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Michael Yon talks about the changes in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Friday, April 11, 2008

Well, he's not Juan Cole, but he'll have to do. Unlike Cole, he can at least say this:
I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.
Yon, in my experience reading him, is not an apologist for anyone. He truly has always given "the good, the bad and the ugly" about Iraq. And initially, as he will forthrightly tell you, there was much more bad and ugly than good. But, as he sees it, that's not the case today. Some of the good he's seeing:
The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about "GoArmy.com."

[...]

Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have.
As all of us who served in the military learned early on during overseas deployments, we can be very effective representatives of our country in a good and positive way. Discipline, code of conduct, the warrior spirit and compassion do mix. And that is what Yon is talking about.

He also obliquely points to the death of a meme that was believed throughout the third world of dictatorships prior to Iraq. The "paper tiger" myth is dead along with a whole bunch of AQI.
Some people charge that we have merely "rented" the Sunni tribesmen, the former insurgents who now fight by our side. This implies that because we pay these people, their loyalty must be for sale to the highest bidder. But as Gen. Petraeus demonstrated in Nineveh province in 2003 to 2004, many of the Iraqis who filled the ranks of the Sunni insurgency from 2003 into 2007 could have been working with us all along, had we treated them intelligently and respectfully. In Nineveh in 2003, under then Maj. Gen. Petraeus's leadership, these men – many of them veterans of the Iraqi army – played a crucial role in restoring civil order. Yet due to excessive de-Baathification and the administration's attempt to marginalize powerful tribal sheiks in Anbar and other provinces – including men even Saddam dared not ignore – we transformed potential partners into dreaded enemies in less than a year.

Then al Qaeda in Iraq, which helped fund and tried to control the Sunni insurgency for its own ends, raped too many women and boys, cut off too many heads, and brought drugs into too many neighborhoods. By outraging the tribes, it gave birth to the Sunni "awakening." We – and Iraq – got a second chance. Powerful tribes in Anbar province cooperate with us now because they came to see al Qaeda for what it is – and to see Americans for what we truly are.

Soldiers everywhere are paid, and good generals know it is dangerous to mess with a soldier's money. The shoeless heroes who froze at Valley Forge were paid, and when their pay did not come they threatened to leave – and some did. Soldiers have families and will not fight for a nation that allows their families to starve. But to say that the tribes who fight with us are "rented" is perhaps as vile a slander as to say that George Washington's men would have left him if the British offered a better deal.
Yon points to the initial mistakes made by the US in Iraq. And he's never been shy about calling them that. But he also points out, despite the claims that we've stuck stubbornly to a single strategy and never changed it, that we did indeed change our strategy to take advantage of a second chance we were given, and that has paid handsome dividends. Had we not recognized our folly and continued to marginalize the powerful tribal sheiks in Anbar and elsewhere, then the strategy critique would have some legs. As it is, and as Dexter Flikins remarked about in his Charlie Rose interview, we now have a commander taking over in Anbar province who is replacing a unit that has suffered no casualties there during their tour - in Anbar.

Yon also takes the political opposition to task:
Equally misguided were some senators' attempts to use Gen. Petraeus's statement, that there could be no purely military solution in Iraq, to dismiss our soldiers' achievements as "merely" military. In a successful counterinsurgency it is impossible to separate military and political success. The Sunni "awakening" was not primarily a military event any more than it was "bribery." It was a political event with enormous military benefits.
COIN is a melding of the political and the military - it has to be. I still think we need to have a political surge, but you can't understand counterinsurgency doctrine without understanding how much the political and military work hand-in-hand.

Part of the "bad"?
The Iraqi central government is unsatisfactory at best. But the grass-roots political progress of the past year has been extraordinary – and is directly measurable in the drop in casualties.
Indeed. For the most part the local and regional reconciliation process is continuing apace and it is at a national level that the functions of government need to be focused upon. Yon's correct when he says to this point the central government is unsatisfactory, but given its recent action in Basra, the laws it has recently passed and the budget it is working, there is at least hope that is enroute to being better.
This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting. To give one example, I just returned this week from Nineveh province, where I have spent probably eight months between 2005 to 2008, and it is clear that we remain stretched very thin from the Syrian border and through Mosul. Vast swaths of Nineveh are patrolled mostly by occasional overflights.

We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.
Yon and I disagree on this point. A) it isn't politically feasible. B) the force we presently have can't support it. I know that a guy who has spent the time Yon has spent in Iraq and seen it go from a debacle to chance for success wants to do what is necessary to win.

