Contrary to assertions by leftists that George W. Bush created the illusion that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 supporters of Bush's invasion of Iraq who decided Saddam was linked to the 9/11 attack did so of their own volition in order to avoid reaching the conclusion that the war was a huge mistake.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.
The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.
The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.
No need for propaganda. Just get people convinced to support something and once they've crossed an intellectual Rubicon they'll actively develop explanations that support their decision. This doesn't just apply to Republicans who continued to support the Iraq war. One can see this mechanism at work in many things. People on the Left continue to support increased spending as a way to improve educational outcomes because they are invested in the idea that education has to be the solution. If it isn' then they have to reexamine assumptions that they do not want to look at.
Motivated reasoning. Avoid it.
Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.
"The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.
Got any beliefs you are too attached to?
While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information.
"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.
"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."
Hey, we couldn't have engaged in a pointless war, lost thousands of American lives, left tens of thousands more Americans physically and mentally damaged for life, and threw away trillions of dollars for nothing, could we?
This reminds me of Bryan Caplan's book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Yet another reason why we get bad government.
Before becoming John McCain's vice presidential pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed the view that the Iraq war is not worth fighting for energy.
“I always looked at Senator McCain just as a Joe Blow public member, looking from the outside in,” she said. “He’s been buttin’ heads with Republicans for years, and that’s a healthy place to be.” Then again, on McCain’s signature issue—the prosecution of the war in Iraq—she did not sound so gung-ho. Her son is a soldier, and she said, “I’m a mom, and my son is going to get deployed in September, and we better have a real clear plan for this war. And it better not have to do with oil and dependence on foreign energy.”
The fact that she's going to shortly have a son in Iraq means that she's got far more at stake in this war than McCain, Obama, and Biden. What makes it worth it to put her own son at considerable risk? If she makes it into office she'll bring a perspective that McCain needs to hear.
Lucky for Palin's son, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi leaders are trying to end street patrols by American soldiers in the summer of 2009 and to get US combat soldiers out of Iraq by the end of 2011. That, parenthetically, would remove the Iraq war as an issue in the 2012 US presidential elections.
"There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
"An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces," he said.
The Bush Administration is reluctant to sign up for a fixed timetable for withdrawal. The Iraqis need a timetable for internal consumption but the Iraqi leaders are reluctant to totally commit to a fixed withdrawal in case an insurgency pops up in the mean time and threatens to overthrow them.
Underlying Maliki's remarks is the political reality that he must sell the accord to a fractious political establishment and the Iraqi public, which to a large extent views the U.S. military presence as an occupation that should end as soon as possible.
"The agreement will be met with significant public discomfort," said an aide to Maliki. "So Iraqi officials will resort to using the dates mentioned in the agreement to sell it to the public, even though they might be intended to be used in a guidance way."
Bottom line: The Iraqi leaders want to remain in power and they will take whatever decision most seems like guaranteed to keep them in power.
BAGHDAD (AP) | Iraq and the U.S. are near an agreement on all American combat troops leaving Iraq by October 2010, with the last soldiers out three years after that, two Iraqi officials said Thursday. U.S. officials, however, insisted no dates had been agreed upon.
How can we possibly ignore the demands of the democratically elected Jeffersonian freedom loving government of Iraq?
According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The “CBS Evening News” has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC’s “World News” and 74 minutes on “NBC Nightly News.” (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.
Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television “with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad.” He said CBS correspondents can “get in there very quickly when a story merits it.”
I write about Iraq a whole lot less than I used to because I feel like I've said almost anything worthwhile that I can think of to write about. If war supporters can't see by now that the war was a big mistake I seriously doubt that any additional argument can persuade them.
People do not want to hear about the war. Iraq is a bummer. Thousands of Americans dead. Probably at least tens of thousands of Americans have gotten brain damaged by concussions which have very long lasting effects. So it is not surprising to hear that journalists find Americans do not want to discuss it.
On “The Daily Show,” Ms. Logan echoed the comments of other journalists when she said that many Americans seem uninterested in the wars now. Mr. McCarthy said that when he is in the United States, bringing up Baghdad at a dinner party “is like a conversation killer.”
Next President Barack Obama will try to pull out US troops. But I expect a few arguments will be used against this move. First, some nuts will claim a withdraw will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. John McCain, incorrectly trying to apply lessons he thinks he learned in Vietnam, will continue to argue that withdrawal will make our enemies more powerful. McCain wants to show strength in Iraq. Whereas I think spending one or two trillion dollars on a waste and getting a lot of our soldiers damaged and killed makes us weaker.
Senator McCain obviously doesn't want you to see the Iraq war as a reason to vote against him. But he's not absolutely sure that the US can end the fight in Iraq in 5 years. By contrast, I'm certain 5 more years of fighting in Iraq is a waste.
McCain, in a speech delivered in Columbus, Ohio, set forth a sweeping, extraordinarily positive vision of what he said the world would look like in 2013, when he says he will have been in the White House for four years - so positive that Democrats immediately derided it as clearly unrealistic.
"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure," McCain said. "The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy" and "violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced."
The United States, McCain added, "maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role." During his primary battle, McCain frequently accused his rival Mitt Romney of setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, a charge the former Massachusetts governor denied.
McCain later insisted to reporters that his speech should not be interpreted as setting a date for withdrawal, and that he was simply projecting victory.
McCain is a loser unless some big surprise changes the balance of forces so heavily favoring Obama at this point. The economy by itself is enough to elect a Democrat as President in the 2008 election. The unpopular war in Iraq is just icing on the cake. Obama's biggest liability is his past writings on the overwhelming central importance of his black identity. But I think he's safe from that because McCain and the press aren't going to challenge him on it. You can read more realistic views of Obama if you want to. But he's headed for the Presidency of the United States of America.
I hope there are some upsides from Obama's election. Will he get us out of Iraq within 4 years? I hope so.
Ironically and depressingly, the defeat of antiwar Republicans together with the rest of the party, even though the party’s unpopularity is a result of support for the war, provides perverse justification for the GOP tying itself to the war even more closely. If opposition to the war from the beginning is not enough to shield you from the antiwar backlash, which the defeat of Leach, Hostettler and Chafee would indicate, there is litte incentive for most House members in switching positions later, suffering the inevitable credibility attacks and providing ammunition to Democratic challengers who will argue that antiwar voters might as well vote for them rather than back the Johnny Come Lately Republican. Plus, one of the peverse consequences of gerrymandering is that it ensures that the broad majority of the caucus would actually risk losing re-election by adopting what is the nationally more popular position.
I see an obvious conclusion here: For the sake of Republican electoral prospects in future elections the Republicans need the Democrats to end US participation in the Iraqi civil war. Republican electoral prospects will brighten once the US pulls out of Iraq. The Democrats might have enough motive to pull out US troops. By contrast, the Republicans seem less likely to admit US national interests are ill served by continuing to fight in Iraq. Some Republicans are even foolish enough to believe even now that the war is a good idea. The Republican presidential candidate seems an especially hopeless case. John McCain lacks both Nixon's genius and his cunning ruthlessness to maneuver to get us out of Iraq. We'll probably need Democrats to get us out of Iraq.
Larison sees the Grand Old Party stuck with winning only the most solidly Republican parts of the country.
For a lot of them, the greater political risk is to take the overwhelmingly popular position, because antiwar sentiment is concentrated in all those parts of the country that they don’t represent. What this means, though, is that over the long term the GOP will be limited to their safe districts and to extremely “red” states.
Where Larison says "over the long term" I would say "until the Democrats manage to pull the US out of Iraq". In other words, the Republicans will stay a highly marginalized party until the Democrats manage to cut our losses in Iraq. The Democrats can therefore act as the saviors of the Republicans if only the Democrats can win big enough to have the votes to implement a withdrawal over Republican objections.
Having said all this, the Iraq war is not the biggest problem facing Republican electoral prospects in 2008. A recession during an election year just about assures defeat of the incumbent party. Of course the Democrats now control the House and Senate. Will voters therefore apportion some of the blame for the recession on the Democrats?
In understanding the madness of our entanglement in Iraq I find it helps to reject out of hand everything the administration says and ignore the distorted center of polite opinion maintained by the corporate press, while continually reminding yourself that the point of the occupation is the occupation. For all of the shifting goals and serial failure, what we have, still, is less a war seeking resoultion than a committed government enterprise experiencing cost overruns.
The administration has shown admirable resourcefulness in utilizing its very failures to obscure and further, even now, its intentions. But no matter how much our might has degraded our sense of national responsibility, I suspect that to operate on the premise that regardless of everything we must remain in Iraq to prevent the consequences of our invading Iraq, while refusing to impeach those responsible for this deadly chain of causality, indeed, while so much as an apology to the people of Iraq is absolutely out of the question, a notion for marginal cranks, must come with its own unanticipated consequences.
Dennis goes on to discuss the importance of oil in US calculations on Iraq. The US insists on Shia submission to the Maliki Baghdad government to a far greater extent than it tries to enforce Sunni submission. The reason? Lots of oil in the Shia south. On the one hand I think that the value of Iraq's oil to US interests is exaggerated by many critics of US policy. On the other hand, I sometimes think our leaders share this distorted view.
Still, Dennis makes good points. Bush really does not want to admit making a mistake. Also, a disruption in oil flow of a million barrels per day would cause a large increase in world oil prices. So maybe US policy makers are trying to prevent that. Maybe US policy makers are afraid of the transition phase should the US basically withdraw from Iraq and let the Iraqi factions work out (probably violently) who gets to rule Iraq and get its oil revenue.
Steve Sailer admits to being baffled as to why the US supports Maliki and the Badr Brigade against Moqtada al Sadr and his militia given that the Badr Brigade is much closer to our (or at least Israel's) supposed enemy Iran.
So, why are we against Mookie and for Maliki? Possible answers include:
- Mookie wants us to leave Iraq, which makes him anti-American. But the majority of Americans wants America to leave Iraq, so I guess that just means the American people are anti-American, too. It's simple logic.
- The Badr Boys are more middle class, while Sadr's guys are more slummy.
- More Badr Boys than Sadr Slumsters speak English, so that's why we're on their side: we can understand what they're telling us, while Sadr keeps rambling on in that moon man gibberish that people in Iraq seem to speak.
- Badr is weaker than Sadr, so we support them because they need us more, and thus tolerate us more. And, the whole point of our being in Iraq has become our being in Iraq -- we can never leave until we prove that we don't have to leave, because that would show weakness; but we can only prove that we don't have to leave by not leaving. So we are going to be there, roughly, forever. It's simple logic, but Mookie doesn't seem to get it.
Do our policy makers want to prop up Maliki's government because it is (partly) the product of a democratic process? How important is that to them? The US has played Machiavellian intrigue to change Prime Ministers in Baghdad. So it is not like the Iraqi people freely chose the current government. The attempt to achieve democratic legitimacy for US involvement in Iraq is pretty weak.
My guess is the primary reason we are still in Iraq is in order to avoid admitting it was a mistake to invade in the first place. The secondary reason is that our withdrawal might cause a large disruption of oil flow and the ensuing even higher oil prices would cause a world economic recession.
My question: When will the US populace loose patience with our continued burning of wealth and people in the Iraq war?
My second question: Shouldn't we prepare for that potential oil flow disruption upon our withdrawal? Maybe we could lessen the size of the disruption by shifting our support toward that Iraqi Shia patriotic Moqtada al Sadr.
Ashley Alexandra Dupré has been fingered by the press as "Kristen", the hooker (or high priced courtesan) that former New York Governor Eliot "Huggy Bear" Spitzer was getting squeezed by. Why am mentioning this? I'm putting the US soldiers killed and maimed in Iraq close to what people really care about so they'll notice real facts about Iraq.
Twenty-eight percent of the public is aware that nearly 4,000 U.S. personnel have died in Iraq over the past five years, while nearly half thinks the death tally is 3,000 or fewer and 23 percent think it is higher, according to an opinion survey released yesterday.
The survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, found that public awareness of developments in the Iraq war has dropped precipitously since last summer, as the news media have paid less attention to the conflict. In earlier surveys, about half of those asked about the death tally responded correctly.
"Kristen" has a nice rack. But we are throwing away trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq in a pointless war. You can check out what she looks like. But really, do you want US forces to stay in Iraq 100 years?
The Iraqi government is now functioning?
Eliot Spitzer is a loser because he had to pay for sex from a prostitute rather than getting it legally for free from an intern. Americans are losers because they can't pay enough attention to demand a US withdrawal from Iraq. While we've been pouring money down the Iraq rat hole the price of oil has skyrocketed to over $110 per barrel. We could have taken that over a trillion dollars wasted on Iraq and funded better insulation, energy research, hybrid vehicles, and other measures that would have saved us money on oil. Trillions of dollars wasted are a lot more than $4300 spent to have "Kristen" provide her services in a DC hotel room. We should be more upset about the trillions of dollars than a few thousand.
George W. Bush wants to keep lots of troops in Iraq in case John McCain wins election as President of the United States so that McCain will be in a position to continue fighting. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is halting the troop reduction in Iraq at near 130,000 troops remaining.
Meeting with top commanders here, Mr. Gates said that after the departure this summer of the five extra combat brigades sent last year in “the surge” to pacify the Baghdad area, the American command should assess whether further troop reductions would hurt security.
In practical terms, his assertion makes it likely that American troop levels in Iraq will not drop much below 130,000 this year — and certainly not to the 100,000 level advocated by some military officials and analysts worried about the protracted strain on the Army from long deployments in the nearly five-year-old Iraq war.
A McCain-Obama contest will probably feature a big disagreement over Iraq. Will Obama highlight a willingness to withdraw? Will McCain harp on his willingness to keep fighting and force Obama to respond? Which one will see a bigger advantage to be had from drawing attention to their enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm over the Iraq war? How explicitly will they paint their pro or anti war position?
Also, will the insurgency rebound as US troop levels decrease? How bad will the war look to the American public in the fall of 2008?
A helpful reminder: The 9/11 attackers were trained in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government contained (and still does to a lesser extent) supporters of the Taliban and fans of Al Qaeda. If the United States government was not fighting a war in Iraq then the US would have plenty of troops for Afghanistan. That much is already obvious. But the US Defense Secretary admits that winning European support and troops for Afghanistan is made harder by the US military effort in Iraq.
MUNICH — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Friday that many Europeans were confused about NATO’s security mission in Afghanistan, and that they did not support the alliance effort because they opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq.
“I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused,” Mr. Gates said as he flew here to deliver an address at an international security conference.
“I think that they combine the two,” he added. “Many of them, I think, have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan, and do not understand the very different — for them — the very different kind of threat.”
So the war in Iraq undermines the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Iraq border.
Why does this matter? The frontier area between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still a terrorist training ground and Western Muslims are streaming into Pakistan for Jihad training.
"Al Qaeda has had difficulty in raising funds and sustaining itself," perhaps due to disaffection among Saudi Arabian contributors, said Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell at a House hearing Thursday.
The bad news is that a new influx of Western recruits – including American citizens – are being trained in Al Qaeda camps in Pakistan. These recruits would be able to more easily enter and move about the US than foreign operatives.
"Al Qaeda is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the US: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack on the homeland," wrote Mr. McConnell in prepared Congressional testimony.
The Iraq war is hobbling our ability to fight the war against the targets that matter: Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Jihadist Muslims living in the West. The Jihadists aren't just helped by policies put in place by George W. Bush and the neocons. The support of useful fools in the West help to strengthen Islam in the West as well.
A Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona, is campaigning on his record as a longtime foe of earmarks. In wartime, he said, “it is especially egregious to squander money on special-interest pet projects.”
But isn't the Iraq war a special interest pet project? How exactly is it in the general public interest?
Seems to me we could withdraw from Iraq, cut one really big line item in the current US budget, and reduce the future outlays that will otherwise come from long term care of soldiers who haven't been injured yet.
Scott Rasmussen reports most Americans want US troops out of Iraq in a year.
Fifty-three percent (53%) of voters say they want U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008. However, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 40% want Congress to cut off funding if the President won’t go along with the plan. Fifty percent (50%) are opposed to Congress using the purse strings in this manner while 10% are not sure.
Lawrence Wright says a majority of Iraqis want American troops out too.
