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A note of caution about the present situation and our future in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I've had a bit of fun the last couple of days yanking the chain of various anti-war leftists about a few reports that have said things look somewhat better in Iraq.

I want to make it clear that I'm not claiming it's over, nor am I claiming we've turned the corner, or that they're in their "last throes. Nor am I saying success is guaranteed. That's because none of those claims would be true.

As Dale implies below, it appears we may have struck upon a military strategy which will work in quelling the insurgency's violence and give the Iraqi government the time and space it needs to do the work of reconciliation. That's the military portion of this puzzle and that's only a preliminary part of getting to what we would call 'success'.

Success, of course, means a relatively stable, reconciled, nominally liberal state able to defend itself from enemies both foreign and domestic. That's a political goal. And as Dale points out below and I've pointed out constantly, that depends on the Iraqis themselves. That is not a given by any means. The only current sign of hope I see in that particular realm at the moment is the "bottom-up" reconciliation which is beginning to pick up steam in various provinces.

That said, even with the positive trends we see with the surge, it is still to early to claim they will continue or that it will succeed. All that can be claimed, at this point, is the trends and indicators of possible success in the "protect the population" goal of the surge seem good and we are meeting with initial success.

This is a change of military strategy and it is having the desired effect. That's a good thing. The Iraqi central government isn't accomplishing the political things it needs to do to achieve reconciliation and take operational control of their country as they must. That's a bad thing. And no matter how long we do the military "good thing" or how effective it is, unless the central government does its political thing, "success" as I've outlined it above, isn't going to be achieved.

Where we must operationally draw the line about how long we stay is at that point where we feel our military 'good thing' has given them ample opportunity to do their political thing. That is a line based on security conditions (of which we have some control), not a date. Once we determine that a) they've achieved the goal outlined or b) they're not going to achieve them even if it was perfectly safe in Iraq, then we need to leave. Until then, we need to continue to work toward achieving the atmosphere necessary to for them to do what they have to do.
 
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Good post. One possibility is partition. If we have an alliance of sorts with anti-al qaeda Sunnis, decide that we can’t really stop Iran from arming militias and supporting Shi’ite unwillingness to negotiate, and can convince the Turks we’ll help assure that Kurdistan won’t be a base of operations against Turkey, there is a possibility for stability. Regional diplomacy could prevent the different sides from engaging in a Sunni-Shi’ite war, and American troops could be kept in Kurdistan to a) be there in case things fall apart; b) remind Iran that we are in the region; and c) assure Turkey that we have the Kurds in check.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’ve had a bit of fun the last couple of days yanking the chain of various anti-war leftists about a few reports that have said things look somewhat better in Iraq.
I don’t know if "fun" would’ve been the word I’d have chosen. The word "vindication" leaps to mind.
Nor am I saying success is guaranteed.
The only guarantee here is that of failure, should we withdraw, as the Democrats council.
And as Dale points out below and I’ve pointed out constantly, that depends on the Iraqis themselves.
Not completely. I agree, that the desire, and the commitment, on the part of the Iraqis must be there, for this to succeed. However, that’s not the only player at the table. Even today, a goodly number, if not the majority, of those inciting violence and participating in violence within Iraq, and Afghanistan, come from outside those countries... say, Pakistan, and Syria, for example.

(Which, I hasten to add, is precisely why I have been scoffing at those who suggest that the ups and downs of violence we have seen in Iraq, are the rejection by the Iraqis of America’s presence, per se’.In large part it is not the Iraqis, that we’re dealing with, there. )

Certainly, there is an element which must be dealt with by Iraqis. However, given these other powers, trying to shape events within Iraq, I believe, that at least in the short term, (15 years or so) it is beyond their capacity to handle, alone.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
McQ:

I commend you on a generally reasonable post. However, the devil is once again in the details. You write:
Where we must operationally draw the line about how long we stay is at that point where we feel our military ’good thing’ has given them ample opportunity to do their political thing. That is a line based on security conditions (of which we have some control), not a date. Once we determine that a) they’ve achieved the goal outlined or b) they’re not going to achieve them even if it was perfectly safe in Iraq, then we need to leave. Until then, we need to continue to work toward achieving the atmosphere necessary to for them to do what they have to do.
We stay until things are perfectly safe in Iraq? You’re not serious, I hope. The Iraqis have until September to show political progress. If not, we’re out. Still, I appreciate your attempt to recognize the countervailing conisderations.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
I’d like a situation like in Colombia, where there is an insurgency but its not truly a threat to the stability of a reasonably democratic regime.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Once we determine that a) they’ve achieved the goal outlined or b) they’re not going to achieve them even if it was perfectly safe in Iraq, then we need to leave.
I think what needs to be recognized is that the whole debate right now is over (b). I think that most people who advocate withdrawal do so because they think the (b) is currently true. From a military perspective, it is clear that we have the firepower to impose and maintain a somewhat peaceful occupation of Iraq assuming proper resources are brought to bear. But there is no evidence that the Shia majority will ever cede any significant power to the Sunni minority.