I see this as the point where the ISF steps up and begins operations in areas they're presently not operating - such as the Syrian border. There are enough well trained ISF units, by Gen. Petreaus' own tally, which can take up that fight and many others. I want to see them do that as there is no better teacher than doing the job.

But I do understand his desire, although I disagree with the method. We need to explore every way, short of more troops, to ensure success in Iraq.

Yon's final line is important:
Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.
This is where we are. To the politicans - I don't care if you opposed the war from the beginning. I don't care if you changed your mind and oppose it now. The bottom-line is we have the chance to win it and help establish something the Arab world has never seen and something which has the potential to spread, make the region more stable and make the world more peaceful. And if you blow it because of adherence to an unthinking populist ideology, it'll forever be on your head.
 
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Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war.
Oh man - I’m having nightmares wondering how Erb is going to ’challenge’ this.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Please do NOT make this about Erb. Please keep focused on McQ’s post about Michael Yon’s reporting.

Thanks!
 
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood.

I love it. He’s still using the "building/painting schools" talking point from 2004-5. Which makes sense, since the levels of violence in Iraq are the same as in 2005, maybe even a little higher since Maliki took it upon himself to slaughter his political enemies.

So, to recap: Yon is embedded with the army, talks only to that minority of Iraqis who like being occupied by America, publishes racist blood libels about Muslims serving babies for dinner, tells us that we are "winning" because violence is at the horrific levels of 2005, continues to pretend that the Iraqis fighting the civil war are all "Al-Qaeda," and wants respect for the fact that his "reporting" is exactly the same as official government press releases. Kewl.

Yon is very similar to Walter Duranty. He’s not as bad as Duranty because he’s passing on propaganda for his own country rather than another country, but still, he will always assure us that things are terrific and pay no attention to the dying people. (Sure, he was willing to pass on negative news in 2006, when even the government press releases he echos couldn’t pretend that we were "winning." The point is that now that we’re back to the merely horrible, unwinnable levels of death and devastation from 2005, the MNF press releases say we’re "winning" and so does Yon, since he is a government propagandist, and his purpose is to keep America in Iraq so that America can be defeated and humiliated.)
 
Written By: T.B.
URL: http://
As all of us who served in the military learned early on during overseas deployments, we can be very effective representatives of our country in a good and positive way. Discipline, code of conduct, the warrior spirit and compassion do mix.
As a retired military(USAF)person (1960-80) let me also say that this has been more readily true since the end of the draft and the inception of the all-volunteer military. I’m just really proud of today’s military.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
Tuberculosis:
...publishes racist blood libels about Muslims serving babies for dinner,
....
Yon is very similar to Walter Duranty.
Yes, of course, it’s very difficult to believe that a Muslim country could be pacified toward a civil society so that factions would stop murdering one another and be able to get on with their lives.

Who is the racist? Who is engaging in libel?

And Duranty, by the way, was guilty of, among other things, not reporting on cannibalism in Ukraine that resulted from the terror famine.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
So to recap: TB has never been to Iraq nor has any contact with anybody there, TB neglects to mention that Michael Yon’s "race blood libels" were not his words but those of an Iraqi willing to go on the record with the story (unlike other MSM sources that are unverified annonymous stringers), TB tells us we can’t win but neglects to explain why it could only result in defeat, TB continues to spout the Liberal Narrative that AQ has never been a credible force in Iraq, and TB expects we should respect his spoutings because he would never give any credence to any site that does not trumpet the standard Liberal Narrative of "Oil For Blood, Quagmire, Another Viet Nam" and other such blatherings - kewl.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Yon, since he is a government propagandist, and his purpose is to keep America in Iraq so that America can be defeated and humiliated
So let me get this straight. The govt. has hired Yon just so Yon can help with the govt.’s GOALS of defeat and humiliation? Intesting theory. May I subscribe to your newsletter?

No, really, it’s all psychological with you guys (and by guys I mean traitors). Let me guess, TB: Life hasn’t worked out nearly as well as the voices in your head lead you to believe, huh?
 
Written By: Come on, Please
URL: http://
Win this war? Perhaps he means if we increase troop levels, since he says we don’t have enough. Does he think we can win it if with the force levels that are feasible? And what is "win"? And at what price? I’m not convinced. One of the problems of embedded reporters is that they lose a bit of their objectivity, they become part of the community they’re covering, and can start to reflect the perspectives of the military people, people who have a motivated bias to see the task as worthwhile.

