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What Iraq are Democrats talking about? (Updated)
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 30, 2007

For four years, Democrats essentially asked that question of the administration when statements such as "the insurgency is in it's last throes" and the like were made. Now it is fair to ask the Dems which Iraq they're talking about as they continue to maintain the war is lost in the face of mounting evidence that things have changed for the better in that country.

Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two critics of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq just returned and had this to report in the New York Times today:
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
Got that? All of a sudden (and really it isn't "all of a sudden" if you've been following developments closely) things are actually looking better. Much better.

Indicator one? Troop morale:
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
I've mentioned before the huge difference a strong commander can make, and despite the nonsensical and baseless mutterings of Harry Reid concerning Petraeus' competence and veracity, he has made a huge difference in the fight in Iraq. However, as most have surmised, the evolving plan among many on the left is to destroy his credibility so that no matter what he says in September, they can dismiss it. When you can't fight the facts, resort to character assassination.

Other indicators found by O’Hanlon and Pollack:
But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.
One of our commenters, Francis, had asked specifically about the goal of integrating the armed forces and how that was going. There's your answer Francis.

Addressing the "everything is al Qaeda" critcism:
In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
If you still doubt the latter part, you might want to read this. However, as Pollack and O'Hanlon seem to have discovered we are taking the fight to the right people and it is convincing the population to cooperate. That's called "winning the hearts and minds" where I come from.

In fact, Pollack and O'Hanlon seem to have found an Iraq full of surprises:
Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

In some places where we have failed to provide the civilian manpower to fill out the reconstruction teams, the surge has still allowed the military to fashion its own advisory groups from battalion, brigade and division staffs. We talked to dozens of military officers who before the war had known little about governance or business but were now ably immersing themselves in projects to provide the average Iraqi with a decent life.
I've written at length about these teams and the huge impact they have. I've included interviews from EPRT and PRT team leaders. I noted the praise for their effort from a combat commander and how commanders actually view these teams as a combat multiplier because of the tremendous positive effect they have in a COIN environment. O'Hanlon and Pollack seem to have found that to be true as well.

Obviously, though, not everything is sunshine and roses:
Outside Baghdad, one of the biggest factors in the progress so far has been the efforts to decentralize power to the provinces and local governments. But more must be done. For example, the Iraqi National Police, which are controlled by the Interior Ministry, remain mostly a disaster. In response, many towns and neighborhoods are standing up local police forces, which generally prove more effective, less corrupt and less sectarian. The coalition has to force the warlords in Baghdad to allow the creation of neutral security forces beyond their control.
But, as you see, even in the face of tough problems, local and provincial solutions are being worked. As I've been saying, bottom-up reconciliation seems to be gathering steam and both of the authors of this piece seem to have noticed it.

They conclude:
In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.
So here are two guys, former critics of the war effort, who've spent considerable time on the ground in all areas of Iraq and have come away impressed by the significant progress that has been made in real terms, not rosy administration terms, and recommend it be given more time.

When General Petraeus reports to Congress in September, how will he be received by Democrats who have already written him and the effort off and declared it a loss? Will they continue to hold to that line? Will they simply pretend, as they accuse the administration officials of doing for 4 years, that what they claim is "true" despite multiple reports from reputable sources that the situation is much better than they contend?

It will certainly be interesting to watch, won't it? And, in the end, it will be interesting to see if they have the integrity to acknowledge progress (if the trend remains positive at that time) or whether they plan to continue to claim failure in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary.

UPDATE: Joe Klein makes a semi-valid point, for as far as it goes:
One thing I just realized—Pollack and Hanlon seem to have visited only Sunni areas—Ramadi, Tal Afar and Mosul, the Ghazaliya neighborhood on the west (Sunni) bank of the Tigris River. And that's where the progress, such as it is, has been made, with the tribes moving against the jihadis and toward us. But Iraq is primarily a Shi'ite country—and we're not doing so well with those guys, especially the most prominent of them, Muqtada al-Sadr.

I should also note that their optimism about the Iraqi Army might look a bit different if they went to mixed areas like Diyala province, where a corrupt Shi'ite-dominated Army is going to have to deal with a police force that is being recruited from former Sunni insurgents. There certainly are a few excellent, mixed units in the Iraqi Security Forces, but the majority of units are local, sect-specific and awful.
His observation about travels through mostly Sunni areas is a valid one. But then, if you look at where all the problems are, they aren't in predominantly Shia areas either.

They're in mixed areas and Baghdad. And those are acknowledged to be problem areas. Additionally, what Pollack and O'Hanlon undertook was a "let's see for ourselves" journey to confirm what "ground truth" was in areas which has been completely hostile to the CF previously (unlike most predominantly Shia areas). That's the thrust of their report as I read it. Remember, it was about 6 months ago we were told Anbar was simply "lost to us".

He misses in his second paragraph as well. Michael Yon, who is in Diyala (Baquba) and has been since Operation Phantom Thunder began is reporting exactly the opposite concerning the ISF forces there than Klein is suggesting is the case. He's found the 5th IA division to be a worthwhile ISF unit which had past problems but is now performing well (its commander was relieved in May and it seems to be up to the task with its new command structure).

UPDATE II: The SNAFU Principle has decided reaction to this particular article today smacks of a conspiracy. The proof?
You'll notice a few similar points repeated over and over: The two writers are "liberals" from a "liberal think tank", Brookings Institution.
Huh. We're listed with the conspiratorial cabal, but as I scan the post, the words "liberal" and "Brookings Institution" are nowhere to be found. What, did I miss the memo?

And to seal the deal, to make the conspiracy claim irrefutable, he declares breathlessly in an update:
Update: Atrios agrees. So does John Cole, and Glenn Greenwald.
Oh, well run up the white flag, the big three have spoken.

Yeesh.

The name of the post? Uh, "The right wing echo chamber has a party". Yeah, I know ... irony impaired. At least the blog lives up to its name.

Of course no mention of the substance of the article, not that any was expected.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
I suspect a lot of what they report is correct, though I still say the "second insurgency" (what the head of reconstruction is calling Iraqi corruption) is more damaging in the long run, and there is strong reason to be skeptical that short term tactical gains can yield strategic success.

However, have no doubt: these are not war critics writing. Both supported the war, O’Hanlon argued in favor of the surge, and Pollack is generally hawkish. Both of these analysts have been on the pro-war side, O’Hanlon has worked with Kagan and other neo-conservatives, and Pollack clearly supported the war and was optimistic early on. Like the writers of the Q&O blog, they have been critical of the Bush administration tactics, but it’s not like war critics went over and suddenly changed their mind.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
These guys are not "former critics of the war effort," they’re voiciferous supporters of the war and the escalation.

The fact that they would see the dog and pony shows, as Senator Webb calls it, and report back that everything is great in Iraq is no more surprising than hearing the National Review say the same thing. Just because they are liberal Iraq hawks doesn’t change the fact that they are committed to keeping America in Iraq forever, and therefore committed to America’s defeat and humiliation.
 
