2007 January 01 Monday
Bush Advisers Surprised On Iraqi In 2006

The Bush Administration's "clear and hold" strategy for Iraq in 2006 failed abysmally. Bush's advisors, incredibly slow learners that the are, were surprised by this turn of events.

The original plan, championed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Baghdad, and backed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, called for turning over responsibility for security to the Iraqis, shrinking the number of American bases and beginning the gradual withdrawal of American troops. But the plan collided with Iraq’s ferocious unraveling, which took most of Mr. Bush’s war council by surprise.

Most were surprised? Does that mean that not all of them were surprised? Who among Bush's advisors was not surprised when sectarian strife kept growing in Iraq? Does a single one of them run a half-way accurate model of human nature and how Iraqis differ from Americans?

In interviews in Washington and Baghdad, senior officials said the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department had also failed to take seriously warnings, including some from its own ambassador in Baghdad, that sectarian violence could rip the country apart and turn Mr. Bush’s promise to “clear, hold and build” Iraqi neighborhoods and towns into an empty slogan.

This left the president and his advisers constantly lagging a step or two behind events on the ground.

“We could not clear and hold,” Stephen J. Hadley, the president’s national security adviser, acknowledged in a recent interview, in a frank admission of how American strategy had crumbled. “Iraqi forces were not able to hold neighborhoods, and the effort to build did not show up. The sectarian violence continued to mount, so we did not make the progress on security we had hoped. We did not bring the moderate Sunnis off the fence, as we had hoped. The Shia lost patience, and began to see the militias as their protectors.”

So Zalmay Khalilzad probably saw the worst coming. Who else did? We should listen to those who predict accurately future turns of events.

Bush is going to send General Casey home early and he's replaced Donald Rumsfeld. Bush's next plan is to send in more troops in a so-called surge. Robert Novak reports that support for the troop surge is very weak in Congress even among Republicans.

President Bush and McCain, the front-runner for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 of the 49 Republican senators when pressing for a surge of 30,000 troops. "It's Alice in Wonderland," Sen. Chuck Hagel, second-ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told me in describing the proposal. "I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly."

Hagel is right. But will Congress step in and stop Bush's surge?

Some think the surge will make things worse, not better.

How big and how long should a surge be? The 7,000 or 8,000 troops that were first mentioned now have grown to at least 30,000. Congressional advocates talk privately about an infusion of manpower ending about halfway through this year. But retired general Jack Keane, who has become a leading advocate of additional troops, wrote in The Post last week: "Increasing troop levels in Baghdad for three to six months would virtually ensure defeat."

I say Iraq is going to get worse either way. So we can blame it on the surge or we can blame it on not doing the surge. It would be cheaper to blame the lack of a surge.

The civil war in Iraq is going to continue at least until the Sunnis are pushed out of all areas along the border between Shia and Sunni regions where substantial numbers of Sunnis and Shias live. We could help the Sunnis move out of harm's way or we could help train the Shias so they can more efficiently assert their authority over the Sunnis (i.e. so the Shias can terrorise and kill Sunnis until the Sunnis submit - Islam is all about submission between non-equals). Or we could leave and save huge amounts of money and thousands of American lives and prevent the maimings of tens of thousands of more Americans.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 January 01 09:54 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

Rick Darby said at January 2, 2007 8:59 AM:

I never thought we would get ourselves involved in a cock-up like Vietnam again, but we've pulled it off, by gum. Why can't American politicians learn something about the rest of the world and the historical, sociological, and political factors that in many places are so different from our own? Or, since politicians spend every waking moment maneuvering to get elected or re-elected, can't they at least take a few hours to listen to people who know about other cultures?

Damage control is all that's left to us, and there's no evidence that our doofus President and his tattered coterie of advisors can even grasp that idea. A new military "surge" is no more than the strategy of a gambler who triples his bets trying to make up for heavy losses.

We should cut a deal with the Kurds to guarantee their territory in exchange for giving us the right to maintain military bases within it. Let the Sunnis and Shiites have their civil war — a terrible business, but we can't stop it — until they eventually arrive at some modus vivendi. Tell our installed Iraqi president, "We've made a good faith effort to bring your country together, even at the cost of 3,000 American armed forces personnel dead and lots more maimed, but we can't provide democracy and security to people who value ethnic feuds above all. We're outta here. Call us if you want advice. If there's no answer, leave a message on the machine."

Your Image Here said at January 2, 2007 10:10 AM:

Not only will any 'troop surge' (if one happens at all) make any difference. This civil war (it is one now) between the al-sadr government and the ''iraqi'' sunnis will wind up causing a flood of ''iraqi refugees''.
The media (both right AND left) is pushing for America to deal with ''the plight of iraqi Christians'' with sob story after sob story.
Which means the disaster of ''iraq'' will not merely be there it will be here as well. An ''iraqi'' that was shooting and bombing American soldiers yesterday will be claiming to be ''an opressed iraqi Christian'' tomorrow and what those ''refugees'' will be doing in America later makes me shudder to think about it.

Bob Badour said at January 2, 2007 10:43 AM:


I think you hit it on the head when you said that things will turn out badly regardless of any surge. I suggest Bush is tossing out the surge as a canard expecting congress and/or the senate to quash it. Then when things go bad, he won't be the decision-maker (this time).