But I’ll take his optimism into account, and watch how things in the south and Baghdad unfold. It could well be that the closest we can come to victory is to work with Iran and Saudi Arabia to work to stabilize Iraq as we leave. I think we need to move from idealism to more realism. Ultimately, the goal is to assure American national interests, and Iraq has to be judged in those terms.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Michael Yon takes money only from his subscribers. He is reluctantly supported by the Army public information offices in Iraq. If you read his blogs as I do, you will get a realistic, first hand account of ground truth, warts and all.

IMHO, every person who reads a NY Times story or a US Army press release about Iraq, should be required to read an equal length narrative by Michael Yon. If the stories conflict, Yon will have it right.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Erb, I’m surprised. Actually "taking his optimism into account, and watch how things in the south and Baghdad unfold". And on another note:
I think we need to move from idealism to more realism.
I agree with you - partially. I would like to add: I also think we need to move from pessimism to realism. And finally, I fully agree with you on one more point:
Ultimately, the goal is to assure American national interests, and Iraq has to be judged in those terms.
I gotta go outside and check the sky - pigs have got to be out there flying today!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
SShiel:
Erb, I’m surprised.
Boris does that from time to time, but he’ll hit his reset button, probably by this afternoon, and be back on the usual trope.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I also think we need to move from pessimism to realism.
But how, exactly, does that help the Democratic Party?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
One of the problems of embedded reporters is that they lose a bit of their objectivity, they become part of the community they’re covering, and can start to reflect the perspectives of the military people, people who have a motivated bias to see the task as worthwhile.
On the other hand there are biased hacks like Juan Cole.

It is amazing how many lies the left has been caught in: CBS, Ruters, Kerry, the Clintons, the various fake soldiers, etc. Hell, even Bush’s big lie turned out to be the lies of a couple of anti-Bush CIA goofs.

Anyone seriousl looking at this objectively must be amazed how one sided this lying has been. Yon has been forthright and honest, but Erb is concearned with his objectivity, while swallowing whole the lies of the likes of Cole . . .
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Don:
Anyone seriousl looking at this objectively must be amazed how one sided this lying has been.
We all have human nature to contend with.

But the Left is by its very nature a culture of mendacity.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
I gotta go outside and check the sky - pigs have got to be out there flying today!


OK, let’s look at it this way: I get frustrated when people supporting the war don’t seem to acknowledge the huge cost and time this has taken compared to the benefits it has garnered. I think there has to be some recognition that it’s possible this war was a mistake, and we’ll need to do a clear assessment, absent spin from either side.

You all get frustrated because I argue the war has failed to achieve its objectives, and you don’t want to use failure yet since you don’t agree with the pessimism it entails.

Maybe a compromise: you admit that it is at least possible that this war will end up not being worth the price and thus might ultimately be considered a mistake (even though you may not think that likely), and I’ll acknowledge that good policies moving forward might help us at least put the best possible conclusion to the policy. The issue then is what best to do moving forward.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Don, you beat me to it with this:
On the other hand there are biased hacks like Juan Cole.
But that’s only part of it. If this:
One of the problems of embedded reporters is that they lose a bit of their objectivity, they become part of the community they’re covering, and can start to reflect the perspectives of the military people, people who have a motivated bias to see the task as worthwhile.
is true and proximity compromises objectivity then what effect would it have on a person whose wife is from Lahore, Pakistan? I know nothing of the lady and make no allegations. I am merely pointing out that Professor Erb’s guilt by association amy be applied to others to denigrate their efforts. Careful there.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
Boris:
I get frustrated when people supporting the war don’t seem to acknowledge the huge cost and time this has taken compared to the benefits it has garnered.
They don’t acknowledge it because it’s not true. The "huge costs" are not huge, not in comparison to serious wars. The war is costing less than 1% of U.S. GDP, and until this recent economic downturn, federal budget deficits were falling. The benefits, on the other hand, have been incalculable, inclusive of the impact on Libya and the AQ Khan network.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the war was to act as a conveyor belt for jihadis to come get some. Well, they came and they got.

The change offered to Iraq and the Middle East is the most significant upgrade in its regional politics since the emergence of modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.

The factional strife in Iraq, after the lifting of the Tikriti thugocracy, is part of a natural progression toward a true civil order. There are no guarantees, but when we had this opportunity to intervene in this ill region, it was a bargain. And in fact that is still one of my criticisms of Bush, that he has run a bargain basement war in Iraq, and has not spent enough on it.