Written By: M.A.
URL: http://
McQ, based on the 2 above responses, the answers to your concluding questions would be a resounding "no"
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
M.A.: I suspect they are doing more than propagandizing, they are seeing a real change in tactics with real results. However, I think they are erring in extrapolating those tactical improvements with strategic success and "winning" in Iraq. For a long time I have been saying that if you want to measure success in Iraq you have to look not at military results, but political ones: is corruption decreasing, are the Sunnis and Shi’ites working out how to cooperate, are militias losing political and societal clout. It appears Iran is arming Shi’ite militias, Saudi Arabia is aiding the insurgency and arming Sunni militias, the US is arming some Sunni groups who promise to join the fight against al qaeda, and the Kurds are at odds with Turkey, generally autonomous in their own region. None of that looks good, and nothing the US military is doing is altering that picture.

This could be a classical case of an unwinnable war (if you want to use the term ’war’ to describe it). No matter what we do, success is elusive because what it takes to succeed is out of our control. This isn’t a war where you simply defeat the other side’s military — that was done in 2003. This involves social engineering, putting in place a new system and somehow overcoming the fact that the Shi’ite majority indicates a natural alliance with Iran. The neo-conservative theorists posited using military means to recast the politics of the mideast, with Iraq to emerge as a model of a pro-American Islamic democracy. We have learned the hard way (though a lot of people knew all along) that militaries can win wars, but it takes a myriad of other factors to shape political outcomes. The initial dreams of a pro-American Iraq were outside the realm of possibility. Now, with success defined down to a stable Iraq after the US departs, we see the results of messing with another very fragile polity.

The key is to learn the lesson: the neo-conservatives were wrong in believing that military force applied with the aim of expanding freedom could create positive change and bring about a future more in line with American ideals. Instead, it creates animosity, and violence ignites more local violence.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
McQ, based on the 2 above responses, the answers to your concluding questions would be a resounding "no"
Heh ... big surprise, right?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
These guys are not "former critics of the war effort,"
Who argued they were?

The phrase used was "harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq".

That is an entirely different point. It has to do with how the administration has managed the war to date. These guys say ’miserably’. I agree. I also agree, based on my own interviews, news reports and other analysis, that it has changed for the better. These two came to the same conclusion after visiting the place and seeing things which go way beyond "dog
and pony" shows.

But as shark points out, you reflect precisely the point I’m making in the post and I appreciate the fact that you stopped by to validate it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Shark: Not exactly. There are tactical successes caused by the "surge," and Petraeus is pursuing a sound counter-insurgency policy. My criticism is not based on denial of that, but on recognition that this success is likely irrelevant in the long run because the factors that need to change to achieve our goals are outside our control, and not military in nature. At best this can buy some time for the Iraqis to work things out, and to weaken the al qaeda wing of the insurgency, and those are positives. But that’s not really altering the strategic situation, nor does it mean it makes sense to continue this policy. In short one can recognize the successes of Petraeus strategy and still believe that the overall Iraq policy is unlikely to succeed.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"...progress is visible to all but the most irreconcilable skeptics."

I really do like that quote...
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
McQ, based on the 2 above responses, the answers to your concluding questions would be a resounding "no"
Heh ... big surprise, right?
I think the entire problem with the lefties and Iraq can be summed up in the following line:
You can not reason a man out of a position he was not reasons into in the first place.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Let’s see . . . We’ve elevated Iran to regional superpower status. We’re propping up the Iranian-supported Iraqi government, which routinely ignores us. We’ve been arming the Sunni Iraqis. Now we’re proposing a new deal arming the Saudis with sophisticated weaponry, even though the marority of foreign fighters in Iraq come from SA. The Israelis support our arming the Saudis because they want Iran diminished to offset the heft we have granted it with our foolish war. The Iraqi parliament has achieved none of its political goals, yet its month-long vacation begins in 2 days. We are still losing close to 100 soliders a month in Iraq. And ten times that number are being wounded. We are spending 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq. We have spent nearly one-half TRILLION dollars in Iraq. While we are bogged down in Iraq, Al Qaeda has reconsituted in Pakistan and our actions in Iraq are fueling Islamofacism worldwide. American prestige and credibility are at all-time lows in the world, even though we are engaged in a global struggle dependent upon international cooperation..

Yes, by all means, stay the course.

But please don’t insult the intelligence of the American people by arguing that this September bag job means — what a surprise! — that we should stay longer. Bush never had any intention of withdrawing from Iraq. It is obvious from all the strategic leaks and trial balloons that Petraeus’ report will say that "progress has been made," but that "more time is needed." Anyone doubt this? Now I know that Gen. Petraeus is the greatest general in military history and beyond all reproach on every level, but there is still one nagging concern I have: In America, civilians decide when wars should be fought, not the military. (If you doubt this, use some of the half-TRILLION dollars in American taxpayers’ money we’ve wasted in Iraq to hire someone outside the Justice Department to read the Constitution. It’s right in there.)
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
But please don’t insult the intelligence of the American people by arguing that this September bag job means — what a surprise! — that we should stay longer.
And we have 3 - further validation that regardless of what progress Petraeus reports, he’ll be ignored.

When minds are made up, argue issues at the margin of the point of the post, irrelevancies and finish with nonsensical posturing.

Nice job David.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
regardless of what progress Petraeus reports, he’ll be ignored
Yes, and regardless of whatever problems he reports, Bush’s conclusion is pre-ordained: Stay the course. Then stall some more. Maybe thow in another Surge of BS. Meanwhile, all the costs I detailed continue to rise. Great plan by the FUBAR Geniuses.

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Latest tweaks to the LN:
”Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.”
Message: Ease up on the “Get Out Now” stuff. We’re working on polishing up the “Thanks to our bitching, the Bushies finally started listening to us and adopted the policies we recommended “ campaign. We know, we know, there is nothing in the record to back up this contention. We are working on it. We may have to go to the “Big Lie” on this one, even though some feel that we have been using that technique too much recently. Ried and Murtha are the biggest problem. They may have to go down the tubes if this damned success continues into the election.
”...soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus.”
Ix-nay on the previously recommended “Petraeus is a hack” stuff. It was a bridge too far; we think, maybe because we voted for him 100%. We’ve planted a seed and that is the best we can do right now. We’ll start up again if we can tag him with a mistake.
”A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq.
There’s too much of this kind of crap being reported by the milblogs and we just look silly pressing our “Get Out Now” message in the face of it. And yes, the “Tet” project is on hold. Our fudge techniques assure us of having the right numbers in the Iraq Index, but we’re having trouble lining up the horror stories. The public is becoming jaded. We have to go BIG. Just be ready to jump on the bandwagon if we use the phrase “like the Tet offensive in Vietnam” in a story. Also, we still don’t have agreement on the timing.
”...Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”
Guys, timing is everything. Despite our best efforts, it looks like those bastards are going to make this work. Yes, we know, but just one mistake and believe me, we’re ready to kill them. For now, just seem reasonable. Be ready to switch to full hue and cry overnight if we find something that we think gives us the opening we need.
”Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.”*
****************

* These are the folks that people like glasnost quote all the time and count on to keep the ammunition coming. It is possible that this whole NYT article is simply a scam that the authors can point to later to help them maintain their credibility. I don’t have the secret decoder ring. In the past the verifier has been a repetition of the key directives in the WaPo, but they may have changed the cipher.

