2005 October 31 Monday
John Burns On Sunni Trojan Horse Joining Iraqi Security Forces

John Burns of the New York Times reports that the Sunnis may be joining the police and military in order to undermine the Iraqi government from within.

Rising Sunni recruitment into the new security forces could just as easily portend the opposite of what the Americans hope. American officers have acknowledged that the 200,000 soldiers and policemen trained under the $11 billion force rebuilding program include some, perhaps many, who are insurgent infiltrators, just as others have proven to be agents of the Shiite militias.

Like Sunni political participation, some Iraqis say, the surge in recruits could reflect little more than a decision by Sunni hard-liners to oppose the American enterprise in Iraq from within, as the insurgents have opposed it from without. When hard-line Sunni leaders say the earlier boycott of politics was a mistake, these Iraqis warn, what they may mean is that they had forgotten the lessons of the Trojan horse.

The Sunnis are unwilling to accept the idea that after centuries of Sunni rule the political order will reverse itself and Shias will rule.

A common test is to ask Sunnis whether they will accept Shiite majority rule. Sunni politicians, like ordinary Sunnis, are generally evasive. Some say it will never come to that, because secular politics uniting Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds will prevail; most, employing an expedient arithmetic of their own devising, say that a Shiite majority is a demographic myth, so the issue doesn't arise.

Burns reports that the Sunnis believe the Sunni insurgents are winning their war, that the US will withdraw, and then the Sunnis will defeat the Shias and Kurds. But anyone who accepts the more optimistic interpretations of events in Iraq offered up by many war supporters should demonstrate their faith in the rosy scenario and be ready to heed Ayatollah Sistani's coming call for a withdrawal of US forces. In the optimistic view if the Shias think they are ready to handle the Sunnis then, by golly, they are ready.

The optimists want us to accept their optimistic interpretations of events in Iraq. Okay, I'm ready. Lets call their bluff and argue that, yes indeed, the Iraqi military is a force to be reckoned with and the Iraqi people see the Iraqi government as legitimate. They are ready to fight on their own. Their people support them. When the call from top spiritual leader Sistani for US withdrawal comes in 2006 that call should be heeded with alacrity. Why stand in the way? The Iraqis are ready.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 31 02:09 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures

gcochran said at October 31, 2005 5:13 PM:

The Iraqi military is probably so much of a force to be reckoned with that they could threaten Kuwait, which is valuable and terribly weak.. or maybe menace Iran - or even Israel!

What have we done?

razib said at October 31, 2005 9:31 PM:

it seems you should go through the appropriate gov. channels to make your opinion felt. oh, and read _iraq the model_ for an objective view of the situation that the MSM isn't giving your (they are totally uninterested 3rd parties).

Stephen said at November 1, 2005 12:17 AM:

The elected representatives of Iraq will never ask the US to leave. They know that they're seen as collaborators by a large portion of the population, and that within a few minutes of the last US helicopter taking off they'll be strung up by one group or another.

Even a Saddam style strongman would have trouble staying in power given the multitude of well organised and well armed groups. Thats one thing Saddam had going for him - he could infiltrate and eliminate nascent groups before they became a threat.

Stephen said at November 1, 2005 12:22 AM:

Oh, and another reason why the gov. will never ask the US to leave - all those US dollars that they're busily embezzling. You'd have to be a moron to voluntarily give up suckling on that teat.

Ivan Kirigin said at November 1, 2005 5:11 AM:

Again, black & white... reductionist.

Your reasoning: if things are going better than I think, than we can leave.
Alternatively: if we are doing better than the sunni insurgents, we can leave now.

Neither make sense.

How about: we are winning, but things aren't over yet. That seems the most plausible, but not even on your radar.

Marvin said at November 1, 2005 5:55 AM:

Emotionalism trumps rationality, even in nominally intelligent people. Blindspot. When a person fails to see how their own bias affects their thinking.

