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January 26, 2007

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Well said. I had to double check that I was actually on ObWi.

Anyone who has not followed the embedded bloggers would do well to read all their posts (about their embed). They are mostly to the right but I think that their reporting was very bias free – they all reported the good and the bad.

I do think that there are positive signs, and that this last push is well worth attempting. I wish it were more troops, but I do like Petraeus’s plan and he should have the chance to implement it. I’m also very happy to see us start to get serious with the Iranians found in Iraq.

Can someone explain how the Senate approves Petraeus unanimously - knowing full well what his plan is, yet many of the same Senators are willing to vote for one of these ridiculous non-binding resolutions?

It's vital to remember that despite year after year after year of being ruthlessly branded hippie peaceniks, most of the Democrats in Congress don't want to end the war, and aren't going to seriously challenge Bush on it. That's why they are futzing around with non-binding resolutions while full war with Iran looms ever closer.

Still busy as hell, but this has been simmering for awhile. I won't be able to read comments until tonight or tomorrow.

Personally, I find it absurd to label positions as "defeatist." It's binary thinking at its worst and discourages cooperation, which defeats the purpose of discussion (whose very nature is to attempt to garner support; polarizing discussion seems very narcissistic to me).

That said, I think the plan on Iraq is like throwing good money after bad. I can accept that my thoughts on this could be labeled premature, but it still seems to me that this is the right strategy, done at the wrong time (three years ago would have been much better) with far too few people. With all those problems, it just seems rational to me to judge this approach as wanting (without even considering the personnel ABOVE Patraeus, who could be judged as the best possible person to execute this strategy or any other strategy put into place).

But most of the soldiers on the ground appear optimistic of success and believe in their mission.

Did you happen to see that recent poll in Stars and Stripes of troops on the ground in Iraq?

* 42% of the troops surveyed are unsure of their mission in Iraq
* 72% think U.S. military forces should get out of the country within a year
* 85% believe a major reason they were sent into war was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks.”

So, well, you may be right (though it would be nice to see which poll you're citing) that "most of the soldiers on the ground appear optimistic of success and believe in their mission" - because most of the soldiers on the ground believe that their mission was to retaliate for September 11, and they've certainly been very successful in doing that...

So here I go looking for the Bizarro World version of Charles' post (it's here), and happen to come across a fun discussion between von and Thomas that happens to reference the ObWi comment section here (including Thomas' obligatory mention of us all as a "hatefest" and again for some reason referring to us as "ObiWi").

Click and scroll.

"The plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years... The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week." -Joe Lieberman, November 2005

"We recognized the problem, and we changed our strategy. Instead of coming in and removing the terrorists, and then moving on, the Iraqi government and the coalition adopted a new approach called clear, hold, and build." -President Bush, March 2006

"Embedding more of our soldiers with Iraqi troops and training more Iraqi troops are part of the package, and so is adopting an effective clear-hold-build strategy in the areas of conflict." -Charles, today

I'd love to believe that there's a new strategy which deserves a chance to work. But this is the same "new strategy" we've repeatedly tried over the years, only this time we're going to somehow make it work. Sorry, Bullwinkle, but real people are dying while you keep trying to pull a rabbit out of that hat. I don't support it.

Charles, given the odds that you will come around to the withdrawal position in the foreseeable future, you might want to rethink your ridiculous characterization of it as 'defeatist.'

Nell, I'm wondering how Charles Bird combines his belief that "most of the soldiers on the ground appear optimistic of success" with his knowledge that 72% of them are "defeatist".

Actually, Charles, one of those rare posts of yours that I don't immediately throw my hands up in the air and ask myself "what could he be thinking?"

I think the viewpoint of many in Congress and outside is that this plan is probably not going to be very succesful (except in the short term), but that if anybody has a chance to pull it off, it is Petraeus. And believe it or not, I think we all want and hope it will succeed.