The only real cost that is too much to bear is the loss of our soldiers and Marines, who understand, better than I ever will, the meaning of sacrifice to honor, duty, and country.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
And I must add to that last sentence that I won’t let awful, rotten, miserable, snivelling, lying twerps like you get away with calling their excellent work a "fiasco" or a "failure" or "too costly," when it has been none of those things. Americans have and continue to live prosperous lives undreamed of by earlier generations, and haven’t so much as lost a step in sacrifice to this war. Whether they should or not is another question. Another of the many questions that you, Boris, are not equipped to address.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
On the other hand there are biased hacks like Juan Cole.
Cole sites numerous media reports and translates Arabic media, so that gives some information that is useful no matter who it comes from.

But let’s say that you think about Cole the way I think about Yon — biased, not really trusting completely. Doesn’t it make sense for both of us — each spectators from afar to these events — to read a variety of perspectives, rather than just find those that we agree with and simply cling to those. Shouldn’t I say, "well, maybe Yon is right on this" or you say "it’s possible Cole is right on this other point" and we keep our minds open to new evidence and compare a variety of perspectives? Isn’t that more a sign of intelligence than simply choosing a perspective to believe and then defending it as if it cannot dare be challenged? Isn’t the start of wisdom admitting that one might be wrong, even on something one believes strongly? I read Yon, this website, the Weekly Standard and other sites to get those other perspectives and compare them, so I don’t just seek those agreeing with me. I’ll state when I disagree, but note as well that this is the realm of interpretation and opinion. Doesn’t that make sense?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris:
But let’s say that you think about Cole the way I think about Yon — biased, not really trusting completely.
Except for the fact that Yon is right there on the ground in Iraq, paying attention to what is actually happening, and Cole isn’t, why, you have a perfectly valid comparison, Boris.

Let’s see: strong young common sense independent journalist who is traveling with combat units in Iraq vs. whiney Left-wing academic imbedded at an American university campus.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
OK, let’s look at it this way: I get frustrated when people supporting the war don’t seem to acknowledge the huge cost and time this has taken compared to the benefits it has garnered. I think there has to be some recognition that it’s possible this war was a mistake, and we’ll need to do a clear assessment, absent spin from either side.
To a large extent, the people commenting here fully understand the cost of this war. Many of us have worn the uniform and understand the personal cost of conflict - far more than you might ever imagine. If you want to go back to the very beginning, you will note that I was never wholly sold on this war. But once the first shot was fired, we were committed. And a commitment like that means you are all the way in! Mistakes made in getting us into this conflict are ancient history and lessons to be learned for future applications. Where do we go from here is all I have ever been concerned with.
You all get frustrated because I argue the war has failed to achieve its objectives, and you don’t want to use failure yet since you don’t agree with the pessimism it entails.
Bingo. It ain’t over, Erb. And the determination that we have failed has yet to be decided. We may be in the 4th quarter but the final bell has not sounded. To say we have "failed to achieve its objectives" is to get up and leave before the game is over - and this has been a "game" that was never out of reach.
Maybe a compromise: you admit that it is at least possible that this war will end up not being worth the price and thus might ultimately be considered a mistake (even though you may not think that likely), and I’ll acknowledge that good policies moving forward might help us at least put the best possible conclusion to the policy.
To my knowledge, nobody here can say how future generations will look back at this episode of our history. I can tell you Lincoln was widely hated and the cost of that war (600,000 dead on both sides) and the benefits derived were greatly debated for generations. Lincoln is now viewed as possibly our greatest President and the cost in blood and treasure considered acceptable by most historians. Will this episode of our history be viewed in like manner - I hope so, but that is a long way from saying it will!
The issue then is what best to do moving forward.
That, sir, is all that I can ask of anyone when discussing this issue.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
They don’t acknowledge it because it’s not true. The "huge costs" are not huge, not in comparison to serious wars. The war is costing less than 1% of U.S. GDP, and until this recent economic downturn, federal budget deficits were falling. The benefits, on the other hand, have been incalculable, inclusive of the impact on Libya and the AQ Khan network.
Heck it has nothing to do with the rather minuscule costs as wars go. Any ’benefits’ it may ’garner’ are obviously to be found after all is settled successfully. An honest person seeking real debate knows that. And, of course, all of that has been laid out here any hundreds of times previously.

