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The Iraq conundrum
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kimberly Kagan outlines the ground truth about military operations in Iraq:
A new campaign has just begun, it is already yielding important results, and its effects are increasing daily. Demands for withdrawal are no longer demands to pull out of a deteriorating situation with little hope; they are now demands to end a new approach to this conflict that shows every sign of succeeding.
Well, that's true ... militarily. But as we've all said, that's not where the ultimate victory is to be won. That victory is in the political realm.

But if we know, and accept that militarily we're actually accomplishing something and we're no longer running around playing whack-a-mole, why the continued resistance at home?

Two reasons. One, public skepticism (mostly warranted) based in lack of progress politically, not militarily. I think we'd find very few Americans who don't believe that given the time and resources, our military could prevail militarily. And, of course, indications are that we are making progress in that direction now.

The first reason, however, drives the second reason. Even with the evidence mounting that we're being successful militarily, we see more and more Republicans jumping ship.

Why? Well again it boils down to the political arena, both here and in Iraq. In Iraq there is no visible sign that any progress is being made by the Iraqi government on critical issues. And while we see things changing dramatically at the level of the tribes and our interaction with them (and them siding with us), at a federal level, nada. Zip. Zero.

It is because of that lack of progress that Republican politicians are becoming jumpy. For the most part they understand the fact that we're making progress militarily. But they also understand that isn't enough. The most oft heard question they get from their constituents when they go home is "why are we making such an effort on behalf of the Iraqi government when it is making no similar effort on its own behalf?"

They have absolutely no answer for that, and it is that strategy for which they demand change. They, after all, have upcoming elections to win.

That, my friends, is the crux of the matter. That is the bottom line. That is what is driving the resistance to the continuation of this military strategy or any military strategy. When Gen. Petraeus makes his report in September I anticipate hearing that great progress has been made militarily. But I also anticipate a "no change" to be the report about the political realm. If that is the case, there will be a virtual war in Congress about funding Iraq, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see enough defections among the Republicans for the Democrats to have their way. And given what I expect to be excellent military progress by that time, that would be a damn shame.
 
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McQ:

An excellent, thoughtful post. While I am not as sanguine about the military progress as you, the jury is still out and you may be proven correct. The larger problem — the crux of the matter — is that Iraq’s problems are not amenable to a military solution (most certainly not one delivered by the United States under current circumstances). And we cannot solve Iraq’s political problems for them either.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
We heard a lot about steady progress in the past. The evidence for it was that when the US engaged militarily, there was usually success. The US can win every military engagement, the US will be able to clear out cities and towns when it chooses to — and if the US stays, keep them cleared. The reason why all the military progress in the past yielded a worse situation in Iraq is because what is needed is political progress in Iraq. Without that, any military progress the "surge" makes will be short term and ultimately if not irrelevant, of limited value. Also, note that you make alot out of the reports of one reporter and one operation in a geographically specific area, which does not automatically extrapolate to the rest of Iraq, especially when, after a brief lull in June, the insurgents and militias have adapted and you’re again seeing massive civilian deaths. You are justifiably concerned that the "mainstream" media is only giving part fo the story and extrapolating too much from the bad; you may be making the opposite error. No one is immune to bias. On top of that, the military is severely overstretched while Afghanistan (and you know Lugar and company take this into account) is seeing action that is surprisingly well organized from the Taliban and its backers.

The strategy is to buy time to get the Iraqis to make political progress. Unless they start doing that, then there is no reason to think that the military strategy is worth continuing.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It is disappointing to say the least to have an Iraqi government that has not passed any of the laws they need to yet, etc.

I guess its evidence that they are not a puppet government though.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
How many laws has this brandspanking new Congress passed; one minimum wage bill,
it finally paid for the troops after two monthes of circle jerking debate; don’t get me started on the immigration bill, postponing the arrival of the surge troops. And they don’t have car bombs or suicide bombers going off in their cafeterias, hospitals, schools, markets, etc. The oil sharing law is the most just thing proposed in 80 years since oil was discovered in Kirkuk; for the Sunni tribesman have stolen it for 75 years at least. The re-Baathification war are equally contentious; as the benefits would fall to those who have terrorized and oppressed the Iraqi majority for at least as long a period of time.
 
Written By: narciso
URL: http://
It is because of that lack of progress that Republican politicians are becoming jumpy
Oh please. Don’t even ascribe that minimal level of intelligence and logic to the GOPs actions.

They’re becoming jumpy because they’re a gutless bunch of pantywaists who arte trying to read the winds for political advantage.

