaving Saddam in power, to be succeeded by Uday and Qusay, better furthers that outcome.
We were going to have an ally in the war against terrorism.
What makes you think they aren’t allies now?
(Any chance of Iraqi brigades heading off to Afghanistan in the near future unless they’re funded and carried there by the US?)
Why is that the criteria for being an ally? A local diplomatic ally is good enough. In fact, compared to Saddam, their just being neutral is a huge improvement.
Iraq was going to be a beacon of democracy and liberty in the Middle East.
Have you seen that part of the world? It is a beacon of democracy and liberty. Just because the other places are relatively stable does not mean that is an improvement over all.
(The notion that Western-style democracy might be inconsistent with Western-style liberty was never addressed in any Presidential speech I ever heard.)
Western-style democracy is incompatible with Western-style liberty here in the US. Western-style liberty requires limited government, something we don’t have to any constitutionally valid degree.
Those were the major points. Minor ones included the war paying for itself
What, you’re disappointed it wasn’t a war for oil?
the occupation being easy and short,
Well that call was blown, but that changes nothing about the validity of being there or the circumstances under which we can appropriately leave.
and sharia not becoming the law of the land.
Shariah isn’t the law of the land. The people claiming you can’t have tomatoes and cucumbers next to each other in vegetable stalls are being hunted down and killed remember?
Now, it appears that the best case is a weak pro-Iranian central goverment with ongoing ethnic cleansing and a quasi-independent Kurdistan.
If you can show they are subjugating their best interests in favor of Iranian hegemony, get back to me.

The ethnic cleansing has stopped and begun to reverse.

What is wrong with Kurdistan being semi-autonomous? I seem to remember the democratically adopted Iraqi constitution requiring that.
This is victory?
It’s headed that way unless people like you are in charge.
This is worth the ongoing cost of blood and treasure?
Absolutely. We win in Iraq, and in 50 years AlQaeda is nothing more than a few paragraphs in gradeschool history books.
Conservatives believe that there is some shred of American respect left in the world that justifies an ongoing occupation of a country we still don’t understand?
Not just conservatives, anyone with a clue. And why don’t you think Petraeus understands the country? Seems like he’s going pretty good.
wow, I always thought that liberals, not conservatives, worshipped the patron saint of lost causes.
Frequently you do. You want to use government to force society to evolve in a manner less consistent with human nature than do conservatives, who want to do less forcing all in all. The very fact you think the cause is lost shows you are uninformed and unsophisticated re the topic.
I would have thought that a military man would have been more respectful of the words "honorable" and "dishonorable". Pity that your disagreement with the general and the organization cannot be debated without using such strong language.
No it is a dishonorable bunch almost as bad as Kerry’s Winter Soldiers. Now if VoteVets meets with AlQaeda, then they’ll be every bit as dishonorable as Kerry is.

Well, that’s enough troll feeding for now.

Except for Erb.
And, of course, we can’t forget that there have been similar claims of "progress is being made, there are signs of success..." consistently over the last four years.
And other than the rate at which AlQaeda commits atrocities, every other metric has improved.

In committing those atrocities, Al Qaeda has progressively alienated its local allies to the point they are hunting them down in what was once their stronghold. We’re going to work on their current stronghold next.

But for defeatists like you, they will run out of them long before we even come remotely close to running out of us. That is called winning.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Bush on the eve of war...
And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.
and
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more.
Bush on announcing major combat ops had ended...
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We’re helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
And how victory has been defined:

* In the short term:
o An Iraq that is making steady progress in fighting terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency, meeting political milestones; building democratic institutions; standing up robust security forces to gather intelligence, destroy terrorist networks, and maintain security; and tackling key economic reforms to lay the foundation for a sound economy.
* In the medium term:
o An Iraq that is in the lead defeating terrorists and insurgents and providing its own security, with a constitutional, elected government in place, providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region, and well on its way to achieving its economic potential.
* In the longer term:
o An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency.
o An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.
o An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.
Seems to me nothing has been redefined by the administration. Now, certainly, some pundits are saying we should settle for less, or declare victory and leave the mess to the Iraqis, but I don’t hear the administration doing that.

We’ve made progress over these past 200+ years in trying to achieve the promise of "all men are created equal..."

