2005 April 25 Monday
Insurgency Violence Upswing In Iraq

Someone forgot to tell the Iraqi insurgents they are a beaten force that is on the wane.

BAGHDAD, April 23 -- Violence is escalating sharply in Iraq after a period of relative calm that followed the January elections. Bombings, ambushes and kidnappings targeting Iraqis and foreigners, both troops and civilians, have surged this month while the new Iraqi government is caught up in power struggles over cabinet positions.

Many attacks have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated by insurgents, according to the U.S. military, Iraqi officials and civilians and visits by Washington Post correspondents. More than 100 Iraqis and foreigners have died in the last week.

Is this the end of the neocon Middle Eastern version of Prague Spring?

The U.S. official said this week that overall attacks had increased since the end of March. Roadside bombings and attacks on military targets are up by as much as 40 percent in parts of the country over the same period, according to estimates from private security outfits.

So glad I'm not there.

Civil war anyone?

Tensions over the killings in the area focused on the town of Madain, where rumors that Sunnis are kidnapping and killing Shiite townspeople were rife. Some Shiite national leaders have warned of sectarian war. In Shiite strongholds, there were threats of retaliatory violence against innocent Sunnis.

Will Shia bands start kidnapping and killing Sunnis? If they did would that be a positive or negative development from the standpoint of US national interests?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on that previous article.

Some think political paralysis at the top of the Iraqi government is contributing to the uptick in violence. A new Cabinet has not yet been formed after the January elections.

Iraq has experienced a surge in militant attacks that have caused heavy casualties in recent weeks, ending a relative lull after the country's historic Jan. 30 elections. Iraqi leaders are struggling to form a Cabinet that will include members of the Sunni minority, believed to be the driving force in the insurgency.

An optimistic interpretation is that the attacks are designed to strengthen the bargaining position of the Sunni politicians trying to win positions the government. Why optimistic? Because it would suggest some sort of political deal could be made with the Sunnis to placate them and get them to stop bombing. But I'm not optimistic about Iraq. Still, if you want to feel optimistic that is one way you could think about it.

Quite obviously the elected politicians feel no sense of urgency to form an effective government to put down the insurgency.

The attacks came after a short lull in violence in Baghdad and underscored the security challenges facing newly-elected leaders. They are still deliberating over a government more than two months after the election.

Hey, why rush? American soldiers will keep dying and getting maimed to keep their government in power at least until they strike a political deal and likely for years to come.

We are now well into the real world test for the "the elected Iraqi government and rebuilt Iraqi military will take over the suppression of the insurgency phase" theory on how we will put down the insurgency and leave. If a definite trend of declining violence does not become evident in the next few months the Bush Administration is going to have to come up with yet another new theory on when things will start looking up in Iraq. The "when we capture Saddam" theory and the "when we capture Saddam's sons" theory are both long discredited. So is the "when we capture a bunch of Saddam's top people" theory. Ditto for the "when we appoint an Iraqi provisional government" theory and about a half dozen other such theories that have faded too far in my memory to easily recall.

Update: Okay, the "Iraqi military forces taking over the fighting" subtheory of the bigger "let the Iraqi government and military put down the insurgency" theory is taking a big hit. Derek Copold alerts me to a report that Iraqi Army desertions are surging.

On the Syrian border, US troops in the Sunni city of Husaybah report mass desertions. An Iraqi unit that had once grown to 400 troops now numbers a few dozen who are "holed up" inside a local phosphate plant.

Major John Reed, of the 2nd Marine Regiment, said: "They will claim that they are ready to come back and fight but there are no more than 30 of them on duty on any given day and they are completely ineffective."

In Mosul, which has been a hotspot since insurgents fleeing Fallujah effectively overran it last year, residents have complained to newspapers that police now rarely patrol and only appear in response to attacks.

The US military isn't big enough to hold Mosul and Fallujah at the same time.

This is bad news for US soldiers and their families and US taxpayers.

Update II: Greg points me to more articles: Retired US Army General John Keane believes the insurgency can replace their losses.

'One of the insurgency's strengths is its capacity to regenerate," said retired Army General John Keane, who returned recently from a fact-finding mission in Iraq. ''We have killed thousands of them and detained even more, but they are still able to regenerate. They are still coming at us."

Keane took issue with those military officials who have suggested that the insurgency was waning because the number of attacks across the country had declined to about 50 a day, compared with more than 200 per day last year, according to Pentagon figures.

''It's always dangerous to look at [the numbers of] enemy attacks," said Keane, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. ''They can be very misleading, as much as the body counts in Vietnam. . . . It can lead to wrong conclusions."

