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So what’s up in Iraq?
Posted by: McQ on Friday, January 18, 2008

It's that time again - let's take a look at progress in Iraq.

Today, USA Today is reporting that 75% of Baghdad is "under control" per MNFI. Other than the obvious, what does that mean in terms of progress?
The military classifies 356 of Baghdad's 474 neighborhoods in the "control" or "retain" category of its four-tier security rating system, meaning enemy activity in those areas has been mostly eliminated and normal economic activity is resuming.
And the elimination of the threat and the return of normal economic activity signals dramatic improvement and a shift in priorities for normal Iraqis. As MG Rick Lynch said last week, Iraqis aren't taking about security anymore, they're talking about jobs. That's a very important development.

So how much progress has been made in Baghdad? Well consider that almost a year ago, when Phase I of the surge began (Phase I being the actual surging of the troops, not the kinetic portion of Phase II), only 37 Baghdad neighborhoods were in the "control" and "retain" categories.

A good illustration of what has happened can be seen here:



So what has happened is the stranglehold AQ had on Baghdad has been broken, security for the vast majority of the city has improved dramatically and the citizens of Baghdad's priorities have changed from security to jobs and commerce.

Nice.

What about the rest of Iraq? Again, some illustrations make the point:




Those pictures illustrate snapshots of the pre-surge and present situations pertaining to AQ's deployment (dark red) and transit routes (light red). And, btw, the small hand drawn map at the lower right on the "before" illustration is a captured AQ map showing their designs for Baghdad.

AQ's situation has, per these pictures, gone from an interconnected and large presence to a presence which has been decimated and isolated into small pockets. What is going on now is an operation to destroy those last remaining pockets and cut the transit routes.

How are they doing in that endeavor? Bill Roggio, of the excellent The Long War Journal brings us up to date.
Operation Phantom Phoenix, the current nationwide operation targeting al Qaeda's remaining safe havens, was launched on Jan. 8. Iraqi and US forces have captured or killed 121 al Qaeda fighters, wounded 14, and detained an additional 1023 suspects. Al Qaeda's leadership has been hit hard during the operation, with 92 high values targets either killed or captured.

Iraqi and US forces have also discovered 351 weapons caches and four tunnel complexes, Odierno said. Iraqi and US forces have also discovered three car bomb and improvised explosive device [IED] factories and 410 IEDs, including 18 car bombs and 25 homes rigged with explosives. Also found were "numerous torture chambers, an underground medical clinic, several closed schools, and a large foreign fighter camp with intricate tunnel complexes," said Odierno.
Be sure to go over there and click on the expanded map for Operation Phantom Phoenix to see all the different concurrent operations now being conducted. As Michael Yon warned, given these operations we could see a spike in Coalition deaths for the month. But as you can see above, with the statistics given, it hasn't been a good month for AQ.

And last, but not least, how is the Iraqi army doing? Well here's a pretty good illustration of how far they have come:
Iraqi security forces have conducted independent operations and deployments during Phantom Phoenix. An entire brigade was moved from Anbar province to Diyala, where a major fight against al Qaeda in Iraq is under way.

"With less than a week's notice the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Army Division was alerted to deploy from Anbar province to Diyala province to support combat operations in the Diyala River Valley," said Odierno.” This was a good Iraqi decision and was executed solely by the Iraqis. Within 36 hours upon arrival, the 3rd Brigade uncovered two sizeable caches, gathered significant intelligence and aggressively hunted down al Qaeda in tough terrain and demanding climatic conditions." As recently as the spring of 2007 Anbar was the most violent province in Iraq.
Impressive.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Yes, that’s quite impressive. It is so impressive that I’ll ask if this changes the whole picture no matter what political party gets elected in November. Regardless of campaing rhetoric, will the Dems in power not want to secure the gains made in the last year? Has the point of no return been reached? Is Iraq now a non-issue?
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
It’s hard to see because of the violence overlay patterns, but you can see some of the hardening of ethnic neighborhoods (from 12/06 to 3/06) has started to reverse course in south/central Baghdad beween 7/07 and 12/07.
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
It’s hard to see because of the violence overlay patterns, but you can see some of the hardening of ethnic neighborhoods (from 12/06 to 3/06) has started to reverse course in south/central Baghdad beween 7/07 and 12/07.
Yes ... I studied that too and you’re right, there does seem to be some reintegration, but not much. The fact that has happened and apparently happened peacefully is promising.

And, I suspect, as it continues to calm down in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, more and more refugees will return home and want to move back into their old neighborhoods.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I still think you guys have a hopeless cause if you want to take five years and say that if we can make improvements now we don’t have to admit the failure of the policy. This article makes a valid point.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Don’t be churlish. Any progress is progress, even if it may insufficient progress by your standards. The alternative is regress, so let’s be glad it’s not that, eh?
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
I still think you guys have a hopeless cause if you want to take five years and say that if we can make improvements now we don’t have to admit the failure of the policy.
"The policy"

There are several policies and strategy, some of which failed, some of which are showing progress which could lead to their success. Whether everything would have been better if we had either, not tried at all, or implemented the successful policies and strategies at the start, is one that will be debated well past our lifetimes.