As early as August of 2003, five months after the invasion, a Zogby poll found that two-thirds of Iraqis wanted the U.S. and British forces to leave the country within a year, and more than half said that the Iraqis should be left alone to set up their own government. Two years later, as Iraqis were about to vote in their first democratic election, two-thirds wanted the Coalition troops out either immediately or as soon as the new government was established. (The model that Iraqis most admired was that of the United Arab Emirates, a loose federation of seven tribal states, each overseen by a prince, and ruled by a president who is, essentially, a king.) In 2006, when the Iraqi government was in place, a poll by the University of Maryland found that seventy-one per cent of Iraqis wanted their government to ask the Americans to leave within a year; an even higher number doubted that the U.S. would comply with the request.
A poll released last month (by ABC News, the BBC, and the Japanese broadcaster NHK), half a year after the surge in American forces, found that nearly half of Iraqis favored an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, while thirty-four per cent of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, said that the U.S. should remain “until security is restored.” Among Shiites, forty-four per cent favored immediate withdrawal, and among Sunnis the figure reached seventy-two per cent—substantial increases in both cases. More Iraqis than ever—fifty-seven per cent—say that violence against American forces is acceptable, diminishing the prospect of order being restored as long as the occupation continues.
Iraq has announced that it would seek one more year of a UN mandate for the American-led coalition. It would then forge an agreement with Washington for a permanent US presence in the oil-rich nation.
Another democracy that does not carry out the will of the people. George W. Bush sure gets what he wants, doesn't he?
Scott Rasmussen has the numbers. Public attitudes continue to shift toward ending US involvement in the war in Iraq.
For the second straight week, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 64% of Americans would like to see U.S. troops brought home from Iraq within a year. Prior to this week’s results, support for bringing the troops home had increased in three consecutive weeks.
Twenty-eight percent (28%) who want the troops brought home immediately. That’s unchanged from a week ago but up from 20% five weeks ago.
Seventy-one percent (71%) of women want troops out of Iraq within a year. Fifty-five percent (55%) of men share that view.
Looking at the other end of the spectrum, 31% now want troops to remain in Iraq until the mission is complete. That’s down three points from a week ago and the lowest level measured since Rasmussen Reports began tracking this question in August.
The Republican decline in support is most notable.
Once the Republican support crumbles expect Congress to force Bush to start pulling out troops. How soon will Republican support drop below 50%?
The war does not further US interests. We are not made more secure by US troops fighting in Iraq. We should just leave.
The surge is an act of desperation by political types who are in denial of reality. He is stating the obvious.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who led U.S. forces in Iraq for a year after the March 2003 invasion, accused the Bush administration yesterday of going to war with a "catastrophically flawed" plan and said the United States is "living a nightmare with no end in sight."
Sanchez also bluntly criticized the current troop increase in Iraq, describing it as "a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war."
He thinks our political leaders are incompetent. Too true. We are incompetently ruled.
“There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetence in strategic leadership among our national leaders,” Sanchez said. “They have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would be immediately relieved or court-martialed.”
“Any sequential solutions would lead to a prolonged conflict and increased resistance,” Sanchez said about these messages to Washington. “By neglect and incompetence at the National Security Council level, that is the path our political leaders chose and now America and more precisely the American military finds itself in an intractable situation.”
Yes, the situation in Iraq and in Washington DC really is that bad. I wish more people put a lot of effort into understanding Iraq so that more could see through the lies told by the Bush Administration and its allies and defenders.
But officers such as Sanchez bear part of the blame. His command in Iraq ended June 2004. But he didn't leave the Army until 2006 and didn't speak out until now, more than 3 years after he left Iraq. Well, thousands of American soldiers had to die and tens of thousand had to come back with pieces permanently missing and broken before he'd tell the public what they needed to hear.
Here is the full Sanchez speech, albeit in ALL CAPS.
He said deployment cycles aren’t working with current troop levels, that it will take decades to fix the “military’s full-spectrum readiness,” and that if the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq, it would lead to “chaos that would lead to instability in the Middle East.” And, he said the Powell Doctrine — which requires a clear exit strategy as part of a war plan — was violated.
Here is my exit strategy: Leave. Does Sanchez have an exit strategy? His exit strategy appears to be to win first before leaving.
Sanchez blames reporters for bad strategic decisions made by generals and politicians.
He said some poor strategic decisions in Iraq had become “defeats because of the media,” and that some reporters feed from a “pigs’ trough.”
Poor strategic decisions are more important in their effects than what reporters say about them.
BAGHDAD, Oct. 9 -- Two women were killed in central Baghdad on Tuesday, Iraqi police said, when private security company guards opened fire on their car after it approached a convoy the guards were protecting.
Iraqi Interior Ministry officials told The Washington Post that the security contractor was Dubai-based Unity Resources Group. The firm, founded by an Australian, is registered in Singapore and is run by several Australian nationals.
We can't win over the people in Iraq to see things the way we see things. We are in a very foreign land in a very foreign region of the world.
ISTANBUL, Oct. 9 — Turkey took a step toward a military operation in Iraq on Tuesday, as its top political and military leaders issued a statement allowing troops to cross the Iraq border to eliminate separatist Kurdish rebel camps in the northern region.
The Kurds want their own country. Who can blame them for that?
Mr. Erdogan is under pressure from Turkey's powerful armed forces and the opposition to take action against rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after they shot dead 13 soldiers on Sunday near the Iraqi border.
Iraq's government said that a recent security accord with Turkey was the best way for dealing with PKK attacks.
Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul said parliament would need to authorize any large-scale military operation -- a scenario most analysts say remains unlikely -- but he said such permission was not required for limited, "hot pursuit" raids.
Will the Turks gradually edge up what they do in Iraq and start with smaller hot pursuit incursions?
Besides, is honor truly at stake in Iraq? Honor is not the same thing as pride. Our pro-war stalwarts have confused the two, which is understandable. As British writer Dorothy Sayers observed: "The devilish strategy of pride is that it attacks us, not in our weakest points, but in our strongest. It is pre-eminently the sin of the noble mind."
Why? Because the noble soul accepts the moral duty to sacrifice oneself for a higher goal. Isn't that what surge advocates are doing? In their minds, likely yes. The trick comes in discerning whether the noble aspiration is motivated by pride or humility. Pride says that the ego can accomplish anything it wants to and that limitation is no barrier for the human will. Humility accepts finitude as part of the human condition and is unafraid to accept reality and the limits it places on what we can do.
Pride involves lying – first to oneself and to others. Humility requires truth.
I think it acceptable (and even good) to feel pride at one's accomplishments. As compared to Dreher's usage of the term "pride" that idea of a feeling of accomplishment seems a more consistent usage with at least some of the dictionary definitions of "pride". I also do not think an accurate feeling of pride over past accomplishments tells us we can accomplish anything we desire to do. Pride over past accomplishments needn't lead to hubris. So I take issue with how Dreher labelled the categories in this typology. However, you can pride yourself about something you can't actually do and then refuse to admit you can't because you don't want to lose status as you admit your lesser ability and that you made a mistake. That seems to be where Bush and his supporters are at this point.
Bush and company have overestimated the efficacy of the US military. They've also overestimated the appeal of Western and, in particular, American values. They are promoting a form of liberal universalism. But, no, these values do not hold universal appeal.
Bush and his supporters won't admit the truth on Iraq (that those American soldiers are dying for no good reason) because, first and foremost, they do not want to admit they made a huge mistake. Second, and probably less important in most of their minds, they don't want to admit that liberalism (whether the pure left variety or the hawkish neocon variety or other) does not have universal appeal. They've got too much invested their wrong decisions and so we have to lose about 100 soldiers a month and have lots more come back permanently damaged in mind and body.
Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, raised at least $20 million over the summer, more than $19 million of which could be spent on the primary — showing that he continued to be a formidable fund-raiser. It was unclear whether he still led in fund-raising, as he did this spring, because Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton did not release her tally. (Her aides had said that they expected to raise a similar amount.) John Edwards raised $7 million, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico raised $5.2 million.
By comparison, Mitt Romney, who has been one of the strongest Republican fund-raisers this election, raised only about half of what Mr. Obama raised this summer, according to a senior adviser who was granted anonymity to discuss the campaign’s finances. The adviser said that Mr. Romney brought in about $10 million from donors, and that he used more than $6 million of his own money for his campaign.
President Hillary will start the troop withdrawal in 2009 if Congress doesn't force the issue in 2008. The lady that George W. Bush and various Republican front runners are working to elect as President wants to start pulling US troops out of Iraq.
"I've reached the conclusion that the best way to support our troops is begin bringing them home," the New York senator and former first lady told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
"I don't believe we should continue to vote for funding that has an open-ended commitment, that has no pressure on the Iraqi government to make the tough political decisions they have to make, or which really gives any urgency to the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts."
HANOVER, N.H., Sept. 26 — The three leading Democratic presidential candidates refused on Wednesday night to promise that they would withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of their first term, saying in a televised debate here that they could not predict the future challenges in Iraq.
People don't like failure. Some support the Iraq war because they don't want to admit failure. Democratic party candidates don't want to get painted as quitters and as advocates of failure. They don't come across as macho enough and so they are sensitive to the need to seem tough. Then there are the Republicans who want to save face and not admit just how badly their preferred policy decision really has failed. They don't want t admit to their very real failure. So we are in this sorry state in Iraq where about 100 American guys have to die there every month so that lots of people can posture as tough back home.
Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and other Republican candidates for President have a dwindling chance of getting elected the longer the Iraq debacle drags on. George W. Bush is effectively working for the election of Democrats at this point. The Republican Party (and a bunch of stupid people who fancy themselves conservative pundits who are war boosters) has reached intellectual and moral bankruptcy over Iraq.
Most Americans oppose fully funding President Bush's $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a sizable majority support an expansion of a children's health insurance bill he has promised to veto, putting Bush and many congressional Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion on upcoming foreign and domestic policy battles.
The new Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows deep dissatisfaction with the president and with Congress. Bush's approval rating stands at 33 percent, equal to his career low in Post-ABC polls. And just 29 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, its lowest approval rating in this poll since November 1995, when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. It also represents a 14-point drop since Democrats took control in January.
Since the last BBC/ABC News poll in February, the number of Iraqis who think that US-led coalition forces should leave immediately has risen sharply, from 35 to 47%, although that does mean that a small majority - 53% - still says the forces should stay until security has improved.
But 85% of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in US and UK forces.
If we pull out of Iraq then the Shias won't want to fight in the Sunni zone or the Kurdish zone. The Sunnis won't want to fight in the Shia zone or the Kurdish zone. The Kurds won't want to fight in the Shia zone or the Sunni zone. So Iraq will de facto partition. It might be possible to negotiate a confederation between the zones. Or maybe not. But the fighting will go way down either way.
I'm hearing Paul Simon sing "There must be fifty ways to leave your lover". Greg Cochran says we can get out of Iraq with everything important really fast and shouldn't leave a smaller core of troops behind.
First, we should aim to get our troops out safely, with their weapons intact. Weapons are important—we win more because of superior equipment than superior training or talent. That equipment is expensive, takes a long time to replace with our existing procurement system, and we might actually need it if we found ourselves in a war of necessity.
Second, we should forget about accomplishing anything else. If we couldn’t create a compliant Iraq with 150,000 troops, we won’t manage it with 50,000 or 20,000. Many of our presidential candidates—you can recognize them by the humps on their backs—are talking about retaining smaller numbers of troops in Iraq, hoping to achieve some political end or at least disguise defeat, but that pig won’t fly. Our forces are tremendously powerful (compared to the insurgents) and never lose battles, but leaving small residual forces in a fundamentally hostile country—a solid majority of non-Kurdish Iraqis now find attacks on coalition forces acceptable—is asking for trouble. The British tried that in Basra, and they took rocket and mortar fire every day while achieving nothing.
That's the problem with all partial withdrawal schemes: They basically reduce US troop numbers down to a level where our leaders can't even pretend they can still produce a positive outcome. With 160,000 troops Bush and supporters can produce so much action in some spots and so many events and changes in local trends in Iraq that they can pretend to be accomplishing something. Bush can't admit that the war is pointless. So he's got to keep as many troops there as he can manage in order to avoid admitting that he created a huge blunder and wasted many lives and much treasure in a pointless exercise.
As for the pointlessness of the war: This is where we are stuck. We need more national figures to admit the obvious. We don't have anything we can realistically hope to gain by remaining in Iraq. We aren't improving our national security by staying. If we really want to improve our national security we have real (and fairly easy) ways to improve that would be easier to afford if we weren't spending about $150 to $160 billion a year in Iraq.
Greg says it isn't worth the lives of American men to pull out the less valuable stuff.
The longer we stay, the more men we lose. How can anyone believe that piles of junk are worth anyone’s life? We could spend extra time in Iraq in order to ship home toxic waste, but we can do without that kind of cosmic irony. Better to gift-wrap those drums and let the Iraqis steal them. I say it again: bring out men, weapons, ammo, vital spares—leave the pews.
A fast withdrawal will cost fewer American lives than die there each month.
But we can be sure that the opposition will be insignificant and our casualties few, since the insurgents we face in Iraq would be extremely weak in a conventional fight. Remember that we lost fewer than 150 men during the invasion, when we faced 23 divisions, organized troops armed with (according to U.S. estimates) almost 2,000 main battle tanks, 3,500 armored personnel carriers, and 2,000 artillery pieces. The insurgents today have no tanks, no APCs, no heavy artillery, and yet we’re supposed to worry about the havoc they would wreak during any withdrawal. We’ve been seeing about 100 men a month killed in action in 2007, we’d lose fewer in a rapid withdrawal than we would by staying one more month.
The tanks can drive themselves excepting the ones that have broke down. The latter can be carried out on tank carriers or temporarily repaired just for one trip to Kuwait. The bulk of the vehicles can be driven out as well. We can stop sending as much supplies in as we prepare for the big withdrawal and start using regular supply run return trips to pull out some stuff while planning the massive movement of US soldiers and contractors down to Kuwait.
Read the full article.
Six sergeants and a specialist in the US Army's 82nd Airborne have a highly recommended op/ed in the New York Times arguing that the conditions in Iraq are deteriorating and the US can do little about it.
VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
This is a highly insightful article by people who demonstrate an amazing nuance in their understanding of what they've witnessed first hand while in danger for an extended period of time.
The Iraqi Army and police are not our allies.
A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.
As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.
The recent chorus in Washington DC about how well things are going in Iraq is working is "misleading rhetoric". Gotta agree on that score. No, the surge is not working. No, Iraq isn't going to turn the corner under our occupation.
The Shia goal of consolidation of their power puts them in conflict with the American goal of reconciliation with no group coming out as losers.
The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.
Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.
There's no way to reconcile this conflict of interests. What can we do? Stop trying to protect Sunnis from Shia depredations? We aren't going to exercise the level of brutality needed to put down insurgencies of this sort. In my view US interests are not at stake in Iraq. Al Qaeda isn't going to take over. The neighbors won't all invade if we withdraw. Iraq's oil reserves are depleted just like Saudi Arabia's. For energy security we need to look at developing non-oil energy sources. We really can leave. If we need to improve our security then the money we'll save by leaving can be spent on measures that will make us safer. Keeping over one hundred thousand troops in Iraq battling all the factions there does not make us safer.
They say there have to be losers in Iraq. But who gets shafted? My answer: The Sunnis have to get shafted. Maybe the Kurds get shafted too. Probably some Shia factions get shafted by other Shia factions. The Christians and Turkomen and other groups are big losers. Either that or every group gets its own country from a big partitioning. But too many factions in Iraq oppose partition and some of those factions will get shafted instead.
Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution wrote a very different op/ed in the New York Times entitled "A War We Just Might Win" arguing a very Panglossian view based on their recent trip to Iraq.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
Anthony H. Cordesman, who is a strong supporter of continued US military operations in Iraq went on the same Iraq trip as O'Hanlon and Pollack but came back with a much less optimistic analysis of the situation.
The attached trip report does, however, show there is still a tenuous case for strategic patience in Iraq, and for timing reductions in US forces and aid to Iraqi progress rather than arbitrary dates and uncertain benchmarks. It recognizes that strategic patience is a high risk strategy, but it also describes positive trends in the fighting, and hints of future political progress.