We’ve not yet really achieved that. So, should we pack it up and try something else? Or quit?
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
I agree the White House tried to avoid a lot of the rhetoric coming from pro-war pundits, but anyone who remembers 2003 can’t forget the rhetoric of Iraq as a model, Wolfowitz’ claim they’d pay for reconstruction, the optimism that this would pressure Iran and Syria, and that Iraq would stabilize quickly. Anyone who predicted the last four years back in 2003 would have been laughed at as overly pessimistic.

But what gets me is this claim:
We’ve made progress over these past 200+ years in trying to achieve the promise of "all men are created equal...
"

Are we on some kind of global mission to bring our ideals to the entire planet, by military force if necessary? And doesn’t that claim implicitly suggest the goals were much grander? Look, I think we both know that the light is going out on the "war" by the end of the Bush Presidency, if not sooner. We can’t sustain this kind of effort, and public support has evaporated. And the problems in Iraq are deep and not primarily military.

Not every conflict is winnable. And if its not winnable, sometimes you have accept reality and cut your loses. Power has its limits, you try to overshoot those limits and that can bring disaster.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
but anyone who remembers 2003 can’t forget the rhetoric of Iraq as a model
How many other Mid-East, Arabic nations have democratically chosen constitutions and governments? How is that not a model?
Wolfowitz’ claim they’d pay for reconstruction,
Again, so you’re disappointed it wasn’t a war for oil?
the optimism that this would pressure Iran and Syria
Given the effort they are placing in avoiding our victory, I’d say our success would greatly pressure them. All the more reason to be sure we win.
that Iraq would stabilize quickly
See above, and add AlQaeda’s interest in Iraq as further reason to be sure we win.
Anyone who predicted the last four years back in 2003 would have been laughed at as overly pessimistic.
What war plan survives contact with the enemy? The standards you want to apply to Iraq would have left the South a foreign nation and Lincoln impeached—the constitution destroyed, and the revolution of 1776 a failed one.

Your standards are best ignored.
Are we on some kind of global mission to bring our ideals to the entire planet, by military force if necessary?
To the extent a lack of those ideals means we are not safe in the world, yes, yes we are.
And doesn’t that claim implicitly suggest the goals were much grander?
So? The goals are grander but the time-frame to achieve much longer than you will credit.
Look, I think we both know that the light is going out on the "war" by the end of the Bush Presidency, if not sooner.
So if Petraeus’s direction is showing clear progress, then the war should continue to be prosecuted by the next President and Congress.
We can’t sustain this kind of effort,
We can sustain this effort indefinitely, but for the treasonous (or ignorant, it’s one of the two) politics of your ilk.
and public support has evaporated.
Bullsh!t!!! A majority not wanting to continue as we have does not equate to support evaporating. The success seen recently, if reported widely and accurately, will flip the percentages you’re referencing in week’s time.
And the problems in Iraq are deep and not primarily military.
And none of them will be alleviated if we leave, and military force is certainly a very large part of the solution. Our premature withdrawal improves nothing.
Not every conflict is winnable. And if its not winnable, sometimes you have accept reality and cut your loses. Power has its limits, you try to overshoot those limits and that can bring disaster.
The moral is to the physical as three is to one. Someone who knew something about warfare said that.

Not Bedford Forrest.

If anything, Napoleon was conservative when he said that.

We have a potentially overwhelming physical advantage, Petraeus’ tactics bring it to bear and include the political, and but for persons such as yourself, we have the moral advantage.

Listening to you is the only way we can lose.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I believe it is working, but the potential exists to stuff it up. This success is due largely to the sectarian Shia on Sunni death squads, who have played the bad cop to the Americans good cop. Their killings of thousands pre-surge focused the minds of the Sunni tribes on seeking respite, hence the cooperation against AQ.

The potential catastrophe is if the Shia militia are unnecessarily aggressively targeted. This may release pressure on the tribes. Please do not do this.

 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Are we on some kind of global mission to bring our ideals to the entire planet, by military force if necessary?
Depends on what you mean by "our ideals" but YES, emphatically yes.

We should be trying to move the entire planet to one of self-governance, self-determination, and a rejection of tyranny.

Military force will be necessary, but isn’t and shouldn’t be the first option.

There are many competing theories, but one need only look at the progress of say, China, to see that progress towards our ideals is a long term process.

It is where and when the worst of the worst collect in one place that military force may be the best of the worst options.

