2007 January 13 Saturday
Iraqi Shiites Oppose US Troop Surge

John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times report that the Shias in charge of the Iraqi government do not want a US troop surge.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 10 — As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government’s haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.

“The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side,” Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. “The existing troops can do the job.”

Burns and Tavernise report this opposition to a bigger US troop role is a widely held view among Shia leaders. The Shias want to defeat the Sunnis so that the Sunnis have no chance of ousting them from power. The Shia masses fear the Sunnis could return to power. The US forces basically are an obstacle in the way of an all-out fight between the Shias and Sunnis to settle which group will rule Iraq.

Since US forces are an obstacle in the way of a Shia victory over the Sunnis a surge in US forces will likely delay the eventual resolution of the Iraq civil war. The Bush Administration spins the Iraq war in all sorts of ways. To avoid getting confused by all this spin keep in mind that Bush has been very wrong about Iraq for years running and even a prolonged failure of US policy in Iraq hasn't moved Bush much closer to a public acceptance of the basic facts about the Iraqis.

If you think the Shias are being unjustifiably paranoid about US troops consider the reactions of the moderate Sunnis.

By contrast, moderate Sunnis, who were deeply alienated by the American occupation at an earlier stage of the war, are now looking to Americans for protection, as Shiite militias have moved into Sunni neighborhoods in a deadly cycle of revenge. On Wednesday, moderate Sunni politicians hailed the idea of more American troops.

The Sunnis know that they'll get ethnically cleansed right out of Baghdad without a restraining US presence. But they ought to use the coming US troop surge as an opportunity to get out during what might turn into a relative lull in attacks against Sunnis. Eventually US troop numbers will go down and the Shias will gain the ability to operate more freely. Plus, US forces are trying hard to boost the size of the Iraqi military. Since that military is primarily Shia and operates under Shia masters that bigger Iraqi military translates into a more powerful force to use against Sunnis. So after the US surge ends the Sunnis will face a larger Shia force.

Michael Gordon, also of the New York Times, says Bush assumes that the Iraqis really want a multisectarian state.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 — With his new plan to secure Iraq, President Bush is in effect betting that Iraqi leaders are committed to building a multisectarian state, and his strategy will stand or fall on that assumption.

The Shias want a multisectarian state where the Sunnis are totally obedient to the Shias. The Sunnis want a multisectarian state where the Shias are totally obedient to the Sunnis. They are battling about which group will submit. The Kurds want out and already have de facto independence with their own border forces to keep out unwanteds.

The plan differs in several respects from the faltering effort to bring stability to Baghdad that began last summer. It calls for a much larger American force. There are to be no havens for renegade militias. And, importantly, Iraqi security forces throughout the city are to be put under the direct control of a new Iraqi commander — and backed by American Army battalions.

The plan is based on making assumptions which the Iraqi Shia leaders have repeatedly demonstrated to be false.

But the new plan depends on the good intentions and competence of a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government that has not demonstrated an abundant supply of either.

“Everybody raises a question about the intentions and capability of this government,” a senior American official said, referring to the Iraqi government. “Is this a government that really is a unity government or is it in fact pursuing, either explicitly or implicitly, a Shia hegemony agenda?”

This official even has to ask? Really? There's still some room for doubt? Note the use of the term "unity". Let me translate that: Equality of people regardless of which sect or tribe they belong to. But the Iraqis do not do equality. The Arabs as a whole do not do equality. There are superiors and inferiors, rulers and ruled, those who dominate and those who submit. But Bush rejects this reality. It isn't in his basically very liberal model of the world. Yes, Bush is a very hawkish liberal who accepts most of the assumptions underlying liberal conventional wisdom.

Some liberal assumptions about a universal shared human nature are wrong and so Bush is wrong. But he's willing to push those assumptions to their logical conclusion. So for anyone who wants to learn from empirical evidence the results of Bush's Iraqi policies underscore the errors and damage that come from the very flawed liberal model of humanity

I am reminded of what an unnamed senior adviser to George W. Bush told reporter Ron Suskind about people who try to form their opinions based on empirical evidence.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''

Bush has created the reality of a civil war in Iraq that he did not want and did not foresee. Yet he continues to act as if he can shape the outcome in Iraq. Never mind that he keeps failing. His faith in his own vision is very strong.

US Senator Norm Coleman thinks the US shouldn't send in more troops because the Iraqis want to kill each other.