And as far as those wanting unilateral withdrawal, remember many of us ere against unilateral invasion in the first place, as was a majority of the American people. And many of us believe that Iraq is a lost cause because of our presence and that maybe leaving will result in it not being a lost cause.

Personally, I think the best way to get al Qaeda out of Iraq is for us to leave. And not because then they will follow us home, which is one of the most ridiculous statements I have heard in a very long time. I do believe they know about mapquest.

Considering that Bird has been wrong about nearly everything Bush has said and done since, well, forever, I find it difficult to care what he thinks about the current situation.

But oh, how I will laugh--sardonically, though--when even he abandons Beloved Leader and becomes a defeatist (formerly "loser-defeatist").

This time, it'll be different. Unlike all those other times that "this time" would be different, THIS time I really mean it.

Quite frankly, it appears to me that those advocating unilateral withdrawal must also believe that Iraq is a lost cause. It is a defeatist position. I believe it's premature to think that, but I'm closer today to thinking we've lost than a year ago.

Well, there two different paradigms for defining victory. Based on the war aims espoused in 2002/2003, the war is lost, and cannot be un-lost. However, a new, very meek set of war aims has been tacitly settled on. It's possible that this very modest ambitions might be achived.

But let's be realistic, when people talk about "winning" in Iraq now, their definition of victory, almost a grim parody of the administration's original ambitions, is so underwhelming that in 2002 not a single rational person would have thought it worth the effort, expense and loss of life incurred.

Welcome back, Charles.

Al-Maliki has been more in the forefront recently about securitizing Baghdad, and there may already be signs that it's working. His most important job is to back up his words with actions and to consistently sustain them. I hope he can do it.

This is the most troublesome aspect of the plan, and why I cannot support it in present form (although I would also not block it, because the cure would be worse than the disease).

For the plan to work, Maliki must be an honest broker. I see no evidence that he is. Indeed, every act and nonact that he has taken suggests that his primary purpose is to consolidate Shia power for the inevitable day that we leave. Even if the surge fails -- which I hope it does not but expect that it will (I belong to the too little too late school) -- it plays into his hands.

Can someone explain how the Senate approves Petraeus unanimously - knowing full well what his plan is, yet many of the same Senators are willing to vote for one of these ridiculous non-binding resolutions?

The question of whether one approves of the latest way Bush is throwing lives at Iraq is an entirely separate question from whether or not one thinks Gen. Petraeus is qualified to lead troops in Iraq. The man is probably one of the most qualified in the world to try to fix Iraq. That doesn't mean I think it's possible, especially not with Bush's proposed escalation.

As for the OP... eh. More one-last-cornerism from Charles. I'm gratified to see your confidence in the General's abilities. I share that confidence, generally speaking; I frankly can't think of anyone else I'd rather have in charge at the moment. It's just a shame that we've handed a man with such a sterling COIN resume such an impossible Charlie Foxtrot to try and untangle.

Iraq is a loss. There is no pony there. The best we can hope for out of this is a fundamentalist Shi'ite theocracy wearing the trappings of democracy, one sufficiently unfriendly to Iran that we won't see the two countries in any kind of alliance in our lifetimes.

That's really the best-case scenario that doesn't involve a staggering amount of magical thinking. There are considerably more likely scenarios that are not so rosy, and none of those scenarios will be improved by us remaining in Iraq now. In terms of getting the Iraqis to take charge of domestic security we are now, at best, continuing to prop up a government that has no reason to seriously try to do so as long as better-equipped, better-trained US troops are there to do it for them.

The fact is, the notion of "as they stand up, we'll stand down" has always been pure fantasy. It is delusional to believe that Iraqi troops--with a fraction of the training, equipment, and professionalism of their American counterparts--will simply by dint of being trained be able to have a meaningful enough effect on the violence in Iraq to replace the US troops. Their greatest advantage lies in the fact that they're Iraqi, not foreign--and that advantage is nullified as long as they are embedded with and backed up by US troops, as long as Iraq remains an occupied country. And no amount of embedding or training is going to correct the biggest problem with the Iraqi military and police: the depth to which they're infiltrated by and a tool of sectarian interests.

