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Iraq today in a capsule
Posted by: McQ on Monday, August 06, 2007

Newsday has a short editorial that pretty much summarizes where we are today:
A consensus is forming among impartial observers that the strategy of the troop surge orchestrated by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is starting to pay off, with growing evidence of successes on the ground.

Tactical advances against al-Qaida may eventually result in better security in the cauldron of central Iraq.
So the fact that the Surge seems to be working militarily is becoming undeniable. Or said another way, Harry Reid can call it a failure and GEN Petraeus incompetent all he wishes, but if he does, most people are going to question his veracity and not that of Petraeus. So, on the military side of things, barring a huge change, Democrats are going to have to find something other than their "the Surge isn't working" mantra to support troop withdrawals.

That brings us to the second part of "where we are today" in Iraq:
But they won't mean much unless they are accompanied by equally compelling evidence of political progress to heal the sectarian wounds ripping apart Iraq.

There is no such evidence of movement toward reconciliation in the dysfunctional Iraqi government. Quite the opposite. Last week, the country's largest Sunni political faction withdrew from the Iraqi cabinet. And testimony at a Senate hearing last Tuesday by Adm. Michael Mullen , the nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also painted a bleak picture. Mullen said the failure of Iraqi political leaders to make any progress toward national unity continues to push Iraq deeper into civil war and imperils the U.S. mission.
Up front, I don't agree with Mullen's "bleak picture" as he painted it. I do, however, agree that once the Surge accomplishes its mission, the real clock starts ticking toward withdrawal. At that time, as we've been told, the security picture will then be such that the lagging political progress has no reason or excuse for not going forward.

And that is where the new argument, if they want it to be a credible one, from the Democrats must come. There'll be some disagreement as to when the security situation is far enough along to start that clock, but it should be fairly evident when it happens that a consensus can form that, yeah, the clock is ticking.

To me this is where Democrats can make a credible and reasonable argument without all the nastiness and personal attacks to which Harry Reid has taken the debate. The entire premise of the Surge is to create security adequate enough for the necessary political side of this to take place among Iraqis.

If you don't think that's possible, I again would tell you to cast your eyes on Anbar. Anbar, at a provincial level, proves the point that if you can establish security, the political portion of the mission can begin to work and flourish. Since the Anbar Awakening, city governments and the provincial government have been established and connected. Projects are moving ahead at a rapid pace and, for the first time in years, relative peace has returned to that area.

So we'll see how the Democrats react to the September report by Petraeus and Crocker. If they continue to discount the Surge, it is their credibility which will be called into question, not Petraeus'. If they, rightfully, hammer on the lack of political progress and demand that change fairly quickly or they'll further demand our forces be withdrawn, I think their argument will be met with much more acceptance on the whole.
 
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If they continue to discount the Surge, it is their credibility which will be called into question, not Petraeus’. If they, rightfully, hammer on the lack of political progress and demand that change fairly quickly or they’ll further demand our forces be withdrawn, I think their argument will be met with much more acceptance on the whole.
I agree, McQ. The problem is whether Reid and Pelosi’s Masters (KosKidz & Company) will allow them to react in this manner.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
The Brookings Institute also has posted the 30 July update to their Iraq Index (Tracking Variable of Reconstruction & Security in Post Sadaam Iraq) which shows similar progress in the military arena and the lack of political progress.
http://www3.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index20070730.pdf
Wretchard at the Belmont Club has a good assessment of the report.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Sorry, for a link to the Belmont Club:
http://www.fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Wow. I didn’t think it possible, but I think McQ and I are pretty close to agreement about Iraq! One difference is I do think the picture is bleak on the political side. Iraq has lost much of its middle class in the last 20 years, and professionals have been fleeing to other countries. Populist Shi’ite ideas (such as al Sadr’s) are becoming political mainstream. Even if Iraq does stabilize, it will likely make choices we don’t like, and become very different than the Iraq the Administration expected to emerge when it choose to invade.