Humor/sarcasm alert
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
We’ve elevated Iran to regional superpower status.
Right, they weren’t a belligerent country before Bush came to power.

They were just sitting there minding their own business. They weren’t sponsoring terrorists, pursuing a nuclear program, or a major exporter of oil and extremism.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
In America, civilians decide when wars should be fought, not the military.
You know you’re right. And guess what, civilians did decide when wars should be fought - they really did!

http://www.senate.gov/~rpc/releases/1999/L56df100302.htm

So, until these same civilians do what is required to end the war, constitutionally - defund it - they are giving their tacit support, regardless of their posturing. And, unless you know something I do not know (which is highly doubtful given your comments on this blog to date), noone is claiming otherwise.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
McQ writes:
The phrase used was "harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq".

That is an entirely different point. It has to do with how the administration has managed the war to date. These guys say ’miserably’. I agree. I also agree, based on my own interviews, news reports and other analysis, that it has changed for the better. These two came to the same conclusion after visiting the place and seeing things which go way beyond "dog and pony" shows.
One certainty of war is that it will be miserable, and because it will be miserable, all of the plans and the planners have done miserably. Any good researcher with an ability to make arguments could write a factual account of the U.S. part in WWII in which virtually every one of the leaders — Roosevelt, Stinson, Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, et al. — look like morons and fools who ceaselessly got men needlessly killed. If the writer wanted to go further, he could make the case that WWII was not a necessary war for the U.S., i.e., it was a war of choice.

The reason these arguments could be made is that they can neglect to give proper weight to the effort of the enemy (which eases the damning of our war leadership as incompetent and miserable) and then fail to take proper account of the danger that the enemy poses to our allies, interests, and security, all three of which are tied together (which eases the damning of our decision to go to war).

So WWII, and indeed most of our wars, could be reduced, by this method of argument, to fit the requirements of 1. pacifism, 2. the enemy, 3. the enemy within.

Iraq is a minor major war of extreme vital importance in which the enemy knows that it has allies in time (and thus stretches its efforts out with a steady drip of terrorism) and in pussilanimous and media bilge-drinking Westerners and Americans who are checking their watches and wondering why the war won’t please stop and let them get on with planning for the summer vacation. And then of course there are the Tokyo and Axis Erbs, who have actually aligned their political interests with those of the terrorists and tip us off to that fact by calling themselves "peace activists" and attending rallies sponsored for them by hard Leftist groups that support tyrants like Kim Jong Il, Castro and, once upon a time, Saddam himself.

"Promoting democracy," supposedly a bad idea, is actually trying to kick start for Iraq a form of government now in use in about 130 countries around the world. It is no longer an exotic thing reserved for Europeans, and the Iraqi people, despite the stalemates the new government has encountered, took to it with considerable readiness.

Meanwhile, in the darker half of our policy in Iraq, we are sitting at the end of an international conveyor belt that brings the most aggressive demographic across Islam into the immediate range of our considerable lethality. We can thank bin Laden et al. for encouraging that on the Islamic side and the screeching monkeys of the "peace movement" for assuring them that they have already won, and that it’s safe to come to Iraq and kill, well, mostly other Muslims. This presents the jihadi demographic with a very nice opportunity to get dead.

Stretched out over time the war looks miserable, and is miserable, as all war must be, with the ever hopeful Islamists and Tokyo Erbs rubbing their hands together at the prospect of an American defeat — oh, so crucial to both of them. And, meanwhile, neither of these champions of American defeat could care less about the Iraqi people.

So a victory in Iraq means the defeat of two serious enemies, the Islamists, who blow up cars and buildings and markets, and the Left, which destroyes entire civilizations.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
McQ, some will ignore Petraeus, but clearly if the reason for skepticism of the Iraq policy is not based on what Petraeus is doing, then there is no reason for even a positive report to alter ones’ opinion. What you don’t seem to get is that a lot of us do not think that the primary problem in Iraq is a military problem, and thus military successes do not point to real progress in solving the fundamental problems.

So the fundamental question to debate seems to be not "is Petraeus finally engaged in an effective strategy and is there success in pursuing these tactical goals." I think the answer to those is yes, Petraeus and the Bush administration deserve credit for recognizing the need for a change in tactics. The real question is how much does this matter for the long term stability of Iraq, and for US interests in the region? Perhaps due to my bias I focus on the political and social forces at work in Iraq, and due to your bias you focus on specific military objectives and tactics. But granted that Petraeus is having success, what does that matter for the larger goal, and how do we know if it matters? It would be nice to have a direct discussion of that, because that is key difference of perspective.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb writes:
Perhaps due to my bias I focus on the political and social forces at work in Iraq,
Boris, you’ve never focused on anything but defeat for the American effort in Iraq and consequently for the defeat of civil society in Iraq. Your views are a neverending mutation of that focus.

Your "focus" on "political and social forces" was so intense that you have ignored virtually any and all developments in Iraqi politics and society. Your "focus" is on how the U.S. must lose, primarily to justify your predicate desire to see it lose. That’s about the stretch of you interest in the "political and social forces" and the mold into which you pour the little you actually find time to pay attention to.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Right, they weren’t a belligerent country before Bush came to power.

They were just sitting there minding their own business. They weren’t sponsoring terrorists, pursuing a nuclear program, or a major exporter of oil and extremism.
The problem faced now is that Iran has the potential to expand its influence by an alliance with a Shi’ite Iraq, Syria, and its close ties to Hezbollah. To many Iranians the US humiliation in Iraq has been an Allah-sent. They don’t believe the US can do much damage to them, and they are arming Shi’ite militias and setting in place a Iranian led Shi’ite resistance should the US manage to either replace Malaki with someone like Allawi or force a reconciliation. They want to make sure Iraq is not pro-American.

How do we deal with that? It’s not enough to say "win," because that begs the question, HOW? With Israel concerned about Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran and Syria involved in that dispute, and Pakistan in turmoil, how does continuing in Iraq help our strategic interests, especially when Iran has the capacity to undercut much of what we do through Shi’ite militia proxies? If corruption was decreasing, a true Sunni-Shi’ite reconciliation occurring, or large scale reconstruction I’d be more hopeful. Right now, I think the goal has to shift from getting a democratic and stable Iraq to finding a way to contain Iran. Iran is the real regional power, and potentially a revolultionary power that is scaring the beejeebers out of Sunni governments, especially Saudi Arabia.