You can call it what you want, Charles. Keep ringing the "defeatism" bell, because obviously that one worked out really well for you guys in the midterms. I call it being willing to face unpleasant facts head-on, and being unwilling to throw more lives and treasure at a problem where they are profoundly unlikely to make any positive difference. And until you write something that demonstrates you're capable of doing the former, or that you at least understand some of the fundamental social and religious factors at play in Iraq on their most basic level, I don't see any reason to take your opinion seriously. You're just advocating more faith-based foreign policy, and we've had quite enough of that. As for your closing:

But if we go down, I'd rather go down after making every effort to make it work. The Petraeus plan looks to be one of the last and best tries. If we've made no discernible progress by this November, I may just put myself in the defeatist camp and call for a phased drawdown.

Weasel-worded though it is, we'll hold you to that.

I've carried Bush's water on a whole range of issues over most of his six years in office.

Despite the appearance of a conciliatory attitude (undermined, yes, but the use of the term "defeatist"), you continue to carry water.

This latest plan isn't going to work. It's still woefully undermanned. According to Petraeus's own doctrine, 10x the amount of troops are needed for Baghdad alone.

And I know Jes is one of your least favourite people around here, but her point about the support from the troops is worth responding to.

Actually, I am quite impressed by this post of CB's: it is one of his few disquisitions on Iraq that makes a point, and manages to conclude without any jabs, snipes, or snarks, or ludicrous catchphrases included.

However, I think he misses (or only tangentially touches on) one major - probably the critical - issue. That is: what exactly is "the job" Gen. Petraeus (and the scores of thousands of other ranks) being tasked to do? What does "turning Iraq around" really mean in terms of the military - and political - mission? What, then is the desired end result of this latest "surge"? Or for that matter, our entire involvement in Iraq?
Like Charles, I would have vastly preferred the end result of our invasion/occupation to be a country that is truly "...a free, peace[ful], non-theocratic representative republic..." - with, needless to add, a pro-American (or at the minimum, not overtly anti-American) government. However that happy result is, or should have been, by now consigned to the trashcan of false fantasies; and the big flaw in CB's argument (well, other than the overfacile equation of "phased withdrawal" with "defeat") is that it (still!) doesn't articulate an endgame; or an endphase that will cease costing American soldiers their lives and limbs on a daily basis, as now.

Regarding General Petraeus, I seem to remember reading somewhere that he was in charge of building up the Iraqi Army in 2004, an effort that was not all that sucessful.

I wonder if all this confidence in him is a bit misplaced

Petraeus wrote the book in 2006. Others have written books on the topic as well (Hammes in 2004 and Nagl in 2005). Those books were readily available and all of them should have been consulted much earlier in the conflict. But Rumsfeld wanted a chance to prove his doctrine.

I think that Petraeus has a better background for this type of conflict than his predecessors, but I am not at all convinced that our military can sustain the sort of action required for the sort of timeframe needed to succeed. We might have been able to do it 3 years ago, but the odds are much longer today with exhausted troops and worn out equipment and procurement problems.

It's unlikely that Petraeus will ever get the timescale he needs to make this work. The steps needed to sustain it have not already been taken, and we have squandered several years on a fundamental failure at the top to differentiate between warfighting and counterinsurgency. We are being defeated by opportunity costs and the cumulative effect of all those bad decisions.

I'd love to believe that there's a new strategy which deserves a chance to work. But this is the same "new strategy" we've repeatedly tried over the years, only this time we're going to somehow make it work. Sorry, Bullwinkle, but real people are dying while you keep trying to pull a rabbit out of that hat. I don't support it.

You're right that we've done the "clear, hold, and build" strategy before. But there are crucial differences this time which make success more likely.