Randall has become king of the false dichotomy, with GC and Razib acting as his cheerleading squad. The truth is nowhere near the simplistic view of RP, or the straw man he portrays as everyone who disagrees with him. False dichotomy. Either this or that, when in truth it is neither. The straw man is obviously wrong, but so is RP.

It is even worse than a simple false dichotomy. It is a loaded coin false dichotomy. Either Randall is right or the neo-cons are wrong. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Marvin said at November 1, 2005 6:33 AM:

warmonger neocon strawman link
October 30, 2005: After two years of fighting, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are seeing their worst nightmare come true. And that is an Iraqi army and police force that can do the job, and is not led by Sunni Arabs. For generations, Iraq was dominated by Sunni Arabs, because Sunni Arabs held most of the leadership posts in the army and police. Kurds and Shia Arabs were often the majority of the troops and beat cops, but they nearly always took orders from a hierarchy of Sunni Arab supervisors and officers. The Sunni Arabs knew that the management and leadership skills necessary to run an army or police force were not easily acquired. It took years of training and experience. There was no way the Kurds and Shia Arabs could quickly replace those Sunni Arab officers and NCOs. Thus Sunni Arab terrorists would drive out the foreign troops, especially the deadly Americans, and, then the Sunni Arabs would take over again. But then something very, very bad (for the Sunni Arab takeover plan) happened. Battalions and brigades of Iraqi troops began to show up, commanded by Kurds, Shia Arabs, and some turncoat Sunni Arabs, that could do the job. Currently there are 207,000 Iraqi soldiers and police that are trained and equipped for operations. There are sufficient leadership to deploy 120 army and police battalions for combat operations. About three dozen of these battalions are well enough led to undertake security operations without American supervision.

Randall Parker said at November 1, 2005 7:45 AM:

Ivan, Marvin,

The problem with this middle view of "progress is being made" is that it is false. I've given you lots of evidence on this. But you just ignore it.

1) In October 2005 US troops had the biggest monthly fatality rate since January. This happened in spite of the bigger Iraqi military that the war camp trumpets. I've already listed on more than one occasion all the factors that ought to be lowering our casualty rate if we were making progress.

2) 82% of the Iraqi people want the US and UK troops out.

3) Even Shia cities are falling under control of local militia faction leaders. The central government does not control Basra. The Mahdi Army and other factions exert far more control.

4) Some seemingly effective Iraqi military units are really militia units cooperating with the central government when it suits them. We've been hearing about this for years since initially the only effective Iraqi military units were made up of Kurds and of course we know the Kurds are determined to secede. But now we are seeing reports that the same thing is happening with Shia militias.

5) Kurdistan continues to move toward the ability to secede. They are chasing Arabs out of their region while bringing in Kurds. They make clear their ultimate goal even if their elected leaders do not state it on the record by name. They have military units competent enough to make their goal at very least highly plausible.

6) The insurgents and militias use the Iraqi military for training, money, and equipment. A statement about 207,000 soldiers under arms does not tell us anything about how many of those soldiers are loyal. Loyalty toward the central government is low in Iraq. Loyalty to extended family, religious sect, and ethnic group are all higher.

7) The central goverment is hopelessly corrupt. Police and military units are not getting paid on time. I do not see any sort of trend toward less corrupt government. Do you?

8) Sistani is clearly signalling that at some point he's going to tell us to leave. He's not in the government. But he has far more legitimacy in the eyes of the Shia than their elected leaders. He can start with a simple request. Then he can orchestra small protests. Then he can orchestra larger protests and disruptions. Then he can let loose militias.

If you want to tell me I'm being simplistic and setting up false dichotomies then you have to address all the evidence I've presented. I do not review all that evidence every time I make a post like the one above. I expect you are familiar with it. But you ignore it and tell me I'm putting up false dichotomies.