Do you think our actions in Iraq can help us contain Iran? What more can or must be done?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Guess the NYT article is just for the record and not a directive to the purveyors of the LN. Prime purveyor Mr. Greenwald:
”The Op-Ed is an exercise in rank deceit from the start.”

 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
defund it
Exactly.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Boris Erb writes (one must read the entire squeal):
The problem faced now is that Iran has the potential to expand its influence by an alliance with a Shi’ite Iraq, Syria, and its close ties to Hezbollah. [Etc.]
Boris, when he gets nervous or feels pressed, often forgets, among other things, the old maxim "one thing at a time," and suddenly "potential" things fall into a pile of tewibble, simply tewibble problems that must be very impressive to the besieged comfort of students and the matronly academics who herd them.

You’d think that 20 years ago the Soviet Union didn’t still control half of Europe and wasn’t still being apologized for by political "scientists."

You’d also think that countries like Syria and Iran really were acting from positions of strength, when the wrong move gets their rubble bounced in a blink of the eye.

We’ve got "poblems, Poblems, and more POBLEMS! Tewibble things could happen!"
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
We’ve elevated Iran to regional superpower status.
Right, they weren’t a belligerent country before Bush came to power.

They were just sitting there minding their own business. They weren’t sponsoring terrorists, pursuing a nuclear program, or a major exporter of oil and extremism.
Our FUBAR Geniuses have made that dangerous rogue nation more powerful. That’s a bad thing.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
There’s a lot not to like about the editorial. I really don’t get why conservatives expect liberals and centrists to have a big "come to Jesus" moment about two invasion and surge semi-advocates, visiting part of Iraq for eight days and deciding that "victory" (whatever that might constitute) "might" (whatever that means from a probability standpoint) be possible.

One part of it stands out (and I’ll admit that its a throw-away line), because this theme shows up in so many "surge is sorta working" articles and essays.
In Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood, which has seen some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers.
Now, exactly what does the presence of shoppers mean? People need food and fuel and medicine, whether there’s a war going on or not. Is it really that great a sign of success that Iraqis are not simply starving to death in their apartments and are willing to go out and risk a real, but statistically unlikely, chance of being killed in order to avoid starving to death? The markets are relatively well-protected and crowded, making it difficult to be kidnapped or just shot in the middle of the street (which is a much bigger danger than the car bombings).

I’m not aware of any phase of our occupation where shopping did not occur, nor am I aware of any low-to-mid grade civil wars where people did not still go out and try to get food, regardless of the protection of foreign soldiers. But whenever a Republican delegation or military brass gives a report about what’s happening in Iraq, anecdotes about the popularity of Iraq’s shops comes up. And we’re really expected to believe that this is more important than the bodies turning up in the streets and the inability of the Iraqi electrical grid to provide power for longer than an hour a day.

And somehow it’s the liberals who have their eyes closed here.
 
Written By: badger
URL: http://
FUBAR Geniuses...
New "too cute" catch-phrase David?

Goes well with the depth of analysis you bring to the conversation.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I’m not aware of any phase of our occupation where shopping did not occur, nor am I aware of any low-to-mid grade civil wars where people did not still go out and try to get food, regardless of the protection of foreign soldiers.
I’m also sure you are ignoring the fact that they are pointing to shopping as a ’normal activity’ vs. furtive shopping out of utter necessity and at the risk of one’s life.

But ...
And somehow it’s the liberals who have their eyes closed here.
You have to have your eyes open to be able to discern the difference.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I question the timing of the piece in the NYT
OK now I’ve said it to everyone else’s relief. LOL
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Shaughnessey:
Our FUBAR Geniuses have made [Iran] more powerful. That’s a bad thing.
If standing naked on the world stage looking worse than the North Koreans is "more powerful," I’d love to see what "less powerful" looks like. Iran has almost gotten to its turn on the queue.

Iran is, above all things, fully exposed in the light of the attention being paid to the region. Mullahocracy has no future, but its future gets shorter the closer it gets to waving nuclear weapons around. To the extent possible, it is being put "through the system" of the collective international security apparatus, such as it is. If it gets to the end of that without resolving its nuclear weapons program, well...

Iran is an accident waiting to happen, and it should stop bluffing, before it’s too late.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
FUBAR Geniuses. Cute. And fearsomely accurate.

Please bear with me. I’m still working to improve the depth of my thinking to raise it to your level. Let me practice: Gen, David Petraeus will say in September (right after the Iraqi parliament’s month-long vacation ends) that military progresss is being made in Iraq, but more time is needed (for what, who knows, another Parliamentary vacation?). President Bush willl say, Stay the Course. And by the way, Write Me Another One of Those Big-Billions Blank Checks so I and my FUBAR Geniuses can continue making this country less safe. McQ will applaud and say, Carry On.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
If that’s any indication, you need to keep practicing. I’d suggest heading on back to Greenwald and trying it out on him.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Greenwort doesn’t seem to be able to find any of Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack stuff that says things are going bad, but there is plenty. It took me about 90 seconds.

I’ll grant Greenwort that some of their stuff is on the "pro" side of the war, but there is also plenty of stuff that I’m sure the Bushies wish had never seen the light of day.

Back in the olden days, when dinosaurs roamed Washington, they used to call this "objective."
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I’d suggest heading on back to Greenwald and trying it out on him.
Did Tony Snow tell you to write that? Or did you make it up all by yourself?
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Iran is an accident waiting to happen
It’s worse than that.

As Iran gets closer to a "device," any "nuclear event" in the Middle East becomes their problem, in spades, even if it isn’t their "device."

I don’t think Mullahocracy has figured that out yet.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Gen, David Petraeus will say in September (right after the Iraqi parliament’s month-long vacation ends) ..
.. and right after the House and Senate (and most of France) come back from their vacations that ..

Or will the House and Senate forego their vacations to actually accomplish something that will benefit those who voted for them.

Pot meet Pan.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Did Tony Snow tell you to write that? Or did you make it up all by yourself?
Actually neither. Or weren’t you able to discern that for yourself?

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Too bad the REAL FUBAR geniuses are the Dems who voted for the war based solely on political considerations, and then spent the next years acting like they were duped....yet still refuse to end the war by using their purse power.

Of course David never mentions this.

Carry on with your talking points David.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Shaughnessy writes:
President Bush willl say, Stay the Course. And by the way, Write Me Another One of Those Big-Billions Blank Checks so I and my FUBAR Geniuses can continue making this country less safe. McQ will applaud and say, Carry On.
If anything, Bush could be faulted for running a bargain basement war, instead of a war that is just a bargain, which it is. The problems we are addressing in the Middle East, in the modern sense, have ripened over six, seven, eight decades. They were never going to get better on their own. Saddam, for instance, would have been followed by his even more capricious sons. The U.S. isn’t "less safe," it’s at war, and the enemy, in both his evident and amorphous forms, must be pursued.

