2005 June 26 Sunday
Donald Rumsfeld Admits To Meetings With Sunni Insurgency In Iraq

The rumours which have been flying around for weeks or months have finally been acknowledged.

Asked to respond to a report that U.S. military representatives met with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News "there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to "split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.

Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.

The military plan, approved in August 2004, seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents responsible for most of the suicide bombings -- which have killed more than 1,200 people in the last couple of months -- and whose larger political aims are unclear.

Hey, maybe they could shift the site of the negotiations to Paris and bring Henry Kissinger back from retirement to conduct them. Just a thought.

Rumsfeld also acknowledged that the United States is not going to beat the insurgency and that the insurgency could even last another 10 years.

Rumsfeld acknowledged there was no military solution to ending the insurgency and that the talks with Iraqi insurgents were part of a search for a political solution to the war. "I mean, foreign troops are not going to beat the insurgency," he said. "It's going to be the Iraqi people that are going to beat the insurgency and Iraqi security forces. That's just the nature of an insurgency."

He also pointed out, on Fox News, that "insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

The US will not stick around that long. Will the Sunnis manage to overthrow the government once US forces leave?

Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe (who writes many great reports on Iraq btw) says the inspector general of the US Marine Corps wrote a report claiming that Marines in Iraq are short of a number of types of equipment.

The report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.

The Marine Corps leadership has ''understated" the amount and types of ground equipment it needs, according to the investigation, concluding that all of its fighting units in Iraq ''require ground equipment that exceeds" their current supplies, ''particularly in mobility, engineering, communications, and heavy weapons."

Their equipment is worn out.

The report also found that Abrams tanks and other combat vehicles are being so overused that replacements are needed quickly. It found that all of the Marines' battle tanks in Iraq have passed the normal criteria for replacing them.

The Marine Corps says their shortages extend well beyond Iraq.

Marine Corps spokesman Major Douglas Powell said the problems are affecting the entire Marine Corps, not just the 30,000 deployed to Iraq.

''We just don't have enough equipment to provide troops with what we need," he said. But Powell stressed that the Marines in Iraq have been provided more equipment from other units so they can meet their mission.

General Vines in Iraq expect a US troop withdrawal to begin early next year.

Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the 18th Airborne Corps commander who oversees day-to-day military operations in Iraq...

...

"I think General Casey's assumption probably is still valid," he said. "I suspect we will probably draw down capability after the elections, because Iraqi security forces are more capable."

Asked whether the reductions could involve as many as four or five brigades, from the 17 currently in Iraq, Vines said: "It would probably be somewhere in that range. That would be my guess."

The elections he is referring to are in December. Some news stories put the withdrawal in March 2006. But I can't find an exact quote from Vines to that effect. Vines also doesn't entirely discount a surge in violence that would require more troops. Actually, we already need more troops in Iraq but the official party line of the Bush Administration is that we have troops there to do the job. What exactly is the job? Hang out waiting for the Iraqi military and police to staff up while we lose about 70 or 80 soldiers dead and hundreds injured per month while burning several billion dollars per month (which is not enough since the equipment is in short supply and wearing out).

Meanwhile the war is no longer popular.

A June 8 Gallup poll indicated dwindling support among Americans for the war. Sixty percent of those polled supported either a partial or total withdrawal of troops, and 52 percent said they don't feel any safer after Iraq's invasion. The poll interviewed 1,003 adults and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Some have drawn comparisons to Vietnam, where President Nixon decided -- after the deaths of 58,000 Americans and some 3 million Vietnamese -- to slowly withdraw U.S. forces. Just as the Gallup poll suggests there is a growing critical mass of Americans who want to see the U.S. withdraw from Iraq, there was also, at the time of the Vietnam war, popular civilian support for a withdrawal.

General John Abizaid told the US Senate that soldiers in Iraq fear the US public no longer supports them.

''I can tell you that when my soldiers ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people . . . that worries me," Abizaid told senators. ''And they're starting to do that. And when the people that we're training, Iraqis and Afghans, start asking me whether or not we have the staying power to stick with them, that worries me, too."