These trends are uncertain, and must be considered in the context of a long list of serious political, military, and economic risks that are described in detail. The report also discusses major delays and problems in the original surge strategy. The new US approach to counterinsurgency warfare is making a difference, but it still seems likely from a visit to the scene that the original strategy President Bush announced in January would have failed if it had not been for the Sunni tribal awakening.
He's doubtful that we'll be successful there. Yet we thinks the cost of giving up is too high. I think if he didn't see such high costs for giving up he'd be even more pessimistic in his appraisal of conditions in Iraq.
Anthony Cordesman presented his views at a briefing which you can watch as a video (I happened to catch it on C-SPAN). Here are excerpts of his briefing on his report.
I should stress I did not see any dramatic change in our position in Iraq during this trip. Many of the points, the problems that exist there, are problems which have existed really since late 2004, if not earlier. I didn’t see a dramatic shift in the ability of Iraqis to reach the kind of compromise that is almost the foundation of moving forward, although there were some elements of progress. And I use the word “tenuous” in talking about my trip and strategic patience simply because the risks are so high and they are higher than even – or lower than even, I should say. We really have problems even in defining success.
One of the most critical problems is the prime minister’s office. And since I did not speak to the prime minister, I want to be careful about using the term “office.” But throughout the visit, time and again people said that the prime minister’s office had been involved in the support of Shi’ite ethnic cleansing, that in had intervened in detainment or military operations against Shi’ite militias, that it had refused to act in moving forward in areas where the prime minister had direct authority in bringing Sunnis and Sunni tribal elements into the government and into the security structure.
It is clear that in some ways our intervention in Iraq has allowed the Sadr militia and shi’ite extremist groups to operate in terms of sectarian cleansing with more freedom than they had in the past. This is an ongoing problem, and it is a very serious one. It is also clear that we face a growing threat from the more hostile elements of those Shi’ite militias, and that they have had stronger Iranian backing and new forms of Iranian arms.
Cordesman does not see partition as a solution.
It is also clear that while there are still some American politicians talking about partition as if this was soft and manageable. It is brutal, it is repressive, it kills people, it injures them, it drives them out of their homes, and it drives them out of the country. To talk about this as if it was something that is gentle or non-violent is simply dishonest, it has not happened, and it cannot happen in the future.
Clue train to Anthony Cordesman: But the partition is happening anyway. I repeat: The partition is happening anyway. You even say so. We can't stop it. We might as well help the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other under our protection so that they don't get killed or injured. We might as well help Sunnis and Shias basically swap homes and to help them build homes where they flee to.
The battles in the south are between Shia factions.
The south is effectively under the control of struggling Shi’ite factions. It is quite clear that the British have been defeated, that they are essentially marginalized in an enclave. We are watching struggles between Shi’ite factions, many of which are a little more than criminal gangs. We are not even able to have our PRTs operate in some of the problems involved, and we simply will never have the military forces to intervene both in Baghdad, the northern and central areas like Diyala and the south. Whatever happens, there has been a kind of partition already.
The struggle for Baghdad is still going on street by street, area by area. There is still sectarian cleansing in the south, there are still battles in Diyala, in Ninawa, in the north-central areas.
He admits that we do not have enough soldiers to fight in the south. The battles between Shia factions and the ethnic cleansing in many areas are beyond our ability to stop.
I am amazed that we are over 4 years into the Iraq debacle and yet George W. Bush and other war supporters can still orchestrate rah rah episodes in the press about how things in Iraq are starting to turn around in our favor. Some of our top military officers tell lies about how long it would take to pull out of Iraq. Lunatics write op/eds arguing that we are making progress in Iraq. Our leadership and public intellectuals are pretty lame.
The British forces in southern Iraq have totally lost control of Basra. They will fight their way out of Iraq in about a month.
What US generals see, however, is a close ally preparing to "cut and run", leaving behind a city in the grip of a power struggle between Shia militias that could determine the fate of the Iraqi government and the country as a whole. With signs of the surge yielding tentative progress in Baghdad, but at the cost of many American lives, there could scarcely be a worse time for a parting of the ways. Yet the US military has no doubt, despite what Gordon Brown claims, that the pullout is being driven by "the political situation at home in the UK".
A senior US officer familiar with Gen Petraeus's thinking said: "The short version is that the Brits have lost Basra, if indeed they ever had it. Britain is in a difficult spot because of the lack of political support at home, but for a long time - more than a year - they have not been engaged in Basra and have tried to avoid casualties.
"They did not have enough troops there even before they started cutting back. The situation is beyond their control.
"Quite frankly what they're doing right now is not any value-added. They're just sitting there. They're not involved. The situation there gets worse by the day. Americans are disappointed because, in their minds, this thing is still winnable. They don't intend to cut and run."
Two generals told The Independent on Sunday last week that the military advice given to the Prime Minister was, "We've done what we can in the south [of Iraq]". Commanders want to hand over Basra Palace – where 500 British troops are subjected to up to 60 rocket and mortar strikes a day, and resupply convoys have been described as "nightly suicide missions" – by the end of August. The withdrawal of 500 soldiers has already been announced by the Government. The Army is drawing up plans to "reposture" the 5,000 that will be left at Basra airport, and aims to bring the bulk of them home in the next few months.
Some of the articles claim the US will have to send more forces to southern Iraq to protect the supply convoys coming up from Kuwait.
Civil war may escalate between Shia factions in southern Iraq. I figure the winning faction will either some day control all of Arab Iraq or at least will control the Shia Arab section of Iraq.
One US official said that recent US military intelligence reports sent to the White House had concluded that Britain had "lost" Basra, and that Pentagon war games were predicting a virtual civil war in the South once British troops left.
Which faction is going to win? Will that faction then take on other Shia factions in Baghdad in order to win control of the "central" government?
But in his outburst last autumn the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, came close to implying that further British sacrifices in Iraq were pointless. He said the British presence was "exacerbating" the security situation and that the troops should leave "soon". Commanders argue that the majority of attacks in Basra are on British forces – between 85 and 90 per cent, they estimate – and point out that when Iraqi forces have taken over other British bases in Basra city, such as the Shatt al-Arab hotel, violence has fallen. "We are a major part of the problem," said one officer. "Without us the murder rate would be lower than in Washington DC."
Since the British presence is already so minimal do the Brits really restrain the factions at this point?
A MILITARY adviser to President George W Bush has warned that British forces will have to fight their way out of Iraq in an “ugly and embarrassing” retreat.
Stephen Biddle, who also advises the US commander in Iraq, said Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in the south would try to create the impression they were forcing a retreat. “They want to make it clear they have forced the British out. That means they’ll use car bombs, ambushes, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] . . . and there will be a number of British casualties.”
The comments coincide with British military estimates that withdrawal could cost the lives of 10 to 15 soldiers.
The withdrawal from their base to the airport is expected to go well. But from the airport to out of the country is going to be a gun battle.
WHEN the British went into Iraq they were believed to have more expertise in counter-insurgency than their US allies still learning the lessons of humiliation in Vietnam.
But now they are facing their own “Saigon moment” with plans for a withdrawal predicted by some on the British side to be ignominious and by a US military adviser to be ugly and embarrassing.
Not only that, but the British are expected to rely on US troops for cover to protect their convoys.
The Brits never had enough troops. But then neither did the United States. The number of Iraqi youths willing to take up arms against the United States or against any government supported by the United States is so large that the US could only suppress the violence in Iraq with a draft to expand the US Army by a factor of 3 or 4.
We have no strategic interests at stake in Iraq. Al Qaeda isn't going to take over when we leave. The Kurds and Shia Arabs will see to that. Even the Sunni Arabs only wanted Al Qaeda to help them beat the Americans and Shias. We can leave and save huge amounts of money and many lives.
Senate support for Bush's Iraq war is crumbling. With Senate Republican support for the Iraqi war in decline the Bush White House no longer has time to wait for the final results of the US troop surge.
White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.
The troop surge has not been accompanied by big political reforms by Iraq's governing factions. The Iraqi people haven't decided to rise up en masse and join freedom fighting brigades. The bulk of the fighting for the sorta government is done by American soldiers.
Domenici became the fourth senior Republican in 10 days to significantly criticize the current Iraq strategy, following Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and John Warner (R-Va.).
Even more significant are the Republicans who had previously signed on as co-sponsors to the bill Domenici endorsed today. Its authors are Sens. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Other co-sponsors include other Senate veterans who are especially close to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Bush White House, as well as a pair of endangered incumbents.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled a visit to Latin America amid mounting criticism of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Partition anyone?
With President Bush's war strategy clouded by limited results and mounting casualties, two scholars are proposing a partition plan that would divide Iraq into three main regions.
The authors, Edward P. Joseph of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, are hoping to draw the attention of Bush administration policymakers.
Under the plan, Iraqis would divide the country into three main regions. Each would assume primary responsibility for its own security and governance, as Iraqi Kurds already have in Kurdistan.
"Creating such a structure could prove to be difficult and risky," the report said. "However, when measured against the alternatives - continuing to police an ethnic-sectarian war, or withdrawing and allowing the conflict to escalate - the risks of soft partition appear more acceptable."
They recommend something I've long argued for: Move the ethnic and religious groups away from each other.
In Baghdad, rather than keeping vulnerable minorities in tense parts of the capital, Joseph said, "It might make sense to move them voluntarily to places where they would be safer."
Partition might have a chance at this point. Kurdistan is already semi-independent. But will the Shias and Sunnis allow themselves to get pulled apart? Will the Shia leaders accept the loss of some control over the Sunni area? (not that they have much control now) Will non-Iraqi Sunni fighters keep blowing up Shia targets in order to keep the war going?
The appeal of partition at this point is that it is a card not yet played. It is not simple retreat. The Bush Administration does not want to retreat. They might suddenly grasp partition even though doing so goes against the mythological belief that we all really can get along.
"We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress," Domenici said. "I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home."
The White House had hoped that Republican lawmakers would stand back until a mid-September administration report on military and political progress in Iraq resulting from the president's troop-increase plan, which has boosted U.S. forces by tens of thousands. But Domenici said the signal to Bush should be clear: GOP patience is running out much more quickly.
While he's not calling for an immediate withdrawal Domenici wants most US combat troops out of Iraq within 9 months.
Yesterday, Domenici embraced a new legislative proposal to reshape U.S. policy around the 79 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. In December, the bipartisan panel called for withdrawing most U.S. combat troops by March 31, 2008, although a limited number would remain in place for training and counterterrorism operations and other specific missions.
Once the US troops leave the Iraqis can finally fight their civil war to completion. Or we could try to partition the country into Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish zones and see if we can prevent them fighting across borders. Would the Sunnis accept a deal where they get to govern their own Sunni majority country? Would the Shias let them leave?
In theory the surge of US forces was done to give the Iraqis more time to work out political compromises between factions and to thereby greatly reduce inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic violence between rival factions. But democracy in Iraq isn't working in any way resembling what you'll learn from an American civics text book. Alissa Rubin of the New York Times outlines the extent to which even the elected representatives and cabinet members in Iraq refuse to govern or compromise.
At least 12 ministers from the 38-member cabinet are no longer attending cabinet meetings. There has been little progress on benchmark legislation, including oil revenue-sharing and a law to set a date for provincial elections.
Seventy-four members of Parliament are boycotting the 275-member body, which, when combined with the members who rarely attend anyway, means that Parliament often lacks a quorum and cannot do any official business.
More important than sheer numbers, however, is that even though one Sunni Arab party is considering compromise, the larger main bloc, Tawafiq, is still refusing to participate.
The Sunnis are not willing to accept minority status. They know their own choices are to dominate or to submit to dominance by the Shias. They don't want to accept the latter because they know just how shabbily they'll get treated and they do not trust the Shias.
Richard Oppel reports that A Sunni faction is outraged that one of its cabinet members stands accused trying to get another politician killed. (these audacious Shias never would have gotten away with accusing Sunnis of bumping them off in the old glory days of Saddam)
In the latest blow to Iraq's disastrously ineffective government, six ministers from the country's Sunni political bloc said they would boycott cabinet meetings to protest the handling of allegations that one of the six, Culture Minister Asad al-Hashimi, had ordered another politician killed.
Hashimi is accused of masterminding the assassination attempt, against Mithal al-Alusi, once a top aide to the Shiite politician Ahmad Chalabi and now a member of Parliament. Alusi survived the attack, but his two sons were killed. A government spokesman has defended the inquiry as impartial, but Sunnis accuse the government of trying to discredit their leaders.
Six other cabinet members, Shiites loyal to Sadr, are already boycotting the cabinet. Members of Sadr's bloc are boycotting Parliament as well. However, Parliament's acting speaker, Khalid al-Attiya, said Friday that the lawmakers have told him they expect to return to the chamber next week after a three-week absence.
Even if all the cabinet members start attending cabinet meetings they won't work together for some shared concept of the common good. They think in tribal and religious faction terms.
An arrest warrant against Culture Minister Asad al-Hashimi is just one of the reasons why the biggest Sunni bloc is boycotting the Iraqi parliament.
The main Sunni bloc with 44 members is boycotting parliament over an unrelated issue. That would make it difficult to give legitimacy to the oil bill even if it passed.
Without their presence, Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said it was not possible to debate the measure.
The revenue-sharing bill has not been passed by the Cabinet.
Further complicating the negotiations are other political disputes. Al-Maliki's main Sunni coalition partner, the Iraqi Accordance Front, was not present when the Cabinet approved the draft because it is boycotting meetings in a row over an arrest warrant issued against the Sunni culture minister.
American soldiers are fighting in order to give the Iraqi government time to function. But the Iraqi government "functions" by doing boycotts and carrying out hits between rival factions. So American soldiers are fighting to give the Iraqi cabinet more time to kill each other.
BAGHDAD — Staff Sgt. David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.
“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”
But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”
Only the newest enlistees still believe in the war.
The American warriors want to leave Iraq.
"In 2003, 2004, 100 percent of the soldiers wanted to be here, to fight this war," said Sgt. 1st Class David Moore, a self-described "conservative Texas Republican" and platoon sergeant who strongly advocates an American withdrawal. "Now, 95 percent of my platoon agrees with me."
We should leave. We should let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves.
The Sunni Arabs are pushing the Kurds out of Mosul. (same article here and here)
While the American military is trying to tamp down the vicious fighting between rival Arab sects in Baghdad, conflict between Arabs and Kurds is intensifying here, adding another dimension to Iraq’s civil war. Sunni Arab militants, reinforced by insurgents fleeing the new security plan in Baghdad, are trying to rid Mosul of its Kurdish population through violence and intimidation, Kurdish officials said.
Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, with a population of 1.8 million, straddles the Tigris River on a grassy, windswept plain in the country’s north. It was recently estimated to be about a quarter Kurdish, but Sunni Arabs have already driven out at least 70,000 Kurds and virtually erased the Kurdish presence from the city’s western half, said Khasro Goran, the deputy governor of surrounding Nineveh Province and a Kurd.
The Kurds are pushing the Shia and Sunni Arabs out of the Kurdish zone and the Kurds are trying to build Kurdish majorities along border regions so that in plebiscites on whether to make border areas part of Kurdistan the majorities will vote for Kurdistan.
Remember those neoconservatives (really just liberals hawkish on foreign policy - especially regarding the Middle East) who were preaching that democracy is the cure for what ails the world? Never mind that democracy is more a result than a cause of what makes societies the way they are. The idealistic and unconservative neocons wanted us to believe that democracy always makes countries better. But democracy is a major contributing factor to the ethnic cleansing of Mosul and the civil war in Iraq.
Already embittered at the toppling of the Sunni Arab government of Saddam Hussein, insurgents here have been further enraged by their current political disenfranchisement, a result of their boycotting the 2005 elections. The main Kurdish coalition now holds 31 of 41 seats on the provincial council and all the top executive positions, even though Kurds make up only 35 percent of the province. Most Kurds are of the Sunni sect, but they have little in common with the Arabs.
Iraq is turning into a bunch of ethnically pure zones. Segregation with a vengeance. No wonder American soldiers in the 82nd Airborne fail to see the point of more American soldiers coming home in boxes or alive with pieces missing.
