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Look for "Tet" in late August or early September
Posted by: McQ on Friday, July 27, 2007

When last I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Yon on Pundit Review Radio, he mentioned that General Petraeus was worried about what he called a "mini-Tet" happening in late August or early September. For those of you who aren't up to speed on what the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam was or why it is of concern to Gen. Petraeus, you might want to do a little reading here.

Bottom line, his concern is that knowing they can't win against the US militarily, AQI will stage a series of high visibility attacks during the time frame mentioned in an attempt to sway the opinion of the people of the US to finally pull the plug on Iraq. And of course what will be necessary for that to succeed is a compliant media and political allies.

Whether or not what AQI accomplishes is of any lasting significance is of little or no concern. The victory they will be trying to achieve will be one of perception

Peter J. Wallison outlines why everything is lining up here to help that PR victory become reality should AQI try a "mini-Tet":
Finally, if—as seems apparent now—the surge is succeeding, opponents of the war are going to be hard-pressed to make the case for abandoning Iraq, even if there is no Shi'ite-Sunni political settlement in sight. The inconvenient truth here is that, apart from the irreconcilable Left, the American people's support for withdrawal has been based on an assessment that we were losing the war. If that no longer seems true, support for withdrawal will melt away.

[...]

Nevertheless, because weakening the will of the American people is the only way that al-Qaeda and our other opponents in Iraq can hope to win, between now and September we will see an all-out effort to inflict heavy casualties on our troops and on Iraqi civilians. Unfortunately, this can be a winning strategy. If we are unprepared for it, a bad August and early September could still lead to a collapse in public support that would even sweep congressional Republicans with it.
My political senses say that's probably a fairly likely scenario. If anyone doubts that the carnage and casualties won't be at the top of the news should such an attack take place, then they've not been watching coverage of the Iraq war. And if you don't think that anti-war Democrats won't use that coverage to leverage their political position while Republican spines turn to jelly, then they haven't been observing the American political scene very closely.

Fair warning.

But as Wallison points out, it doesn't have to be that way:
But if these attacks do not occur—or if they do and are quickly quelled—the success of the surge will be an inconvenient political truth that many in the Democratic party will not easily survive.
I think that may be just a touch too optimistic concerning a Democratic demise, but it certainly will make their arguments much tougher to make concerning withdrawal and the abandonment of Iraq to an uncertain fate.

I think a plan is most likely being worked in Iraq right now to address this possibility, or perhaps a better word is "probability". It is my feeling that Petraeus won't get caught unprepared for such an effort. My questions, however, are will anyone notice and will it make any difference to Congress even if he succeeds?
 
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Whether or not a "Mini Tet" scenario is in the works, I believe the Democrats have already shown their hands by calling into question the veracity of anything coming from General Petraeus and the administration. That and the willing complicity of MSM is what the Democrats are banking on to sink the surge.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
I believe the Democrats have already shown their hands by calling into question the veracity of anything coming from General Petraeus...
Yup ... that’s why I ask the questions ... I’m pretty much in that boat at the moment as well. I’m of the opinion that Petraeus could report that not a shot was fired in anger in August, support it with irrefutable evidence and Harry Reid and John Murtha would still claim the "war is lost."

Unfortunately I think that makes a mini-Tet more likely rather than less.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
My questions, however, are will anyone notice and will it make any difference to Congress even if he succeeds?
We’ve already been told he has failed.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
McQ:

please remember that the administration has said for years (esp. Cheney) that if violence goes down, it’s a sign we’re winning, and if violence goes up, it’s a sign we’re winning. So as far as I and a bunch of other people are concerned, violence against US troops is a useless measure.

So let’s agree in advance on what metrics constitute winning, then we can have something to talk about in September without accusing each other of defeatism, BDS or wasted lives sacrificed in a lost cause.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
So let’s agree in advance on what metrics constitute winning, then we can have something to talk about in September without accusing each other of defeatism, BDS or wasted lives sacrificed in a lost cause.
Excellent point. But whose assessment will you believe? The interim report showed some progress - not all and not across the board progress. But it did report progress nonetheless. It was viewed by the Democrats as complete and total failure. Was It?

My point is simple. Set whatever metrics you would like. Upon whose word will you rely when the report card comes in?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
So let’s agree in advance on what metrics constitute winning, then we can have something to talk about in September without accusing each other of defeatism, BDS or wasted lives sacrificed in a lost cause.
Well that’s going to be a tough one since the most significant metrics are going to be found in how well the population is doing in its bottom-up reconciliation (and that’s a conclusion I’ve reached after several conversations with numerous different people in Iraq). To me that’s the key to this whole puzzle and it seems to be going very well at the moment. I’ve characterized it, somewhat, in my posts about EPRTs, PRTs and this latest one with COL Twitty.

I’m not sure how to quantify that. Obviously, as mentioned in the Twitty piece, the level of attacks may be one measure (down 50% from Dec in his area). Certainly the number of tribes joining the effort against AQI,etc. and this the military and police would be a significant indicator.