He warned lawmakers that ''American soldiers can't win the war without your support, and without the support of our people."

Well, the American people don't support the war in Iraq. But I'm guessing most Americans wish the troops had better and more equipment so that fewer Americans would get wounded and killed.

Bush is trying to convince more Americans to support the war.

Recognizing the flagging support for his Iraq policy, the president will travel to Ft. Bragg, N.C., on Tuesday to deliver a prime-time speech outlining his strategy on the conflict.

This month, in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a majority for the first time disapproved of Bush's job performance. On his handing of Iraq, 41% approved and 58% disapproved.

How many readers are old enough to remember when LBJ started giving speeches in front of troops because too many people in public audiences were hostile?

Update Steve Sailer opines that the lack of a centralized leadership in the insurgency Iraq makes negotiations with them hard to do.

The Shining Path rebellion in Peru and the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey both ended abruptly with the capture of their respective numero unos. The Afrikaaners could negotiate a deal with Mandela and know that his rebels would abide by it.

We don't know for sure that nobody will eventually emerge from the insurgency as a charismatic leader -- Bonaparte didn't emerge until about six years into the French Revolution -- but we're probably worse off without a centralized command. Lack of centralization means the insurgency could go on irrationally long, with the worst hot-heads keeping it going with more atrocities setting off more reprisals, etc etc.

One of Steve's readers responds more generally that when it comes to Iraq that much like Los Angeles about which maybe Woody Allen once remarked "there's no there there" the same can be said of Middle Eastern governments in general. This reader further claims that the US military presence in Iraq is just stirring up a hornet's nest of clan members angry that our smart bombs killed someone's cousin Ahmed.

In fact Arab states seem more and more like Potemkin polities, just a bunch of soldiers controlling some oil wells who have set up shop to impress international visitors but are not really in control of their people.

Arab societies are much more swarm-like – organized from the bottom-up by clans, rather than top-down by states. That’s why they seem ineffective in mobilizing their populi for war or economic development but good for stuff like weddings, mafias and guerilla war.

So regime change does not really change much, apart from the name on the shingle hanging on the street-front of the Potemkin state.

This brings to mind Charles Glass, a reporter who who famously escaped from his captors in Beirut, who once wrote a book on the Middle East entitled Tribes With Flags.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 26 06:39 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Stephen said at June 26, 2005 8:31 PM:

I agree that the concept of a nation-state sits uncomfortably in the gulf - its really clan and tribal at heart. On the other hand there are some viable countries in the region; for instance, Iran must stand out as the most cohesive by regional standards, and outside the gulf so is Egypt and maybe Syria. I'd like to add Lebanon and Isreal, but I'm not convinced that either are particularly cohesive.

Jordan is trying its absolute best to model itself along western lines, but I think the only thing holding it together is that the majority of the locals buy into the long term western vision of a generally popular monarchy, oh, and they also realise that life will go to hell if the country collapses.

The US presence in the region (ie Iraq) is causing a lot of problems for those regional leaders who argue for greater westernisation. The best way to kill a reform is for the US to support it. Unfortunately, the problem is agravated by unemployment which is growing because the tourism industries have collapsed - not too many rich westerners going to Jordan or Egypt at the moment, so there's plenty of time for the unemployed to accept some charity from the local imam.

As for a solution, well, how about national monarchies? A monarch could be perceived to be above the individual tribes, but can unite the tribes without threatening their independence - kind of a federalist approach. ...of course, you need a monarch to start off with, and there aren't too many left...

Tom said at June 26, 2005 9:31 PM:

You say, "The US will not stick around that long. Will the Sunnis manage to overthrow the government once US forces leave?" That's just a self-defeating prophecy, if I may coin a phrase.

The war "is no longer popular" largely because people like you keep harping on the relatively insignificant losses and ignore the gains. What would you do now that we're in the midst of this "unpopular" war, walk away from it? We did that in Vietnam, and our lack of resolve there only helped to encourage subsequent actions against American interests.