That article seems to be jumping to as many conclusions based on a short amount of time and data, as it accuses others of doing.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
There are several policies and strategy, some of which failed, some of which are showing progress which could lead to their success. Whether everything would have been better if we had either, not tried at all, or implemented the successful policies and strategies at the start, is one that will be debated well past our lifetimes.
I really want the "surge" and the shift to realism to work, but I have strong, strong doubts that the upbeat talk means a real chance for a stable Iraq.

What bugs me is the apparent attempt to claim that if Iraq can become stable — a big if! — then that automatically means it was worth the last five years. Do you really think that? I know we can’t go back in time and change the choices made, but we also have to be upfront if, in hindsight, we see those choices are wrong. We have to learn from mistakes.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What bugs me is the apparent attempt to claim that if Iraq can become stable — a big if! — then that automatically means it was worth the last five years. Do you really think that? I know we can’t go back in time and change the choices made, but we also have to be upfront if, in hindsight, we see those choices are wrong. We have to learn from mistakes.
Seems to me, working towards a good enough solution is better then throwing up your hands, leaving, and kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with.

Was WWII worth it?

Was WWI worth it?

Was the Civil War worth it?

Depends on the ultimate outcome, which will be decades down the road.

We can learn from our mistakes. And it is just as likely that we’ll learn the wrong lessons.

I think removing a dictator and tyrant, and the regime that enables them, was the right choice. It should always be the right choice.

The means we go about doing that will not always be the same. Some of those means will be more successful then others. And the same means may not work the same in every case.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Erb wrote:
...but we also have to be upfront if, in hindsight, we see those choices are wrong. We have to learn from mistakes.
Admit this invasion was a "mistake?" To what end? For whose benefit? Just to scratch that guilty itch? What will saying "this invasion was a mistake" achieve? How do you envision that will help us? It’s not going to make other countries suddenly decide they want to join in on the occupation fun and help us out. It wouldn’t even placate our critics. If anything, it would likely hurt our forces morale and embolden our adversaries, with no real positive upshot.

Whether or not the decision to invade Iraq was right or wrong is immaterial now. All that matters is the present situation, and how we can make it better (if we can make it better - and if not, then what is the best policy response and cost/benefits regarding that.) Whether or not it was a good idea in the first place will have to be judged by history. Until then, it’s incumbent on us (the US) to make the best of a messy situation, not run away from our decisions in self-loathing.
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
Sorry, Keith, I think it weakens your argument to compare this intervention to major world wars — especially when we were the aggressor here. And waiting for an ultimate outcome seems very convenient if you want to avoid dealing with the facts in the presesnt. If you want me to take that argument seriously, you have to make a case for why this war might compare to other wars, and what ultimate outcomes you think are likely to occur and why they might be worth it. This appears like an attempt to evade tough questions about the cost of this war, and the lack of clear benefits. I don’t see any reason to think this is anything close to past major wars, or that there is any possible way it can be worth the costs. I may be wrong (to reprise a bit from another thread) but your post doesn’t give me any reason to think I am.

Whether or not the decision to invade Iraq was right or wrong is immaterial now. All that matters is the present situation,
No, James, it matters. On practical and moral grounds, we have to take responsibility for past choices and their implications. We have to learn from them. We can’t just brush them under the table.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What bugs me is the apparent attempt to claim that if Iraq can become stable — a big if! — then that automatically means it was worth the last five years. Do you really think that? I know we can’t go back in time and change the choices made, but we also have to be upfront if, in hindsight, we see those choices are wrong. We have to learn from mistakes.
What does that mean?
What makes you think we haven’t learned from this?

It doesn’t ’automatically’ mean anything. Those of us who wanted Iraq to turn into something other than a despotic dictatorship will accept the improvement, and as you said, you can’t go back in time.

I don’t know what your alternative is - 5 years of self flagellation for making mistakes in trying to do something positive?

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I think what Scott’s going for is that the jubilation over a ’victory’ in Iraq is going to overshadow any kind of significant learning (or, as we call it, the After Action Review [AAR] process) on the part of our policy makers.

I can tell you that the United States Armed Forces have made significant progress in the counterinsurgency (COIN) field of combat operations. Let’s just hope that war-weariness on the part of the People and the singlular focus on COIN over the past five years haven’t severely reduced American’s will or ability to face a traditional force or conduct full spectrum operations.