The Turkish army has deployed additional tanks and troops to the border area this week for "spring manoeuvres". But the military moves, although apparently limited so far, have been accompanied by a rising crescendo of public and political demands for action to curb PKK attacks. The government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is under pressure, following a suicide bombing, blamed on the PKK, which killed six people in an Ankara shopping mall last week. Officials said the bombing marked an escalation in the separatists' campaign. Mr Erdogan's comment, after the Ankara blast, that he saw "eye to eye" with the army over future military action has raised expectations that an operation is imminent.
The Kurds in Turkey do not want to be ruled by Turks just as the Kurds in Iraq do not want to be ruled by Arabs. The Iraqi Kurds are well on their way toward independence from the rest of Iraq and they have de facto independence already. If the civil war leads to a partitioning between the Sunni Arab and Shia Arab areas that will brighten the prospects for an independent Kurdistan. But the Turks do not want to see an independent Kurdistan in Iraq since such a country would embolden Turkish Kurds to seek independence as well.
The United States has massively screwed up in Iraq. The mistakes we've made in Iraq are huge and growing. Time to cut our losses.
Thanks to Lawrence Auster for a couple of the links.
The theory was that the Iraqi government would use the troop surge period to implement political reforms that would increase Sunni support while pressuring the Shia militias. The reality is that the Iraqi government isn't changing much.
WASHINGTON - When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a surprise stop in Baghdad Thursday, a day after the horrendous car bombings in the city, his message was clear: The US commitment to Iraq is not open-ended – and the Iraqi government had better get busy on its side of the "to do" list.
The nearly three-month-old increase in US troops in Baghdad is still not complete. But US officials are starting to show impatience that a plan designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space for making decisions aimed at addressing sectarian strife is not having much of the desired response.
Indeed, the US "surge" has not been matched by an equal uptick in political action. On key issues like revenue distribution, militias, reconciliation, and constitutional reform, progress appears to be made at an "all the time in the world" pace – even though Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed to security steps and political decisions in conversations with President Bush this past January.
The killings in Iraq might even be on a new upswing.
As Wednesday's bombings demonstrated, generalized security is still elusive. Some reports suggest that, overall, killings in Iraq are inching back up to last year's highs.
If we spent even a tenth of the Iraq war money on security efforts closer to home we could do far more to decrease our risk of a terrorist attack. If we spent another tenth on energy research we could eventually stop the flow of world money to Muslim oil states. The Iraq war is a bad idea. It does not increase US security. Plus, it pulls money away from other things we could spend money on to increase security and prosperity.
"The time scale to succeed is years," said John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary, while "the time scale for tolerance here is 12 months for Democrats and 18 months for Republicans."
But suppose the troop surge shows that we can reduce violence in Baghdad while it surges in other parts of Iraq? The US military isn't even big enough to maintain the surge level of troops in Baghdad, let alone surging even higher to repeat the same process in the rest of Iraq.
But even if the surge reduces the violence around Baghdad that could mean that the insurgents have decided to hide their weapons and hold off from some of their attacks until the US troops eventually return to the pre-surge levels.
Petraeus himself has repeatedly said it is too early to tell whether the new strategy is showing sustained progress. He and others say they will be able to assess by this fall whether they are succeeding or failing. If so, the current debate over a possible 2008 withdrawal could prove beside the point.
Actually, the surge could prove besides the point. The decisions in Washington DC could make the results of the surge irrelevant.
An official in Iraq warned that executing the new approach will take time -- perhaps more than Washington is willing to give. "Early signs are very encouraging -- huge drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad, return of thousands of refugee families," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so that he could be candid. "But there is no way we can defeat this insurgency by summer. I believe we can begin to turn the tide by then, and have an idea if we are doing it. To defeat it completely is a five-to-10-year project, minimum -- and rushing it along to meet a D.C. timeline is rushing to failure."
I would like to hear why this official thinks we should spend 5 to 10 years and an awful lot of blood and money to defeat the assorted insurgencies (note the plural) in Iraq. Is that what we are supposed to learn from the surge? Whether or not we could defeat the insurgency if we maintained 150,000 troops in Iraq for 10 years?
Ricks relays assorted reports on how the clamp-down in Baghdad is shifting the violence elsewhere. Also, the turning of Sunni tribes in Anbar Province against the foreign jihadists is driving those jihadists to other parts of Iraq. This demonstrates that -the US does not have enough soldiers to do a surge big enough to show that we can get a handle on the situation. In spite of Bush's repeated proclamations to the contrary he's gotten us into a conflict that we could only win with a force two or three times larger and with many more casualties.
We need to keep in mind the bottom line. Is the bottom line to get the factions in Iraq to stop fighting each other? That seems an unlikely turn of events because none of the factions wants to submit to rule by any other faction.
Also, officers say, major questions remain about the sustainability of any positive momentum. Military operations can buy time but cannot solve the basic problem in Iraq: the growing threat of a civil war. The U.S. government keeps pushing for reconciliation, but there are few signs of movement toward that goal. "Nothing is going to work until the parties are ready to compromise, and I don't see any indicators yet that they are," said A. Heather Coyne, who has worked in Iraq both as a military reservist and as a civilian. "Until then, any effect of the surge will be temporary."
To put it another way: The Iraqis do not do equality. They do dominance and submission. Equality is foreign to their vocabulary and not in their mental model of the world.
Writing in the Living Intentionally blog, a US soldier working in intelligence in Iraq eloquently states how much Iraqis do not care about freedom for others.
What I object to is what the Iraq war has become, and the fact that great Americans are dying on a daily basis for people who do not appreciate or understand what we are doing. Make no mistake, many people from this culture know the words to use when talking with Westerners....words like freedom, democracy and human rights. When the Westerner leaves the room these words cease to have meaning. They do not speak this way with each other. They mutually recognize that using these words is part of the expected hussle. There is a Westernized elite who own the concepts and desire to live within the framework, but they have no power here, and their desire is to get a US visa as quickly as they can and move to Detroit.
There is nothing in this culture that gives it a framework to understand the notion of consensual government for the common good, outside one's self, kinship or tribal structure. This truth works itself out in this culture in a way that is very masochistic to Western eyes.
Any individual, minimal cooperation we receive is due to perceived self-interest. It's not about appealing to a higher good, or humanitarianism, or sense of wider duty. It's about finding where your interests coincide with the individual, at that moment in time. Creativity in shameless dissembling, if resulting in benefit to one's self, is respected and admired.
I've heard it said that the desire for freedom beats in the heart of every person. This is probably true. But the desire for freedom for one's neighbor, independent of one's own self-interest, does not, and this is the true test, which the Iraqi people have failed.
I worry that we are shedding the blood of America's best on a mistaken assumption about the latter.
On January 10, 2007 George W. Bush repeated his familiar argument that if we do not fight the terrorists in Iraq we will have to fight them in America.
The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.
For the safety of our people we need to keep Muslims out of the West. For the safety of our people we should find ways to obsolesce oil by developing new energy technologies so the world stops sending huge amounts of money to the Muslim Middle East. For the safety of our people we should pull out of Iraq and take a small portion of what we are now spending on Iraq and spend it on improving the capabilities of intelligence agencies.
You might think, hey if these Iraqi Muslim Jihadists want to attack Americans why not just keep the Iraqi Muslims from coming to America? But George W. Bush has got that one covered. Bush has repeatedly claimed that Islam is a religion of peace and the Jihadists are a different kettle of fish.
Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus -- and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.
Never mind that non-Muslims are second class citizens in Muslim countries. Never mind that Muslims in the West when they reach substantial numbers start agitating for Sharia law and general imposition of Muslim values on everybody else. And just forget what the Koran actually says about non-believers. We are supposed to believe noted Islam scholar George W. Bush, that well known curious bookworm, when he tells us Islam is not the problem.
For an analysis of why I think Bush and the neoconservatives mislead with their rhetoric about the Jihadists see my post False Analogies Between Islam And Western Ideologies.
Update: Iraqi Shia cleric and Mahdi Army militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraqis to expel US forces from Iraq.
BAGHDAD -- The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday.
If the Shias rise up against US and allied forces in the south of Iraq (e.g. the British who are scaling back their forces) then the US forces would face a very difficult time. This would work against the Sunnis since a Shia uprising would pull US forces away from Baghdad and away from protecting Sunnis from Shia ethnic cleansers.
LONDON AND BOSTON - British prime minister Tony Blair announced Wednesday the beginning of the end of British military involvement in Iraq, starting with a 25 percent drawdown before summer.
Denmark also said it would pull all of its 460 ground troops from Iraq by August.
Blair said Wednesday that 1,600 of the 7,100-strong force will leave in the coming months, with hundreds more to pull out throughout the summer. In all, 3,000 could be gone by year's end, by which time all four southern provinces that were under the British should have been handed over to Iraqi control. The remaining troops will shift roles, taking a more discreet, remote approach inside their base at Basra airport, as the Iraqi security forces take on day-to-day security matters.
So by the end of the year Shia militias and factions in the national and local governments will be free to battle for control of the oil revenue. The Brits will stay in a base and offer training classes.
The crucial British difference? Parliamentary democracy. Bush can't get unseated by a no-confidence vote in Congress. Tony Blair is on the way out. The public expects his heir apparent Gordon Brown to get them out of Iraq.
Answering unspoken accusations that this signaled a rift with Washington, Blair averred that these moves would be in tune with the new-minted policy of the Bush Administration and were "informed by Baker-Hamilton." The situation in southern Iraq "has never presented anything like the challenge of Baghdad" and had now reached a point in Basra — however battered the city and its economy, however uncertain its security — where the British-led coalition forces there could contemplate handing over control to the Iraqi army. "What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be but that the next chapter of its history will be written by Iraqis," said Blair.
The next chapter for Iraq features war between rival sects, tribes, and criminal gangs.
The task is made harder in Basra by the fact that the two main militias, the Badr organisation and the Mahdi army, are linked to different Islamist political parties that are vying for supremacy. The governor of Basra and the chairman of the provincial council have ties to one side, and the police chief to the other, while the police force beneath him is packed with men from both. They are engaged in a kind of civic civil war, a local struggle over who controls revenues, both legal and illegal - the most lucrative of which is the siphoning-off of Basra's oil.
None of this lethal crew likes the British, so it is no surprise that British casualties over the past four months have tripled as troops go valiantly about Operation Sinbad, an effort largely aimed at "cleaning up" some of the city's police stations. The Ministry of Defence keeps no monthly count of attacks on British troops, but the figures for the wounded who are taken to field hospitals have gone up from a rate of five a month between February and October 2006 to 17 a month since then. On the plus side, the MoD claims that in terms of reduced corruption 55% of police stations are now considered "acceptable", compared with only 20% when Sinbad began.
During the invasion British troops peaked at about 45,000. So British troop levels are headed down to a tenth of that peak.
Can the United States help the Shias and Sunnis? Sure. Help them move away from each other. That'll reduce the death toll from sectarian violence. Once they are well separated we can leave. Or we can leave now and the civil war will progress more rapidly and end sooner.
President Bush's "surge" plan has come under heavy fire in the halls of Congress, from independent policy experts, as well as from a large majority of the American public. Some analysts depict it as a flawed last-ditch attempt (Mail & Guardian) to secure Iraq and prevent it from being dragged into a decades-long civil war on the scale of Algeria's or Lebanon's. But alternative strategies also pose problems. Backers of the Bush administration fault opponents of the plan for lacking a coherent alternative strategy.
A rapid withdrawal of forces, CFR President Richard N. Haass told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, does not constitute a reliable alternative because it would “raise questions in the minds of friends and foes alike about U.S. predictability and reliability,” not to mention leave Iraq as a “humanitarian disaster” and a “sanctuary and a school for terrorists.”
Some experts say the best approach is a gradual “disengagement” of U.S. forces to begin after six months of the surge—the earliest point at which U.S. military officials have said they can assess the surge’s impact. Under a gradual drawdown, troops would be withdrawn within twelve to eighteen months, while efforts are intensified to carry out a regional stablization plan. That is the strategy outlined in After the Surge, CFR Senior Fellow Steven Simon’s new Council Special Report. “The United States has accomplished all it’s likely to accomplish in Iraq,” Simon tells CFR.org’s Bernard Gwertzman. “Every day we stay in Iraq, the higher the price we pay for what we’ve already achieved.”
The premise of his plan rests on two conclusions: U.S. forces have not proved capable of stabilizing Iraq and instability is a structural element of Iraqi politics that cannot be solved militarily. Of course, a pullout is fraught with risks, but Simon says talk of a “regional conflagration” is “not the likeliest consequence of civil war,” if Middle Eastern history is any indication (Israel and Syria’s involvement in Lebanon is an exception). Nor are the preconditions (i.e. heavy weaponry) present for Bosnia-like genocidal violence. The priority, Simon says, “should be to limit the effects of the civil war and, at worst, confine it to Iraq itself.”
This so-called “containment” strategy echoes the plan put forth by Kenneth M. Pollack and Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution. Their plan paints a grim prognosis. Based on their analyses of some dozen recent civil wars, Pollack and Byman call for a redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraqi population centers to the periphery to stem the flow of refugees, keep Iraq’s neighbors at bay, and essentially let the civil conflict “burn itself out.” Like Simon, Pollack admits the plan is risky. “To tell you the truth, it’s something many countries have tried over the course of history and few have succeeded,” he tells CFR.org’s Gwertzman.
Our policy toward all the Islamic countries should be one of containment. Keep Muslims in Muslim countries and out of Western countries. Separationism.
Retired US Army Lieutenant General and former head of the National Security Agency under Reagan William Odom says the war in Iraq does not further US interests and we can not make it further US interests.
2. The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al-Qaeda, not American interests.
We cannot reverse this outcome by more use of military force in Iraq. To try to do so would require siding with Sunni leaders and the Ba'athist insurgents against pro-Iranian Shi'ite groups. The Ba'athist insurgents constitute the forces most strongly opposed to Iraqi cooperation with Iran. At the same time, our democratization policy has installed Shi'ite majorities and pro-Iranian groups in power in Baghdad, especially in the ministries of interior and defense. Moreover, our counterinsurgency operations are, as unintended (but easily foreseeable) consequences, first, greater Shi'ite openness to Iranian influence and second, al-Qaeda's entry into Iraq and rooting itself in some elements of Iraqi society.
I agree with Odom. We are wasting lives and money and harming US interests by continuing to fight the war.
Tom Lasseter of the McClatchy newspapers reports that almost all the US soldiers in Baghdad think the Bush Administration's troop surge proposal will fail to permanently lower the violence in Baghdad.
"What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us," said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. "Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight."
"Once more raids start happening, they'll (insurgents) melt away," said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. "And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back."
Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half the city's 8 million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may momentarily suppress it, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.
The troops think they are fighting for a lost cause. Lasseter finds optimism about the troop surge is rare.
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily.
Yesterday I watched John Burns and Rajiv Chandrasekaran (who have extensively covered Iraq for the NY Times and WPost respectively) getting interviewed on TV by Tim Russert. Chandrasekaran says Sadr's militia has been told to lay low during the US troop surge. Sadr is going to use the surge troops to his advantage to have them hunt down dissident Mahdi split-off groups so that he emerges from the surge period stronger than ever. Also, many fighters are leaving Baghdad to fight elsewhere during the US troop surge.
As for the Iraqi government: It is not committed to Bush's strategy. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki expects there to eventually be an all-out civil war between Sunnis and Shias. Therefore he does not want to burn his bridges with the big Shia militias. Contrary to Maliki's promises in a meeting with Bush, the Iraqi government has made little change in its treatment of Shia militias.
I think Sadr and Maliki are correct in their estimations. Once the US starts pulling out troops the civil war will scale up and the Shias and Sunnis will have it out.
These reporters also discussed the Washington DC blame game. For example, the Bush Administration is blaming General George Casey for the failure of the Bush Administration's 2006 strategy for Iraq and is putting Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in his place as top commander in Iraq. Others have blamed Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and other Bush Administration members (and they all do deserve large doses of opprobrium). But Chandrasekaran thinks even if we'd done many more things right that the conflict between Shias and Sunnis was inevitable. I agree. The mistake was in the decision to invade. That mistake was compounded by sticking around in a foolish attempt to build democracy once Saddam was overthrown.