Expressing doubt about whether Iraqis “are done killing each other,” Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, said, “Why put more American lives on the line now in the hope that this time they’ll make the difficult choice?”

That's not just a hope. It is a deluded fantasy. As long as we keep trying to attain the unattainable in Iraq our policies will fail. We will keep losing soldiers and more will come back with permanent injuries such as brain damage, crippling spinal cord injuries, losses of limbs, and other permanent maiming. Plus, we are blowing hundreds of billions of dollars.

John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise also report that in response to Bush's troop surge proposal the Iraqi leaders emphasised that they are in charge of the war, not US troops.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 11 — Iraq’s Shiite-led government offered only a grudging endorsement on Thursday of President Bush’s proposal to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops in an effort to curb sectarian violence and regain control of Baghdad. The tepid response immediately raised questions about whether the government would make a good-faith effort to prosecute the new war plan.

The Iraqi leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, failed to appear at a news conference and avoided any public comment. He left the government’s response to an official spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, who gave what amounted to a backhanded approval of the troop increase and emphasized that Iraqis, not Americans, would set the future course in the war.

The Iraqi Shiites want to fight the war their way (ethnic cleansing) and not for US goals. Unless Bush wants to overthrow the Iraqi government (would he try such a thing?) he ought to give up and start a US troop withdrawal.

Update Sunday Jan 14, 2007: I watched Tim Russert interview Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Meet The Press this morning. Hadley kept referring to Iraq's "unity government". Why? Because it was democratically elected by the people of Iraq. The act of being chosen by the ballot box has supposedly made the Iraqi government a unity government that wants to represent all Iraqis. He defended a US troop surge based on ridiculous claim.

A US attempt to change Iraq was always an an act of faith. The emprical evidence against the prospects for success was already quite large. With each passing month the empirical evidence against this faith-based initiative has steadily grown stronger. To support US policy requires a greater act of faith than beliefe in the supernatural. In the latter case we aren't in a position to conduct experiments and collect evidence to answer the question one way or another. But in the case of Iraq we do have evidence, plenty of evidence. The Iraqis have values and loyalties and views of families, politics, and religions that are simply incompatible with liberal democratic Western nation-states.

We know that over half of Iraqi marriages are to cousins and second cousins. For that to be the case they must have very strong tribal and clan loyalties. We know they believe a religion that has fundamental tenets that are incompatible with religious freedom and secular government. We also know their average IQ leaves them lacking the intellectual capacity to fulfill the responsibilities of citizens in a free democratic society. In the face of what we know about the Iraqis US policy in Iraq is doomed to fail.

Update II: Check out this Washington Post article where reporter Sudarsan Raghavan goes along with a US Army unit to try to find weapons in Baghdad. US Army soldiers in Baghdad think the Iraqi Army is inept, corrupt, and useless and aren't going to get better.

Moments before he stepped into his squad's Stryker -- a large, bathtub-shaped vehicle encased in a cage -- Caldwell echoed a sentiment shared by many in his squad: "They're kicking a dead horse here. The Iraqi army can't stand up on their own."

The Iraqi Army feeds useless intelligence to the US military which causes US troops to go on pointless search missions looking for weapons.

The Stryker rolled through the mud of Camp Liberty and made its way to Hurriyah, a mostly Shiite area nestled west of the Tigris River. Apache Company's mission: to search a few houses for weapons caches based on intelligence reports. Caldwell and his soldiers worried about the intelligence they had been given. It had come from an Iraqi army -- or "IA," in U.S. soldier lingo -- officer a week ago. They wondered whether they were being set up for an ambush.

"It's a joke," said Pfc. Drew Merrell, 22, of Jefferson City, Mo., shaking his head and flashing a smile as the Stryker rolled through Baghdad.

"They feed us what they want," said Spec. Josh Lake, 26, of Ventura, Calif., referring to the intelligence. "I guarantee that everyone in the city knows where we're going. Because the IA told them. The only thing they don't know is how big a force we're coming with."

The Iraqis aren't going to magically start performing better just because the US sends another 20,000 troops. The militias will probably avoid US soldiers until the US troop surge is over. The Iraqi government will try to keep US soldiers busy doing things that keep them away from Shiite militias. The Mahdi Army will continue purging Sunnis and once the US troop surge is over they'll up their rate of purging.

The general feeling among us is we're not really doing anything here," Caldwell said. "We clear one neighborhood, then another one fires up. It's an ongoing battle. It never ends."