Blogging from Baghdad,

AR
 
Written By: Ayn_Randian
URL: http://
Erb wrote:
If you want me to take that argument seriously, you have to make a case for why this war might compare to other wars, and what ultimate outcomes you think are likely to occur and why they might be worth it.
In Korea, we had to develop an understanding of the new world order after becoming the world’s lone superpower (the other contenders all being mostly ruins.) Our president implemented a new foreign relations paradigm that involved aggressive engagement with the world, and a costly war against a technologically inferior foe. The war was unpopular and did not seem to aid America proper in any way. In retrospect, however, our efforts preserving South Korea from communist rule led to a democratic free-market nation that helps preserve the stability of the region (by being a major trading partner for other nations.) North Korea stands as a grim reminder of what the price of failure could have been for the whole peninsula. Was it worth it? Well, I’m not going to try and invent some sort of metric that calculates the price of freedom. I am certain, however, that our intervention there left the peninsula in a better state than it would have been otherwise.

We can try and make Iraq into a South Korea, or we can allow the Kim-Jong Ils of the world to have a go at it. I think we both know which situation has the best probability of eventually morphing into a real liberal democracy.

Erb wrote:
On practical and moral grounds, we have to take responsibility for past choices and their implications.
You seem to be the one wanting the US to evade responsibility for it’s actions by worrying incessantly about how people and history will judge us, instead of how we can work to make a bad situation better. Better to try and redeem ourselves through trying to solve the problem we helped birth than obsequiously apologizing every time some pundit gets stressed.

By changing the commanders on the ground and embracing a new COIN strategy, I’d say we’ve admitted and learned from our early mistakes quite well. No war is waged error-free, and our military has done well in absorbing lessons about how this new type of war must be fought.

You also did not answer my question about what we stand to gain by telling people the war was a mistake. So, how would that help us? You bring this point up often, so I’m sure there is some worthwhile end it will further.
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
Blogging from Baghdad,
Thanks for your service, AR.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Boris Erb opines:
I still think you guys have a hopeless cause if you want to take five years and say that if we can make improvements now we don’t have to admit the failure of the policy.
Why would you think that five years would be a long time for a project like this? Even if there had been no insurgency and no terrorism, five years, given the condition of Iraq after Hussein, is not even one beat of the heart in historical terms.
Sorry, Keith, I think it weakens your argument to compare this intervention to major world wars — especially when we were the aggressor here.
It doesn’t "weaken" his argument to put this small war into perspective by comparing it to the carnage of major world crises; it’s perfectly appropriate. You don’t like it because it shows how silly your "worst foreign policy blunder in history" nonsense is. And, we were most certainly not the aggressor in Iraq. We were the enforcer of a 12-year long process of adjudication by the collective security apparatus of the UN Security Council for once doing what it was designed to do with regimes like Hussein’s.

But you’re not mistaken there, Boris, you’re just lying.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I don’t see any reason for history to stop judging correctly.
We did the right thing going in,
we screwed some stuff up in the process,
we had some policies in place that needed changing,
we changed them in some cases later rather than sooner, but we changed them.

’God willing’ when we’re done Iraq is, as James posited, the South Korea of the Persian Gulf.

History will take it where it needs to go.
Don’t pretend we’re going to re-write the whole thing to make it a glowing example of George Bush at the helm.
That’s not going to happen.
This isn’t the first war where we’ve made mistakes, it won’t be the last, don’t kid yourself, because every conflict has new problems to be solved.
There is no one magic answer, it’s, uh, life ;^)


And AR - thanks & God speed.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Thanks for your service, AR.
And AR - thanks & God speed.
I appreciate the well wishes, but really, I should be thanking the citizens of the republic, like you guys, who support us.
 
Written By: Ayn_Randian
URL: http://
I appreciate the well wishes, but really, I should be thanking the citizens of the republic, like you guys, who support us.
I did it for 28 years myself. For me there has never been a question about supporting you guys. I know, first hand, what it’s like when that isn’t the case.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
James, in Korea we made a huge error. After liberating the South, we tried to role back communism and failed, as China intervened. That was a huge error, it took three years to get back to where we could have been in 1950 after the initial success. So Korea is a bad example, if Truman had simply liberated the South and ended the fighting, Korea would not have been unpopular.

I think your attempt to say "that was then, let’s only talk about now" is more of a personal attempt to avoid admitting that many war proponents went into Iraq completely wrong about what would be achieved and the cost of doing so. It’s like you don’t want to admit that war critics were right on a number of these issues. My critique, for instance, was that we don’t understand the culture and its divisions, and seem to be naively believing that if we just get rid of the bad guys, they’ll want the same kind of system we have. I noted that it took us centuries to build our democracy to be as it is, and other countries took a long time and many battles to develop democracy. We over-estimated the ease in which military force could shape political culture.

Learning that lesson would, for instance, cause one to be dubious about the idea that somehow if we attacked Iran the reformers there would support us and create a pro-American Iran. That argument has been put forth by some people, we have to learn from Iraq. Militaries are good at winning wars, they can fight counter insurgency, but they don’t shape political culture or provide a culture with a different history. The idealism of the argument to go to war — to reshape the region and spread democracy and markets — more Wilsonian and JFK-esque than conservative or realist — is one to be skeptical of.