The problem with focusing on Anbar is that the political progress there has been internal to the Sunni community, which is a minority in the country. The future will be largely determined by the majority Shi’ites, and how they deal with the Sunnis (and their ties to Iran). I think the debate and discussion should now be about not just when the withdraw begins, but how it happens.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Have been searching in vain for any bloganalysis, other than at Small Wars Journal, of implications related to the "bottom up" political conciliation going on in Iraq. I suppose the closest thing to such analysis has been discussions of "soft partition" from Tom Barnett and some others. I hope Crocker and Petraeus reports can be interpreted for content supportive of strong positive political development trends in the provinces, because the Country Team certainly can’t focus on this aspect without undermining whatever rapport they have with the Iraqi Baghdad Green Zone government. Seems to me that the blogosphere is where the debate on how the US posture can evolve to support and protect the "bottom up" politicization of Iraq should commence. The MSM will never get it going.
 
Written By: mike jacobs
URL: http://
The Democratic Party is scared silly while awaiting General Petraeus report in September as noted in a report on Slate.
The prospect of an even partially positive report has sent chills up the spines of Democratic leaders in Congress. That, says House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would be "a real big problem for us." Slate
It seems the Democratic leadership would rather loose in Iraq for political gain than do what is best for America.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/

The Democratic Party is scared silly while awaiting General Petraeus report in September as noted in a report on Slate.
That just leaves me dumbfounded. As important as politics is, Iraqi lives, including children and families, are in the balance. Even those of us who are convinced this war was a bad decision need to hope that what we’re trying works. Once you put politics ahead of human decency, well, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near power.

I’m hoping that the statement is not indicative of what most Democrats in Congress think.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’m hoping that the statement is not indicative of what most Democrats in Congress think.
Majority whip Jim Clayburn seems to prefer political advantage and failure in Iraq. Watching the Democratic debates seems to conferm his statement.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
The political situation in Iraq is no more bleak then the political situation in America.

In fact, I think the Iraqi’s are doing a better job then Congress, considering that their lives and their families are in real danger.

The surge is buying them time. It’s up to them to use it wisely. Come next spring, we will be drawing down troops, and I believe their security at that point depends more on their security forces, then a fully functioning democracy. Now, long term, their security is highly dependent on them working out their differences, and a functioning government, and economy are most important at that point.

But, we need to keep remembering it’s a process. You don’t get from tyranny to peace, and prosperity for all over night. Or even several years.
Once you put politics ahead of human decency, well, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near power.
True enough, but many in Congress seem to be putting politics and power ahead of our national interests, let alone human decency. (And that isn’t relegated solely to one side.)
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
The most fantastic liar in the known universe, Boris Erb, writes:
Even those of us who are convinced this war was a bad decision need to hope that what we’re trying works. Once you put politics ahead of human decency, well, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near power.

I’m hoping that the statement is not indicative of what most Democrats in Congress think.
Erb, I can go to the Usenet archives at Google and bring to the attention of the people who frequent this blog your refusal, your abject refusal, to consider anything that was happening in Iraq as progress. You have counselled defeat so many times and in so many ridiculous ways without ever giving a thought to the Iraqi people, aligning your political interests with those of the car bombers, that you literally have no claim on human decency with regard to Iraq.

It’s questionable whether you have any claim on it in any other area as well.

The awful stink of your disingenuousness is sickening.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Once you put politics ahead of human decency, well, you don’t deserve to be anywhere near power.

True enough, but many in Congress seem to be putting politics and power ahead of our national interests, let alone human decency. (And that isn’t relegated solely to one side.)
I think part of that is the emotion of the issue. For someone like me, opposed to invading Iraq from the start, and who believes that the last four years prove that the policy was misguided, it’s easy to fall into a trap of simply assuming that nothing can improve the situation and everything the Bush Administration does is wrong. It’s hard to make the adjustment to see that perhaps the Administration has learned something from its mistakes, made personnel and policy changes, and could be engaged in a policy that can potentially avoid an outcome devastating to both the Iraqi people and US interests.

I still believe there are real problems ahead (I go over those in my blog today), but there seems to be more clarity on Iraq than in the past, and as the "pro-war" side recognizes the necessity to start drawing down soon and the limits of what we can accomplish, the "anti-war" side has to also start accepting that we can’t undo the past and have to try to make the best of this situation. We may still disagree on what this means, what is possible, and if the war should have been started in the first place. But this is too important an issue to lose ourselves in partisanship. What happens in Iraq matters.