"We're constantly being told that it's not our fight. It is their fight," said Sgt. Jose Reynoso, 24, of Yuma, Ariz., speaking of the Iraqi army. "But that's not the case. Whenever we go and ask them for guys, they almost always say no, and we have to do the job ourselves."

"You do have corruption problems among the ranks," said Sgt. Justin Hill, 24, of Abilene Tex., the squad leader. "I don't know what they can do about that. They have militias inside them. They are pretty much everywhere."

Hopefully the failure of the US troop surge will convince more American people that Bush is clueless on Iraq and we can write off this really bad investment.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 January 13 11:43 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

Your Image Here said at January 14, 2007 12:57 AM:

BAGHDAD, Jan. 10 — As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.

Whatever happend to ''they (''our troops'') are there because 'the iraqi government' want them there''?
How many times have we heard THAT?
Reminds me of the old Dire Straits song ''Industrial Disease''; 'Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong'. It seems that our affairs in ''iraq'' are getting more Orwellian with each passing day...

John S Bolton said at January 14, 2007 2:45 AM:

It could be that what we're seeing here is also a case of the revolution of rising expectations.
Shia supremacy has grown, and this emboldens them to try for more, as in more ethnic cleansing and monopolization of state revenues.
They need US military support the less, the more they are in alliance with the ethnic cleansing militias.
America becomes more like a Norwegian diplomat, attempting moral suasion on those who plant landmines and commit ethnic atrocities, saying:
Peace, not war!
Love, not hatred!
Equality, not inequality
National unity and territorial integrity, not partition
Tolerance, not intercommunal conflict
Aggression can't be answered with such platitudes, which are neither self-enforcing nor lacking in doubtfulness as ideals for all circumstances
How is the unity and internal border integrity of Iraq an object of US national interest; if it is to be sacrificed for, why this non-viable nation over dozens of others?
Is America that which exists to force the maintenance of the mistakes of every boundary commission of the last 100 years?
What if diplomacy is the cause of war, in modern times?

No-PC-wars said at January 14, 2007 10:52 AM:

Randal Parker:

"Unless Bush wants to overthrow the Iraqi government (would he try such a thing?) he ought to give up and start a US troop withdrawal"

That's the question, isn't it?

IMHO there are 2 ways, really 1.5, that we potentially could snatch semi-victory frow jaws of a terrible defeat:

1. US military gets Rules Of Engagement similar to what we had during WWII or Vietnam wars or Russians had during their Afgan adventure (that didn't end well): heavy use of air power, destruction of family houses of all people involved in defying US power, permanent detention of all suspects AND their families till end of hostilities, etc.

2. Jorge overthrows "democratically elected" Shia goverment and installs a (probably) Sunny strongman capable to become a new, improved Saddam. A strong man had to develop Pretorian guard loyal only to him (is there any way to avoid tribal affilation here?) with our support and brutally suppress Sunny and Shia militias with our backing. If things will go well we could move to virtualluy independent Kurdistan in 2 years.

#1 is a virtual overthrow of Shia goverment, as US military will ignore their orders. It is a weak version of #2 which is my preference.

Only 4 years ago I would have bet $50K that swaggering Texan cowboy with brass balls and salsa brain would do #2 in a minute. Today we know that fake cowboy has a heart of Conneticut liberal and no brain and eyes whatsoever.
Overwhelming probability is that we loose and loose badly.
Next 10 years will be very dangerous.

gcochran said at January 14, 2007 1:08 PM:

How did the Russians make out in Afghanistan, anyhow? Anyone remember?

but, more importantly: Randall, look at the bright side. Properly understood, Iraq represents an enormous opportunity.

No-PC-wars said at January 14, 2007 5:25 PM:

"How did the Russians make out in Afghanistan, anyhow? Anyone remember?"

Assuming it is not rhetorical question, after 9 years of futility Commies have lost, but not because
their ROE were too soft.

John S Bolton said at January 15, 2007 12:15 AM:

The end of the soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and the end of the USSR, are the events which caused the moslem war of religion to shift towards us as the prime enemy.
Once they no longer feared Russia as the power that would come in and overthrow their establishment of religion, they saw America and Israel as the countries which threatened them the most.
Forcible suppression of Islam has been tried by communist empires; America doesn't have the ruthlessness needed for even 10% of what the Russians did.
The stress on 'national unity' for Iraqis is not honest.
If it were, why unity for them and forced diversity, via assisted immigration and recruitment quotas against the majority, for America?
The stress on unity means that Iraqi territorial unity is somehow a worthy object of vast sacrifices by civilized people,
but we're not to be allowed to focus on what is being asserted, since it's obviously unreasonable.
How is Iraq's avoidance of partition, in our interest?
How is Iraq's NatUnityGov't to be excused when it sponsors atrocities of ethnic cleansing, and always in favor of the Shia?
Iraqi national unity is not on our list of American priorities; no good argument has been attempted as to why it should be regarded as one.