If people can agree that we have learned lessons like that, well, that’s all I ask.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Prof. Erb — Does being skeptical ever apply to your positions and your certainty that the Iraq War is a failure—as you have repeated over and over again? Does your side ever have to learn lessons from this?

From reading your posts, my impression is that you have framed Iraq as a failure no matter what happens.

Likewise you never seem to notice that those of us who support the Iraq War don’t agree to your framing of the war, e.g. that we were the aggressor. You seem to imagine that your vision of history is the only true one.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Does your side ever have to learn lessons from this?
Even anti-war liberals are beginning to ask such questions, huxley. This from Tom Teepen, who, if you know of him, is one of the most liberal pundits out there. He used to write for the AJC here in Atlanta where I became very familiar with his work. Says Teepen:
Democrats in particular and liberals in general - and, no, the overlap isn’t perfect, as rightist blather would have you believe - will make a mistake if they don’t acknowledge that the increase in U.S. troop strength in Iraq has made a difference for the better.

There is a streak of opinion within the larger ranks of opponents of the Iraq war that, going far beyond the critique asserted by most, seems actually to covet U.S. failure in Iraq as somehow serving America right for the blunder of having gone there in the first place.

That is a malevolent righteousness that properly repels most Americans.
I think the bold portion actually answers your questions quite nicely.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Great quote from Teepen. Opposition to success will be so blatantly anti-American as to repel the voters. It’s harder now to oppose our efforts. It will be hard not to be pleased with the turn of events.

It would be proper to say we did it the hard way before we got it right; but McCain is saying that, not the Democrats. My money is on McCain in the primaries.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
"James, in Korea we made a huge error. After liberating the South, we tried to role back communism and failed, as China intervened. That was a huge error, it took three years to get back to where we could have been in 1950 after the initial success."

That is a good point, though it assumes China would not have intervened anyway after letting the North take a breather to re-organize. We probably shouldn’t take the communists at their word, you know, seeing as how they dragged out peace talks forever on purpose, etc.

BTW, the Chinese actually said that if only Korean units went over the border into North Korea, they would not intervene either. There may have even been a chance to have them liberate NK with our logistical support, but i have to imagine that the Chinese thought it wasn’t very likely they could succeed.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
huxley says to Erb:
You seem to imagine that your vision of history is the only true one.
Erb doesn’t believe that there is a "true" "vision of history."

He believes that the only truth is that there is no truth, and starting with that premise history becomes a tool of his policy preferences. In other words, he makes it up to suit his purpose.

Hence, a small war with huge implications to enforce the most thoroughly adjudicated case against a rogue regime in the history of the United Nations becomes a "war of aggression" and the "greatest foreign policy disaster in history," both objectively untrue, i.e., lies.

What is Erb’s preference? The abrogation of the U.S. role in the world as the status quo superpower and the guarantor of strategic peace. Erb would deny reform in the most unstable and destabilizing region in the world for the benefit of his postmodern multicultural far-Left view of geopolitics.

For reasons probably having to do with the nature of his profession, not to mention his own odd nature, and possibly even the academic department and the university he works at, Erb practices hatred of the United States, and prays for its diminishment if not its destruction.

I could sit here all day and play devil’s advocate about Iraq and American foreign policy. There are always good arguments against any policy. Erb can’t make those arguments and has no command over them, because it’s not the policy that he’s really interested in. He hates the role that the U.S. plays in the world. Unfortunately, most opponents of the war have become corraled in that perspective, and good critiques are few and far between.

The worst mistake that defenders of the war can make is to spend time being defined by the standard antiwar conventional wisdom and getting stuck in the "my gosh, we have to tailor our views to those of the war’s opponents."

This was always a righteous war, for good and important purposes, with an eye to correcting the geopolitical energies of the most destabilizing region in the world. There was and is risk involved in it. We’ve seen that. But the situation needs to be defined as a battle for bringing a reasonable modernity to a region struggling with and often against modernity. The purpose is not to make war, but, really, to prevent much more serious war and much more serious suffering.

Erb doesn’t care about any of that; he has always been focused on scandalizing and humilitating the United States. He denies it, but it’s not as if he keeps it carefully hidden.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Prof. Erb — Does being skeptical ever apply to your positions and your certainty that the Iraq War is a failure—as you have repeated over and over again? Does your side ever have to learn lessons from this?
The original neo-conservative policy was a failure. They expected a quick victory, reconstruction and a pro-American Iraq that would put pressure on Iran and Syria and make it easier for Israel to make peace (many thought Iraq would actually recognize Israel). It was built on a theory that if the US used its power to get rid of dictators like Hussein, we’d have the leverage to create a move towards democracy and stability in the Mideast.