1. The Iraqi government has said that they won't restrict by faction who troops go after. Meaning that we're going after shi'ite militias and criminals. Already we have begun doing this, with Maliki's permission. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6289891.stm So much to the point that the Mahdi Army is declaring itself "under siege." http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070118/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_070118180930

2. One reason the previous strategy didn't work is that we didn't have enough troops for the "hold" part. There are two reasons for this. One, not enough American troops. Two, the Iraqi troops that were supposed to show up never did, leaving the American troops to do the holding job. This time, Maliki is showing more assertiveness in getting the Iraqi troops to do their job. Although unfortunately as this article indicates, even if the troops get there, they're not taking responsibilties seriously. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/world/middleeast/25haifa.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=login
The Iraqi government will also be adding an additional 8,000 troops for baghdad, including the 17,000 we're including, which will bring the total number of combined Iraqi and American troops in baghdad up to 90,000. Nearly double the troops we had the last time we tried the "Clear and hold" strategy. And while that wouldn't be enough to "clear and hold" all of Baghdad, not all of Baghdad needs securing, just particular neighborhoods. And Petraeus believes that these troops will be enough to secure those neighboorhoods.

The rationale behind the plan is this. We secure these neighborhoods, and build up their economy, by providing jobs and building infrastructure. That way, even if the militias want to come back, the idea is that they won't have as much support from the neighhborhood. One reason the militias have been so successful, and the country is breaking into factions, is that these neighborhoods don't trust the Iraqi government to provide security of economic growth. And so are looking to various factions. By buidling up these neighborhoods, the hope is that this will create more public trust with the Iraqi government, which will then enable the political process, which we all agree is the only way we're ultimately going to overcome this mess, to actually go forward. But security and economic growth needs to happen before this process can go forward.

No one is saying that we can solve this only militarily. What the administration is saying is that the political solution can only happen if security and rebuilding infrastructure is taken care of first.

Now I'm still skeptical myself, for one because of reports like the NYT article which indicates that the Iraqi troops aren't taking their role seriously. But it seems many that criticize the plan aren't really fully aware of all the details about it.

Jeff --

I've been for more troops in Iraq and a change in direction for a long, and do appreciate that this plan provides both (albeit in far lesser numbers and a far later date that I'd wish). But I'd very much appreciate if a proponent of Bush's plan would address the underlying assumption: that al-Maliki is trustworthy.

Jeff, thanks for taking the time to walk me through all that. But I have to wonder, if it's so evident that the whole problem with the "clear, hold, and build" strategy previously was that we didn't have enough troops, why has virtually every commander taken the position that more American troops is not the answer?

GEN. ABIZAID: "Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the core commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future."

Which leaves us with the same old story about "Iraqis in the lead." I also read the NYT story you linked, and I see no reason to believe it is anything but par for the course. In this respect - the inability of the local troops to do so much as tie their shoes on their own - it truly is Vietnam over again. Whatever we accomplish in Iraq we have to do ourselves, meaning we are a long, long way from the point where we can safely leave the Iraqis in charge.

I do think going after the Shiite militias is a very important step. However, it seems Maliki and the Iraqi soldiers will only do this with a gun to their head, and even then they're not helping much. While I think Bush did the right thing by playing hardball and telling Maliki, "Either work with us against Sadr, or you're through," I wouldn't trust Maliki on this as far as I can throw him.

We secure these neighborhoods, and build up their economy, by providing jobs and building infrastructure.

If you wanted infrastructure you should have started four years ago. Not going to happen now in a year, not ever going to happen if Baghdad is done piecemeal per the plan. You can't have an economy with no reliable power, water, or waste disposal.

We secure these neighborhoods, and build up their economy, by providing jobs and building infrastructure. That way, even if the militias want to come back, the idea is that they won't have as much support from the neighhborhood.

i'm sorry, but that's hopelessly hopelessly naive. do you really think that, on the ground, the prime beneficiaries of an injection of cash won't be those that run the neighbourhoods with a monopoly on force?


these neighborhoods don't trust the Iraqi government to provide security of economic growth. And so are looking to various factions. By buidling up these neighborhoods, the hope is that this will create more public trust with the Iraqi government,

again, sorry, but that's missing the reality. there is now innate contradiction between the militias and the government, they simply operating at different levels in the new Iraq. The militias keep people safe, and their local legitimacy is solidly established now. This is the new Iraq. Hope to reduce the level of killing by all means (primarily by reducing the militias' incentives to fight, not by military action) but don't hope to magically turn it into a different country.