But speaking of frustration, I get frustrated with those who seem to live only today and have no vision of the future and no memory of the past. Who, like geese, wake up in a new world everyday and think history goes back all of 5 minutes ago. The type that has to have the very same answers to the very same questions fed to them every day because they can’t seem to remember it from the last time it was fed to them. And because people finally get tired of doing so, these geese claim some sort of rhetorical victory because of the refusal of others to repeat something for the 7,040,087th time when it is obvious to all that the goose in question was too obtuse to get it the previous 7,040,086 times.

But, hey, that’s just me. I do think, however, A Fine Scotch made a fine point in another thread - make your comments about the post, not about the goose. The goose ain’t worth it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"It could well be that the closest we can come to victory is to work with Iran and Saudi Arabia to work to stabilize Iraq as we leave."

What is it about diplomacy that somehow convinces people its more powerful than actually winning the war militarily?

I really don’t get it. Is it the conferences at plush resorts in Switzerland?

Because the best way to stabilize Iraq as we leave is to leave a strong government that can deal with Iran and Saudi as it sees fit. Not some sort of rump state.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
What is it about diplomacy that somehow convinces people its more powerful than actually winning the war militarily?
Kills fewer people, doesn’t raise a generation of children in a war zone so they grow up with numerous psychological problems, doesn’t destroy infrastructure, doesn’t arouse anger and emotion against the outside invader, and makes it easier to evolve policy. Take the Balkans — if they’d avoided war everyone there would be much better off. Now whole cultures have been decimated. In Iraq the destruction of lives, civilian suffering and death has been immense. Diplomacy is better than war almost every time — especially for the aggressor (the defender may have no choice).

And I just don’t see how people will build a strong Iraqi government given the conditions. There seems to be this faith that if we stay longer somehow things will work out. I don’t see why people believe that.

Still, SShiell is right, we’re where we’re at now, we can’t undo the choice to go to war. I put the diplomacy option out there — basically similar to the Iraq Study Group’s idea awhile back. Given the infeasibility of increasing forces, and given the lack of political progress, what causes you to think this is a war that can be "won" militarily, rather than a situation whose best outcome can be achieved diplomatically.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I put the diplomacy option out there — basically similar to the Iraq Study Group’s idea awhile back. Given the infeasibility of increasing forces, and given the lack of political progress, what causes you to think this is a war that can be "won" militarily, rather than a situation whose best outcome can be achieved diplomatically.
Erb, I don’t have a problem with seeking a diplomatic solution to the problem. But here is where we part company - you won’t get that diplomatic solution by unilaterally leaving the war zone. In the Muslim (Sunni or Shi’a) world, only one thing tells the tale - power. They believe a truce is only a ploy to be used when you are in a disadvantaged position. Muhammed taught that as a lesson and with a simple look at history you will see it to be true throughout the Muslim world since the time of Muhammed.

Bush’s current Diplomatic surge is exactly the right thing to do at this time. Regardless of MSM and Juan Cole and other people’s belief in the failure of the surge - it has succeeded and Malicki’s puh against the Sadrists is the full evidence of that. This was not the ineffectual fly-swattings of a desperate man (visions of Hitler in the bunker ordering phantom divisions to attack the invaders). This was an concerted attempt, somewhat poorly planned I will admit, to force the main government’s will on the Sadrists. This could not have happened one year ago. And he would never have attempted it had he not had the power to do so. And every day that goes by Malicki gains in power and prestige and Sadr, hiding in Iran, loses by the same measure.

Now Sadr is isolated politically. The rest of the government has flatly told him - disarm or you are frozen out of the elections. And the rest of the government is Sunni, Kurd, and Shi’a - all in concert against Sadr.