One of the more interesting and significant things I’ve been able to do is some of these blogger calls with people there on the ground. It has helped me form my opinion about the power of the bottom up reconciliation and its tremendous importance.

The EPRT and PRT interviews were one-on-one interviews all question driven by me. The Twitty interview was a conference call. But in every case and from every one of them, all of whom have had at least one previous tour in Iraq, I hear the sound of "hope". They all see a reason to be hopeful. That wasn’t a dominant theme previously.

Even Michael Yon, who doubted the surge would work and doubted the ability of the military to quell the violence in Iraq is now cautiously hopeful based on what he is seeing. And he was the first guy to call what was happening in Iraq a civil war. But he’s also watched, first hand, this awakening happen and spread. As he’s noted on numerous occasions, the difference in Iraqi attitudes, both military and civilian, is at a whole new and higher level now than a year ago.

None of that translates well into metrics, but it sure does seem to be a pretty consistent view among those there on the ground.

Your guess is as good as mine as to which metrics Petraeus/Crocker will attempt to present the picture there. And, unfortunately I’m not sure what would be meaningful that could be translated into a "metric".

Any ideas on your side?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I appreciate your candor, Q. I’ve always felt that your opinions on the ’surge’ were based on the opinions of people you were talking to. That’s why our opinions diverge so sharply. (and why I find reading your commentary so bleeping irritating). You’re listening to what people are telling you, and other people - like me- are looking at data. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Of course, data is also hard to find and easy to skew and misrepresent, but at least that exposes the skewers to getting caught. Opinions that things are looking up rarely have accountability.

Stick with insurgent attacks, U.S. deaths, and Iraqi civilian casualties. We’re measuring a war. Attacks and dead people seem like a good number to me.
Another good metric that I personally can’t get my hands on would be U.S. munitions expenditure. If I saw sharp declines from multiple sources in those numbers and an absence of people raising well-supported questions about said numbers, I’d believe it as well - not that it would change my policy prescriptions, but I’d believe it.

So far, the national numbers on violence tell a story of a massive violent conflict not in any clear form of decline. There’s a "Tet Offensive" every week. Who would even be able to tell the difference?

The idea of a dying insurgency mounting one last massive propaganda-bombing push misrepresents the Tet offensive in history as well the current situation. The Tet offensive was so devastating not because anyone pretended it was a military success in the press, but because it contradicted the idea that the VC were already all but wiped out and that the war was almost over.

The difference here is that no one needs a Tet Offensive to tell them that, other than ’feelings of hope’ from the military, the Iraq is as violent as it was a year ago and more violent than two years ago. All you have to do is stroll over to the Iraq Index.






 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I am embarrassed and disappointed (no sarcasm). I actually thought for a moment that glasnost had made a valid point; one that would change my thinking, not only about liberals, but just perhaps about how I obtain information about the war in Iraq:
”Stick with insurgent attacks, U.S. deaths, and Iraqi civilian casualties. We’re measuring a war. Attacks and dead people seem like a good number to me.”
Yeah; seemed like a good number to me too. A way to cut through all the framing and propaganda and get right to it. However, as is my wont, I first checked out the cited source, the Iraq Index. And what did I find?

The Saban Center For Middle East Policy at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.

Wiki’d Brookings :
”The Brookings Institution is a United States nonprofit public policy think tank based in Washington, D.C..
Brookings, traditionally considered liberal...
Hmmm. Not good. Well, some sources labeled “liberal” are not too far from the mainstream, just maybe...



Sample quote from their home page:
”We’re creating terrorists in Iraq, we are creating terrorists outside of Iraq who are inspired by what’s going on in Iraq. ... The longer we stay, the more terrorists we create.”
Sigh. So I am supposed to believe information coming from a source that would print that. I wonder how many dead cats and Iraqi heart attack victims get included in their “statistics”?

Still, I will maintain hope and keep checking out any likely tips by liberals – you never know.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
I appreciate your candor, Q. I’ve always felt that your opinions on the ’surge’ were based on the opinions of people you were talking to. That’s why our opinions diverge so sharply. (and why I find reading your commentary so bleeping irritating). You’re listening to what people are telling you, and other people - like me- are looking at data. Correct me if I’m wrong.
What a nice way of telling me I’m a dupe and too dumb to figure out that I’m being fed a line.

No, what I do is talk to people who are actually on the ground and then compare what they tell me. And interestingly, coming from different areas and different walks of life, they have somehow managed to anticipate my questions and conspire to answer them all in the same way.

Two guys from the state department running a EPRT/PRTs in different parts of Iraq, a Brigade commander in a third part of Iraq, and an independent journalist in even another part of Iraq, all have the same read on what they see on the ground. Go figure. How do they manage to pull that off?

For instance, when I ask them about the police and if they remain a problem, they universally answer, yes, but then, for the most part say it is better than it was when they got there. That’s progress, but how do you quantify it?