I do not advocate immediate withdrawal because the consequences would be too severe. However, the Bush administration needs to have some road map for a political solution other than create peace in Baghdad and hope the Shia and Sunni have the "space" to craft a solution. That assumes that it is the violence which is preventing a poitical solution. I don’t think that’s the case. What is preventing the political solution is generations of conflict and bitterness between Shia and Sunni. I am coming to the conclusion that the soft partition option may be the only chance at this point to salvage something, particularly since a fair amount of ethnic cleansing has already occurred. Implementation of that strategy obviously has its own set of major problems, but at this distance they seem more manageable than suddenly expecting the Maliki government to make space for the Sunnis.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
Finally!
And no matter how long we do the military "good thing" or how effective it is, unless the central government does its political thing, "success" as I’ve outlined it above, isn’t going to be achieved.
At last you acknowedge the real obstacles to victory in Iraq with something more substantive than, and that’s up to the Iraqis.

And yet you fail entirely to connect this post with this one, where you suggest that Maliki is enraged by our military strategy and threating to call out the Shia militias. If our military success actually makes political success less likely, how long do you intend to cheerlead for it? How much time is ample time? How likely are they do "do their political thing when the US forces are keeping at bay the consequences of not making those political compromises?


Harun, Columbia had a decade of La Violencia after which the even the unity government still didn’t control the whole country. Another eight years later the US instigated a military invasion of those areas which resulted in the creation of the FARC. Who we are still fighting today. And I could be wrong, but doesn’t Columbia still export some major problems to the US? If that is success, I’ll take failure.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
I think it is a bit early to say that opponents of this war, or even people who say it can’t be won, are wrong. I agree that this is the best military strategy we have put in place, and it almost certainly will provide the best environment for the political changes needed, but as I said before, it is akin to mowing the lawn before a football game. There is still a legitimate argument that regardless of the environment, the Iraqi people will not be able to arrive at a political agreement that provides for long term stability, or possibly even short term stability.

I don’t recall many people arguing that the US military was incapable of executing a military strategy that could provide the best environment, though many have argued that the Bush administration consistently failed to put such a strategy in place (until 4 years later).

For people who honestly believe that Iraq cannot create a stable political environment, then this successful strategy IS bad news, since it may mean more time in Iraq and more American soldiers dead, all for a goal that opponents believe cannot be attained.

I have my doubts, but being that I believe that the vast majority of the military would volunteer to continue (if given the choice), I would err on the side of giving more time. But I can’t help but note that if I am wrong, and Iraq cannot be stabilized, then I would have to look back at the present situation and acknowledge that the success of the surge bought nothing but more opportunities for our soldiers to die.

As a side note, it may be worth considering that if their is positive political movement, the dissention in the US may be far more of an incentive than a unity of purpose to stay as long as takes.



 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
’Harun, Columbia had a decade of La Violencia after which the even the unity government still didn’t control the whole country. Another eight years later the US instigated a military invasion of those areas which resulted in the creation of the FARC. Who we are still fighting today. And I could be wrong, but doesn’t Columbia still export some major problems to the US? If that is success, I’ll take failure.’

Yes, my point is there is a spectrum of what will be the end-state and I think Colombia would be a far better situation than say, Lebanon, no? We might get a Peru, where the Shining Path was defeated. These are all analogies - obviously Iraq doesn’t produce cocaine. p.s. FARC was formed more than 8 years ago. Their own website says 42 years ago. Let me know which I should believe.

My point is that a small insurgency that could be contained by a fairly democratic regime, ideally without the Shia death squads being needed as the government forces do a decent job....
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Harun, Believe both.
Another eight years later the US instigated a military invasion of those areas which resulted in the creation of the FARC.
Eight years after the end of La Violencia, that is 1966. Of course you are right that there is a spectrum of possible end-states, and some remnants of insurgency ins’t fatal to a country. Although I believe many of your fellow travelers here would characterize such a state as a safe-haven for Al Qaeda.
ideally without the Shia death squads being needed
Ia that you Mr. Negroponte?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://

 
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