Jim said at January 15, 2007 2:05 PM:

"Bush has created the reality of a civil war in Iraq that he did not want and did not foresee."

Randall - I would challenge the above statement as a pretty difficult assumption to swallow. Occam's razor tells us to take the solution with the fewest assumptions, and to think that the country's best minds couldn't forsee iraq decaying into terrible violence similar to the gaza strip is silly. Especially when you consider how much this war has (predictably) driven the price of oil up, and so many in the administration profit from this price rise.

I'm starting to believe that the whole act of GWB being a fool is a ruse to make thoughtful people not see the real, sinister nature of this war. How does your analysis of the situation change if you assume that the current situation is EXACTLY what the intelligent administration neo-cons wanted in the first place?

Randall Parker said at January 15, 2007 6:00 PM:


The country's best minds work for:

- Microsoft
- Google
- VC start-ups
- Wall Street investment banks
- Lobbying firms
- Top universities in science departments
- Their own medical practices

They do not work for the Bush Administration.

The fewest assumption solution is that Bush has a mediocre team that surrounds an incurious mind.

John S Bolton said at January 16, 2007 1:50 AM:

I remember before the sovereignty ceremony, I said that there was going to be a mad scramble for power in Iraq, as the top office was to be vacated.
The administration strategy assumed, and still blindly assumes, that they are dealing with generic humans, rather than the moslem as such.
Idealized generic humans would want peace, brotherhood, equality, democracy with strict legal protections for minorities, etc.-but the moslem as such cannot want these things more than their opposites!
Anyone who tries to tell the government of these, by now, obvious qualities, is dismissed as bigoted. It's supposedly just racial, religious or xenophobic mischaracterization of a group.
This sort of anti-discrimination can't help but have landmines explode under it, though.
The moslem as such must always be for war, not peace.
He must be for inequality, not equality.
He must be for intolerance, not tolerance.
He must be for enmity, not universal brotherhood.
Empowering democracy, with such a population, has to entrain a completely vicious scramble for
power and domination.
The new strategy assumes that the central government can be made to be impartial as between the opposing sides; but there is every indication that the opposite pattern will prevail.
And how is partition to be regarded as failure and defeat anyway, except by some ersatz ideal which imagines that everyone everywhere, including moslems as such, wants to live together in the same country, sharing resources, in peace and brotherhood?

Jim said at January 18, 2007 1:19 PM:

you agree k-street hires smart people. you probably also agree that k-street money influences washington decisions more than either of us would like.

have you ever analyzed the iraq situation from the point of view that current results were predictable and exactly as intended? then consider who has benefited?

lpg said at January 18, 2007 1:59 PM:

From personal experience I know that in the early 70's Afghanistan was a semi-thriving country and an important stop on the fashonable and much traveled route to Kathmandu. They also had beautiful handicrafts and intricately embroidered sheepskin coats. I would give anything if someone would start shipping those coats over here. If they could still be found, as they were long ago by wandering hippies. Travel was arduous, but also exciting. Afghanistan was safer than Mexico is today. The locals were friendly and seemed happy and it was a suprisingly lush green place. Hippies were good for somthing "tourism". "Peace" did reign, at least in the exotic spots they traveled. It occurs to me that techies don't go anywhere and the wolrld is filled with gadgets and war. If you go back even farther in time, Africa was a nice place to visit and the animals were so plentiful that killing a few didn't matter. My theory is that we have had a very unfortunate coincidence occur. This would be the simultainious growth in technology and population. I would give up all the gadgets if I could get one of those lovely Afghan coats and not be put off by all the orphans that need adoption in Africa. In the old days no one would have thought of coming back home with a live souvenir. The Afghannies also made nice rugs. Come to think of it so did all those fools in the Middle East. The rugs took years to make and children went blind, but at least they weren't blowing themselves up. I might be on to something. Perhaps Bush has had this vision too. Only he is hoping to express move us on to Paradise...(well those of us that are worthy) or back to the stone age. I just want to go back to the Stonner age.

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