The problem with the Panglossian war camp is that they can make no sunny predictions that actually happen. That ought to give them pause. They ought to reexamine their assumptions. Faced with a reality that doesn't fit your model one ought to admit the model is flawed and try to figure out why.

gcochran said at November 1, 2005 9:38 AM:

What I want does not affect how the world works. The same is true for everyone else. I have no doubt that we could win, in some sense, in Iraq, if we wanted to enough. But we don't, and there is no reason why we should. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been disadvantageous to the United States: this was obvious in advance, to anyone to who cared to think about it.

There's a whole branch of the internet handing out happy talk about Iraq to people who want to hear it. Happens not to be true: people who indulge in that sort of solitary vice ought to be embarrassed.

Randall Parker said at November 1, 2005 9:55 AM:


Regards your point about wanting to win enough: George W. Bush doesn't want to win enough to try to institute a draft to make the military big enough to put down an insurgency. He's not willing to pay that high a price to win.

Retired US Generals have bluntly stated that the US forces in Iraq are too small to put down an insurgency. At that same link I point to what James Dobbins James Quinliven of the Rand Corp found about how many troops are needed to occupy a country. Their calculations come out to similar results as the generals claim.

Yet the incompetent war camp didn't see the need for much larger numbers of troops, didn't foresee the insurgency, and repeatedly claimed that suppression of the insurgency was just around the corner. January 2005 was just one point of many where the beginning of the end was supposed to be upon us. Never mind that the generals and the Rand Corp analysts who chomped the numbers had been saying otherwise. Never mind that January 2005 as a turning point joined the long list of other bogus trumpeted turning points.

A friend of mine is fond of saying "There's no stopping the invincibly ignorant". The happy talkers are invincibly ignorant. Their invincible ignorance is grossly morally irresponsible. It is getting lots of people killed and maimed and huge sums of money wasted for nothing. Actually, worse than nothing. US interests are being damaged by this war.

Stephen said at November 1, 2005 3:42 PM:

Greg said: What I want does not affect how the world works. The same is true for everyone else.

That's where the neocons would disagree with you - they think that the US is so powerful that it need only believe and what it believes will become reality.

They're dicks.

Marvin said at November 1, 2005 5:43 PM:

Neocons may be wrong and dicks as well. That does not prevent you from being wrong and a dick. Somehow people think that labeling others and condemning them somehow gives themselves some type of purity prize.

Randall, your motley disjointed list of factoid opinions does not constitute an argument in any sense. Repeating the same list would be futile, I completely agree with that much. It is fascinating how little insight many commentators seem to have into the formation of their own opinions, and how heavy-handedly those opinions can shade every subsequent viewing of information. Blindspots are not limited to those with IQs below the mean or any other random cutoff. Blindspots are ubiquitous. The sensitivity to initial conditions applies to many potentially chaotic systems, including the formation of opinions. You take a stand and you tend to stick to it. Investment.

Randall Parker said at November 1, 2005 6:54 PM:


You offer no real argument for your position. You just tell me I'm being irrational, have blindspots, claim my opinions are "disjoint", etc. There's not much to your position beyond character assassination.

I take a stand and tend to stick to it? Wrong. When I discover I made an error I change my position.

I abandoned my initial support for the war and started doing so right after the invasion. The evidence built up. Various deceptions and shoddy pieces of reasoning were exposed. Numerous predictions of the war party turned out to be extremely wrong.

The people who called the events right strike me as far more worth listening to. So I listen to Greg Cochran and Jerry Pournelle, paleo-cons, some retired generals and Rand Corp analysts rather than Paul Wolfowitz or Dick Cheney.

The neocons are fools or worse. They are in way over their heads. They've made a foreign policy disaster. This is obvious to anyone who isn't still incredibly invested in their support for the war.

Marvin said at November 2, 2005 6:10 PM:

No need to keep repeating yourself. Just make a greater effort at objectivity. Almost no one has any real insight into their own opinion formation anyway. A convert to one religion suddenly becomes a convert to another religion. Is he any closer to the truth after his second conversion? Who can say? If he is more open to conflicting information that reaches his senses, perhaps he is. If he is just as dogmatic in his second belief system as he was in his first belief system, then no.