It just occured to me that the Alamo, Viet Nam and Iraq were all brought to us by Texans. This suggests to me that Texan self-image is grossly overinflated. We should never listen to them when it comes to foreign affairs.

The best I can say about Texan-led US military campaigns is, at least, Custer wasn't Texan.

Wolf-Dog said at January 2, 2007 12:06 PM:

After the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, various revolutions will gradually overthrow the Saudi Monarchy. Ultimately, all the oil producing Middle Eastern countries will have anti-American regimes. This means that the price of oil will go much higher, high enough to cause economic gyrations. The only good thing that might come out of this, would be the substitutes for oil.

Carl Gordon said at January 2, 2007 12:22 PM:

The comparrisions to Vietnam are spirrious at best. Bush has one ofthe finest foregn policy teams assembled that is possible. We ARE winning in Iraq - Every day! If you can't get on board and come in for the big kill on the enemies of liberty, than you should just go and kill yourself! Let's support the presient 100% in everyting he does! If the past 6 years has tought us anything, it's that the Repubilcans have restored intelligense, dignitty, and morels to the White house and the country. We are respected not only for our mite, but our integritty everywhere in the world. No peace without 100% victory and death over fashists. Support Bush!!!

Sirkowski said at January 2, 2007 12:22 PM:

So your solution is ethnic cleansing?

How about, don't do anything, you've fucked things up enough as it is?

Tony said at January 2, 2007 12:45 PM:

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The US caused this problem and can't - morally - just walk away from it now that the adventure's turned sour

Bob Badour said at January 2, 2007 1:53 PM:


Why not? Iraqi tribalism is not our problem.

Besides, what part of this war was ever moral? It's one thing to invade a country that is a clear and present danger. It's quite another to make up a fiction of danger to deceive good decent people into supporting invasion.

Dick Cheney said at January 2, 2007 3:19 PM:

We'll be greeted as liberators! They will throw flowers at us!

Carl Gordon Is A Nut said at January 2, 2007 3:22 PM:

You must be one of the 11% of the people that support a surge, Carl.

PS- your in the minority...even the military (See latest Military Times poll) thinks we "are losing" in Iraq.

Paul said at January 2, 2007 5:05 PM:

Carl Gordon is most likely not real. His comment reads like the ultimate stereotype of the "dumb redneck red-stater" and was probably written by a Bush-hater with a good sense of humor.

Randall Parker said at January 2, 2007 5:21 PM:


I'm saying that the ethnic cleansing is already happening, we can't stop it, and it will continue to go on. But we could speed it up so that the killing part of it could be reduced. Move the Sunnis before the Shias kill even more of them and vice versa.


So what would you do to fix it? I'm saying we can't fix it.

No-PC-wars said at January 4, 2007 10:58 AM:

Randall Parker:

"I'm saying that the ethnic cleansing is already happening, we can't stop it, and it will continue to go on. But we could speed it up so that the killing part of it could be reduced. Move the Sunnis before the Shias kill even more of them and vice versa."

What gives you a hope that US is knowlegable enough and clever enough to manage separation of Sunny/Shia tribes?
Just imagine what is involved in moving tens of thousand of unwilling, armed, violent people from their ancestrial homes.
Any previous US actions in Iraq that gives you this hope?

I say ANY involvement of US forces in that process will kill and maim many more of our boys and probably Iraqis as well.

If you don't want to carpet bomb Sadr and Sunnies tribal areas, declare victory and retreat to Kurdistan.

No-PC-wars said at January 4, 2007 11:01 AM:

"I suggest Bush is tossing out the surge as a canard expecting congress and/or the senate to quash it."

Still hoping against all evidence that Jorge is one clever dude?
He is a dude, all right.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2007 5:44 PM:


My preferred alternative is that we just up and leave. But if we are going to stay we should at least do something that'll reduce the fighting.

Lawrence Auster said at January 4, 2007 6:03 PM:

It seems to me we can:

(1) Keep on muddling through, a là Bush;

(2) Leave with our tail between our legs, in a mindless retreat, as some seem to be advocating; or

(3) Understand _how_ we went wrong (namely that we tried to spread democracy _to_ Muslims, instead of protecting ourselves _from_ Islam), devise a new strategy, and then fit whatever we do vis à vis Iraq into that new strategy, so it won't be simply a mindless pathetic retreat, but a move to a new and correct strategy in our national interest. Thus a win, not a defeat.

But Number three requires that we actually think new thoughts, from a completely different angle than our mainstream politics ever thinks, so it's almost impossible to imagine anything like Number three happening.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2007 8:30 PM:


I do not see withdrawal as mindless retreat. I see it as writing off a bad investment. Stop throwing good money after bad.

As for protecting ourselves from the Muslims: By all means: We could spend a third of the rate we are spending on Iraq and have $1 billion a week to keep them away from us. Think of everything we could do with that. Deport all the illegal Muslims. Build border barriers. Bribe legal Muslims to leave like the French are doing. Hire more federal law enforcement officers to track terrorists. How about energy research toward the goal of making oil obsolete? That'd defund the Muslims.

Engineer-Poet said at January 5, 2007 9:08 PM:

If we spent a billion a week on energy, we might be able to build something like my oil (and coal, and gas) independence system in less than a decade.

If the various coal, Big Agro, and other interests in Congress could get together to fund one lousy demonstration project (maybe $50 million, if that) and some on-going research, I'd be thrilled to death.  I don't see them pushing anything but their own parochial interests.

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