The insurgents are claimed to be launching more sophisticated attacks.

Despite claims that the insurgency in Iraq has declined, an internal Army analysis finds that attacks haven't necessarily lessened in recent months, but rather appear to have shifted away from U.S. troops to more vulnerable Iraqis.

The report also concludes that Iraqi insurgents seem to be staging increasingly sophisticated attacks on both Iraqi and U.S. forces.

The Christian Science Monitor links to more articles on the insurgency.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 April 25 09:46 AM  Mideast Iraq

John S Bolton said at April 25, 2005 1:16 PM:

The administration perhaps doesn't know that the surest way to make a people hate you and yours, is to save them. They don't and can't want to think of themselves as that which has to be saved. Beyond the initial victory parade, the hatred grows and steepens. What else would as well explain the intensity of the fury of so many blacks against the Jewish physicians who save their lives? A persuaded internationalist can't foresee this reaction, if he believes that there are no differences to speak of between such populations. What would explain the attacks on ambulance crews of different race, as they go in to save the lives of minorities? Why the riots by minorities in our hospitals against Jewish and foreign medical people, who save their lives? Is it not in spite of, but because of, the fact that people are saved by others who have no reason of special affinity to do so, that arouses the hatred? These examples are among the most trenchant, for showing this effect, which public policy must try to anticipate, because it is in medical emergencies that hostile populations are the most likely to put aside their differences temporarily. Internatonalists exploit this effect of temporary cooperation to insert themselves in the role of conspicuous altruists, but it blows up in their faces, in the explosions of snowballing hatred, often resulting in the evacuation of everyone of some race from an entire country. People need to see comprehensible motivation; the administration can't see the hatred and suspicion they are causing to multiply with rhetoric of selfless crusades that don't make sense. The Iraqi sees the mask of unintelligible motivations, and he feels fear and then hatred.

gcochfran said at April 25, 2005 2:28 PM:

I have a new theory for you. Things will start looking up in Iraq when the Red King wakes.

Randall Parker said at April 25, 2005 2:41 PM:

For those who don't understand Greg's literary reference to the Red King go read Chapter 4 of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Matra said at April 25, 2005 7:29 PM:

"the surest way to make a people hate you and yours, is to save them."

I've often thought that, yet it is rare to read about it in the press or in history books.

I've noticed throughout my life that my British relatives and friends rarely ever give the US any kind of credit for the defeat of Nazi Germany and indeed appear agitated when the subject is raised. Even right wing Brits will often give more credit to the Soviets or fall back on that old gem about how "the Yanks only came in at the end". The British, and presumably the French too, usually emphasise the late US entry rather than its essential contributions to winning the war. Some times this may just be due to the closeness of the Anglo nations and the natural rivalries that develop between those in regular contact with one another but I also believe there is something to John S Bolton's theory. If I were French I certainly wouldn't be expecting thanks from Algerians for turning around their population decline in the 19th century never mind their willingness to let today's Algerians live better lives in France than they would in their homeland.

Altruism is useless when it's for alien peoples unless one has sainthood ambitions. Some of my most frustrating moments in recent years have been spent trying to convince genuinely altruistic Americans that just because Saddam was bad to his own people doesn't mean Americans and other Westerners should die overthrowing him. It was the same with the British during the 1999 attack on Yugoslavia, which most Brits seemed to think was perfectly natural because, you see, Slobo was mean. I can understand children and even young idealistic adults thinking gunboat humanitarianism is good but I'm completely out of patience with adults who think the same way. Darfur anyone?

John S Bolton said at April 26, 2005 7:36 AM:

We are told that we are winning hearts and minds, while Iraq will, or has, become the throbbing center of antiamerican hatred in all the world. Tacitus, thousands of years ago, said something like this; that the way to win someone's undying hatred was to save him. It is perhaps more applicable to nations, though, or some group with a genetic commonality which is different from that of the group which saves them. A further twist that may be occurring, would be if those with an interest in detonating intercommunal conflict, were to be aware of this particular occasion of intergroup hatred, and would deliberately urge us to win hearts and minds like that. This way, they can pretend to be for charity and saving lives, while their actual motive is to stir up hostilities against the donors. Worse, while giving little or nothing, the advocates of such giveaways, position themselves to denounce all who oppose them as ungenerous, selfish, racists, xenophobes and so on. What if the whole time, their motive was to stir up the hatreds of the recipients against the donors, and hurl them like weapons against those who have had success sufficient to allow them to contemplate saving others? Regardless of the motivations in the case of Iraq, one result than can be confidently predicted is an intensification of hatred against Americans in the Mideast, unless we have complete failure. If this is not so, how does it happen that the welfare receiving children of moslem immigrants in Europe will attack and leave an elderly woman lying in a pool of blood, but that does not happen in their countries of origin? The rage of those who live ~because~ those, of some distant anonymous donor population, condescended to save them otherwise appears as mystifying ingratitude. Meanwhile those of most ignoble intentions, say it is all because you were not generous enough in the first instance. If this does not cause the people to revolt from such immoral leadership, a reciprocating action is entrained, in which more aid begets more hatred, more aid, more hatred, until war breaks out. This would have been the intention of some, right from the start.