Or they say for the first time they’ve been able to help set up and get functioning town councils and have since linked them up with provincial counterparts. But again, how is that quantifiable. It’s progress, but not hard number progress.

Provincial governments are now talking and coordinating with each other as I outlined in the PRT story. Important stuff. Real progress. How should we quantify that?

And if it all was quantifiable, would you care?
The Tet offensive was so devastating not because anyone pretended it was a military success in the press, but because it contradicted the idea that the VC were already all but wiped out and that the war was almost over.
Oh bullcrap. Obviously you missed the godfather of network news calling it, not pretending, but calling it a defeat. Sorry, revisionist history is only worthwhile when it’s accurate. It certainly made the point that the VC weren’t wiped out at the time of Tet, but what it never made following Tet was the point that the VC were actually wiped out and rendered combat ineffective after Tet.
The difference here is that no one needs a Tet Offensive to tell them that, other than ’feelings of hope’ from the military, the Iraq is as violent as it was a year ago and more violent than two years ago. All you have to do is stroll over to the Iraq Index.
Yeah, numbers never lie, they give the whole truth and nothing but the truth and the word of people on the ground who answer hard questions forthrightly and without flinching should be disregarded if their answers don’t match the numbers.

Got it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
" How do they manage to pull that off?"

Obviously you have no grasp of the power of the Vast-Neo-Conservative-Conspiracy. Their evil agents are everywhere. Nothing is beyond their perfidious capabilities.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Glasnost,

"So far, the national numbers on violence tell a story of a massive violent conflict not in any clear form of decline. There’s a "Tet Offensive" every week. Who would even be able to tell the difference?"

Last year, Anbar was "unwinnable." How many attacks have you seen in the headlines these last 6 months from Anbar? Very, very few. So obviously the insurgency in Anbar is in decline. That’s a huge achievement.

We have heard about "Tet" offensives for every election in Iraq and AQ have not done so well in that regard. I doubt they will be able to do anything spectacular in the next few months...does anyone think they will overrun the US embassy?

Glasnost thinks were losing, so I think he’ll take a bet on that, right?
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
glasnost:
"You’re listening to what people are telling you, and other people - like me- are looking at data."
McQ is getting information outside of the liberal bubble, and glasnost is getting his data from a liberal think tank effort deliberately designed to depict the war as unwinnable.

Correct me if I’m wrong.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
"...progress is visible to all but the most irreconcilable skeptics."

glas, based on your comments in this thread, I do believe he’s talking about you.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Everyone associated with the government, speaking in an official capacity, is going to claim under all circumstances but a resignation speech that what they’re doing is a success.

And they’re only going to invite journalists to come look at successes.

That’s why we only hear negative stories through anonymous, unofficial leaks. It’s not unique to Iraq. It’s not unique to the military. It’s not unique to the USA. It’s the first law of hierarchical behavior.

yes, mcq. I would indeed disregard the things I hear from people whose job it is to tell me that the mission is a success, that the mission is a success, unless the numbers back it up.

The numbers, by the way, Harun, tell me that attacks are down in Anbar province, and I believe the numbers, and by extension, the stories that attacks are down in Anbar province. The question is, "what does that mean for the mission as a whole?" Now we’re back to opinions. And of course I don’t take your bet, Harun. Shall I bet you that attacks on US forces stop by the end of the year and victory is right around the corner?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Everyone associated with the government, speaking in an official capacity, is going to claim under all circumstances but a resignation speech that what they’re doing is a success.
That isn’t what I ask them glasnost. I ask them specific questions as to what they were doing and the results they are having.

Based on their answers I decide whether I think that means success or not. I didn’t leave it up to them to define it.

I know that may be a bit too nuanced for you but there it is.
yes, mcq. I would indeed disregard the things I hear from people whose job it is to tell me that the mission is a success, that the mission is a success, unless the numbers back it up.
And this gets us to the crux of the question I asked:

And if it all was quantifiable, would you care?

The answer is no. You’ve got a set of numbers you’ve concluded are the "deciders" and you certainly wouldn’t accept any numbers from "people whose job it is to tell me the mission is a success". And, of course, since Petraeus and Crocker will obviously be relegated to that group, suffice it say glasnost has already concluded nothing they will say is worth listening too.

Do me a favor, glasnost - in the future don’t waste anyone’s time here with comments about bias or an open mind, ’kay?

Thanks.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Ok military folk, here’s a question for you: how much damage could an Iraqi unit do if it had a number al qaeda infiltrators, and they choose a time to turn and engage in a coordinated effort to attack tge American troops they are working with? Think of the headlines — Iraqi troops thought trustworthy turn on Americans. Think of the political reaction! The push to leave quickly could become a tidal wave. All it might take is a few who know they’d ultimately be killed, but in the confusion Iraqi troops might not know what’s happening, and it might take awhile to figure out who is doing what, and the causality numbers could be high. That seems to me like the perfect "tet." But are enough safeguards built in to procedures to make that something not to worry about?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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