So to win by military means alone? There I will agree with you - Probably not. But to couple the military might currently in place with the potential power of a diplomatic "surge" - now you got something going for you.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Diplomacy has such a great record of eliminating the cause of wars, or at least preventing wars, or at least ending them quickly, or at least making sure they are limited, or at least creating stability and peace from the ruins, or at least.... Perhaps we should establish a government agency to do this diplomacy, and staff it with trained diplomats.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
But here is where we part company - you won’t get that diplomatic solution by unilaterally leaving the war zone. In the Muslim (Sunni or Shi’a) world, only one thing tells the tale - power. They believe a truce is only a ploy to be used when you are in a disadvantaged position. Muhammed taught that as a lesson and with a simple look at history you will see it to be true throughout the Muslim world since the time of Muhammed.
Power is an interesting thing. It isn’t just military, and now a days also includes regional balances of power, and economic issues. That’s the key to a Nixonian trianglation policy — leverage your diplomatic power by knowing the fears and concerns of your potential adversaries. In that we aren’t necessarily unilaterally leaving a war zone. Not only are we present in non-military ways, but we’ll likely have some troops there, probably in Kurdistan. Moreover, we have a naval presence and a capacity to act. Finally, our arms sales, ties to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and alliance with Israel all gives us a real presence. We’d simply be extricating ourselves from an Iraq conflict where arguably we’ve done about all that we can to make their future for them, shifting towards giving Iraqis responsibility for their future (Iraqification?) Just as detente seemed to give the Soviets a victory by acknowledging the borders of Eastern Europe and apparently "legitimizing" them, in reality it just lessened the chance of a hot war as communism slowly perished. I think Islamic extremism is as weak as communism, and even in Iran the theocrats are more concerned about their position in the region and the world than extremist agendas. Extremists thrive on instability, my argument about the war is that’s allowed them to expand instability in a way that benefits them. The surge may yet be seen as succeeding if we can shift from wanting the result to be a western style unified democracy to a stable nascent democracy that grows on its own. Also, I still believe a kind of partition, maybe not three states, but autonomous regions, may be inevitable.

Second, Muhammad clearly said in the Koran that you should not fight if your opponent does not want to fight. If they follow the Koran, where jihad is really very similar to the Christian just war theory, diplomacy certainly can work. Of course, politicians tend to re-interpret religious teachings to their whim, so we can’t be sure they will. I’ve started teaching the history of Islam in a number of my courses since so many people don’t understand the faith, or have a caricatured image of it. I strongly recommend Reza Aslan’s No God But God to get a sense of the drama going on as Islam deals with modernism. To me this reinforces the notion that we have to let them go through this mostly on their own, and it will take time (something like ’slow steps’). We won’t find individual liberties, western markets, and the like for awhile. I think the more we try to really shape how they evolve, the harder the task will be, and the more resistance average folk will put against us.

How weak is Sadr? I don’t know. He’s always been a rival of Sistani, and his focus is the poor regions. He only has 30 some in the parliament, so he’s not had a massive amount of support in recent years. But we’ll see. To me the real key is learning to accept Iran as a regional power. Krauthammer’s article today on that was heartening, it shows that even the neo-conservatives are accepting the idea of containment/deterrence with Iran. But we have to recognize our own limits — overstretched military, dangers in Afghanistan, economic problems, etc. I only see gloom and doom if we miscalculate our capacity and overstretch, something I think we’ve been doing in Iraq. I find that dangerous, but it’s not impossible to fix.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Power is an interesting thing. Of course, I don’t know much about it, since I’ve never had any, except the power to make students read my drivel and pretend to agree with it to get a grad. Anyway, based on my hazy understanding, it isn’t just military, and now a days also includes regional balances of power, and economic issues. See, I can admit your point that the military component is important. A little. A very little. As long as it we don’t threaten to actually use it. Because if we did, it all of a sudden becomes a weakness because the Europeans don’t like it, and we all know they’ve been the key to solving every world crisis in the last 200 years.

That’s the key to a Nixonian trianglation policy — leverage your diplomatic power by knowing the fears and concerns of your potential adversaries. I’ve now dropped the whole military thing, by the way, since I just showed with irrefutable logic that it can’t be used anyway. And the first sentence of this paragraph is a statement of the blindingly obvious, but then that’s my speciality, and I have to do it because you dense righties are so ignorant.

In that we aren’t necessarily unilaterally leaving a war zone. Nope, the other parties will get out too, so it isn’t unilateral. What do you mean, can we trust them? Of course we can! Stop laughing!

Not only are we present in non-military ways, but we’ll likely have some troops there, probably in Kurdistan. That way, they won’t interfere with anything the Iranians want to do, and that’s critical to my plan, because I’m depending on the Iranians to screw the entire thing up so badly that at best Kurdistan is left as a free region, and that would enable me to crow "it wasn’t worth it!" for the next twenty years, and of course teach in my class all about what a collassal failure Iraq was.

Moreover, we have a naval presence and a capacity to act. Of course, we shouldn’t ever use it, and I would protest in strongest terms if we ever did because any kind of conflict is just icky. But the ships would look impressive, and the Iranians would surely act with restraint while they are raping the Iraqis because of them. Finally, our arms sales, ties to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and alliance with Israel all gives us a real presence. Just not one that we can actually leverage, since a pullout would prove that we don’t have what it takes to stick when the going gets tough. And of course, that’s the ultimate dream of the anti-war left.