Stephen said at April 26, 2005 6:50 PM:
"the surest way to make a people hate you and yours, is to save them."

There appears to be an untested assumption that the Iraqi's believe they've been 'saved'. Perhaps they see it as being more akin to "out of the frying pan and into the fire"?

gcochran said at April 27, 2005 12:10 AM:

The idea that people hate those who help them is... about 5% true. It isn't much of the explanation of attitudes in Iraq. We didn't just overthrow Saddam, we conquered Iraq.

Look, we saved Australia from the Japanese with the battle of Coral Sea and later efforts in the South Pacifc - but we didn't invade them and shoot up their armed forces, occupy every city in Australia, we didn't tell them how to run their government and force them to rewrite their damn traffic laws, we didn't drive tanks down every street and shoot wildly in all directions every time we heard a car backfire. We didn't turn Canberra into a US base. We didn't stack them up naked and sodomize them, we didn't put them on a leash. Our troops in Australia didn't believe for mysterious reasons that the Aussies were really responsible for Pearl Harbor - so we didn't go in hating them, didn't have an insane chip on our shoulder.

I'm quite sure about this.

And the Aussies did not hate us. In fact we got along swimmingly.

Jack Tanner said at April 27, 2005 8:02 AM:

'We are told that we are winning hearts and minds,'

By whom? All I ever hear is that 'can you kill all the rats and restore order then get the fuck out?'

noone said at April 27, 2005 12:16 PM:

"we saved Australia from the Japanese"

1)France required foreign liberation,hence the hurt pride

2)Britain did not need "liberation" from the Nazis,but:

2a)Barely held on until our entry in the war
2b)suffered a huge decline in national status and stature after the war.

Australia didn't need "liberation" from Japan,and they did not suffer a post WW2 fall in national status,which is why they do not have the resentment towards us that the French and Brits have.Not to mention the Aussies never had the "Great Power" ego that the frogs and Brits did.

Derek Copold said at April 27, 2005 2:00 PM:

French antagonism (which is mainly criticism) predates WWII by well over a century. Until lately, it was also pretty much limited to the intellectual classes. Your average Jacques was quite well disposed to Americans, as I found out (to my surprise) when I lived in Europe.

As for British anti-Americanism, aside from pre-War dislike of our commercialism and the usual lefty sneering you can find over here, what the hell are you talking about?

Stephen said at April 27, 2005 10:26 PM:

If being liberated in WW2 was the cause of French antagonism, then I'd have expected to see the same antagonism in every other western European country that was subject to German occupation - but no one talks of Norway being antagonistic to the US, or Belgium etc... So, I think that any French antagonism is more likely due to its people being highly independent and nationalistic and therefore not wanting foreign troops (of any nation) on their soil.

As for antagonism in the UK, I don't see any focussed on the people of the USA, but there is a lot of criticism US foreign policy - but lets face it, there's a lot to criticise...

As for UK antagonism about 'being saved' by the US in WW2, I don't think it exists to the extent implied in some of the earlier postings, but there was certainly some, even during the war years. Here's an illustrative quote from a US soldier presaging 'US won the war' revisionism as early as 1944:

A thirty-two-year-old academic serving as a combat historian with the U.S. Army in September 1944 read British newspapers. He noted the fears these expressed, that the Americans would claim to have won the war on their own. "Unfortunately [for the British], nothing can stop our people from claiming the victory," Forrest Pogue wrote presciently.

They believe the British slow, they over-emphasize their [own] total contribution. The British will never get full credit for their part in winning the war, since their greatest glory was holding on in the 1939–42 period. This was negative type of fighting, and will fade . . . Russia will be played down, perhaps, in later years at home . . . Hers was the positive sacrifice that broke Germany and made the landing [in Normandy] possible. However, ours was the voice and the helping hand that encouraged England to keep fighting, that replaced the terrific loss of matériel suffered by the Russians.