A few years ago Anthony Shadid, also of the Washington Post (and who apparently speaks Arabic) was out with a US patrol and he was asking the US soldiers what the Iraqis thought of them. The soldiers thought that only 10% of the Arabs waving at them in Baghdad were hostile toward Americans. But Shadid started asking the Arabs and found at least half were hostile all the way back in June 2003. So those American soldiers were way over-optimistic on how many were friendlies.
It bears repeating why the US intervention in Iraq was fated to fail from the very beginning. First off, Islam makes Muslims very resistant to non-Muslim rule. Also, the values in Islam are not compatible with liberal democracy. Plus, the intermarrying of cousins which forms the basis for about half the marriages in Iraq makes loyalties toward the state weak since much of the feeling of loyalty is directed at extended families. Corruption by government officials, voting for clan leaders in elections, and a lack of civic involvement to improve the conditions for everyone are all partially the products of the cousin marriage practice. On top of all that (and perhaps at least a partial cause of all that), Iraq has an average IQ in the upper 80s. We can't expect to reason with them using the same conceptual model of the world as smarter populations use. Not going to happen.
How many more soldiers dead, soldiers maimed for life, and hundreds of billions of dollars will we waste in Iraq? Bush and the neoconservatives are peddling a fantasy. The only antidote is a big dose of reality.
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
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.
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.
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.
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
Ford was the accidental President due to Watergate and Spiro T. Agnew's ethical failings. I worry that someone with such good judgement can not make it through the primary process today - not in either party.
Ford opposed a global war to spread democracy.
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
The article also offers great Ford observations on Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld. Ford was a great judge of character and more balanced than the people serving under him. Many of those same people made worse decisions serving under the much lousier decision maker George W. Bush. Oh, and Ford elevated Brent Scowcroft to National Security Adviser and of course Scowcroft also saw the Iraq invasion as a mistake.
Also, to anyone who thinks that George W. Bush is a hard core conservative and that Ford was a moderate by comparison: Ford set some sort of modern record for number of spending bills vetoed because they cost too much. Bush, by contrast, supported big increases in spending and provided little opposition to Congressional spending.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.
The Saudi warning reflects fears among America’s Sunni Arab allies about Iran’s rising influence in Iraq, coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
You can read the above like blackmail if you choose. But look at it from the Saudi standpoint. Bush messed up Iraq and created the problem. Bush doesn't want US troops to leave. But his power is declining and he'll be out of office in a little more than 2 years. The Saudis are signalling to all of Washington DC that they have a stake in the outcome of the Iraq civil war.
But the Saudis face a tricky situation even among the Iraqi Sunnis. The Al Qaeda types want to overthrow the Saudi monarchy. The Saudis will funnel money to some Sunni tribes. Can the Sunni tribes beat the extremist Sunnis even while battling the Shias?
The Shias could go too far in their ethnic cleansing and cause the Sunni governments to intervene on behalf of the Sunnis. The US might reduce the odds of that by helping the Sunnis move away from the Shias. But Bush Administration does not want to admit the inevitability of continued ethnic cleansing. So rather than help the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other the death squads will continue their operations.
The Middle East has become the new Great Game. The Israelis and Jordanians and Saudis share a common opposition to a nuclear Iran. The Saudis are ready to spend their oil revenue to fund the minority Iraqi Sunni rebellion against majority Iraqi Shia power. Other Sunni governments will also side with their Sunni co-religionists. Bush wants to side with the Shias because the Shias can win (maybe). But the Sunni governments are going to oppose this move.
Michael Gordon of the New York Times reports that the retired military officers who advised the Iraqi Study Group does not think the ISG's plan for US forces in Iraq can work.
Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States has struggled in vain to tamp down the violence in Iraq and to build up the capacity of Iraq’s security forces. Now the study group is positing that the United States can accomplish in little more than one year what it has failed to carry out in three.
Most of the US soldiers in Iraq are supposed to be shifted into advisory and training capacities attached to Iraqi units. But the greater wilingness of insurgent and militia groups to fight demonstrates the main problem with the Iraqi military is the lack of motivation that Iraqi soldiers feel to fight for the central government.
One retired general who advised the ISG says the report says more about the lack of will in Washington DC than about how to prosecute the war in Iraq.
“By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq,” the study group says.
Jack Keane, the retired acting Army chief of staff who served on the group’s panel of military advisers, described that goal as entirely impractical. “Based on where we are now we can’t get there,” General Keane said in an interview, adding that the report’s conclusions say more about “the absence of political will in Washington than the harsh realities in Iraq.”
The faction that does not want to admit defeat is not a big enough to win huge resources (on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars per year and hundreds of thousands of drafted soldiers) needed to win the war. At the same time the faction that favors withdrawal is not yet big enough to force US troops to leave. We are stuck in a political stalemate in Washington DC.
It will take further decay in Iraq to break the stalemate in Washington. I'm confident the Iraqis can and will escalate the sectarian and factional fighting and force partition through ethnic cleansing. They'll continue to use rival government ministries as bases from which to attack each other's factions. They'll continue to run death squads and drive the middle class out of the country while religious factions flee from proximity with each other. The de facto partition will continue.
The officers who advised the ISG were cut out of the process of making military recommendations. Obviously the politicos did not want their political calculations constrained by what is possible to accomplish.
The group’s final military recommendations were not discussed with the retired officers who serve on the group’s Military Senior Adviser Panel before publication, several of those officers said.
Will Bush be able to block a reduction in US forces throughout 2007? If he doesn't then as US forces withdraw the Shias will feel much more emboldened to carry out attacks against the Sunnis. The ultimate outcome of the Iraq civil war is going to depend most of all on how hard and well the Shias fight to put down the Sunni rebellion against Shia majority rule.
If the Shias won't fight far from home then the southern Iraqi Shias won't be able to prevent the creation of an independent Sunni state in the Sunni Triangle.
The Iraq Study Group's report demonstrates that official Washington is not ready to face the hard ugly facts on Iraq. The Bush Administration and Congress matter less in Iraq than the Iraqis do. Well, the Iraqis are busy trying beat each other down so that one faction comes out on top and forces all other factions to submit. I do not expect that battle for absolute dominance to stop. The Iraqis do not understand equality. They see relationships in terms of dominance and submission.
The US attempt to train the Iraqi soldiers amounts to training factional fighters. Iraq has no center but only battling clans held together by consanguineous marriage and the genetic loyalties that result.
Update: The Bush Administration is developing other options for Iraq that are not on the ISG's list of possible policy choices. This press report once again mentions the idea of leaning more heavily toward the Shias and I think the Bushies are going to do that.
The major alternatives include a short-term surge of 15,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to secure Baghdad and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces. Another strategy would redirect the U.S. military away from the internal strife to focus mainly on hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda. And the third would concentrate political attention on supporting the majority Shiites and abandon U.S. efforts to reach out to Sunni insurgents.
American even-handedness between the Shias and Sunnis has become an unaffordable luxury. Siding with the Shias makes sense for supporters of simple majoritarian democracy because the Shias are the majority. Also, the old regime was Sunni and one objective is to make sure the old regime doesn't return to power.
Shifting more responsibility onto the Shias also makes sense for the American domestic political scene. When the Shias fail to measure up the Bush Administration can point to the Shias and say "It is the fault of the Shias that Iraq is not a better place and therefore it is not the fault of the Bush Administration.
But the growing undercurrent of discussions within the administration is shifting responsibility for Iraq's problems to Iraqis. Sources familiar with the deliberations describe fatigue, frustration and a growing desire to disengage from Iraq.
In a way what is happening now is that the Bushies are running down though the list of all the things that they could try so as to exhaust that list. The faster they do that the sooner we can move on to withdrawal. US forces in Iraq still serve a useful purpose: The attacks on them serve to educate the American public on what results from trying to convert Arabs to liberal democracy.
I think old dogs can learn new tricks. This makes them better than the President of the United States. George W. Bush is going to reject the biggest recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report.
But Mr. Bush, making his first extended comments on the study, seemed to push back against two of its most fundamental recommendations: pulling back American combat brigades from Iraq over the next 15 months, and engaging in direct talks with Iran and Syria. He said he needed to be “flexible and realistic” in making decisions about troop movements, and he set conditions for talks with Iran and Syria that neither country was likely to accept.
Bush isn't going to pull troops out of Iraq until Congress makes him do it. So when will Congress make him do it?
Iraq is going to get worse. Bush is stuck in his own mind. The Iraqis will continue to do things in Iraq that push along the debate in America. Eventually the Iraqis will manage to do enough to each other and to US forces to push American opinion far enough to overcome Bush's stubbornness. I wonder how many more Americans will get killed and maimed before that happens.
Commission members say they concluded that Mr. Bush’s strategy so far has created an expectation that the United States will always be there to hold Iraq together. Breaking that culture of dependency, they concluded, is the key to making the long-discussed “Iraqification” of the country’s security a reality. But they are uncertain whether they can persuade a famously stubborn president to adopt that view.
“Is George Bush ready to hear that?” one commission member asked over the weekend. “I don’t think any of us really know. I don’t know if the president himself knows.”
Much of the debate about Iraq in the American press revolves around factions in Washington DC. Will Democrats force a reduction in US forces? Has George W. Bush finally felt some serious doubt about his own decisions and his own judgment? Are the divisions within the Bush Administration deepening? Will Bush decide to drop attempts to treat the Sunnis and Shias equally and side with the Shia Arabs against the Sunni Arabs? But all these debates are becoming steadily more irrelevant as the Iraqis scale up their civil war and US forces fail to make much of a dent in the civil war, the corruption, the division of the Iraqi government into groups of ministries run by different militias, death squads operated by militias allied with top Iraqi government officials, and all the rest of the hell which Iraq has become.
The Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton will make many recommendations in their forthcoming report. One of the recommendations which Bush will agree with is the need to move more US military units into training and advising positions for the Iraqi army.
Administration officials say Mr. Bush is likely to embrace that part of the report, which will call for vastly increasing the number of American trainers embedded in Iraqi units, along with other provisions that he can argue are already being implemented.
These US soldiers will make the Iraqis more effective, but not enormously so. Iraqi forces that have American advisors still choke on the battlefield.
BAGHDAD, Dec. 2 -- The bullets flew from every direction -- from rooftops, windows, alleys and doorways.
Soldiers from the Iraqi army's 9th Division were pinned against a wall. They were under a covered sidewalk. According to accounts from U.S. forces who were with them on Friday, a suspected insurgent with an AK-47 assault rifle aimed at them from a doorway. Pieces of concrete fell as the insurgent's fire ripped into the wall above the Iraqi soldiers.
That's when they froze.
Teams of U.S. advisers remained close, but planned to leave the fighting to the Iraqis.
"It started out that way. But about five minutes into it, we had to take over," Staff Sgt. Michael Baxter, 35, said.
Would you believe that the US soldiers on the ground with these Iraqis painted a bleaker picture of their performance than US military PR flacks did?
While President Bush might still harbor no doubts as to the wisdom of his decisions on Iraq (after all, he prayed to God for guidance as he made these decisions) recently former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld advocated many changes in strategy right before he left office.
But the defense secretary's unusually expansive memo also laid out a series of 21 possible courses of action regarding Iraq strategy, including many that would transform the U.S. occupation.
Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the revelation of the memo would undercut any attempt by President Bush to defend anything resembling a "stay the course" policy in Iraq.
"When you have the outgoing secretary of defense, the main architect of Bush's policy, saying it's failing, that puts a lot more pressure on Bush," he said.
Does Bush really feel that pressure? I doubt it. But, again, it does not matter. The Iraqis are going to continue running death squads for ethnic killing and cleansing. The de facto partitioning will proceed apace as the middle class and the Christians who can find ways out of Iraq continue to flee. The next election (if there is one) will boost Shia cleric warrior Moqtada al-Sadr's share of the Parliament and cabinet positions.
People in Washington DC have dwindling influence over the course of events in Iraq. What's more important about the debate in DC is whether America's elites are going to become more realistic about human nature as a result of the Iraq debacle. The huge costs of Iraq could pay some dividends if the fools we have for elites admitted that Islam is not compatible with democracy, separation of religion and state, and equal treatment of non-believers. We'd get benefits if our elites admitted that Muslim immigration into the West is harmful to us. But so far even this enormous mistake has not been enough to get the fools who rule over us to step out of the liberal mental straitjackets that set the parameters for how they look at the world.
The emerging consensus in Washington DC outside of the Bush administration is that it is time to start pulling out US combat units from Iraq in 2007.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday.
The commission plan would shift the U.S. mission in Iraq to a secondary role as the fragile Baghdad government and its security forces take the lead in fighting a Sunni insurgency and trying to halt sectarian violence. As part of major changes in the U.S. presence, sources said, the plan recommends embedding U.S. soldiers directly in Iraqi security units starting as early as next month to improve leadership and effectiveness.
Note this is the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The Republicans want out of Iraq. Bush's position is still that US forces should not leave until the Iraqis are ready to take over the fighting. But in spite of Bush family ally James Baker as co-chair of the group they are still going to issue a report which will recommend a US withdrawal. The report might have caveats about Iraqi readiness. But part of the purpose of the report is to put pressure on the Shia-dominated Iraqi government to get government security forces ready more quickly.
Why the desire for exit on the Republican side? The Republicans do not want to get a another wupping from the electorate in November 2008. Bush wants to stay in Iraq. But he's not running for reelection whereas a third of the Senate and all of the House is and so will the Republican nominee for President. These people are going to put their collective careers ahead of Bush's desires.
Iraqi government forces do not need to get ready in any case. The Shiite militas could take on the Sunni insurgency groups right now.
The US will leave a large contingent of Vietnamization-style advisers working with Iraqi units.
Pulling out combat units would not mean the end of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq, which could continue in a different form for years. The withdrawal would be partially offset by an influx of advisers, trainers and embedded troops. The number of such troops now stands at roughly 5,000 and should be quadrupled to about 20,000, the group's plan says, according to a source. The commission envisions leaving at least several thousand quick-strike U.S. combat soldiers to protect all those other American troops.
Who still thinks the US can accomplish any of its goals in Iraq? Perhaps a few faithful in the White House and some neocon warhawk bloggers. But even the major neocons are now focused on sniping over who caused the Iraq intervention to fail so badly. Those neocons are still in error because their arguments erroneously assume there was a correct way to invade Iraq and produce a beneficial outcome.
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is re-evaluating its efforts to unite Iraq's fractious sectarian and political factions in an attempt to preserve U.S. options in Iraq no matter what happens, officials familiar with an internal administration review of Iraq policy said Friday.
A senior U.S. official said that as part of that examination, the administration has debated whether to abandon U.S. efforts to bring Sunni insurgents into the political process to stabilize Iraq and instead leave that outreach to the majority Shiites and Iraq's third major group, the Kurds. No decision has been made.
The Bush administration can't try to make deals with the Sunnis because the Shias have already decided they want to fight it out. Maliki isn't going to rein in the Shia militias which are killing not just Sunni insurgents but also any Sunnis they get their hands on. The Sunnis have so enraged the Shias that they're way past negotiation.
The study group proposals, like those being developed by the Bush administration, assume that the army and government of Mr. Maliki are worth a continued, if slowly diminishing, commitment of U.S. military support -- with an inevitable cost in American lives. But are they?
Yes, their assumptions are still erroneous. No, the Iraqi government is not worth continued American support. But the Bush administration isn't going to admit that.
If the Bush administration decides to ally with the Shias against the Sunnis then Bush's spokesmen will face a lot of questions about how can the US line up behind factions that are causing all sorts of atrocities. Well, since no major Iraqi faction is morally virtuous the only other option is total withdrawal. US policy in Iraq has failed and Humpty Dumpty is shattered.
Update: When trying to figure out the eventual outcome of the Iraq civil war my main question revolves around how far away from home either Sunni or Shia fighters will be willing to travel and fight. Already Shias from the south of Iraq serving in the Iraqi military have been unwilling to travel up to Baghdad to fight against Sunnis there. Baghdad is far from their clan relations. Why go fight for other tribes? Meanwhile, the Kurdish project to create a separate Kurdish nation proceeds apace.