It would be nice if despicable regimes died a bloodless natural death, but that doesn’t happen to often. In the long run we must have global rule-sets to deal with failed and failing states to bring them to some sort of competent, fair system of governance. In the meantime, we’ve got what we’ve got, and need to make the best of it.

Leaving Iraq without a global force to take over security is a non-starter.

We’ve made progress over these past 200+ years in trying to achieve the promise of "all men are created equal..."

Lastly, you’ve misunderstood why I bring up our own example. Our country didn’t spring into existence overnight, nor was it perfect once it was relatively established. I don’t expect the Iraqis will have a different experience.

Democracy is an experiment, it sometimes it gets messy, and it often takes longer then expected to get results that aren’t nearly close enough to what was desired in the first place.

If the Iraqis can carve out a country where the citizens can live in peace and are prosperous, we will, in the end, have succeeded. It will not be our (America’s) victory alone, but primarily Iraq’s, and of benefit to the whole world. It will probably take a dozen years to have such a imperfectly stable society in Iraq. The heavy lifting in regards to security ought to be transitioned within the next 2 years.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com

We have a potentially overwhelming physical advantage, Petraeus’ tactics bring it to bear and include the political, and but for persons such as yourself, we have the moral advantage.
So far my expectations have been born out by events. Perhaps things will suddenly change, but my analysis stays the same: corruption, sectarian hatreds and a political culture closer to that of the Ottomans than a western democracy are problems that can’t be won through military force. Moreover, I think it’s a fantasy to expect the US not to find a way out before the 2008 elections or shortly afterwards. The public hates this war, and once support for a war is lost, it doesn’t recover (and war is the wrong term anyway, this is a big government social engineering program with military methods. So I appreciate your bravado after years of things getting worse, and your faith that this time we have the new strategy that will suddenly change things. But I suspect in a year even you will have to accept that this will join Vietnam as a foreign policy fiasco.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
McQ: I noted you were very pleased when the draft oil law went to Parliament. Why no mention of the fact that the wheels are falling off, with the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds all disapproving of it?

see here.

The Sunnis are threatening a pullout from the Maliki government in five days. Should be an interesting week.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
McQ: I noted you were very pleased when the draft oil law went to Parliament. Why no mention of the fact that the wheels are falling off, with the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds all disapproving of it?
Because they’re still talking about it Francis. They’re called "negotiations". It certainly isn’t dead yet, is it?
The Sunnis are threatening a pullout from the Maliki government in five days.
Like that’s never happened before.

Why is every little political glitch the end of the world to you Francis?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
We should be trying to move the entire planet to one of self-governance, self-determination, and a rejection of tyranny.
Military force will be necessary, but isn’t and shouldn’t be the first option.
I do not believe we are qualified to judge for everyone what kind of system they should have. I think we can act as a good example, help those who want help, but ultimately each country develops at its own pace, and intervening even with good intent is often disastrous. After all, someone who is convinced that Islam is the proper form of government and religion, and that it should spread, they might make the same argument. The only way to guard against people arbitrarily deciding to spread their values unwillingly on others is to be very circumspect about intervening in the affairs of others. Not that it never should happen or that it can never be military, but we need to avoid the idea of being on some kind of crusade.

There are many competing theories, but one need only look at the progress of say, China, to see that progress towards our ideals is a long term process.
Agreed.
It is where and when the worst of the worst collect in one place that military force may be the best of the worst options.
Perhaps — or it may make matters worse by feeding into a cultural belief that force and power are the way to gain control. And military power rarely brings political stability; it can when the proper conditions are in place, but often it makes matters worse.
It would be nice if despicable regimes died a bloodless natural death, but that doesn’t happen to often. In the long run we must have global rule-sets to deal with failed and failing states to bring them to some sort of competent, fair system of governance. In the meantime, we’ve got what we’ve got, and need to make the best of it.
But our methods don’t work — I explained why on my blog for May 10. But how about this: a) we stop supporting brutal dictators. The Saudi regime is more oppressive than Saddam’s was, yet they are our ally. We supported the Shah for decades, helping set up the revolution that led to the current Iranian regime. Also, note that military power directed against a dictator kills innocents, destroys families, and often leaves people worse off than before in material terms, even if they have some kind of political openness. That trade off may make sense to us, focused as we are on abstract political goals. But is that really our call to make? And what if it fails? What if you end up with another dictator, but a lot of dead people, broken families, and children growing up learning violence as a way of life. What if it creates a backlash against us that weakens us and makes it harder to convince people our way is best?