By the way (and at the risk of getting way off topic), I'm not convinced that many people outside the US think that the US was primarily responsible for defeating the Axis. In fact, I'd suspect most think that the Soviet Union should get the lions share of the credit for the Axis defeat.

Some argue (including me) that the point at which an axis defeat became inevitable occured when the Soviet Union eliminated a German army at Stalingrad in Feb 43, followed four months later by the destruction in detail of the core of the german panzer force at Kursk. After those defeats Germany was on the defensive and spent the rest of the war mounting a fighting retreat as the Soviets advanced inexorably toward Berlin. Note that Stalingrad and Kursk happened one year before any US or UKforces set foot in western Europe (on D-day).

Also note the scale of the European war - the axis committed 2/3rds of their military forces (~150 divisions) to the invasion and subsequent fighting retreat from the Soviet Union, leaving only 1/3rd of the German army (50 depleted infantry divisions and 10 highly depleted Panzer divisions) to face the US and UK on D-Day. My point is that soviet soldiers would have been in Berlin sampling its beers sometime in late 1945 or early 46 even if the other allies hadn't mounted the D-Day invasion.

PS: phew - can't believe I typed that much.

Derek Copold said at April 28, 2005 7:28 AM:

The Soviets did do most of the fighting; however, I don't think they'd have made it to Berlin without our help. First our actions in N. Africa and Italy drew away a portion of the German's strength. Secondly, Russian soldiers were largely armed and supplied by American goods. Had the other allies stayed out of Europe, The Germans and Russians probably would have come to an armed truce like Korea, more out of sheer exhaustion, than anything.

gcochran said at April 28, 2005 9:20 AM:

The Soviets managed to block a German victory by themselves in December, 1941, before any noticeable amount of Western aid showed up. They got lucky; on December 6, the Nazis rejected their offer of a stand-still cease-fire that would have been greatly to the German's advantage; Japan attacked the US on December 7th, Germany suicidally declared war on the US on December 11th, while the worst blizzard since 1812 blew in.

But in the following years, the Soviets won the war of production. They out-produced the Germans, even though the Germans had a larger industrial base - much bigger, after the Nazis occupied western Russia. The Soviets manufactured about 90% of their tanks and airplanes. The airplanes that we and Britain sent were decent, but many Soviet tanks were much better than ours (and somewhat better than those of the Germans) . The Soviets also produced almost all of their own infantry weapons and artillery. How was it possible for an economy with a smaller and less sophisticated industrial base to out-produce Germany? Especially when Germany could extract considerable resources and manpower from occupied Europe?

First and most important, the Germans didn't really try. They didn't believe that they had to go to a full war-time economy; they didn't really start to push with second and third production shifts, Helga the riveter, and slave labor till 1942 or later. They didn't rationalize their design and production process - they built too many different models of tanks and airplanes instead of concentrating on the few best designs They also spent lots of effort on technological toys that had no chance of being useful for many years - the V-2 cost more and consumed more engineering hours than the Manhattan project, without ever having much military effect.. They had two different electromagnetic railgun projects running - and we haven't even figured out how to make those militarily useful in the year 2005. They neglected some designs with real promise, like the Me-262. There was a very Darpaesque flavor to German military R&D - cleverness for its own sake.

Second, the Western Allies drew off lots of German resources by naval and air action, and because they were a threat-in-being. They absorbed nearly all the German naval effort. About half of the Luftwaffe (in June, 1941, about 40% was deployed in the West, rising to about 65% by 1944) was deployed against the Western Allies. In 1941 and 1942 between 20 and 25% of German field divisions were committed to the Mediterranean and Western Europe, increasing to about 40% in 1944. The diversion of German resources by the mere existence of an Allied threat, with not all that much fighting involved, was probably essential for Soviet victory, especially in 1941 and 1942. By 1944, it was clear that the Soviets would defeat Germany whether we landed in France or not.

Third, the Soviets did a lot of things right. They came closer to rationalizing their design process than the Germans, and they certainly realized immediately that all-out production was required. They picked some good people as production czars - Ustinov in particular did a good job running the military industries in the Urals. They also used their larger manpower resources intelligently; for instance by using low-literacy Central Asians to clear mine fields. By running through them. They ran an efficient army, with the best divisional wedge of any major power. For each fighting soldier there was one (only one!) support troop. Ruthlessness and disdain for creature comforts can be militarily useful.