Instead Pakistan is in turmoil, Iran strengthened, Syria forging ties with Turkey, and Iraq has been very expensive.

Now, that being said, new policies done in response to that failure can succeed, but they can’t undo the failure of the original policy. I’ve praised the new found realism of President Bush many times — here and in my blog — and the approach of Gates and Rice. Doesn’t that mean anything? I also noted last January that I expected the surge would create more stability and allow a withdrawal, though I still doubt Iraq will achieve true stability any time soon (though I hope I’m wrong there).

And as for people not admitting they were wrong: well, it would be nice if some of you who were saying "steady progress" and "stay the course" back in 2004 and 2005 would admit you were wrong in many of your ideas about the policy when the war started, and not frame it so that if things get better now the original policy failure somehow doesn’t exist. I want us to succeed, but not at the price of not acknowledging the true cost of this conflict, and the illusions that led the neo-conservatives to believe that American military power could shape political outcomes.

As for being the aggressor...well, we did invade, the UN Security Council was clearly going to vote against authorizing war, and Iraq was willing to allow the weapons inspectors to continue. At the very least, you have to admit that it is possible to see this as aggression, isn’t it?

But if you can at least admit that many of the early pro-war arguments were wrong, based on a misreading of the culture and impact of history on the region, and that this led to an unexpectedly long and costly conflict that might in retrospect not have been worth it, then it’ll be easier to find common ground on what needs to be done now. Because we certainly can’t undo the past, and it certainly is important that we need end up in perpetual failure. Because the politics is not as important as the people — Iraqis trying for a better future, Americans who have given a chunk of their lives to serve in Iraq, and the people of the Mideast, who would suffer greatly from a regional war. We have to succeed, I think Bush’s policies in the last year have been moving in the right direction, but I don’t think this justifies the choice of war and we need to remember the neo-conservative arguments and how they failed, lest we make the same kind of mistake, such as with Iran.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb makes it up:
The original neo-conservative policy was a failure. They expected a quick victory, reconstruction and a pro-American Iraq that would put pressure on Iran and Syria and make it easier for Israel to make peace (many thought Iraq would actually recognize Israel). It was built on a theory that if the US used its power to get rid of dictators like Hussein, we’d have the leverage to create a move towards democracy and stability in the Mideast.
First of all, neoconservatives influenced policy, they didn’t make it. The policy itself is nothing so exotic as to require the special label or special meaning of "neoconservative." And the policy did not "expect[]...quick victory," etc. It hoped for that, just as any such venture hopes for the best and prepares for the worst. Immense pressure has been put on both Iran and Syria, which is why Iran has been acting out the way it has, even as it slowed down its nuclear weapons development the year that Iraq was invaded and hasn’t restarted it. It continues to enrich uranium, however, and might still need to be stopped militarily. Syria took a serious bombing from Israel a few months back and hasn’t made a peep about it. The U.S. did get rid of Hussein and Iraq is democratizing.

When you make up so much in your first paragraph, Boris, it is indeed incumbent upon you to keep on chatting. But your premise is befouled with, basically, nonsense, lost facts, and frank lies.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Erb tries this:
As for being the aggressor...well, we did invade, the UN Security Council was clearly going to vote against authorizing war, and Iraq was willing to allow the weapons inspectors to continue. At the very least, you have to admit that it is possible to see this as aggression, isn’t it?
You still haven’t familiarized yourself with the UN Security Council resolutions, I see. And after all these years.

UNSC 1441 did not require another resolution. Slightly ambiguous about what would happen in the event of Iraq’s failure to comply immediately, 1441 says nothing about voting yet again. The authorization to use force from 1991 was still in effect before the passage of 1441 and was restated in 1441. Even at this late date you can still go and read it. In fact, haven’t I quoted it to you about two dozen times?

In any event, after the fall of Baghdad the Security Council passed 1483, naming the U.S. and the UK the occupying authority, clearly accepting the regime change as legal fact and certifying the territorial integrity of Iraq, calling for Member States to aid in its security and recovery.

As for the "inspectors," you’ll never stop fudging on their real role, which I’ll be happy to explain to anyone who doesn’t know what it was, and the fact that once Blix went back to the Security Council and reported that the Iraqis were not in fact complying as required that ipso facto, according to 1441, automatically triggered the status of "further material breach" with a promise of "serious consequences." Those serious consequences were delivered and the Security Council validated them as legal fact in 1483.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Great posts, Martin and McQ!

Prof. Erb — Stop with all the framing. I don’t accept your version of our positions. Listen to what we say about our positions, not what you believe about them. Quote neocons, if you must refer to them. I find you entirely untrustworthy to supply summaries for your opponents.

Speaking for myself, I had grounded myself enough to understand that our invasion of Iraq would be successful, but what happened after that was unclear. I didn’t expect all of Iraq to line the streets welcoming us with flowers—though some did. I hoped for the best, but I have not been surprised by how hard it has been.