We’d simply be extricating ourselves from an Iraq conflict where arguably we’ve done about all that we can to make their future for them, except maybe giving them the minimum time to actually learn how to self govern. We would be shifting towards giving Iraqis responsibility for their future (Iraqification?), and of course since they’re not ready to resist Iran, Sadr, et al, then the whole thing would come crashing down, just as I always predicted.

Just as detente seemed to give the Soviets a victory by acknowledging the borders of Eastern Europe and apparently "legitimizing" them, in reality it just lessened the chance of a hot war as communism slowly perished. Of course, none of we wise leftists at the time thought it was going to perish, and it was all a big surprise to use when it did, but we’ve learned from that lesson that anyone who could conceivably be an enemy can be counted on to self-destruct before really doing us any harm. I think Islamic extremism is as weak as communism, even though it’s hundreds of years old and has millions of fanatic adherents, they’re just going to fade away any time now, if we don’t antagonize them. Get it?

Even in Iran the theocrats are more concerned about their position in the region and the world than extremist agendas. Really. They don’t want a nuclear bomb because they’re extremeist, oh no. Just to secure their position in the region. They would never threaten to annihalate Israel or anything like that. Well, I mean they might do some rhetoric that said that, but trust we wise academics with our godlike powers of political science to know when they don’t really mean it.

Extremists thrive on instability, my argument about the war is that’s allowed them to expand instability in a way that benefits them, except of course for the thousands we’ve vaporized, but believe me, there’s an endless supply of them that apparently comes from some magic funnel somewhere out in the Iraqi desert. The surge may yet be seen as succeeding if we can shift from wanting the result to be a western style unified democracy to a stable nascent democracy that grows on its own. Now you might say that this has been our goal all along, but I’ve carefully ignored anyone who has even suggested that, so that I could sound wise and above it all when I put this idea forth. Also, I still believe a kind of partition, maybe not three states, but autonomous regions, may be inevitable. And that’s different from the ordinary federalism we’ve encouraged from the beginning, in ways that I can’t explain right now.

Second, Muhammad clearly said in the Koran that you should not fight if your opponent does not want to fight. Now, I realize that there are plenty of other verses that claim the exact opposite, and cherry picking Koran verses that are not really followed doesn’t mean that I’m trying to aid our enemies in their propaganda efforts, oh, no. If they follow the Koran, where jihad is really very similar to the Christian just war theory (stop laughing!), diplomacy certainly can work.

Of course, politicians tend to re-interpret religious teachings to their whim, so we can’t be sure they will. But we ought to give them an infinite number of chances, just in case they ever do. I’ve started teaching the history of Islam in a number of my courses since so many people don’t understand the faith, including me, or have a caricatured image of it. I strongly recommend Reza Aslan’s No God But God to get a sense of the drama going on as Islam deals with modernism, or in many cases, fails to deal with it. Did I say that? Oops, I mean to talk about their inevitable evolution to a modern, moderate form of Islam that is guaranteed as long as we get out of Iraq right away. You see, to me this reinforces the notion that we have to let them go through this mostly on their own, and it will take time (something like ’slow steps’). We won’t find individual liberties, western markets, and the like for awhile. And that’s not either a strawman, since none of you have claimed otherwise. Stop laughing! I think the more we try to really shape how they evolve, the harder the task will be, and the more resistance average folk will put against us. That’s right, unlike the entire balance of humanity, fanatic Muslims don’t respond to incentives. I decree it.

How weak is Sadr? I don’t know, and let me tell you, it takes a lot to admit that since I’ve been pontificating on the whole Sadr thing non-stop since Malaki took him on last month. But you guys have body slammed me so many times on that, I have to at least say "I don’t know" just to stop the pummeling so I can pontificate about other things, the way I’ve been doing in this comment that has run to a word count that is threatening to overwhelm most web browsers. He’s always been a rival of Sistani, and his focus is the poor regions, just like the left over here. He only has 30 some in the parliament, so he’s not had a massive amount of support in recent years, and those men with guns that are supposed to be the most powerful independent militia are a completely separate subject. But we’ll see.