If the Shias remain unwilling to fight for distant Shia tribes (let alone for control of non-oil areas populated by Sunnis) then the most likely outcome is either an outright split of Iraq into 3 separate ethnic territories or a confederation with a weak central government. As the US withdraws will Shia willingness to travel increase at all? Will the Shia government be able to form a large Shia military willing and eager to fight over the entire range of Arab Iraq?
How will US leaders rationalize a US withdrawal from Iraq? By coming to a consensus that the Iraqis have shown themselves unworthy of our assistance.
From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.
Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.
This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.
Imagine, if you will, a group getting together to blame blind people for not becoming great painters. Or imagine a group blaming deaf people for not composing great music. Blaming Iraqis is akin to such foolishness.
The Iraqis do not have the qualities needed to make Iraq over in a style close to that of Western democracies. The real failures are to be found in those who thought the Iraqis ever did possess the right stuff for Western style government. But those people do not want to get the blame. Plus, far too many of them do not want to reexamine their assumptions about human nature even though what we see in Iraq every day argues against both neoconservative and liberal views of human nature.
Writing a Washington Post Op-Ed Republican Senator for Nebraska Chuck Hagel advocates US withdrawal from Iraq with an essay entitled Leave Iraq, Honorably.
Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.
Peace with honor! Tricky Dick Nixon would have agreed with his old secretary of state.
Hagel thinks we can not impose democracy on other countries.
The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.
Now hold on a minute Chuck. Germany! Japan! Ask the war party. They'll tell you this is easy to do. Germany! Japan! We just invade a place and, presto, instant democracy. Never mind that we took over Haiti a few times and it keeps falling back into some pretty brutal rule. Never mind that we've occupied quite a few other countries with less than salubrious results (except we did get some pretty cool war movies out of Vietnam). Only the success stories are cited by those who think the US should radically reshape the world and those radicals never stop to listen to the arguments for why the highly industrial and organized Germans and Japanese are not like Lebanese, Somalis, and Haitians.
We've made mistakes every which way to Sunday.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.
Gotta agree on the "arrogant self-delusion" part. But where do these delusions come from? Why were neoconservative and liberal expectations about the Iraqis so far off from reality? Exactly what flawed assumptions about human nature and commonality of humans made these delusions possible? Chuck isn't going to touch that one with a ten foot poll. But might I suggest Islam, consanguineous (cousin) marriage, and IQ for starters?
Chuckie says we have wasted hundreds of billions in Iraq and that the war in Iraq has caused us to take our eyes off the ball over in Afghanistan where the real terrorists are hanging out. Though mostly those guys are in Pakistan and we've taken our eyes of the ball there too.
If you want to know some of the reasons why democracy isn't going to create freedom, fairness, and tolerance for opposing views in Iraq one place to start is my post Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies. Also see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq.
As for the argument heard in some quarters that we have had great success in creating democracies see my post History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy.
Lame duck failed President George W. Bush wants to make one more try to turn the Iraqis back from escalating violence.
President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.
Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.
Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.
What is the point of this Last Hurrah? The Iraqis have already chosen to put their loyalties in their own sects, tribes, and families rather than in the national government. The national government itself has become a tool for Shia dominance and at the highest level it supports the Shia militias. It might as well. If the Shia militias became even more capable at some point the Sunnis would begin to see that they have no chance to win. Only then might they become willing to negotiate rather than fight.
On C-SPAN (hurray for Brian Lamb for founding it!) I was watching General Abizaid get questioned by the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Hillary Clinton sounded sympathetic to Abizaid's argument that we shouldn't start drawing down troops. Though Hillary said the sides will keep fighting as long as they think they can win a better position. I say that belief is going to continue for a long time unless one side thoroughly crushes the other side. A withdrawal of US forces might even allow the Shias to crush the Sunnis faster and therefore end the civil war sooner.
Abizaid said if the government does not reign in the militias then he'll be discouraged about the prospects. Well, unless the Shia-dominated military becomes powerful enough to take on the Sunni fighters the Shia-dominated government will continue to let the militias kill Sunnis - both fighters and those Sunnis who are not involved.
The US Senator who seemed most connected to reality as I understand it was Democratic Senator from Indiana Evan Bayh. The guy asked:
"Do they have it in them to forge one country with a common destiny or is that beyond their capabilities?
That's a politically incorrect question to ask and it comes from a Senate Democrat no less.. Beyond their capabilities? Yes, obviously that'st true. What our leaders in Washington DC keep hoping for from the Iraqis really is beyond their capabilities. General Abizaid disagreed. But he's wrong.
Bayh is quite critical of the Iraqis.
I mean, they say the right things. But when the going gets tough and they have to make the hard decisions, they sort of retreat into their corner and they’re just not able to find that common ground."
This willingness to be critical of the Iraqis is what has been missing from the Democrats. They don't want to take positions that Bush would respond to by painting them as racists. They do not want to admit that the liberalism has less than universal appeal around the world. The future of the world is not a liberal manifest destiny. But the unwillingness of people on the Left to be honest about human nature has left the Democrats unable to articulate accurate criticisms of the Bush war in Iraq.
The Shia militias can't be brought around to negotiations. As Moqtada al Sadr gets more coopted into the Iraqi government more of his fighters decide to ignore him and fight.
For years an angry outsider, Mr. Sadr, 33, has moved deep into the inner sanctum of the Iraqi government largely because his followers make up the biggest and most volatile Shiite militia. Now, after more than a year in power, he and his top lieutenants are firmly part of the establishment, a position that has brought new comfort and wealth. That change has shifted the threat for the American military, which no longer faces mass uprisings by Mr. Sadr’s fighters when it enters their turf.
But the taming of Mr. Sadr has produced a paradox: the more settled he becomes in the establishment, the looser his grip is over his fighters on the streets and those increasingly infiltrating the security forces. In the two years since they fought against American tanks at Mr. Sadr’s command, many have broken away from the confines of compromise that bind him, and have taken a far more active role in killing, something his supporters say worries him. He says he is trying to weed them out — 40 were publicly dismissed last month.
The increasing violence of some of his followers mirrors the overall unraveling of Iraq, which has become less centrally controlled and far more criminal since the American invasion in 2003. The situation is one of the highest priorities for the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress in the United States.
We could try pulling all the US troops out of Baghdad so that the Sunnis and Shias can have it out. The Sunnis have to become willing to accept subservient minority status. Or they have to come to accept that since they can't rule and find subservience unacceptable that partition is their best bet for rule of Sunnis by Sunnis. Right now they are in denial.
Update: Greg Cochran says Bush's 'last big push" in Iraq is going to fail.
It looks as if Bush is plumping for a ' last big push' in Iraq, a last try: sounds if they're planning to inject another 20k troops, I guess in Baghdad.
It won't work. You can take that to the bank. Since it is the last try, since everybody _knows_ it is the last try, the local contenders can and will wait it out - since it is a try at imposing order in a country where the state no longer exists at all, a country whose language we do not speak and whose inhabitants most American soldiers come to view with contempt after long exposure, since 20 k troops is way too few to make much of a difference in this kind of effort, failure is certain. . What it _will_ do is blow another hundred billion dollars and get another thousand or so Americans soldiers killed.
Invading Antarctica would have so much more sense. It's not too late!
The good thing about the last big push is that its failure will leave the war camp discredited. We can soon move beyond pretending there's any chance of turning Iraq into a liberal democracy. The Shias and Sunnis aren't going to stop fighting over who gets to rule just because American troops are patrolling some of their neighborhoods. Bush's Iraq policy is going to go through its final discrediting in the next 6 months. The ranks of the defenders of a continued US presence in Iraq will shrink on both sides of the political aisle.
Is the Iraq exit debate really already over? Will the increasing public unhappiness about Iraq force Washington DC to act to cut the US commitment to Iraq? George Will thinks the US is going to get out of Iraq because Congress critters do not want to go down in electoral flames in 2008.
Today the policy of "staying the course" means Americans dying to prevent Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other. If in January 2009 more than 100,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq, there might be 100 fewer Republicans in Congress. So "stay the course" is a policy stamped with an expiration date.
Yes, I think he's right. Every month that goes by the public becomes less supportive and more opposed to the war. Why should US soldiers die to prevent the Sunnis and Shiites from going at it?
Also, we aren't fighting for democracy. Will noticed a very telling use of the term "representative" in an answer James Baker (he of the Iraq Study Group, former Bush Sr Secretary of State and Bush family fixer) gave in an interview with Charlie Rose:
Hence, a fourth question: In a perhaps intentionally opaque statement on "The Charlie Rose Show" on Oct. 6, Baker said: "If we are able to promote representative -- representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, [Iraq] will have been a success." Can President Bush's "freedom agenda," which Iraq has shredded, be recast by the Study Group's showing that there is more than semantic sleight of hand in the distinction between democracy and representation?
Get that "not necessarily democracy" action. He's looking for a newer definition of success that is based on much lower expectations. Can he get President George W. Bush to go along with him to shoot for a much less ambitious outcome in Iraq? If Bush doesn't then after this election Congress is going to rebel.
Bush is a lame duck. Congressional Republicans want to still be in office after Bush leaves. Their loyalties are going to shift much more toward saving their own political skins. Bush's Iraq policy is thoroughly discredited.
Rational arguments for why we can't convert Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy didn't convince the war's supporters they were wrong. But continued fighting with escalating civil war and fighting even among the Shias make the failures of US policy undeniable.
But even if Baker can persuade Bush to make a big change in strategy and even if Baker can come up with a way to allow Bush to do it while still saving face I do not see what the US can do short of withdrawal that'll solve the problem that Iraq poses. Bush might dig in his heels and refuse to make any policy change that can be construed as a recognition that he made big mistakes with Iraq. If he does that then Congress will force a withdrawal. Might take a year or so. But it'll happen.
Fighting in the past week indicates that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to disarm militias could be leading Iraq toward an intersectarian war between the Shiites in the government and the Shiites in the street.
Last week's battles in Amarah, capital of the southern Maysan Province, are emblematic of a widening Iraqi conflict to one where factions from the same sect vie for power.
Trouble there began with the assassination of Qassim al-Tamimi, a senior police officer in the city. He was part of the Badr Brigade, a militia loyal to the Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) whose members have taken a larger role recently in the police forces there. Local SCIRI officials blamed the Mahdi Army and arrested five Sadrists.
That touched off a massive show of strength by the Sadr supporters, who overran police stations. Fighting followed leaving at least 30 dead. Though the city is now under government control, residents say it remains tense.
But the two-day offensive by the Al Mahdi army highlighted how difficult it has become for the central government and its security forces to rein in Shiite Muslim militias, both in the capital and in the south.
The militias fired mortar rounds at police stations where officers had barricaded themselves. When police ran out of ammunition and fled, Al Mahdi militiamen blew up at least two of the stations. During 48 hours of ferocious street battles in the oil-rich city of 300,000, 22 people were killed and almost 100 were injured.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki visited Sadr this week in the holy city of Najaf to ask for his support in clamping down on bands of militiamen who kill with impunity. But Maliki also depends for political support on Sadr, who controls 30 seats in the Council or Representatives, or parliament. And despite Sadr's intermittent calls for calm, violence has continued unabated.
You are clear on this, right? A Shiite militia battles the Iraqi government which relies on the leader of that militia to support the government.
Since British troops left Amarah in August, residents say the militia, which is one of the country's largest unofficial armies, has been involved in a series of killings in the city. They include slayings of merchants suspected of selling alcohol and women alleged to have engaged in behaviour deemed immoral by the militia members.
"We see here a paradigm for when U.S. and coalition forces withdraw from an area," New York Times reporter John Burns told CBC News Friday from Baghdad.
"We could see down the line a serious threat to the Iraqi government."
Why doesn't the Iraqi government have so many more troops than the militias so that it could easily put down the militias? I suspect that most Iraqi youths support the Shiite militias or the Sunni insurgent groups more than they support the government in the Green Zone of Baghdad.
Out of the population of 26 million, 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country and a further 1.5 million are displaced within Iraq, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In Jordan alone there are 500,000 Iraqi refugees and a further 450,000 in Syria. In Syria alone they are arriving at the rate of 40,000 a month.
Here are some details on which groups are fleeing from which areas of Iraq:
Former pilots who are Sunni and served in the air force believed they were being singled out by Shia death squads because they might once have bombed Iran; many have fled to Jordan. Jordanian immigration authorities are more welcoming to Sunni than Shia Iraqis. The latter find it easier to go to Syria. Every day heavily laden buses leave Baghdad for Damascus.
All sorts of Iraqis are on the run. But the Christian minorities from Karada and Doura in Baghdad are also fast disappearing. Most of their churches are closed. Many leave the country while the better off try to rent expensive houses in Ain Kawa, a Christian neighbourhood in Arbil.
Nobody feels safe. Some 70,000 Kurds have taken flight from the largely Sunni Arab city of Mosul.
The worst slaughter is happening in the towns on the outskirts of Baghdad where Sunnis and Shias live side by side. Shias are fleeing from Mahmoudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, to Suwaira and Kut. The Iraqi army does little to help, and Shias complain that the US is more intent on attacking the Mehdi Army than rescuing villagers.
Massive displacements of refugees, killer groups hunting down Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, and Christians, militias battling the government while also in the government. splintering of militias into factions that are not under control of the major militia leaders. It is hard to see how this can get better in the foreseeable future. Seems likely to get worse. The US military is way overstretched. Shia-Sunni fighting and fighting between Shias seem set to further reduce the US military's ability to control the situation.
Short of withdrawal I have two practical suggestions:
Only desperation can force the Bush Administration to make a major course change in Iraq. Any course change based on the idea that Iraqis aren't all Jeffersonian Democrats who believe in the equality of humans is opposed until it becomes impossible to oppose it. Worsening conditions are bringing partition and withdrawal to the top of the heap for consideraion.
The escalating violence raking Baghdad and other Iraqi cities is pushing that nation's leaders, neighboring Arab countries and U.S. advisers to consider a dramatic change of direction in the conduct of the war.
Leaks from a U.S. task force headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are contributing to the widespread sense that the Bush administration is preparing for a "course correction" in the coming months.
The options cited most frequently in Washington include the partition of Iraq into three ethnic- or faith-based regions, and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, with some remaining in neighboring countries to deal with major threats.
I like the term "faith-based regions". It ties in nicely with George W. Bush's rhetoric about "faith-based initiatives". Then Iraq isn't a debacle. It is an effort to build faith-based communities.
How about a military coup with US blessing? But how to spin it? Military democracy? Direct action democracy?
Another scenario is being discussed -- and taken seriously in Iraq -- by many of Iraq's leading political players, under which the U.S.-trained army would overthrow struggling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and replace him with a strongman who would restore order while Washington looks the other way.
Hey, the only man alive who has a demonstrated proven track record as a ruthless maintainer of order in Iraq - a man we have since learned would have loved an alliance with America while he was still in power - is none other than Saddam Hussein. Before some Iraqi court sentences him to death we ought to consider a sequel - Saddam Part II - The American Alliance. He'd have Teheran's mullah's quaking in their boots and as part of a deal to restore him to power I'm sure he'd be happy to pressure Syria into cutting off Iranian supplies to Hezbollah.
Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.
Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference.
This effort to secure a Middle Eastern peace settlement probably refers to Israel. The more the US gets entangled with Arab countries the more pressure the US government will feel to apply pressure to Israel to make concessions to Arabs. For this reason the neocon promotion of the Iraq fiasco has damaged the interests of the one country they most want to protect in the Middle East: Israel.
As of this writing the October death rate of coalition casualties is running at 4 a day which is the highest since the January 2005 rate of 4.1 and the November 2004 rate of 4.7. The latter high was due to fighting in Fallujah.
Violence and progress do coexist in Iraq. You can be making progress and have violence. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally a time of great celebration, it has instead been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years, as well. The violence is, indeed, disheartening. In Baghdad alone we've seen a 22-percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, compared to the three weeks preceding in the preceding Ramadan. And Baghdad Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas, but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how best to refocus our efforts
Maybe the Muslims will not kill each other as quickly once they have finished their month of celebrating their violent religion.
The US military is overstretched in Iraq. Divisions spend only one year out for every year in country. There's not much room left for increasing the size of the deployed force. Any attempt to shore up forces in one part of the country comes at the expensive of drawing down forces in other parts of the country.