I guess you'd like liberty to come on the cheap. Well, if Washington, Jefferson, and the other Founders had felt that way, we wouldn't have a nation that, despite recent developments at the Supreme Court, still affords us far more liberty than our erstwhile "mother" country.

gcochran said at June 26, 2005 9:40 PM:

After we cut and ran from Vietnam, the Soviet Union, mightily encouraged, put a lot of energy into dominating, aiding, and invading dipshit third-world countries. They subsidized Cuba to the tune of $6 billion a year, sent Cubans to Angola, poured money and advisers into Ethiopia, invaded Afghanistan.

That sure turned out bad for us. Everyone knows that the superpower with the largest collection of backwards, money-losing satellite countries wins.


And compared to Iraq, our efforts in Vietnam were _smart_.


Randall Parker said at June 26, 2005 11:03 PM:

Tom,

So you really think negative thinking is the reason things are going poorly in Iraq? No, you got it backward. The Iraq misadventure is a disaster because the people in power in Washington DC are living in an unrealistic fantasy. They failed to plan for an insurgency. They failed to plan for the policing requirements for maintaining order. They failed to plan for securing weapons depots. Once it was all going wrong they continued to fantasize.

Vietnam was a failure in large part because the leaders kept lying about how well things were going. The gap between reality and lies undermined popular trust in the US government. The same has happened with Iraq. Also, in both cases there was a price to pay for doing it right. In both cases the Presidents did not want to pay that price.

Liberty on the cheap: That's Rumsfeld's vision, not mine.

But we are not fighting for our liberty in Iraq.

Stephen said at June 26, 2005 11:57 PM:

Tom, are these the 'insignificant losses' you're talking about?


  1. $600 billion and counting;
  2. 1700+ mother's sons & daughters dead before their time;
  3. 20,000+ wounded (and who knows how many of those are permanently disabled);
  4. 130,000 troops diverted from the hunt for Osama and friends - remember him?

What gains would you put on the other side of the ledger? Feel free to keep adding items until you're satisfied that the ledger is balanced (or preferably, in credit).

And your variation on the old, "giving comfort to the enemy" reply to those who criticise gov. policy. What piffle. Vigorous debate, the testing of strategies, the questioning of policy - they are the hallmarks of western democracy. Criticism is healthy and pays off in the long run.

Richard said at June 27, 2005 6:31 AM:

Stephen,

Monarchies are quirky as they depend on lucky genes. Hussein worked, but Farouk was a clown.

Kurt said at June 27, 2005 10:00 AM:

Stephen and Tom,

The 20,000+ wounded troops is the most telling statistic. Generally, armies do not like to fight when their casualty rates exceed 20%. 20,000 out of 130,000 is close to that 20% figure. This is the reason why the military is getting antsy about fulfilling their recruiting targets and wanting some sort of timetable for withdrawal. Also, the entire size of our peacetime army is around 500,000 troops. If we were to commit the number of people that would really be required to pacify Iraq (around 250,000-300,000), we would essentially have no troops leftover for any other conflict that might arise. The reality is that we no longer have a "two-war" army that we were supposed to have and maintain.

Much of the blame for this lies with Clinton. However, Bush and the neo-cons must accept the responsibility of not planning for the post war period as well as a complete disregard for the history of Arab conflicts. History (as in the crusades) teaches us that the Arabs do not fight "stand-up" wars. Instead, they allow the conquering army to occupy the region, then pick the off piece-meal in a disorganized insurgency until the occupiers go home. What we see in Iraq is exactly what happened each time the crusaders made it into the holy lands during the middle-ages.

the neo-cons assured us that the war would cost $80-100 billion, tops and that any post war insurgency would be short-lived. It is true that our casualties have been minimal (only 1,700 to date) but the number of wounded is much higher (20,000+) and is cutting into the operational capability of our military.

Rumsfeld's admission that the insurgency could last for a decade is indicative of the fact that the neo-cons are waking up to reality. The talk of turning over policing to the Iraqis themselves sounds much like the talk of "vietnamization" of the Vietnam conflict during tricky dick's first term.