What sensible people knew on 9/11 was that we had gotten off easy. It could have been much worse. That time it was al Qaeda, next time it could be some other group we never heard of, sponsored by any number of players among the radical Islamic movements. Al Qaeda is, in any case, but "the base." It wasn’t culminating something on 9/11. It was getting it started in earnest.

This is serious business, and if we don’t do what we have to to prevail in this phase of our conflict with this mixture of Islamic instability, aggression, and ideology, the next stage will be blindingly worse. There are many fronts in this sort of war, but the most important front is in the formation of our will to win. We are deluded if we think that we can lose in Iraq or anywhere and not embolden the enemy.

This is not a new Cold War. It is a different thing altogether, and we have to properly form our will to fight it.

 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
right after the House and Senate (and most of France) come back from their vacations that ..

Or will the House and Senate forego their vacations to actually accomplish something that will benefit those who voted for them.
Neither the United States nor France is in the midst of a civil war barely controlled by a foreign occupying force. We get to take vacations. They don’t; not while our soldiers and money are on the line.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
McQ;

Funny, though, that you should mention Greenwald. My falling out with him came when it became clear to me that his independence was fraudulent, and that he had, largely for reasons of personal aggrandizement, made compacts with Democratic operatives about what messages he would deliver. Any of this sound familiar to you?)
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Dems who voted for the war based solely on political considerations,
Absolutely true.
spent the next years acting like they were duped
Largely true.
yet still refuse to end the war by using their purse power
The Democrats are cowards. But just maybe things will be different come September.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Funny, though, that you should mention Greenwald. My falling out with him came when it became clear to me that his independence was fraudulent, and that he had, largely for reasons of personal aggrandizement, made compacts with Democratic operatives about what messages he would deliver. Any of this sound familiar to you?)
Yeah. I’d conclude you’re prone to make false assumptions.

That’s your problem, David, not mine.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The Democrats are cowards. But just maybe things will be different come September.
LOL no, they’ll always be cowards, they’re just hoping for enough political cover to lure a couple spineless GOP members onto their side to try to stand up to Bush.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
McQ:

You misunderstand my point and seem to be reading a lot more into O’Hanlon’s piece than I did. Where do the authors comment the nature of the shopping, besides the fact that it’s supposedly happening more (I guess the increase must have come during the 8 days they were in Iraq)?

And my point is not that shopping in Iraq is dangerous. I don’t doubt that, aside from staying in ones house as much as possible, shopping is one of the safer things an Iraqi can do. You do is in a crowded public place, you can easily go in a group, it is a place regularly monitored and secured by Americans or Iraqi military/police, etc.

My point is that the fact that shopping is happening is a really meager metric of whether or not insurgency is happening. I think that if O’Hanlon had gone to Lebanon in the 80’s he would have seen people shopping. As an objective of the surge, creating relatively safe shopping conditions has got to be the lowest of the low-hanging fruit, especially because I don’t think Iraqis stopped shopping at any point during our occupation. And yet we hear about this supposed accomplishment over and over again, every time someone wants to point to a sign that we’ve turned a corner.
 
Written By: badger
URL: http://
Do you think our actions in Iraq can help us contain Iran?
Erb, have you ever bothered to look at a map. To the east of Iran - Afghanistan. To the West of Iran - Iraq. I would say that pro-American governments on either side of iran is a good beginning to some kind of containment strategy.

Why is it one the one hand you want to contain Iran but on the other hand you keep tallking about engaging them in dialogue about Iraqi security. You do seem to move the goalposts around a lot there, Erb.
What you don’t seem to get is that a lot of us do not think that the primary problem in Iraq is a military problem
Petraeus was not sent there to do anything but address the military problem and, by doing so, provide the government with the breathing room it needs to resolve some of the thorny reconciliation issues that are plaguing it. I agree there needs to be some political progress but without the security the surge is attempting to provide, any political progress will be for naught. It seems to me, Erb, when there is political progress you lean heavily on the lack of security as the main problem in Iraq, but when the military progress is visible, as now, you lean back on the lack of political progress. You can’t have one without the other and I do not see anybody here (except the junior-high school irishman) saying otherwise.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Petraeus was not sent there to do anything but address the military problem and, by doing so, provide the government with the breathing room it needs to resolve some of the thorny reconciliation issues that are plaguing it. I agree there needs to be some political progress but without the security the surge is attempting to provide, any political progress will be for naught.
The August vacation should really help resolve the political problems. Huh? Maybe, just maybe, the Iraqis don’t really care what we want them to do. They are just using us.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
You misunderstand my point and seem to be reading a lot more into O’Hanlon’s piece than I did. Where do the authors comment the nature of the shopping, besides the fact that it’s supposedly happening more (I guess the increase must have come during the 8 days they were in Iraq)?
Actually Badger, my only reference source isn’t the O’Hanlon piece. It is a multitude of reports from varied sources, most of them on the ground in Iraq.

So it wasn’t so much me reading to much into what O’Hanlon’s piece but instead having enough information to reach that conclusion, something, I’d surmise by your analysis, you don’t have.
My point is that the fact that shopping is happening is a really meager metric of whether or not insurgency is happening.
I understood your point precisely which is why I said what I did as I did. Apparently you still don’t understand it though.

There’s a difference between going shopping when ever and where ever you wish and going furtively and at the risk of your life only when necessity drives you to go.

But they’re both called "shopping".

Go read Michael Yon’s stuff to see if you can figure out what I’m saying.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Petraeus was not sent there to do anything but address the military problem and, by doing so, provide the government with the breathing room it needs to resolve some of the thorny reconciliation issues that are plaguing it.
You know, you just wonder how many times you have to point out to people that security (a military problem) is a leading requirement while political solutions lag behind and depend on that to be in place before they begin to pick up steam. That’s the purpose of the military mission, a mission Petraeus and everyone else, to include myself, acknowledge is not the solution for fixing Iraq’s woes. They are to be found in the political realm. The military mission is a mission which establishes the environment for the political situation to right itself.

How freakin’ hard is that to understand?

Does it work? Look at Anbar for heaven sake. It has become a relatively secure area and things necessary for a political solution have not only begun to happen but pick up speed as well.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Erb,

Iran already was funding Hamas/Hizbullah before Iraq. Iran already had Syria as an ally before Iraq. Iran was funding Shia militants in Iraq while Saddam Hussein was still in power - they even had access to car bombs and such then.

Granted, the Shia have more power in Iraq now and we can’t simply oppress them away.