To me the real key is learning to accept Iran as a regional power. Plus accept that they are probably going to end up running things after we wise leftists convince the rest of you to give up. Krauthammer’s article today on that was heartening, it shows that even the neo-conservatives are accepting the idea of containment/deterrence with Iran, and thank goodness that we’re less likely to actually use any force or even threats, because that takes us further down the path to complete self-effacement and emasculation. But we have to recognize our own limits — overstretched military, dangers in Afghanistan, economic problems, etc. Please, we really need to recognize those limits, and that won’t happen until we give control to wise leftists who are determined to make sure those limits become permanent. I only see gloom and doom if we miscalculate our capacity and overstretch, something I think we’ve been doing in Iraq. I find that dangerous, but it’s not impossible to fix. Have I sufficiently played both sides of the question now so that I can claim anything I want no matter how things turn out? I believe so.
 
Written By: Ott Scerb
URL: http://cluelessprof.maine.edu
But let’s say that you think about Cole the way I think about Yon — biased, not really trusting completely. Doesn’t it make sense for both of us — each spectators from afar to these events — to read a variety of perspectives, rather than just find those that we agree with and simply cling to those.
Sure. All sources are biased. The problem with Cole, besides the fact that he ain’t there, is that he’s proven substantially wrong to the point of outright dishonesty.

Yon is on the ground, and he’s clearly been an honest source. No doubt he has his bias, but he’s worth reading if you want to know what’s going on in Iraq.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Being on the ground gives you a very limited perspective, especially if you’re embedded. To really understand the entire situation, you need a broader perspective. Not that ’on the ground’ isn’t valuable, it’s just not superior. You need a variety of perspectives. Plus Cole has been right in most of his predictions about the war and events over there, he’s a proven commodity, which is why he so often appears on various news programs and in publications. No one has ever shown him to be dishonest, even though some of the right wing nut jobs have tried (and failed). So I’ll take Yon seriously, but if you don’t take Cole seriously, then you’re simply searching for perspectives to support your bias, and that makes it more likely that you’ll be unable to see when you’re wrong.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Being on the ground gives you a very limited perspective, especially if you’re embedded. That’s right, actually seeing things and getting first-hand accounts is bad. You might actually come to the conclusion that this Iraq thing isn’t a total waste, and we can’t have that, no sir.

To really understand the entire situation, you need a broader perspective. Of course a degree in political science is helpful, and why people without those degrees try to pontificate on Iraq, I just don’t understand. If all you non-political-scientists would just shut up about this whole thing, we would convince the rubes that we need to get out in a jiffy.

Not that ’on the ground’ isn’t valuable, it’s just not superior. You need a variety of perspectives, plus a godlike power of political science. Plus Cole has been right in most of his predictions about the war and events over there, he’s a proven commodity, which is why he so often appears on various news programs and in publications. No, he’s not a leftist hack who always supports the anti-war side. Stop laughing!

No one has ever shown him to be dishonest, at least by my loose standards for honesty, even though some of the right wing nut jobs have tried (and failed). So I’ll take Yon seriously, as long as he stops with this Iraq might work stuff. But if you don’t take Cole seriously, then you’re simply searching for perspectives to support your bias, and that makes it more likely that you’ll be unable to see when you’re wrong. And of course I would never have that problem, because I look at all sides and use my godlike powers of political science to decide who’s right. I don’t just read both and then find ways to dismiss people like Yon with this "being on the ground gives you a very limited perspective" stuff while only taking leftist anti-war views seriously. I said stop laughing!
 
Written By: Ott Scerb
URL: http://cluelessprof.maine.edu
You do understand that ’blood libel’ which is less of one, than a Reverend Wright sermon, was about AQ Salafi-Wahhabis reacted to sheiks cooperating with
us.I give Michael Yon, the benefit of the doubt on this, one I don’t extend to Cole, because his very nuanced scholarship really collapsed sometime in the blog storm of 2004; but the truth is the sheikhs in Dulaimi, Salahuddin, and other provinces, were shooting at US forces, long before the de-Baathification decrees came about. They allied themselves with the Salafis very early on. The problem really lies in the fact, that until recently Sunni elders like the Sheikhs, really thought they were the majority in Iraq. Every relevant party from the Ottoman administrators of Baghdad and Mosul, to the British under Bell and Wilson, Nuri Al Said, the Ghailani, the Pachachi’s told them so, and acted accordingly. The world of the Shia Sadrs,the Chalabis, the Kurdish Ashkaris, Barzani’s 7 Talabani’s might as well have been on another planet. It took the tragic ’innoculation’ of exposure to Salafi/ Wahhabis; plus ironically our abandonment of them at Fallujah, Ramadi, Haditha with all that entailed to make them reconsider who the real enemy was
 
Written By: narciso
URL: http://

 
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