Let's not all forget one quite vague and general point: we're not really dealing with mere counterinsurgency anymore. Iraq has solidified hierarchies of power within popularly supported organizations pitted against one another. It's not 2003. The situation is much more difficult than 2003. Would this "surge" plan have worked in 2003? Probably not. So what reason is there to believe it will work now?

And, once again, what is WORKING? What are the criteria for success here? How do we know whether we are succeeding or not?

"Securitize"?

why has virtually every commander taken the position that more American troops is not the answer?

For the reason you posted.

And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future."

What I believe may have happened is that recent signs by Maliki and the Iraqi government have indicated they are willing to do more, but want our help in doing so. And so some in the military, seeling this new willingness, now support this surge. There has been a shift in tone from previous critics. Casey believes it could work, or at least he's saying so publically. Maybe he feels differently privately. But since the reason for why they didn't want more troops now might not be a factor, than their decision may have changed.

Why the change? Honestly I think it's partly due to the new democratic congress. And it's also why I support the resolutions being passed in congress. Not because I agree with the content of the resolutions, but because I think it will have an effect in causing Maliki and the Iraqi government to realize our patience is not unlimited, and they have to step up.

As I've said, if this surge does work, it will partly be due to the Democratic congress.

hey Charles.

OCS Steve--

"They are mostly to the right but I think that their reporting was very bias free"

I haven't read them, I confess. I did see Michelle Malkin's heartwarming pictures of Iraqi children holding miniature American flags, which did not sit well with everyone.

To vote for Petraeus and against the surge seems like a no brainer to me. He's by all accounts a great general, but that doesn't mean that the strategy his higher-ups are imposing is a good idea. Of course he publicly supports it. Do you think that means it was his idea?

Re: "securitize" - I think by now Charles is just throwing in words like that every so often because he knows it will get a rise out of some people.

Also, that RedState thread with the "discussion" between Von and Thomas was beyond belief. Bizarroworld, indeed.

I don't think the new initiative is going to work becasue the insurgents and the militias can just fade into the countryside and bide their time, as the iraqi army when we invaded.

But if it does work, my question is, what do we do then? Just because we have cleared held and built Bagdhad, does that mean the bad guys just give up? Does that mean they the various factions all give up thier ambitions? Does that mean the the Kurds will agree share oil? Does that mean that the Shiites will share oil and power with the sunis?

I think this is another schlock and awe type thing. There is no plan for success. None of the underlying issues are resolved. The insurgents and the militias are not grown from spores form outerspace, they are the result of history and basic human interests. Until those are delt with (and I don't think the US CAN deal with them), nothing will change.

But really, I believe the parties in power (shiites) in Baghdad are pretending to go along with the US, but they are only going through the motions. They want the US out becasue they hold the upper hand. When the latest US initiative is defeated they are hoping the US withdraws so they can get on with their civil war, a war they think they can win. If you are the shiites now, why would you compromise with the Sunnis? The Sunnis treated the shiites like shit for a long long time. Why forgive that when you have all the power? That's asking to much of human nature.

securitize -- well, CB did say he wanted Maliki to be an honest broker. who knew that what he would be brokering are shares of Bagdad.

to non-finance types: to securitize means to take a package of assets, like car loans, bundle them into a pool, then sell securities which represent interests in the pool. It's a way of spreading the risk of default of any one loan.

on surging:

when US troops come into your neighborhood, you put down your gun. when they leave, you pick it back up. Who's to stop you? Your brother wearing a uniform? he's the one sending you ammo. That Sunni b*stard wearing the uniform? He's the target.