You worry so much about Iran/Shia you sound like those paleo-cons who worried about the ’commie’ ANC taking over South Africa. Get a grip.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
You know, you just wonder how many times you have to point out to people that security (a military problem) is a leading requirement while political solutions lag behind and depend on that to be in place before they begin to pick up steam. That’s the purpose of the military mission, a mission Petraeus and everyone else, to include myself, acknowledge is not the solution for fixing Iraq’s woes. They are to be found in the political realm. The military mission is a mission which establishes the environment for the political situation to right itself.

How freakin’ hard is that to understand?
Utterly naieve, McQ. Upon what do you base the presumption that the political solutions are around the corner? The fact that the Iraqi parliament is taking the month off before the Petraeus report? More importantly, you ignore all the costs to the U.S., the real costs in money, lives, prestige and power, not to mention the opportunity costs. The FUBAR Geniuses you admire so much have made it impossible for us to "win" in Iraq, because there is no realistic outcome that will constitute success (for us). That’s why you stay out of other people’s civil wars. We should be optimizing the conditions for a withdrawal, not raising the stakes more and more by calling it failure. Stupid leadership. Stupid.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
I see no correlation between ground-up successes and the likelihood of success at the national level. What you write today is consistent with what you’ve been writing for a few months now, which can be boiled down to:

(a) ethnic cleansing is largely complete except in Bagdad;
(b) Sunni communities are truly sick of the (largely Saudi) AQI militants. With the support of US forces, local Sunnis are being effective at clearing out foreigners.
(c) With violence dying down, some return to normalcy is being seen.

Hooray for the good news. But what does the future hold?

We are not just adding Sunnis to the armed forces. According to the WaPo, we are actively creating Sunni militias.
The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces in order to improve security and promote reconciliation at the neighborhood level, according to senior U.S. commanders.
Full article here

The economic activity is starting from a very low baseline, and literally billions of dollars in reconstruction money has vanished into useless projects and corruption. The Congress is not going to spend that money again. How long before people get frustrated with the lack of progress in their lives?

Most critically, the improvement is being seen in ethnically homogeneous areas. That evidence does not support the conclusion that national reconciliation is anywhere on the horizon.

You think I’m being defeatist; I think you’re being naive. At some level we’re both right.

 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
All this blather. It seems that we spend more time talking about talk than about what is happening and why.

This war had majority support when it began, I was not among the supporters for reasons I outlined before we went in, specifically, that we had not produced any empirical evidence that the claimed "massive stockpiles of WMD’s" existed, as well as the obvious fact that al Qaeda was not operationally or ideologically connected to Saddam Huseein.

Still, when we went in, it was clear that accomplishing the goal of a stable Iraq under new, reasonable, leadership was in out best interests. We needed the military strategy to be effective enough to allow the political development. The administration’s plan on both fronts were severly lacking. And because the pretext that they used to initiate the war turned out to be wrong, time became the most important factor of all. If we found al Qaeda links, and WMD’s, the American people would have granted a LOT more time to get it right, without those things, the administration did not have time to use the wrong strategy, and they did use the wrong strategy, and another wrong strategy after that, and now when they finally at least have the best military strategy in place, there is no telling whether the political strategy will work, and little likelihood that it will be given the time it will take to find out.

The loss of support of this war has less to do with the poor reasoning used to sell this war than it was the poor prosecution of the war itself, opponents pointed to both as the war progressed.

The current situation is this, the administration has been misleading Americans for 4 years about whether we accomplishing our goals, and they are saying the same things now, only now they happen to be closer to the truth. The problem is that the President has simply lost all credibility, so even though he is telling the truth now, people do not see it as being any different than when he wasn’t. It’s going to take time for American’s to find out that something is different. But being that the President was wrong for 4 years, and people who don’t believe him have only been wrong for a matter of months, I think it’s unfair to be overly critical.

If you tell me the sky is green every day, and every day the sky is blue, I will eventually get the point where I don’t need to go outside to know you are wrong... so maybe, just maybe, the sky WILL turn green and I’ll be the one that’s wrong for awhile. In this case, it’s not me, I DO see the progress, and I do agree that we have an excellent military strategy, but I can certainly why so many people don’t even bother to look to know the President is still wrong.

The President who cried wolf!

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I think we agree that there are different kinds of “shopping”. And I guess I’ll have to defer to your multitudinous knowledge of accounts of Iraqi market scenes by Michael Yon correspondents, Pentagon spokesmen, and congressional delegations. But while the distinction between the different kinds of shopping is important, I think it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference simply by looking at a market. If Michael Yon is actually studying how often Iraqi people shop, asking Iraqi shoppers if safety concerns cause them to shop less often or travel further distances to go to “safe” markets, or other useful measures of what kind of shopping is occurring, I’d have to say, “Hey, I and a collection of foreign reporters might be wrong about this”.

But “free” shopping (what you and I do) and “furtive” shopping (what a person does when they want to minimize their chances of dying while purchasing food in a Hobbesian nightmare) may actually look a lot alike. People don’t always cling tightly to walls or run erratically through the streets when they are trying to avoid danger. If I were an Iraqi shopper I’d move as calmly and predictably as possible, in as large a group as possible, both to avoid the attention of those that might do me harm and to make sure the soldiers protecting me from people that look exactly like me don’t get the wrong impression. And if one of those soldiers saw me, he might well think, “Hey, that guy looks pretty much like I do when I’m at Walgreens.” and he’d be right. But I’m going to go, buy as much dry and canned goods as I can carry, go back to my apartment, and not go back to that market again for as long as possible. The fact that this soldier saw me and a bunch of other people at a market, and maybe I was even in a good mood because I’m finally out of the apartment for a bit doesn’t really mean that the surge is or isn’t working. Our soldiers, spokesmen, and congresspersons are not mind readers, and until someone actually does the hard work of figuring out why and how often people are going to open-air markets, the anecdotes of crowded, bustling, markets, don’t really mean anything besides the fact that Iraqis probably aren’t starving to death.
 
Written By: badger
URL: http://
The fact that this soldier saw me and a bunch of other people at a market, and maybe I was even in a good mood because I’m finally out of the apartment for a bit doesn’t really mean that the surge is or isn’t working.
If larger groups are being seen, it seems, based on your logic, that this would indicate that less people are going as infrequently as possible, otherwise the groups of people shopping would be consistently smaller.

Of course there can mitigating circumstances, shortages and rationing would preclude people from staying away from the markets, even if they wanted to, or the end of a shortage might cause an unusual "surge" in the appearance of shoppers, without indicating lesser risk.

But if the numbers of people in the markets is consistently higher than previously observed, and there are no mitigating circumstances as referenced above, then it is very likely an indicator that people perceive less danger.

Sadly, though this military strategy is difficult, in terms of it’s importance, it is akin to mowing the grass before a football game. It makes the game easier to play, but the players have to take to the field and perform. On the heels of a successful clear, retain, and hold strategy, the Iraqi political leaders and citizens have to win their game.