In any conflict in the future that America chooses to engage in, we have one crippling, glaring weakness that the enmy can exploit: our politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Say what you want about Bush, but for all his flaws, he’s STILL lightyears ahead of all the poll-driven shift with the wind feckless cretins who infest DC
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
The strategy is to buy time to get the Iraqis to make political progress.
And the point of the political progress we desire is a stable economy with dramatically lower violence, one that can lead to the evolution of a more regular democratic nation. Essentially, we were hoping that political progress in the central government would subsume the goals of buying off the Sunni’s. AlQaeda’s excesses has made that uneccessary, they are already flocking to act with us against AlQaeda. We are doing so well lowering the violence, that we will achieve that penultimate goal whether or not the central government gets it act together now or a year’s time.

Whither then the relevance of immediate political progress by the central government, when they are being bypassed with success and the people’s active assent?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, we are not lowering the violence. The last two weeks have been especially deadly for Iraqis. Yesterday alone 163 Iraqis died. People are not flocking to act with us against Al Qaeda. Most consider both the US and Al qaeda to be foreign forces that they don’t want in Iraq. The Sunni tribes have long opposed al qaeda, that was my point long ago: the idea that Iraq can become a staging ground for al qaeda was never tenable since al qaeda is opposed by both the Shi’ites and the Sunnis! So violence remains high, the government continues to dither, and this appears like another US operation that looks good from the pure military perspective while it’s happening (as did battles in the past four years for various cities and towns, which led people in the past to say there is ’steady progress’) but without real change on the political front, it’ll fade away.

Given the reality of the domestic political situation, it’s clear we will be leaving next year. The key is to figure out the best way out in order to try to maximize the chance for stability in the region after we’re gone.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Oh, Tom, this report on how Al Qaeda is thriving in Iraq despite the surge also has to be taken into account. Saying there is success isn’t the same as having success.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Sure Erb. Their former allies are enemies and they’re on the run, but they’re thriving. The report you link is about AQ worldwide, and specifically avoids giving evidence that AQ in Iraq is "thriving".

What they do say reveals that Iran is ramping up it’s interference in Iraq, and that AQ is being displaced—neither of these mean it is thriving.

Also—the increased "civilian" deaths which it mentions include casualties from people outside Anbar who are now fighting AQ, and the deaths among AQ that fighting is causing.

Also, overall civilian deaths are dropping.

That’s far from the only source stating emphatically that deaths have decreased.

In addition, if AlQaeda is thriving, why can’t they make a car bomb that goes off, and why can’t they find explosives to use when they try it?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, we are not lowering the violence.
Then why do so very many reports show, even those grudgingly given by the MSM, that civilian deaths are down?
The last two weeks have been especially deadly for Iraqis.
No they haven’t been.
Yesterday alone 163 Iraqis died.
One lucky bomb is a trend, right. I suppose Tim McVeigh’s doing great in your book then?
People are not flocking to act with us against Al Qaeda.
The Sunni’s certainly are, and they were AQ in Iraq’s once staunch allies.
Most consider both the US and Al qaeda to be foreign forces that they don’t want in Iraq.
Of course they don’t want us to stay, but a majority do not want us to leave just yet either.
The Sunni tribes have long opposed al qaeda,
You lie.
that was my point long ago: the idea that Iraq can become a staging ground for al qaeda was never tenable since al qaeda is opposed by both the Shi’ites and the Sunnis!
Once again, you show that the person who posts most here who lacks an actual appreciation for the nuances of the Iraq war is yourself. The Sunni’s and AlQaeda in Iraq were once allies against us, and now the Sunni’s are helping us out against AQ.
So violence remains high
No it doesn’t, not in the areas affected by the change in tactics. This will spread to the entire fraction of the country which AlQaeda affects.
the government continues to dither
The government is doing what it can best do, which is implement classic COIN tactics. Now if you were referring to the Iraqi government, it isn’t doing much—which becomes irrelevant if the military side goes well enough.
and this appears like another US operation that looks good from the pure military perspective while it’s happening (as did battles in the past four years for various cities and towns, which led people in the past to say there is ’steady progress’) but without real change on the political front, it’ll fade away.
If you are referring to Vietnam, our success didn’t fade away until we did. The same will be true here, if we stick with this, we will flat out win.
Given the reality of the domestic political situation, it’s clear we will be leaving next year
No, that isn’t clear. The political class is as out of touch on this issue as it was concerning immigration, and they will get the message this time too.
The key is to figure out the best way out in order to try to maximize the chance for stability in the region after we’re gone.
If we leave in the timeframe you suggest is inevitable, there is no chance for stability in the region.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, the last two weeks have been exceedingly bad for Iraqi civilians. Where are you getting your figures to the contrary? It hasn’t been just one lucky bomb, if you read the link, bombings in general are up, and Iraqi civilian deaths have been increasing the last two weeks at an alarming rate. 163 on Wednesday, 173 on Tuesday, 94 on Monday, 59 on Sunday, 237 on Saturday...after a lull in June, there has been a sharp uptick in July.