As I assess the Middle East, the situation was so clearly dire that after 9-11 that we could not afford to allow that strategic area to continue its virulent and worsening status quo. The Iraq War was a definite risk, but better than letting the Middle East continue to slide into fascism and violence. Even if the Iraq War fails—and it may—IMO it still should have been tried, because the alternatives, as I see them, were worse.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Prof. Erb — Stop with all the framing. I don’t accept your version of our positions.
Here’s what you do. State your position and respond to my statements, and I’ll respond to yours. Dialogue, discussion, debate.

Speaking for myself, I had grounded myself enough to understand that our invasion of Iraq would be successful, but what happened after that was unclear. I didn’t expect all of Iraq to line the streets welcoming us with flowers—though some did. I hoped for the best, but I have not been surprised by how hard it has been.
If you read the histories of the conflict (Woodward and others — I’ve gone through about five or six, I think) it does seem like the President was influenced by neo-conservatives led by Vice President Cheney who painted a picture thusly: terrorism is a threat to US interests and oil supplies. The regimes of the region are anachronistic and do not have popular support. This means there could be more radicalism in the future. The best way to undercut Islamic extremism is to use American power to bring democracy to the region. Starting with Iraq, which is do-able, we can parlay that into pressure on others, especially since they will fear us after Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clarke has said that he has seen a memo listing seven states the US hoped to overthrow. People were making bold predictions that Chirac and Putin would cave once it was seen how successful the US was, or that Blair would emerge as the most powerful leader in Europe. OK, I accept that YOU did not believe all this optimism, but I’m convinced decision makers did — they weren’t prepared for what came next.

So if we can agree to learn the lesson that political cultures are hard to change with military power, and the job of spreading democracy is very difficult, especially in a post-Ottoman region with a history of authoritarianism, and that we can’t really expect to spread democracy easily, then we have at least some agreement here.
As I assess the Middle East, the situation was so clearly dire that after 9-11 that we could not afford to allow that strategic area to continue its virulent and worsening status quo. The Iraq War was a definite risk, but better than letting the Middle East continue to slide into fascism and violence. Even if the Iraq War fails—and it may—IMO it still should have been tried, because the alternatives, as I see them, were worse.
Here we may have to agree to disagree on a major point. One reason I judge the choice of war in Iraq as a failure is I believe it has made the situation in the Mideast more precarious. An anti-American backlash sent the hardliners to power in Iran, as for the first time they won the Majles elections and the Presidency. They’ll be in trouble in the next election (I think Ahmadinejad is toast), but still this created more tension, and an Iran playing more of a role as a regional power. Pakistan is in turmoil in part because of anger at Musharraf siding with the US. Syria and Turkey have forged closer ties, and the Arab states are shifting away from the US (the Saudis have been unusually harsh in their rhetoric at times against the US). Al Qaeda has used all this as a way to turn things around in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent. In short, I think that while I agree that things were dire in the Mideast (though I don’t think they were sliding into fascism — I don’t think the Islamic extremists have much of a chance to come out on top), I believe our actions have made things worse.

That said, I see the argument that just leaving without figuring out a way to, if not turn things around, minimize the problems may make a bad situation even worse. That’s why I think all sides have to break out of the pro-war anti-war political rhetoric mode and really think about what our goals and objectives should be — realistically. The pro-war side, I think, was wrong about what the impact of going to war in Iraq would be. The anti-war side is, I think, wrong in not really coming to grips with the need to make sure that we alter policy in an effective way, not just leave for the sake of leaving.

In other words, this issue is too important for political posturing and rhetorical games.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb attempts this:
Here’s what you do. State your position and respond to my statements, and I’ll respond to yours. Dialogue, discussion, debate.
Well, Boris, "Dialogue, discussion, debate" has long been fruitless and virtually impossible with you. For starters, you don’t know your own field, but pretend that you can leverage any discussion because you "teach this stuff." You’re substantially ignorant of history, can’t handle historical perspective even when it’s spoon fed to you, and you don’t have the ability to handle or respond to basic facts and essential concepts.

Then this:
That’s why I think all sides have to break out of the pro-war anti-war political rhetoric mode and really think about what our goals and objectives should be — realistically.
No, the goals and objectives in Iraq have been clear all along. Help the Iraqi people form a reasonably modern civil society that can maintain itself and function in the world community like most of the rest of the countries in the world. That alone will constitute a revolution in the region and serve as an exemplar for a reasonable degree of modernization in the Arab world. It might fail, as you wish it to, but the U.S. needs to act in good faith to see that it gets the best shot possible. It is essential to our national security, to the region’s security, and to maintaining the authority of the collective security apparatus in which the U.S. serves as guarantor.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Ayn_Randian: Let me the upteenth to say: "Thank you for your service"

Now two important non-topic questions/statements:
1) Where is Ott Scerb? I believe he would add much to this discussion?
2) I DEMAND yet ANOTHER thread on Dale’s Innocence/Guilt, for never have I seen such fun on this blog! In fact I would go so far as to say that my FREEDOM and LIBERTY are being abridged if my wishes are not fulfilled. Who are YOU to stop me from doing something that hurts no one? I ask you?