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Harun: I am absolutely convinced that Iran is potentially the biggest threat to our national interest in the region. The world changed more in 1979 than in 2001, and Iran, due to its oil reserves, size, ability to disrupt Persian gulf oil traffic, and geographic proximity to Central Asia, Russia and China plays a fundamental role. Right now if I had to guess how history would look at the two Iraq wars, it would be a sense of amazement of how we ignored the real Iranian challenge and engaged in two wars that fundamentally strengthened Iran.

I don’t believe Iran wants to disrupt the region or throw it into some kind of massive Shi’ite - Sunni war. Rather, they want to be the regional power, eclipsing the influence of Sunni Arab states. Iraq, however, creates both an increase to their power and US weakness may cause them to believe that they have more clout and strength than they do. Iran could miscalculate and push the US and Israel too far, or arouse a sectarian war growing slowly from Sunni-Shi’ite violence one the US leaves. This would drive up oil prices considerably, and, given other weak points in the global economy, could push us into a world recession, even depression. If there is chaos there, Russia, China and the US will also be involved in a high stakes competition for oil and gas in places which could erupt in violence of various sorts.

Terrorism can kill people, but in terms of our national power and status our Achilles heel is our economy, and its dependence on cheap energy. We can handle that without a global crisis if and only if the Mideast manages to stay relatively stable, and Iranian ambitions not snuffed out (they are a regional power and of course will act like one) but contained in a way that gets them to buy into the existing order. I believe that the Bush Administration originally thought victory in Iraq and a pro-American Iraq would be a kind of silver bullet to both pressure (maybe bring regime change?) to Iran and create a kind of force for stability in the region. Now that this hasn’t happened, and it looks like we will leave in 2008 (at least a good chunk will leave, and the surge will end), the question is how can we leave with: a) giving Iraq a real chance for stability; and b) contain Iran. These questions are linked because an Iraq in chaos will increase the chances of Iranian miscalculation out of belief they are stronger than they are (much like the US miscalculation of 2003).

I generally agree with the posters who say too quick an exit could lead to disaster. But the best outcome possible is probably not American victory, but a weird situation where people will be arguing if the mission was success or failure. If people will be able to have that argument, that will mean that at least Iraq has not imploded and the region has not spiralled into chaos, and for now, that’s probably the best we can hope for.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Cap,

I see the logic of your argument. And you’re right that a plausible interpretation of seeing markets that are more crowded is that people are more confident of their safety and make more trips. But it seems that you agree that crowded markets could indicate a lot of different things, and could indicate several things at once. Just to add another pessimistic possibility to your already pretty good list: Bagdad is now facing serious power shortages and is in the middle of summer, so peoples’ food is probably spoiling at a much faster rate, requiring more trips to the market for perishables.

Now maybe that’s the “most likely” explanation or maybe yours is. I think we understandably refer back to our biases and understanding of other aspects of Iraq in how we establish the likeliness of interpretations, rather than by more academic methods. And this is my point: An increasingly crowded marketplace (assuming this trend is real, rather than just an anecdote from two guys who spent a total of 8 days on the ground) can mean almost anything, that’s what makes it such a useless measurement of the progress of the surge. There have got to be hundreds of more significant metrics (kilo-watt hours of power generated, number of Iraqi police recruits, kidnappings, etc) but this is one that gets cited over and over by surge supporters (you don’t see a lot of skeptics citing this as evidence of problems with food or energy supply).

And your football metaphor is lovely, but I think that this particular grass has been mown for a long time. Meanwhile the referees are taking a vacation from refusing to talk to one another and trying to kill one another, the yardlines are being painted at gunpoint, and our ostensible teammates don’t speak our language and often switch teams in-between downs.
 
Written By: badger
URL: http://
McQ, As you stated in an earlier post:
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."
As shown in this post and comments, the white flags will be run out by a lot more people than just "Harry Reid and John Murtha" regardless what Petraeus reports in September.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
As shown in this post and comments, the white flags will be run out by a lot more people than just "Harry Reid and John Murtha" regardless what Petraeus reports in September.
Instructive, isn’t it?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think this means the Democrats will have a Clinton/Leiberman ticket.
It gives her a big jump to the right, without going to right. It gives her the independent vote, and tells the hard Left go eat cake.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
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."
This isn’t quite right. Reid is too far to the "Dark Side" for that, so try instead ..
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 over, bring home all the troops."
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
The human nonsense generator, Boris Erb, wrote:
I am absolutely convinced that Iran is potentially the biggest threat to our national interest in the region. The world changed more in 1979 than in 2001, and Iran, due to its oil reserves, size, ability to disrupt Persian gulf oil traffic, and geographic proximity to Central Asia, Russia and China plays a fundamental role. Right now if I had to guess how history would look at the two Iraq wars, it would be a sense of amazement of how we ignored the real Iranian challenge and engaged in two wars that fundamentally strengthened Iran.
The "strengthening" of Iran, at least as the vaporous "potentially biggest...threat to our national interest in the region" is eelish concept-making at its least attractive. Iran is isolated. Its leaders are kooks. Central Asia is primarily Turkic and Sunni, and the Russian and Chinese interest is always "what’s in it for me?"
The world changed more in 1979 than in 2001,
1979, Boris, was also the year of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The next year, the Iran-Iraq war began and wore out both of those rotten regimes over the next eight years. (The price of oil fell throughout the ’80s, by the way, and the U.S. won the Cold War.)

In 2001, the U.S. was forced to turn its attention to the Middle East in a way it never had. Iran is on the brink of having its nuclear program flattened, and that would be the easy way. It’s also on the hook now for whatever Hezbollah does. And no one is overlooking the fact that it has been outsourcing terrorism for 25 years. And, the Iranian people can’t stand the regime.

That’s not "strengthening," Boris, no matter how powerful the fantasy life of you or the Iranians, but it’s not surprising to see you attaching yourself to their cause. (Yes, that’s right, your oblique attachment in that post isn’t fooling anyone who knows you. You’ll always be there for an enemy of the U.S. That pattern has held true for a decade, at least, even retrospectively, for wars and/or enemies past. In fact, if my memory serves, you’ve defended the Iranians in their quest for nuclear weapons.)
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Wow, two people with neo-conservative ties and who supported the war from the start say things are looking good and people are falling all over themselves assuming complete victory. Enjoy your hope, but remember, reality can be surprising — as was learned in 2003. O’Hanlon’s always been close to the neo-conservatives and joined with Kagan before the war — saying that his support as he works at the Brookings Institute is some kind of liberal shift is silly. This isn’t that much more surprising than the Weekly Standard’s eternal optimism. I think there are some tactical improvements, but these guys are really saying nothing new. Now if some real critics of the action reported similarly, that would be something.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Wow, two people with neo-conservative ties and who supported the war from the start say things are looking good and people are falling all over themselves assuming complete victory.
Show me one of our "complete victory" statements from the comments above. Erb, sometimes I wonder if English is your second language because you seem too obtuse at times to be that familiar with it.
O’Hanlon’s always been close to the neo-conservatives and joined with Kagan before the war — saying that his support as he works at the Brookings Institute is some kind of liberal shift is silly.
Regardless of their political ties, the fact their article ran in the NY Times is, in itself, a considerable achievement - or do you think the Times is too far in bed with the "NeoCons" to be considered a reliable rag?
Now if some real critics of the action reported similarly, that would be something.
How about just someone with an objective view of the events on the ground. Someone who does not have a dog in this fight, someone who can afford to be objective and not lose the support of one side or the other - i.e. his meal ticket. And who would that be, Erb? Give me a few names of "objective" observors who might be able to tell the real tale? But here’s the kicker, Erb - would you even believe that person?