Dozens of al Qaeda-linked gunmen took to the streets of Ramadi on Wednesday in a show of force to announce the city was joining an Islamic state comprising Iraq's mostly Sunni Arab provinces, Islamists and witnesses said.
Witnesses in Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province, said gunmen dressed in white marched through the city as mosque loudspeakers broadcast the statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, a Sunni militant group led by al Qaeda in Iraq.
Gen Caldwell did not specify how security methods might be refocused, but the unusually grim assessment seems in part intended to put pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take political steps that US officers have long said need to accompany military operations.
Privately, U.S. officers say Shiite militias -- some affiliated with Iraqi government security forces -- are responsible for most of the attacks against U.S. troops as well as on Sunni civilians. But commanders on the ground often find themselves stymied when going after Shiite militias, especially those affiliated with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc controls 30 seats in parliament.
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, ordered the release of Sheikh Mazen Saedi, a leading member of al-Sadr's organization, who had been arrested by U.S. troops on suspicion of "illegal activity," Caldwell confirmed Thursday. He did not specify what crimes Saedi was suspected of committing.
We are fighting for a government formed by parties which have militias fighting against us. Is that crazy or what?
Some argue that a solution to the Iraq civil war lies in getting more groups involved in the political process. The idea is to get more factional leaders into negotiations and give them slices of power so that they have a stake in the system. Moqtada al-Sadr has been pulled into negotiations and some of his people have been put into the government..But when al-Sadr responded by trying to restrain his militia parts of the militia splintered off and kept carrying out attacks. The splintering of the militias makes it harder to do negotiations.
In the void forged by the sectarian tensions gripping Baghdad, militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital. Iraqis and U.S. officials blame militias for mass kidnappings and slayings, for setting up unauthorized checkpoints and for causing much of the recent carnage. Senior U.S. military and intelligence officials say they have identified at least 23 militias -- some are Sunni, but most are Shiite. Some are paramilitary offshoots of the Mahdi Army or have broken away entirely from Sadr's command structure. Others seem inspired by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla movement.
More splinter groups means more leaders of splinter groups that must be enticed into negotiations and offered power. Given that the splinter groups are less inclined to negotiate and more inclined to kill this strategy of negotiated peace looks doomed to fail. Maybe if we let the civil war scale up to a much higher level some groups would defeat other groups and the number of groups that must be brought to the table to arrange power sharing would shrink.
The US military claims to be reexamining their strategy in Baghdad with an eye toward changing it somehow. But what options do they have? Pull more troops out of other areas of Iraq and shift them to Baghdad? Start killing militia leaders in defiance of Maliki's government? Pull troops out of Baghdad and let nature take its course?
The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.
Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.
By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone.
Here once again is my practical suggestion for cutting down the sectarian violence: the US military should help Sunnis move out of predominately Shia areas and vice versa. Get these people away from each other so they can't so easily kill each other. Money spent on moving vans and to construct housing could reduce the scale of civil war violence.
Another alternative: Partial withdrawal. Then in some regions the groups could duke it out and some groups would get defeated and the number of groups might go down. That'd make it easier to negotiate a settlement.
My preferred alternative: Total withdrawal. It'd save the US taxpayers money and save lots of American lives. But total withdrawal requires admission that the Iraq invasion was a total waste and a huge mistake. The need for such an admission pretty much rules out this this option in the foreseeable future.
To democratize a Muslim country requires that we persuade the Muslims to agree with democracy. To win the Muslims’ agreement we must to a large extent accede to their wishes. But their wishes include sharia, war against infidels, death to apostates, and much more that precludes anything we might consider a meaningful, pro-Western democracy. Thus our unstinting effort to win Muslims to our democratic ideals (the effort must be unstinting because we’ve convinced ourselves that democratizing Muslims is the ONLY way we can defeat terrorism) means that we end up betraying our democratic ideals and acceding to Islamic ideals.
There is no escape from this reality, for the simple reason that Islam is incompatible with democracy—a fundamental truth we have never acknowledged.
Well, Larry and I have acknowledged the incompatibility of Islam with the West. The Pope sees the truth as well. But like with some other obvious truths to speak or write about the core political characteristics of Islam requires violation of liberal taboos.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 — James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he expected the panel would depart from Mr. Bush’s repeated calls to “stay the course,” and he strongly suggested that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.
“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.
“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”
The fact that Bush told Baker it was okay with Bush for Baker to join the ISG suggests Bush is looking for a face-saving way to do a big shift in policy toward Iraq. He's got to realize almost everyone thinks US policy in Iraq is a failure.
Baker wants to try to negotiate with players in Iraq and surrounding countries to try to work out a deal that would satisfy various warring groups and bring Iraq some semblance of peace. I'm not optimistic that this can be done. But it is worth a try - preferably with a team of negotiators run by someone of Baker's caliber rather than by Condi Rice or other current Bush Administration top national security policy people.
He explicitly rejected a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, saying that would invite Iran, Syria and “even our friends in the gulf” to fill the power vacuum. He also dismissed, as largely unworkable, a proposal by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to decentralize Iraq and give the country’s three major sectarian groups, the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, their own regions, distributing oil revenue to all. Mr. Baker said he had concluded “there’s no way to draw lines” in Iraq’s major cities, where ethnic groups are intermingled.
According to White House officials and commission members, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on a regular basis. Those colleagues say he is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved in advance.
The Iraq Study Group (ISG) includes among its members former Clinton Administration Defense Secretary William Perry, former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former CIA director Robert Gates, former Republican Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, and former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese. These are not fringe people in Washington DC.
Unfortunately this misplaced loyalty has caused Baker to rule out the only viable solution remaining for Iraq: the decentralization of Iraqi governance. Baker would have to admit the situation is dire there to adopt this drastic solution that I proposed more than a year and a half ago and that Joseph Biden, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has more recently endorsed. Baker has already dismissed the idea of dividing Iraq into three autonomous regions and distributing the oil wealth among the Kurds, Shi'a, and Sunni Arabs. He has argued publicly that the populations in the major cities are too intermingled to create autonomous regions, which he claims would cause a civil war if implemented.
On their recent trip to Iraq, if Baker and almost all of the other commissioners had set foot outside the Green Zone fortress, they would have found that the country is already in the throes of a civil war. In fact, the civil war and the resulting ethnic cleansing have reinforced what is a natural partition. The Kurds and their militias have their own quasi country in which the Iraqi government does not govern and the Iraqi flag does not fly. Many of the Shi'ite areas are governed by militias, which have also infiltrated the Iraqi police and army. In Sunni areas, guerrillas effectively control many towns. U.S. forces have been unable to disarm any of these armies.
A federal system that stops short of outright partitioning is one option. Another option is full partitioning that creates new separate sovereign states. The problem with both these options is that the Sunnis and Shias do not just want to avoid falling under the domination of the other group. They do not have the Anglosphere's preference for equality. They want to dominate. So a partition would be a very unwelcome obstacle to their ambitions to dominate each other.
Can negotiations produce a solution that'll somehow cause these groups to restrain their ambitions? The odds become higher the longer the ethnic cleansing goes on because the ethnic cleansing creates more areas where only one sectarian group (e.g. Arab Shias or Arab Sunnis) can be found. But as Basra demonstrates, the Shiites fight tribe against tribe even after most of the Sunnis have fled.
Continuing sectarian violence in Iraq and fears that the country could be headed toward civil war has some former US officials and experts calling for the decentralization of Iraq through the creation of three highly autonomous regions along ethnic lines.
The Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, is said to be preparing a report that calls for splitting the country into three separate regions for Shi'ites, Sunni and Kurds.
The group is expected to release the report following November's mid-term congressional elections.
Iraq's central government would remain in effect, according to the group's supposed recommendation, though it would focus the majority of its attention on foreign affairs, border security and the distribution of the country's oil wealth to the autonomous regions.
What else can be negotiated that doesn't involve local autonomy for the Sunnis? They are fighting in part because US troops are there (though we are supposed to pretend that is not the case) and in part because they do not want to be ruled by a Shia majority. The Sunnis want the oil money but bulk of the oil is in Shia and Kurdish areas. Any chance of a deal would need to have an enforceable mechanism for making sure the Sunnis get a cut of the oil revenue. But who would enforce the deal? US troops in country would provoke the Sunnis to keep fighting. I do not see how to work this out. Is there a way?
Baker has more constraints on him than just what President Bush will find acceptable. Baker wants the ISG's recommendations to be bipartisan and major Democrats and Republicans are ISG members.
JAMES BAKER, Former Secretary of State: Well, what we would like to do is to see if we can come forward with a consensus report. It won't be worth much if Republicans go one way and Democrats go another, so my distinguished co-chairman and I are working very hard to see if we can produce a consensus report that might make some suggestions as to initiatives or advice that Congress and the president could utilize in continuing the mission in Iraq.
JAMES BAKER: Well, because it's really important, if our report is going to mean anything, if it's going to have any chance of being embraced by opinion-makers in the United States, by the administration, by the Congress, we really have to take it out of politics. It cannot be seen to be politically inspired or politically motivated or politically directed, and we couldn't do that if we reported before the election, midterm election.
MARGARET WARNER: But some people may say, "But Americans and Iraqis are being killed everyday. Here's the group that may provide us with some way out."
LEE HAMILTON: Well, we're proceeding with as much speed as we possibly can. But we want to get it right.
We have interviewed, I think, overall more than 150 people. We've contacted every expert we can think of; many experts have contacted us. We're sorting through mounds and mounds of information. Every time we step out on the street, somebody gives us a recommendation that we ought to make.
And we're trying very hard. We're doing our level best to try to understand a very, very complicated situation and to come up with recommendations, as Secretary Baker has suggested, that will be broadly supported, will be pragmatic, will be constructive, and forward-looking.
Baker is really already in negotiations with factions of Washington DC power brokers. Bush okayed Baker's creation of the ISG. The ISG members have consulted with large numbers of experts (though I wonder as to the real extent of their expertise) and power brokers.
Even if all the important factions in Washington DC can be brought to a consenus on Iraq there is still the problem that the Iraqi government is so divided, corrupt, and at war with itself using rival militias that a deal in Iraq between Iraqis might not be possible.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Congressman Hamilton, the other major player here, obviously, is the Iraqi government, the Iraqi leadership. And after your visit to Baghdad, you said, look, they've got three months to get a handle on this. And you also wrote -- and I just wanted to quote you back to yourself -- "Whether they have the political will to put aside sectarian differences and the capability to govern remain open questions."
Now, have you seen anything in the intervening month and a half to suggest they are stepping up to it?
LEE HAMILTON: No. I still have real questions in my mind as to the capacity, the will of the Iraqi government to move. What is interesting is that all of the American officials are saying the same thing, saying to the government, "You've got two, three, four, five months to get this act together and to take steps to improve the security in the country, to move towards national reconciliation, and, of course, to begin to deliver the basic services that government should deliver, electricity, water, and the other things."
I think it's very much a question whether this political leadership can do it. I think that we must give them a chance to do it. There are some encouraging signs. Their rhetoric has been pretty good, but the follow through with action has not measured up to our hopes.
US policy toward Iraq is going to change after the elections. That would be in the cards even if the Republicans managed somehow to maintain control of the House. Future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the most Open Borders voting record in the House of Representatives. A coming shift of House control into the hands of Open Borders advocate Pelosi looks to be the biggest cost of the Iraq Debacle.
British Army Chief of Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt says the British should leave Iraq because their troop presence makes the security problem worse.
He says clearly we shoud "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems."
"We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear."
As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time.
"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."
"That is a fact. I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."
The same holds for American forces. Our presence turns Iraqis into Jihadists. They aren't going to turn into Jeffersonian Democrats. They are more like the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Dannatt does not think it practical to install a liberal democracy in the Middle East.
"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East."
"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naïve hope history will judge. I don’t think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."
The longer we try to achieve an ambition far higher than we can hope to achieve the worse the outcome will be for us.
Humans do not all want equality and freedom for each other. Lots of people (especially in the Middle East) want to dominate each other. Islamic societies are incompatible liberal democacy. Pope Benedict thinks Islam is incompatible with the West. I agree.
Peter Baker of the Washington Post says the Bush Administration has shifted their style of talking about Iraq from emphasising supposed improvements toward arguing that we have to focus in not letting Iraq get even worse.
Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."
For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.
Bush is now making the mistake of imagining that bigger losses are avoidable. The longer the denial continues the larger the damage that will be done.
When I was much younger and more naive I used to think that the people who run the United States must be highly competent. Now I think their understanding of reality is highly faulty. If we are to believe this article the Bushies though that that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would cut back on the size of the insurgency in Iraq. Never mind that many insurgency groups exist in Iraq and that the US military knows their separate identities. Bush Administration cluelessness seemingly has no bounds.
While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.
Every time you have an expectation and it turns out to be wrong it is a sign that you have a flawed model of the world. People who have highly flawed models will continue to get it wrong in the future. They should not have as much power or influence. People with wrong track records should have their opinions discounted.
What other supposed "turning point" moments have come and gone with Iraq? The initial invasion that was supposed to usher in Jeffersonian democracy. The capture of Saddam. The capture of Saddam's top lieutenants. The killing of Saddam's sons. The creation of an Iraqi government. Elections. Other turning points that I'm sure I'm forgetting. These other turning points did not live up to their expectations. But the Bushies just moved on to the next fantasy.
Now the Bushies are finding it hard to maintain the full blown delusion. That isn't to say that they have totally ceased being deluded. They've had to scale back the extent of their delusions. But they are still deluded.
Speaking at the New America Foundation former diplomat James Dobbins, Rand Corporation International Security & Defense Policy Director, said many things (worth watching if you can catch a C-SPAN rebroaddcast) about Iraq. One line stands out: "We can either stay and make things bad slowly or leave and make things bad quickly." You can also watch his speech via a video download.
Dobbins thinks the Bush Administration made a conscious choice to deceive themselves (I think he used the term "selective ignorance" to describe that choice) when they made post-WWII Germany and Japan the models for what they hoped to achieve in Iraq. Dobbins thinks far more recent US involvements were better models. Though I think Iraq provides much worse starting material than, for example, Kosovo or Bosnia. He thinks that the Bush Administration ignored the Clinton Administration's experiences with military occupation precisely because it was the Clinton Administration which had those experiences. Can't learn from the opposition when the opposition has been painted as highly mistaken in all things.
The New American Foundation panel was entitled "Moral Clarity and the Middle East". If the Iraq debacle leads to greater clarity about human nature then the war could still provide an important benefit.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June.
53% say the war was a mistake. An even higher 62% say it is going badly. So then what do the other 38% think? Victory around the corner?
Public approval of Bush's handling of the fight against terrorists (the "Global War On Terror" or GWOT) rose. As the public disconnects Iraq from the terrorist threat it makes sense that the negative of Iraq would weight less on how they evaluate GWOT. What the public still needs to figure out: Keep Muslims out of the West and your risk of getting blown up goes down.
When will this shift in attitude lead to the start of a troop withdrawal? When the withdrawal comes which part of Iraq will first be abandoned to its fate? A Sunni area or a Shia area?
The sectarian violence of recent weeks has further soured the American political mood. In Washington, there may be a debate over whether Iraq is engaged in a full-scale civil war - in the nation as a whole, a majority of respondents say a civil conflict is already occurring.
Sixty-three percent of respondents to a recent Pew Research poll say that the US is losing ground in its efforts to prevent civil war in Iraq. That represents a significant rise in pessimism from June's comparable figure of 50 percent.
"The optimism generated by the killing of [insurgent leader Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi in June has largely dissipated, especially with regard to the U.S.'s key objectives," judges a Pew Research report released last week.
The bad news will continue to mount and attitudes will continue to shift in response.
Peter Baker of the Washington Post takes note of increasing criticism of Bush by right wingers and war supporters about the Iraq war and American foreign policy.
For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"
But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."
The problem with the promoters of the rosy scenarios for Iraq is that they've made so many predictions that are wrong. Generally commentators and pundits can make lots of predictions that turn out to be wrong and they rarely suffer any career setbacks as a result. The general public has little memory for what big name pundits said a year or two ago. But anyone who defends the Bush Administration's Iraq policy has to tout Iraq as a success.The public can detect errors in such arguments without the need for long memories of what each war proponent has said in the past.