Fourth, Western aid was important logistically, and in allaying key shortages. Although the Soviets made most of their own weapons, the Western allies, mainly the US, furnished thousands of locomotives and over 50% of all Red Army trucks. This greatly increased tactical and strategic mobility, and speeded up the Red Army advances in 43 and 44. We supplied a lot of their transport planes - my uncle, after beings shot down near Berlin and picked up by the Red Army, spent some time in C-47s with made-in-USA painted over.. We sent blending agents for high-octane aviation gas, which the Soviets didn't know how to make. We sent machine tools, electric generators, raw materials of all sorts. We supplied a large fraction of the rations for the Red Army. But it should be remembered that 80% of all Western aid arrived after 1942; the Russians had taken back the initiative before we helped them much.

crush41 said at April 28, 2005 9:40 AM:


Had Tojo and co not viewed the US as a potential entrant into the war, and say that were correct for whatever obscure reason, would Japan have signed the non-aggression pact with the Soviets in 1939? Could the Soviets have possibly managed a full-scale two-front war if Japan was less concerned with the south Pacific and the army got their way in going full-steam into the Soviet Union? Not to mention the morale swing the Germans would have received if Britain was the only threat from the West. It doesn't seem to me that one victory would have been enough for the Soviets to keep Japan at bay if the US were deleted from the equation.

Matra said at April 28, 2005 10:06 AM:

"As for British anti-Americanism, aside from pre-War dislike of our commercialism and the usual lefty sneering you can find over here, what the hell are you talking about?"

British anti-Americanism has always struck me as being much more personal and cultural than political. That has certainly been the case with my relatives and friends. Most Brits certainly take great delight in mocking the US military, its sports, and its people in general.

"If being liberated in WW2 was the cause of French antagonism, then I'd have expected to see the same antagonism in every other western European country that was subject to German occupation - but no one talks of Norway being antagonistic to the US, or Belgium etc..."

Anti-Americanism has been rife in Norway and Belgium for some time. Bruce Bawer has written about Norwegian attitudes towards Americans as has the blogger Bjorn Staerk. I was in Brussels a couple of weeks ago and saw many anti-American posters. Belgium has also been very uncooperative when it comes to its domestic al-Qaeda suspects and the Belgian foreign minister recently accused the US of genocide over its treatment of American Indians. That one's an old chestnut from the European anti-Americans, along with moralising about their treatment of blacks. Though based on my experience the European support for black Americans has more to do with resentment of whites and their love of blacks rarely extends beyond their jazz or blues CD collections.

I can't say too much about Aussies as they are generally less anti-American than most nationalities. Though some of the most strident anti-Americanism I've ever heard has come from Australian pop groups - all leftists of course. In Australia and New Zealand there was more resentment towards the British (at least that was the case when I lived in NZ) who have more influence there than anywhere else except Ireland. But as Britain fades (as it has already done in Canada) and the US becomes more culturally dominant that may change.

It's fair to say that the local or in this case global hegemon will always be resented and even hated no matter what benefits they bring to others. In the case of Iraq the invasion has surely been good for Shiites and Kurds in terms of giving them more power but I wouldn't count on these groups, especially the Shiites, being grateful. After all although many Americans (and Brits) genuinely saw the war as liberation from a tyrant it would be naive to assume that those who pushed for, planned and executed the war had the same motivation. The Iraqis, of course, know that all too well, but even if they did not there's no reason why they should feel obligated to be pro-american. Since the US nation (not the state) was foolish enough to be conned into fighting another country's war I'm afraid I'll find it hard to sympathise with you when you start complaining that the Iraqis haven't been grateful for the sacrifices of your soldiers.

Stephen said at April 28, 2005 9:08 PM:
Had Tojo and co not viewed the US as a potential entrant into the war, and say that were correct for whatever obscure reason, would Japan have signed the non-aggression pact with the Soviets in 1939?

I think Japan would have signed the treaty anyway - after all, it had just had its arse handed to it by the soviet union after it lost a war it had deliberately orchistrated against the SU in Mongolia (the SU decimated a veteran Japanese army). Also, I don't think Japan was thinking in terms of "The War" in 1939 (ie a world war), rather at that stage they saw themselves as being involved in multiple wars of subjugation (Korea, China, Mongolia etc) and those wars were not sufficient to cause the USA to respond militarily.

That said, Japan's loss to the SU in the north could be said to have directly contributed to the war in the Pacific because Japan had an insatiable desire to build an empire, and now that it couldn't expand northward it turned its attention to the Pacific. By 1940, there were lots of easy pickings in the Pacific because the British and French were busy fighting the Germans, and that left their empire possessions in the Pacific vulnerable (ie Burma, Singapore etc). By 1941, Japan was ready to swallow the Philippines, which was a US 'protectorate', so that's when Japan really began to implement a plan to take out the US fleet at Perl.

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