I was vehemently against the iraq war in 2002 (when Bush first began public promotion of it) on the grounds that it would lead to exactly the kind of mess that we are seeing today. Other people (such as Jerry pournelle and Gregory Cochran) opposed starting a war in Iraq for the same reasons.

I think that we will see some sort of withdrawal starting next year (2006). There will most likely be a civil war in Iraq, followed by partition into three separate states (Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds). The Turks will not like this one bit, which is why they opposed the war as well. If the Kurds are rational, they will seek some sort of alliance/accomodation with Turkey. The Sunni's will ally with Syria and the Shiites will look to Iran for support and guidance. Will we all be better off? I have no idea.

Stephen said at June 27, 2005 5:56 PM:

I'm not sure a Kurdish proto-state in northern Iraq would be viable - if you look at a map of Kurdish areas in Iraq and assume that that delineates the new state, then it would only be around 300 x 150 km. It would have oil, which is an economic advantage, but it wouldn't be able to get it out because it'd be landlocked and surrounded by countries that have an interest in the state failing (though maybe it could build a pipeline through Georgia and into the black sea.

As for an alliance with Turkey, I don't think that's going to happen given Turkey's various attempts at ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in eastern Turkey. In fact, I'd have thought that Turkey will be really, really, really tempted to expand east into any Kurdish proto-state. If they don't then they can be sure that within a generation the ethnic Kurds in eastern Turkey will be agitating to join the new state. At the very least, they'll close the oil pipeline that goes throught their territory.

The fundamental problem for the ethnic Kurds is that they are grouped along the borders intersecting Turkey in the west, Iraq in the south and Iran in the east. So create a nation for these guys, someone's going to have to break a lot of eggs. Also, Kurds are highly tribal, and seem to spend the majority of their time shooting at each other - even in Iraq. Finally, they're not very homogeneous - plenty of different languages and religions.

Pico said at June 28, 2005 9:19 AM:

Has anybody polled the iraqis to determine what value is most important to them? Is liberty the most important value to iraqis? The shiites voted for islamic parties which want to turn iraq into an islamic state.

FriendlyFire said at June 28, 2005 5:33 PM:

20,000+ wounded (and who knows how many of those are permanently disabled)

Roughly 50% are RTD (return to duty) which consitutes minor wounds which are treat in Iraq and allow the soldier to RTD within 24hours. The other 50% are considered serious.

The overall total for amuptations and permant blindness is up 100% from what it was during the vietnam war. (thanks to the advances in armoured vest and better battlefield medicine) I believe the figure is 2% (?) (Which was a while ago, IRRC was a documentory on VA and Iraq wounded, cant recall program title)

In addition US army dosnt include those who suffer from disese as casualties. I cannot find any satistics on the type and seriousness of this. But numbers have been push around are another 900+.

@Randell maybe you could write up a post about this ?

Randall Parker said at June 28, 2005 6:11 PM:

FriendlyFire,

I keep watching for info about permanent injuries of soldiers in Iraq. I never see it. Maybe some Googling would turn up something. I'll see what I can come up with.

Keep in mind that the psychological toll is real and probably larger than the rate of permanent disability due to injuries. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is creating a lot of outwardly healthy but mentally damaged people.

Also, a lot of trauma to the body from which people initially seem to recover leads to more illnesses down the line. Concussions are a good example of that. Get a concussion and you are at greater risk for neurological disorders later in life.

So I really think that the official figures are understating the amount of damage being done.

Debbie Prizzia said at February 23, 2006 7:23 PM:

Do you have any satistics on percentages of men coming home from Iraq with post trauma stress?
My son will be going to court for firing a fire arm in a puplic place. His counsler says he had post trauma stress. He was in Iraq. The prosecuting attorney says "My son was in Iraq and he would never do anything like that." I thought if I could get some satistics on how many this effects perhaps he would realize his son was one of the lucky ones. Any info to help me would be appreciated.


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