Erb, I would say that the POLICY remains unchanged...A tranformed Iraq, the strategy has changed. We’re still trying to get to Central Stion our route to it has changed. Your crew simply denies getting to Central Station is a good idea or is attainable, that being the case no matter what route or what conveyance taken, the whole trip is/MUST be a disaster.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Erb, I would say that the POLICY remains unchanged...A tranformed Iraq, the strategy has changed.
I disagree, I think the goals have changed completely, and we’ll be happy with just some stability and avoiding regional war. Also, I think the idea of using Iraq to start regional transformation (e.g., the list Clarke saw, the idea that Syria and Iran would be next) is dead too. Iraq as a long term, close ally of the US is fading, we’ve accepted that Iran and Iraq will have solid relations.

And, since I’m not near as confident as you are that Iraq is truly on the path to stability — this year violence has been up, sectarian differences are intense (the law allowing Baathists in government is distrusted by the Sunnis as a fraud, for example), militias dominate, and while some areas are more stable, others have more violence — I think the administration really wants a ’peace with honor moment,’ to be able to leave in relatively stability and then allow the next administration to wash its hands from what comes next.

We’ll see. Clearly the ’we’ll be greeted as liberators with candy and flowers’ crowd that thought (as Cheney and Rumsfeld said) we’d be done in six months and the insurgency was minor, oil money would pay for reconstruction, it would pressure Iran and Syria to change, etc., all those people have been proven wrong. I hope this time I’m wrong and Iraq does become stable and democratic, but right now just avoiding another collapse into chaos and sectarian warfare would be good enough for me.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Prof. Erb — That’s somewhat more reasonable.
Here we may have to agree to disagree on a major point. One reason I judge the choice of war in Iraq as a failure is I believe [my emphasis] it has made the situation in the Mideast more precarious.
Again, this is your assessment of a complex, mixed and ongoing situation. This failure is not an objective truth, but your opinion. That you repeat it over and over again strikes me as the propaganda of repetition.

Furthermore, pressing such an opinion now is folly simply because it is premature. The Cold War took almost fifty years to play out. What’s going on in the Middle East is on the order of that complexity. I understand the "cakewalk" remark to be about removing Hussein—and that was more of a cakewalk than anyone expected—not the whole process.

Bobby Fischer died the other day. A frequent response he made when people talked about subjects he wasn’t interested in—art, music, politics—was "What’s this got to do with chess?"

When I read your responses to any kind of success in Iraq, I hear a Bobby Fischer voice saying, "What’s this got to do with failure in Iraq?"
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
As far as the Iraq War making things more precarious in the Middle East, that’s a tautology—wars always make things more precarious in the short to medium term.

The Cold War made the entire world horrifyingly more precarious, yet most Western leaders agreed it was necessary rather than let communist totalitarianism continue to expand in the world.

Your unexamined presupposition is that pursuing the realist strategy would work to contain Islamism with acceptable damages. Possibly. But after 9-11—a result of the realist strategy—many of us decided that it was time to try something else, lest one day we see events 10-1000x worse than 9-11.

Technological creep means that with each passing year WMD will be cheaper and easier to acquire. I’d rather fight the Islamists now, rather than later.

 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Huxley, I’m at a loss to how you can compare Iraq to the Cold War!! It’s not that big of a deal. And if you are talking about terrorism, Iraq has been a benefit to al qaeda and the Taliban. Things in Afghanistan are turning south quickly, with the Taliban become much stronger.

In Iraq we’re not fighting the Islamic extremists, except for a few recruits from Saudi Arabia they send in there just because it’s easy to bleed the US of money, people, and prestige at low cost. Al qaeda and the Islamic extremists benefit from the place being unstable — Saddam was a secular leader hated by the Islamic extremists. Given the cost of the Iraq war, if the focus was to weaken Islamic extremism, it was at best a very inefficient use of resources, at worst the blowback could well backfire on us.

PS - I always know I might be wrong. I’ll write as persuasively as I can, and hope those who think differently do likewise. It is, indeed, just my opinion.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Huxley, I’m at a loss to how you can compare Iraq to the Cold War!! It’s not that big of a deal.
Prof. Erb — I thought you were up on neocon thought. Iraq is not just about Iraq; it’s also about the whole anti-West, anti-democratic, dysfunctional, quasi-fascist Islamic world that uses terrorism in the service of its goals.

I realize you disagree, but those are the stakes as I (and others) see it. This undertaking will take decades to work out and it is fraught with peril. But allowing Islamists, who are genuinely violent, hate the west, believe they should dominate the world, and are sitting on the strategic lifeblood of civilization, to do as they will is as crazy IMO as ignoring the threats of the Nazis or the Communists in the 20th century.