 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Hey SShiell, if you’ve noticed I’ve: a) agreed Petraeus is doing a good job; b) the strategy is yielding tactical successes and is probably the best strategy undertaken so far, c) agree that leaving too fast at this point could create an humanitarian disastser; d) agree that Iran is likely arming Shi’ite militias and this complicates the US mission; and e) have praised the diplomatic shift since 2005 of the Bush administration, saying they’ve gone from arrogant anti-diplomacy to a pretty deft job of dealing with other countries. So I’m far from the typical anti-war line, and have been taking seriously the arguments and links here, as well as other sources pro- and anti- war (it’s wrong to go left/right or republican/democrat — after all Pat Buchanan makes strong anti-war arguments). So I’ve been pretty objective in my analysis, I think, and have been convinced by a number of arguments made here. I also still believe that: a) how we leave is important and since we will be leaving soon (how much and how fast is uncertain), we should be discussing that; and b) the political and social factors are what will determine the future of Iraq — Gen. Petraeus himself notes that — and these are still very troubling and could undo any success by the surge. Also note that the surge has limited aims, and we need to look at other factors to think about any chance of success.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb writes:
if you’ve noticed I’ve: a) agreed...[Etc.]
See Erb’s post for all that he’s agreed to. When Erb starts losing an argument, as he must because he knows very little about most topics, one of his favorite tactics is to adopt the arguments of his opponents, so that he is now arguing, as if it were really nothing at all, really, their positions.

Next: Boris hits the reset button and he’s back to his two themes: anti-Americanism and socialism.

 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I have long ( and long) argued that this should have been a "big footprint" war. This was based on the essentialy imperial regime that Saddam had going for him. Pound eight kinds of hell and sixteen kinds of snot out of everybody and publically humiliate Saddam before hanging him= resentment+fear and compliance in the outliers. Temporary colonial government with visible input from tribal cheiftans for two years.

Oh, well, what the hell. We did not go in that way, and there are good odds that I would have been wrong. It’s happened before.

Twice.

Okay, possibly more often.

But I will maintain that we should have handled this: More Japan, Less Germany.

Nae’theless, Petraeus’ winning the confidence and approval of the sheikhs is incredibly good news. They will be a massive check on Iran and Syrian expansionism. They are more tired of Al Queda buggers than we are. Sectarian and tribal rivalries will continue to be problematic, but for once, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to be an oncoming train.

I like the concept of Iraq as a beachhead, and will keep my fingers crossed, but this is going to be a long war and irresollution seems, I dunno, irresolute or "infirm of purpose."

Apologies to Mcwatt.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
I’ve got no patience at all with this "the Iraqi government went on vacation" *thang* that is trotted out like it is really important.

They aren’t allowed to go on vacation, David, even though every other parliament on the planet does?

Nevermind the heat... what do you think elected persons generally *do* when they are recessed for months? Could they go home to their local districts, talk to people? Find out how things are going? Meet with local leaders and work their local politics? Take care of business?

The idea, somehow, that elected persons must be sitting in a big room all together and arguing actually *accomplishes* anything is just... show me where that happens? Or is that another thing that is special for Iraq because its in a war? Our idiot Congress can manage to do nothing much but spend money for years and play little political games, and that’s okay, but Iraq has to be held to a higher standard. They don’t *get* to be upset at each other, jocky for influence, or go home to their districts and press some flesh, talk to people, and stay connected to the lives of the people they are making laws for.

I hear this "They went on vacation!!" and I already know that whoever said it is just *looking* for something to be upset about and hasn’t thought about it at all.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com
I’ve got it!

This article is a classic "trial balloon".

I can hear the editorial conference now: "Let’s run it and see how it breaks among the pundits. We get a feel for where everyone is, establish the bona fides of the authors for future crepe-hangers and counter the charges that we only ever run progressive stuff. It’s a trifecta!

If it bombs, we have set up a classic re-run of our standard stuff and we’ve created a great audience for it, which, let’s face it, our troops were getting pretty bored with the same-old. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Run it!"/em>
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Speaking of Iran ..

TEHRAN, Iran Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, a founding member of Iran’s Islamic regime and leader of an important government assembly, died Monday.

Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Synova, to be fair, many Administration officials have been critical of the vacation. Iraqi politics has ground to a standstill, mostly due to a mix of corruption and an unwillingness to engage in real reconciliation. Even the successful aspects of the surge are in danger. Uncle Pinky noted the most positive impact:
Nae’theless, Petraeus’ winning the confidence and approval of the sheikhs is incredibly good news. They will be a massive check on Iran and Syrian expansionism. They are more tired of Al Queda buggers than we are. Sectarian and tribal rivalries will continue to be problematic, but for once, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to be an oncoming train.
The danger inherent here is that this could fuel increased Sunni-Shi’ite tensions and create a collapse not just in Iraq, but the region. Unless the political situation improves, the surge could even be seen in hindsight as having emboldened Sunni resistance (even while weakening al qaeda) and angered the Shi’ites into avoiding reconciliation. I hope that doesn’t happen, but surge success without a political counterpart might lead nowhere.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
And you know I always agree with the Administration. ;-P

Surge success (and a General on our side that doesn’t seem shy about telling the Iraqi leadership to get its head out of its *ss) very well may force the necessary political counterpart. If people resist reconciliation how much of that is because they don’t have physical security? Sure, a whole lot is going to be a desire for retaliation for the years Shia were treated so badly, but physical security will make it easier to look forward. Of *course* there has to be a political solution, but that goes hand in hand with providing an atmosphere were people aren’t afraid to give a little.

But if it helps or not, if they have ground to a standstill politically I fail to see how sitting there in Baghdad is likely to do anything but cure the cement. And I had understood that the *government* isn’t in recess any more than our government shuts down because Congress goes home for a while. So is there really no one working on these problems?

Heck, they may be just waiting to see if we’re going to abandon them or not.
 
Written By: Synova
URL: http://synova.blogspot.com

 
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