Leaving Iraq without a global force to take over security is a non-starter.
Yet that is now the most likely outcome, given the political realities at home.
Lastly, you’ve misunderstood why I bring up our own example. Our country didn’t spring into existence overnight, nor was it perfect once it was relatively established. I don’t expect the Iraqis will have a different experience.
Agreed. I’ve made that same point about Iran’s effort at creating an Islamic democracy. We had slavery for 80 years, women couldn’t vote for 140, power has been in the hands of an elite who could afford to actually compete. By many accounts our democracy is still vastly underdeveloped.
Democracy is an experiment, it sometimes it gets messy, and it often takes longer then expected to get results that aren’t nearly close enough to what was desired in the first place.
It gets most quickly destroyed by corruption and sectarian violence. Look at attempts in the third world to develop democratic systems. Without rule of law, a stable identity, and the development of a culture that can support democracy, things usually fall apart. Iraq is extremely corrupt right now — that’s going to undercut the efforts militarily.
If the Iraqis can carve out a country where the citizens can live in peace and are prosperous, we will, in the end, have succeeded. It will not be our (America’s) victory alone, but primarily Iraq’s, and of benefit to the whole world. It will probably take a dozen years to have such a imperfectly stable society in Iraq. The heavy lifting in regards to security ought to be transitioned within the next 2 years.
I just don’t see it happening. Maybe in generations, but the Iraqis have to do it on their own, and I suspect they have some ethnic violence and very difficult times to go through before they get there. I don’t think we are going to be able to stop that process. We have until early 2009 at best, but the next administration is not going to maintain such an unpopular war.

Our best bet is a regional solution and perhaps we can internationalize the effort by letting go of the amount of control we exert now. But this might be something that, all good intentions aside, simply rests on forces and factors outside our control.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Like that’s never happened before.
You’ve been flippantly dismissing glasnost’s observation about the vote in the Iraqi parliament as similarly as you dismiss the problems of the potential oil deal. But it’s also nothing new that you and others supporting the war have been claiming progress and saying things were about to change for four years. If you don’t want to be flippantly dismissed, you should be probably be less cavalier about answering the legitimate questions of others.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Before you get too enthused over "progress" in Iraq, read this.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Richard Holbrooke, a former senior U.S. diplomat and a possible Democratic secretary of state
Gee, he couldn’t be playing to a potential future employer...
"If it does not succeed, then the United States will face an even more difficult set of choices,"
Just point out the obvious...
"We must assume ... that the next president will inherit the most difficult foreign policy challenges ever to land in the Oval Office on day one,"
More difficult then Nixon inheriting Vietnam???
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
More difficult then Nixon inheriting Vietnam???
I think much more difficult. Vietnam was a totally pointless war in that our national interest wasn’t affected by the victory or defeat of the North. In the Mideast the importance of oil and the possibility of regional conflict directly threatens our long term national interest.

And that, Keith, is why our disagreement on the war is so much more difficult than the pro- anti- Vietnam war argument. I can’t just say "come home, America" on purely moral grounds. Instead, my argument is that the current policy is counter productive and dangerous, while you think we can win and thus solve the problem. If I’m right, the alternate is not to just "come home," but to develop a different policy. Nixon did that to some extent with detente (he did have to deal with the fact the Soviets had used Vietnam to gain parity with the US on military terms), but he was dealing with a superpower with an interest at maintaining its status and empire. The situation in the Mideast is far more difficult.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
In the Mideast the importance of oil and the possibility of regional conflict directly threatens our long term national interest.
And this would be why it is in our vital interests that we A) not give up, and B) not loose.

We should certainly change strategy to meet changing conditions.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
And this would be why it is in our vital interests that we A) not give up, and B) not loose.

We should certainly change strategy to meet changing conditions.
And I simply believe it takes a far more profound and fundamental strategy change than you do. I do not think we can win through military means, and the attempt to do runs serious risks, and plays into the hands of our enemies. Victory has to be multilateral, based on negotiations and regional diplomacy, and any military force needs legitimacy (needs to be accepted by the Iraqi people and political structures). In short, we have to recognize that success is not something we can achieve alone or with a few allies contributing a bit.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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