Rich Lowry sees Iraq headed on a downward trajectory. Well, better he figures this out late than never.
"Conservatives for a long time were in protective mode, wanting to emphasize the progress in Iraq to contrast what they felt was an unfair attack on the war by the Democrats and media and other sources," Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, said in an interview. "But there's more of a sense now that things are on a downward trajectory, and more of a willingness to acknowledge it and pressure the administration to react to it."
That "protective mode", that knee-jerk reaction of "If the Left is against it then I'm for it" has not served the Right well at all. Mind you, left-leaning commentators play the same game and harm their own side - and more importantly the cause of truth - just as much when they play that game.
I've had people showing up to comment on my blog in past years who assumed that since I'm very critical of Bush I must be a left-wing socialist pacifist appeaser. As the reality of the Iraq Debacle has sunk in with war proponents I've noticed a big drop-off in such commenters. I think it has been months since the Panglossians have told me I'm a pacifist. Any Panglossians reading this who want to defend their faith in Jorge W. Bush?
Lawrence Auster has been documenting increasing doubts and even total flips of Iraq war supporters . Read the extensive commentary by him and his readers. Ralph Peters, John Podhoretz, and Rich Lowry all show signs of feeling the bite of reality sinking in.
Japan will withdraw its 600 troops from Iraq because they have succeeded in their mission, Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's prime minister, has announced.
The mission, which helped reconstruct the relatively peaceful area around the southern city of Samawa, is the first of its kind since the end of Second World War, when America forced Japan to renounce war.
The number of countries contributing troops to Iraq keeps dropping.
Japan deployed about 600 troops to Iraq in January 2004, but because of the country's pacifist constitution they were prevented from taking a combat role. As a result, the contingent was stationed in an isolated camp on the outskirts of the southern city of Samawah where, protected first by Dutch and then Australian troops, they rebuilt roads and schools.
The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said Japanese troops would end their humanitarian mission in Samawa, southern Iraq, as soon as British and Australian troops in the area handed over responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.
If the Iraqis do not want to fight their own insurgents why should we?
Nir Rosen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and a guy who has spent a fair amount of time in Iraq, says that if the US forces leave that will eliminate the main motivation for the insurgency: revenge.
But if American troops aren't in Baghdad, what's to stop the Sunnis from launching an assault and seizing control of the city?
Sunni forces could not mount such an assault. The preponderance of power now lies with the majority Shiites and the Kurds, and the Sunnis know this. Sunni fighters wield only small arms and explosives, not Saddam's tanks and helicopters, and are very weak compared with the cohesive, better armed, and numerically superior Shiite and Kurdish militias. Most important, Iraqi nationalism—not intramural rivalry—is the chief motivator for both Shiites and Sunnis. Most insurgency groups view themselves as waging a muqawama—a resistance—rather than a jihad. This is evident in their names and in their propaganda. For instance, the units commanded by the Association of Muslim Scholars are named after the 1920 revolt against the British. Others have names such as Iraqi Islamic Army and Flame of Iraq. They display the Iraqi flag rather than a flag of jihad. Insurgent attacks are meant primarily to punish those who have collaborated with the Americans and to deter future collaboration.
Wouldn't a U.S. withdrawal embolden the insurgency?
No. If the occupation were to end, so, too, would the insurgency. After all, what the resistance movement has been resisting is the occupation. Who would the insurgents fight if the enemy left? When I asked Sunni Arab fighters and the clerics who support them why they were fighting, they all gave me the same one-word answer: intiqaam—revenge. Revenge for the destruction of their homes, for the shame they felt when Americans forced them to the ground and stepped on them, for the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. soldiers either in combat or during raids.
Is Rosen correct? Is the Sunni insurgency aimed mainly at the US troops? Or mainly at the Shias? But the Shias can stick up for themselves if need be. The Mahdi Army could defeat the Sunnis. So why are we still there?
Even though Rosen thinks there is no point in the US continuing to fight in Iraq Rosen is not optimistic about what will follow a US pull-out.
The United States should leave, as Barry Posen and many others now realize, but I am less sanguine than Posen about the likely results of an end to the American occupation. Much damage has been done. Iraq is a failed state. The three governments that have existed since Saddam was removed have been unable to impose themselves outside of the fortified military base they inhabit, the Green Zone, now renamed the International Zone. Iraqi society has suffered yet another blow, after having been destroyed by dictatorship, wars, poverty, and sanctions. The brutal presence of hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers, the redistribution of power they caused, and the ethnic and religious forces they released have further destroyed Iraqi society. Power was distributed not only from one group, the Sunnis, to others, the Kurds and Shia, but also to everybody, that is, to anybody with a gun. In the absence of any political or civil authority, religious and tribal leaders gained supreme power. In places where there was no religious or tribal authority, criminal gangs took over. Elsewhere, the lines between the three were difficult to distinguish.
I figure the place is going to lack even minimally decent government for many years to come whether the US troops stay or leave.
Rosen talked with an Iraqi Sunni who works in the Ministry of Interior who repeats a claim that keeps popping up: Badr Militia men are joining the Ministry of Interior and from there hunting down and killing suspected Sunni insurgents.
Haidar was concerned about the presence of foreign fighters in the resistance and its growing sectarian violence. He told me that members of his intelligence unit had infiltrated resistance groups, praying with them and participating in their planning. "Some of the resistance are organized gangs like mafias," he said. "They use religion and claim they are the resistance. Some of the resistance has good goals. The real resistance won’t kill Iraqis. They attack the occupier, and they attack them in remote places and don’t use civilians as cover." He explained that the real resistance just wanted the Americans to stay in their bases and not enter houses or cities. "If they get inside my house, what is left for me?" he asked in the voice of the Iraqi resistance. "I can’t even protect my own house."
But—possibly because of the influence of foreigners—Sunnis were killing Shia civilians, and Shia, often under official cover, were retaliating. I asked Haidar if the rumors I’d heard were true—that the Ministry of Interior had been infiltrated and dominated by the Badr Organization Militia, the military forces of the radical Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, or SCIRI. Yes, he said, and added that Ministry of Interior members affiliated with Badr were assassinating Sunnis throughout Iraq. Sunni officers were being removed and replaced by unknown Shias.
Rosen talks to a large range of Iraqis and goes places most reporters are reluctant to travel when not embedded with US forces. Rosen's full article is worth reading to get a sense of how the various factions see the conflict. The Sunnis and Shias are becoming steadily more distrustful of each other.
Until the Samarra mosque bombing the Shias demonstrated a great deal of restraint toward the Sunnis even as both groups have come to view each other in increasingly negative terms.
Iraq’s Sunnis, unsurprisingly, felt intimidated, and they increasingly came to view Shias as Iranians or Persians, refusing to recognize that Shias were the majority or that Shias had been singled out for persecution under Saddam. Sunnis were the primary victims of American military aggression and viewed Shias as collaborators. As Shias became the primary victims of radical Sunni terror attacks against Iraqi civilians, they came to view Sunnis as Baathists, Saddamists, or Wahhabis. Yet Shias showed restraint amid daily attacks meant to provoke a civil war; they knew the numbers were on their side.
As the ethnic cleansing and bombings continue I think the Shia restraint is evaporating.
Rosen thinks that radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army, might be the only person who can hold Iraq together.
But Sunnis preferred to view Muqtada as "the good Shia," and he was becoming the only bridge between Iraq’s Shias and Sunnis. Muqtada opposed the Baathists but had established an excellent working relationship with radical Sunnis immediately following the war, and like them he demanded a centralized Iraq, in part perhaps because he has so much support in Baghdad. SCIRI, on the other hand, saw no need for compromise, preferring to impose a new order on Iraq that directly clashed with Sunni aspirations and reinforced all their fears. It was fighting an open war with the Association of Muslim Scholars as well as former Baathists and Iraqi military officers, singling out former fighter pilots for retribution.
Muqtada al-Sadr, once the most divisive figure in Iraqi politics, was becoming the only hope for halting the civil war. Muqtada was the only Shia leader respected by Iraq’s Sunnis.
But Mahdi militiamen hunted down and killed a lot of Sunnis after the Samarra mosque bombing and probably continue to do so. Therefore Muqtada is becoming less the uniter every day. Still, Rosen says that Muqtada agrees with the Sunni on many important questions.
On the crucial issues that divide Shiite and Sunni, Muqtada sides with the Sunnis. He opposes federalism, which he believes will lead to the breakup of Iraq, and supports amending the constitution. SCIRI and the other main Shiite party, Dawa, support federalism and refuse to amend the constitution. For Sunnis, federalism means the loss not just of the old Iraq, which they dominated, but also of oil revenue, and they are determined to resist it. Muqtada is their only Shiite ally. Inexperienced in foreign affairs and barely experienced in politics, Muqtada may nonetheless be the only figure capable of halting Iraq's steady descent into a civil war that could ignite the entire region.
Of course the rise of Muqtada to power would make the whole neocon project in Iraq into a complete failure for Israel. He is a Muslim fundamentalist who is vehemently anti-Israeli. If you want to understand why the neocons wanted to invade Iraq then see their document A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm which they wrote (I think in 1996) to try to convince then Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to try to overthrow Saddam back in the 1990s. The rise of anti-Israeli fundamentalist Shia cleric Muqtada into power would make the "Clean Break" strategy into an absolutely complete failure for Israel.
You can read other articles by Rosen on Iraq.
Update: If the bulk of the insurgency's motivation is to get the United States out of Iraq then the longer the US stays the more likely Iraq will be partitioned.
Think about the dynamics at work here. The Sunni insurgency (both foreign and domestic) kills Shias. They kill some Shias for cooperating with US forces or the government. They kill other Shias just to scare them out of cooperation and to show them the Sunnis really are the boss. But in the process the Sunnis create more Shia enemies of the Sunnis and more Shias retaliate. This, in turn, motivates still more Sunnis to kill Shias. The cycle builds up. The ethnic cleansing also accelerates, making a split of the country along ethnic lines easier.
The larger the set of retaliators becomes the more ethnic cleansing will happen and the more the Sunnis and Shias will see each other as totally unaccceptable. Then the only way Iraq could be kept together would be by the Shias building up a highly motivated army, police, and intelligence apparatus to severely repress the Sunnis. Like Saddam but more religious. So what do you want in the non-Kurdish region of Iraq? A highly repressive theocratic Shia regime (whether elected or not)? Or two Arab countries, one for Shias and one for Sunnis?
George W. Bush has invited all living previous US Secretaries of Defense and State to a meeting on Jan. 5, 2006 on Iraq andd other foreign policy issues. Is Bush desperately seeking advice or trying to win support for an increasingly unpopular policy?
Among them will be several who have left little doubt that they think Mr. Bush has dangerously mishandled Iraq, ignored other looming crises, and put critical alliances at risk.
The meeting was called by the White House, which sent out invitations just before Christmas to everyone who once held those jobs.
The invitees were told that they were being asked to attend a briefing on Iraq and other issues. It was unclear, one recipient said, "how interested they are in what we are thinking."
Will Bush just try to lobby all these people with his customary demand that all good Americans must agree with him? Or is he just looking for a photo op? Or is he trying to form a consensus around a big shift in US policy toward Iraq? In the privacy of his own mind have real doubts finally intruded? Or does he still see that his main problem is with the American public? Just what is the guy thinking?
Retired Lt. Gen. and former NSA head William Odom has taken on all the reasons put forth for staying in Iraq and Odom argues that the Iraq war's proponents have got it exactly wrong on all counts. Read that link. It is a good summary of many rational arguments against the war.
Andy Berman was kind enough to send me a copy of David Pryce-Jones' The Closed Circle: An interpretation of the Arabs. I'm finally reading this book which I've wanted to read for a long time (having lost my own copy after lending it out). The book reinforces my belief that what is wrong with the Arabs, culturally, religiously, and otherwise, can not be sorted out and set in the right direction by a US invasion of an Arab country. Such an invasion does not begin to change what makes the Arabs the way they are and it ignores the waves of invasions and colonial administrations which already failed make lasting changes. The neocons and Bush are ahistorical about the Middle East. No, the whole world is not on the verge of becoming like America if only a few small obstacles can be gotten out of the way. There are deep seated reasons the world is the way it is and if only Bush and his advisors could find their way toward joining the "reality-based community" they might stand a chance of learning why.
John Burns of the New York Times reports senior US officers see rising pressures for withdrawal from Iraq.
But whether there are too many American soldiers or too few, a feeling is growing among senior officers in Baghdad and Washington that it is only a matter of time before the Pentagon sets a timetable of its own for withdrawal. These officers point to the effect on American public opinion of the slow disintegration of the 30-nation military coalition that America leads, and to frustration on Capitol Hill with the faltering buildup of Iraqi forces. These officers also cite the recruiting slump and fear the risk is growing that the war, like Vietnam, will do lasting damage to the Army and the Marines.
"I think the drawdown will occur next year, whether the Iraqi security forces are ready or not," a senior Marine officer in Washington said last week. "Look for covering phrases like 'We need to start letting the Iraqis stand on their own feet, and that isn't going to happen until we start drawing down'. "
Here's the part that interests me: When the US withdrawal begins what will the Kurds do? The Kurds might see advantage in allying with the Sunnis in order to prevent the more numerous Shia from establishing complete control. The Kurds could tell the Sunnis that they'll fight alongside the Sunnis in exchange for Sunni acceptance of Kurish autonomy or outright Kurdish secession and independence.
Right now the US military and the Kurds are buddy-buddy. But once the US withdrawal begins in earnest the interests of the Kurds will strongly diverge from those of Washington. Also, once the withdrawal begins expect to see many politicians to take to the field of battle with their own private militias. Military supplies and soldiers from the Iraqi Army trained by US and British soldiers may join up with various private militias and the Iraqi Army may crumble as the country plunges into full scale civil war..
In Washington, President Bush said Saturday that pulling out of Iraq now is not an option, rejecting calls by some lawmakers and polls indicating that many Americans are growing weary of the war.
"The terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat. Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
"We will settle for nothing less than victory" over terrorists there, he said later.
With Bush's approval ratings hitting new lows and the popularity of the war declining as well even some Republican hawks in Congress have begun calling for timetable to withdraw from Iraq.
While the partisan shots from Democrats were to be expected, Bush also drew criticism from several Republicans, suggesting that opposition to the war extended beyond his traditional opponents.
Rep. Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, whose anger at the French for opposing the war two years ago led him to demand that the House cafeterias to rename its French fries as "freedom fries,'' was among those who publicly called on Bush to produce an exit strategy.
Jones wants the withdrawal to begin by October 2006. Not coincidentally all members of the House of Representative will be up for reelection in November 2006. Congresscritters are worried about reelection as polls show support for the war has become the minority view.
WASHINGTON — Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.
The poll is consistent with other recent surveys that show growing concern about the war. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, two-thirds said the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq, and nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable.
I bet a lot of officers in the US Army are thinking they can't believe the US military is left fighting another unpopular war.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
''Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror,'' he said. ''This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight.''
The jihadist entered Iraq because US soldiers are there. If the United States hadn't invaded Iraq the jihadists wouldn't be flowing in as they are now. My guess is that most of the jihadists showing up to fight in Iraq never would have made it to the West to attack "infidels" if they hadn't gone to Iraq. They would have had a hard time getting visas, affording longer flights, or paying for places to live once they arrived in the West. Those who would have gone to the West would have been more likely to end up in Europe than in America.
When we leave we will be leaving Iraqis with a more dangerous and repressive society.
The hall's manager, Bassam Manuel, said his parties are not what they used to be in Saddam Hussein's era, when the streets were more secure.
"Before the war, the parties used to start at 9 in the evening and end at 2 in the morning," Manuel said. "Now the parties start at 3 in the afternoon and end at 8. Alcoholic drinks are forbidden - we don't want any trouble."
Abdul Salam, a 38-year-old unemployed Shiite Muslim, had long dreamt of hiring Fouad Salem, a popular singer, to perform at his wedding party.
In the end, a lack of money prevented that. Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who control the area, forbid music in the district, claiming singing is the voice of Satan.
But will we be leaving them with a civil war? I think so. How will the civil war turn out? Theocracy? A break up of Iraq into 2 or 3 countries? Don't know.