And then, if he changed his mind once, he's not likely to change it again. That would be weak-kneed and shiftless. Now he really has to dig his heels in.

Character assassination? You are mistaken. That would be something far different.

Randall Parker said at November 2, 2005 6:32 PM:


You keep describing me in religious terms and you pose as somehow more objective. I do not see it. I see little indication that you've got the bigger body of objective information underlying whatever your position is. I've dug up lots of stuff and my pieces of evidence for my the elementse of my position are on display in numerous postings.

Your psychological analysis is just plain bullshit. First, I'm dogmatic and won't change my mind. Then I've changed my mind and hence am reluctant to change it again. There's such a thing as a "just so" explanation. That's the kind you are producing. You just spin a new rationalization to handle anything I say that undermines your previous rationalization.

Bob Badour said at November 3, 2005 5:55 AM:


I long ago came to realize that those, who self-indulge in the sort of armchair psychology Marvin indulges in, project their own character defects. Ask yourself: "How much of his self-indulgence obviously or plausibly applies directly to himself?"

Sensei said at November 3, 2005 7:45 AM:

Are we getting into psychobabble now? If so, Bob seems to be indulging in enabling behaviour. Marvin is practicing psychiatry without a license (?) Mr. Randall Parker is letting himself be manipulated like a child. Ivan is indulging in irrational optimism. Mr. Cockrane is playing the wizard of oz. Very cozy yes.

Bob Badour said at November 3, 2005 8:58 AM:

Getting into? We have been here for at least two days now.

Wizard of Oz? I don't get that reference. Greg's first post in this thread strikes me as more of a mock Victor Frankenstein. His second post seems a little prudish with respect to solitary vices--a topic to which I will return momentarily. And it strikes me as a little judgemental of those who thought about the issue without the benefit of his superior sources of information. Surely some other literary figure fits better than the Wizard? Perhaps something from Dickens?

Then again, perhaps I am the judgemental prude and you, sensei, are the wizard of oz (don't look behind that curtain!) and neither of us is particularly aware of Greg himself. Perhaps Hans Christian Andersen is a better comparison.

Now, where was I? Oh yes: During the run-up to the war in Iraq, I was aware of Greg's arguments and his purported sources. I was aware of the Bush regime's arguments and their alleged sources. In neither case did I have direct access to the sources. On the balance of probabilities, I gave the regime greater credibility. Man, oh man! Did I bet on the wrong horse or what? I wish the stakes had been lower now.

Since Greg has firmly estabilished his greater credibility, I find his apparent prudishness regarding solitary vices odd. For the most part, one can divide the human species into two groups: those who admit to solitary vices and those who lie about them.

It would seem Greg is now pushing for people to join the less honest group. What, if anything, does his encouraging dishonesty do to his credibility?

On the other hand, if we dredge up Badour's Rule of Projection again, one might conclude he was just stroking his own ego.

Marvin said at November 3, 2005 5:03 PM:

Bob Badour appears to be rather fixated on conceps of "self-indulgence" and "solitary vices." This may reveal a great deal about the inner workings of his Id, the part of his brain that focuses entirely on his own satisfaction. Personalities that are frozen in the Id have a great deal of difficulty fitting in socially at any level above the sandbox. This suggests the need for intense personal consultation with a professional therapist, preferably one who charges $300 an hour, with a minimum of twice weekly sessions for at least a year and a half. I usually charge for initial evaluations but in this case, for the health of a fellow commenter, I waive my fee.

Bob Badour said at November 3, 2005 5:50 PM:


What you fail to realise is Badour quite enjoys his self-indulgence and all of his vices. (Much to Randall's chagrine no doubt.)

My id and I will just continue happily doing whatever we please, and we can have a lot of fun with $300.

But then again, applying Badour's Rule of Projection to what you just wrote...

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