Yes, we are fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq. No, Hussein was not simply a secular leader hated by Islamic extremists. I can back these things up, if you wish, but frankly I think you know better or ought to know better, and these tropes come under the heading of stupid, know-nothing anti-war rhetoric that I mentioned to you earlier.
 
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Huxley, I completely disagree with the idea there is a real threat to West, most Muslims do not go for that kind of approach, and simply want a better life. We play into the extremist hands by turning this into a war, because having the emotion of war is the only chance they have to try to gain support. Iraq has helped the extremists, but not enough to turn them into a real threat. They might get a lucky terror hit every decade or so, but we can survive that. That’s why the neo-cons have lost the policy struggle, they’ve been discredited (though I’m having my class read Fukuyama’s book and think about whether or not there is something to their thought, despite the mistakes on Iraq — I’m not going to push my opinion on them, I just push my opinion on blog pages). Fukuyama does try to really grapple with the problems that have arisen, and doesn’t act like a William Kristol who tries to spin everything to fit his theory.

BTW, have you been watching the news from Iraq lately, things look to be going south quickly. Hopefully it’s a short term spike in violence and instability, but it doesn’t look promising.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb enthuses:
BTW, have you been watching the news from Iraq lately, things look to be going south quickly. Hopefully it’s a short term spike in violence and instability, but it doesn’t look promising.
It’s always "amusing" how decreases in violence in Iraq make you sallow and truculent, Boris, but even an hint of an uptick in violence brings back your old joie de vivre.

The terrorist knows how to please you. And you are his best audience.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"Today, USA Today is reporting that 75% of Baghdad is "under control" per MNFI."

Wow, so after five years we have 75% of THE CAPITAL CITY under control! Now, that’s progress!
 
Written By: Nick Danger
URL: http://gene-callahan.org/blog/
"Today, USA Today is reporting that 75% of Baghdad is "under control" per MNFI."

Wow, so after five years we have 75% of THE CAPITAL CITY under control! Now, that’s progress!
Meanwhile, discontent surges in Iraq, problems among Iraqi Shi’ites, and stories like this in local media across the country. There seems to be a hope that somehow the "surge" has turned everything around. But the only evidence is lower levels of violence, to pre-2006 levels. So the question is whether the violence is just latent, waiting to explode again (as it seems to have in recent days) in some other way, like it was in 2005, or is there real stability? And can the government really become effective, or will it remain mostly Sunni tribes, militias, and Shi’ite militias maintaining local order, with the central government ineffective and corrupt. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing much news that gives a lot of hope about those points. And this five years in, with reports of wounded vets being sent back to Iraq due to a soldier shortage.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Firesign Nick:
Wow, so after five years we have 75% of THE CAPITAL CITY under control! Now, that’s progress!
"Under control" means what? In 1993 there were about 2,100 murders in New York City. Was East New York in Brooklyn, where a lot of those murders happened "under control?"

Is New Orleans "under control" today?

So, to have established significant civil order in Baghdad after any amount of time elapsed is indeed progress. Especially for the people who live there.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
So, to have established significant civil order in Baghdad after any amount of time elapsed is indeed progress. Especially for the people who live there.
Indeed, but not to worry, McP. If that’s all the folks like Nick have to bring to the table - sarcasm, and not even particularly good sarcasm (especially since it is historically contextless) - it is fairly telling. My guess is Nick falls into the group highlighted here along with your buddy, Boris.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The professor of political science who doesn’t know anything about political science writes:
Meanwhile, discontent surges in Iraq, problems among Iraqi Shi’ites, and stories like this in local media across the country. There seems to be a hope that somehow the "surge" has turned everything around. But the only evidence is lower levels of violence, to pre-2006 levels. So the question is whether the violence is just latent,
Civil society is "latent" violence, Boris. That’s the difference between the rule of law and the rule of mob, the state holds a monopoly on violence. Civil society is potential violence restraining kinetic violence.

And no one has said that the surge has turned everything around. What the surge has done is build up the potential violence of a civil society in the suppression of kinetic violence. That’s good. And as neighborhoods and clans and cities grow accustomed to civil peace and expect and demand it the civil society will consolidate.

You mention stories in "local media." There was no such thing before regime change. There was no expression of "discontent," which is a key ingredient in a free civil society where discontent is directed toward the political process and worked out there, as opposed to the street where it is worked out as violence.

Now, I’m sorry that you missed all this on your way to a PhD, but it’s never too late to learn.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Was WWII worth it?

Was WWI worth it?

Was the Civil War worth it?
The importance of these examples, as well as any war in US history, is did any of these wars leave us any better prepared for the next war, or better at maintaining peace afterwards.

What lessons did we learn from any of these wars?
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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