You say the political class is out of touch, but given the massive opposition for this war from even Republicans, I think you’re the one out of touch. You flagrantly make claims that you don’t even try to support. Wake up, Tom. Sooner or later, you’ll have to — or you’ll try another lame ’we could have won if only the defeatists hadn’t gotten their way.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As for civilian deaths decreasing, just to provide emphasis.
At least 1,227 Iraqi civilians were killed in June along with 190 policemen and 31 soldiers, an officer at the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s operations room said. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the figures.

That represented a 36 percent drop from the ministry’s May figures - 1,949 civilian deaths along with 127 policemen and 47 soldiers.

June’s figures were the lowest monthly tally this year. In January, President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen to Iraq in a major push to stabilize the capital so that Iraq’s leaders can hammer out power-sharing agreements for a lasting peace.
Down 36% from the last month, and the lowest of the year.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, June saw a brief lull, but it’s back up in July. It appears that, as has often happened with such lulls, the terrorists were simply getting ready for another burst of activity, with new and unfortunately better tactics. July has not continued the trends in June. That’s a bad sign, since the surge wasn’t even fully in effect until after mid-June, so there is clearly no causal connection between the surge and June’s lull (and no hindrance to July’s increase).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Where are you getting your figures to the contrary?
The mainstream media.
It hasn’t been just one lucky bomb, if you read the link, bombings in general are up
Prove that in the areas where Petraeus’ COIN tactics are in affect, that there is an general increase in bombings.
and Iraqi civilian deaths have been increasing the last two weeks at an alarming rate. 163 on Wednesday, 173 on Tuesday, 94 on Monday, 59 on Sunday, 237 on Saturday...after a lull in June, there has been a sharp uptick in July.
Your Monday figure is strictly average and your Sunday figure below average for the time period since AlQaeda was allied with the Sunnis, and it does remain to be seen if the other three day’s casualties—which do have their magnitude bumped up by particularly high body count single events—and the other two days all include deaths from Sunni’s fighting AlQaeda; such deaths are good news, they prefigure security.
You flagrantly make claims that you don’t even try to support.
I’m supporting them fine. You’re the idiot who think the Sunnis haven’t been allied with AlQaeda to any significant degree.
Wake up, Tom. Sooner or later, you’ll have to — or you’ll try another lame ’we could have won if only the defeatists hadn’t gotten their way.
Well as long as you’ve brought that up, you wrote:
"With aid they could have continued to survive."

In DECEMBER 1974 Congress passed an act to stop funding the South. Do you think that somehow this meant that in just a few months (the invasion started March 10, 1975) they went from having loads of ammo ready to repel an invasion to being able to be easily defeated? If aid through early 1975 was not enough, why would aid in the first two months of 1975 be enough? Moreover, it was Thieu’s strategy that caused shortages, his retreat lead to conditions where it was difficult if not impossible to resupply. There was emergency aid requested to bolster the regime at the end, but that was after the North already took much of the country and the focus was on Saigon. By that point throwing more aid would have been pointless and would have delayed the inevitable.

Lance, you and Tom are simply WRONG. Objectively wrong.
In the lastest Israeli fracas vis a vis Hezbollah in Lebanon, a steady stream of C-17’s and C-5’s brought crucial replacement war material to the Izzies. In the Falklands War, it was C-5’s and C-141’s sending the latest Sidewinders and runway matting to the Royal Navy. They couldn’t have done what they did without that immediate and continued support. Why do you have a hard time believing that after they were abjectly cut off, that the SVN fell handily to a large, well-supported armored invasion from the North? Even as much as the material shortages were critical, the effect on morale was severe.

Our aid would have to have flexibly ramped up and down as the threat required, why is that a sticking point for you? If we hadn’t cut off aid in the first place, Thieu’s "strategy"—itself in part undertaken in response to our aid cutoff, reserving scarce supplies far from the front lines to absolutely make sure they were not captured—would not have been in effect and there would have been no Saigon focused situation to become irretrievable—the North would have been stopped far closer to the border the way they were the last time in 1972.

You have no clue and never have had one, Erb.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, you’re grasping on straws. Israel needed a certain kind of support, you assert, and somehow that means that the South could have thrown off an invasion that easily defeated them if they’d had two months of support. So you think Hezbollah would have invaded and taken over Israel? Would Argentina now be occupying London? Live in your world of alternate histories, but I’ll take reality, thank you.

And July figures are indeed rising compared to June for Iraqi deaths. June was one of many lulls over the last four years, usually followed by some new tactics and a rash of new violence. It’s far too early to claim violence is down, especially given the past two weeks.

As to averages. You cited 1227 killed in June. That’s an average of about 41 a day. So the figure of 59 is hardly below average, even though it’s dramatically below the 163, 173, and 237 figures of other recent days. The 59 is about average for May’s figures.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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