I just hope enough people in Congress recognize that.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The impossible liar, Boris Erb, writes:
but there seems to be more clarity on Iraq than in the past, and as the "pro-war" side recognizes the necessity to start drawing down soon and the limits of what we can accomplish, the "anti-war" side has to also start accepting that we can’t undo the past and have to try to make the best of this situation. We may still disagree on what this means, what is possible, and if the war should have been started in the first place.
The entire thing has to be read, and read in the context of what this impossible liar has said about Iraq over the years, but the point to even opening the lid on this barrel of eels is to see yet again what a deadly effect the combination of mediocrity and mawkish duplicity have on human character.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
But this is too important an issue to lose ourselves in partisanship. What happens in Iraq matters.

I just hope enough people in Congress recognize that.
Well, I hope enough politicians in Congress recognize that Iraq matters beyond its effect on the next election cycle.

That I’m not so sure about.
For someone like me, opposed to invading Iraq from the start, and who believes that the last four years prove that the policy was misguided, it’s easy to fall into a trap of simply assuming that nothing can improve the situation and everything the Bush Administration does is wrong
And it is equally as valid if you reverse the situation. Hope and positivism lends it’s own bias to ones view of events and actions.

I’ve never wavered in my support that taking out Saddam was the right thing to do. There have certainly been plenty of missteps along the way, but coulda, woulda, shoulda is only useful when saying what we should do differently the next time.

Because, whether we like it or not, there WILL be a next time. It will be different enough from this time, and it will be bloody, no matter what we do. We can only do our best to make it less bloody, less risky, and less costly.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

I’ve never wavered in my support that taking out Saddam was the right thing to do. There have certainly been plenty of missteps along the way, but coulda, woulda, shoulda is only useful when saying what we should do differently the next time.

Because, whether we like it or not, there WILL be a next time. It will be different enough from this time, and it will be bloody, no matter what we do. We can only do our best to make it less bloody, less risky, and less costly
Also the coulda woulda shoulda is useful in determining if a particular case calls for the use of force. To demonstrate I’ll use a different conflict since we obviously have different perspectives on the current one.

I was very opposed to the intervention in Kosovo because, in part, I feared it could unleash an humanitarian disaster. Sure enough, a mix of NATO timidness (flying only above 15,000 feet, with no ground operations) along with Serb anger led to the expulsion of 900,000 Kosovar Albanians, attempts (almost successful) to spread violence to Macedonia, and then counter violence against the Serbs afterwards. They still are unstable. Add to that the fact Clark tried to order the British to race the Russians to Prishtina (luckily the Brits refused, angering Clark who was the NATO commander), which could have led to miscalcations and conflict, and the Chinese embassy bombing...well, to me this is proof that we should have worked out a different means of dealing with the tensions — the KLA was a terror organization after all. It also shows how difficult it is to use military power to shape a political outcome.

But you know what? Everyone thinks that Kosovo was fought because of the atrocities against ethnic Albanians, because of the mass ethnic cleansing (never mind that 600,000 Serbs had been ’cleansed’ from Croatia with hardly a peep from the West), that the war was a success. Clinton stood firm against Milosevic, we spread human rights in the region. Because the Clinton PR machine is so good, and anti-war Democrats don’t want to be as vociferious in their criticism of Clinton, those lessons weren’t learned, and they could have been valuable in thinking about what Iraq would be like.

With Iraq I think we need to be very clear about the errors made, so if we think of attacking Iran, getting involved somewhere in Southeast Asia, or wherever, we understand that knowledge of the culture is essential, not to over-estimate the ability of a polity to shift to democracy, to understand that as outsiders we’ll be distrusted by even those we intend to ’liberate,’ and that without international support we’ll bear the cost alone, and lose international standing. We need to realize that the war has to be based on something the American people will be willing to support even if it is costly and lasts years — to recognize that’s always a possibility. In other words, don’t overestimate the ease of victory and the ability of military power to shape political results as we wish. If those lessons are learned alongside tactical lessons, then when the next time comes, we’ll be much more likely to choose force only when necessary, and when there is public support for a potential long term commitment.

In Kosovo a successful ’conclusion’ allowed the American people to ignore the lessons we should have learned. I want a successful conclusion in Iraq, but I don’t want a repeat of Kosovo - where we just breath a sigh of relief and don’t learn from our mistakes.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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