This time, it'll be different. Unlike all those other times that "this time" would be different, THIS time I really mean it.

here's what i think of, when i hear the phrase s 'milestones' or 'turning the corner'.

still, since we have no choice in the matter, i hope this New Way Forward works.

I say this not because I have faith in Bush, but because I believe Petraeus is the best man for the job, and the general has literally written the book on counterinsurgency ops.

Charles

He did indeed write the book. And according to that book the "surge" is most likely doomed to fail due to insufficient troop levels.

von & cw shoe the problem

I would take it further than von. If Maliki is not be trusted, who replaces him? IOW, the fundamental question for Iraq is whether there is any national leadership, leadership thatrepresnts more than, and importantly, a minority faction.

I don't think Maliki actually well represents Hakim and SCIRI, for example, who have much closer ties to Iran than Moqtada and the Sadrists. The Shia are not monolithic. Sorry, I no longer believe a majority, consensus gov't is possible in Iraq. And unlike Italy there are too many outside forces for coalitions to be workable.

IIRC, even Saddam mostly left Fallujah alone. The "country" is just a mess.

Of course he publicly supports it. Do you think that means it was his idea?

Hmmm. So, you think he's lying? I don't know how else to interpret this. If he's not lying, he supports the surge whether it was his idea or not.

I think I gave up on Iraq about the time Sistani gave up. the bombing of the Ali Shrine. I think Sistani took many lessons from that:a)that the Arab Sunnis were intractable, b) that the Arab Sunnis had outside help (SA), and c) and most importantly, that Hakim or Sciri or Moqtada or whomever didn't really care about areas outside their fiefdoms.

Sistani was by far in the best position jumpstart an Iraq, being about the only national figure, and tried his best and failed. There is nothing Americans can do but take a side in a multi-party civil war. Except there isn't even a side left to take.

Iraq is a "failed state" Like Somalia, and Lebanon, and Afghanistan, and maybe Haiti, I don't think you can fix a failed state.

This doesn't help anybody who wants to know what to do.

Jeff above makes a considerably more impressive effort than the president in responding to the same question that Speaker Pelosi asked:

“He’s tried this two times — it’s failed twice,” the California Democrat said. “I asked him at the White House, ‘Mr. President, why do you think this time it’s going to work?’ And he said, ‘Because I told them it had to.’”

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, ”‘I told them that they had to.’ That was the end of it. That’s the way it is.”

I don't think it's at all unreasonable to look at what people were saying about the strategy in 2005 in deciding whether to credit their views as to the prospects of success on this new plan. What was Gen. P. saying then? How well has it panned out? What were the various water carriers saying? How well has that panned out?

Of course the political situation in Iraq has to be resolved by Iraqis. It's sad but true that there's no faction that really wants what we want -- at least no faction with much of a national following.

Nell, you left off Pelosi's parting shot. the full convo goes like this:

Pelosi says she asked Bush why he thought this “surge” would work when two others have failed.

The president’s response: “Because I told them it had to.”

Pelosi: "Why didn’t you tell them that the other two times?"

I guess the unofficial slogans for the latest escalation are, "Third time's the charm!" and "Because I Really, Really Mean It This Time!"

"This doesn't help anybody who wants to know what to do."

We screwed up the country. We need to admit that and give up our geopolitcal goals and turn our attention to mitigating the human cost of what we unleashed. I think the best thing would be to broker a partition. A partition gives the Kurds and maybe the Shiites what they want. The sunnis get no oil and get ethnically cleansed, but maybe we could form a coridor or something so they can get out at least with theirr lives. It woudl be better in terms of human life than a full on civil war. If you held a region wide conference you might be able to get the Saudis and the Syrians to help out the Sunni with aid or something. You would get Iran overtly involved with the devoloution of Iraq and that might be a good thing. Public diplomacy sometimes puts constraints on nations. Plus we might be able to deal with some of our Iranian issues at the same time. They are interrelated.

I don't expect this to happen soon. What I expect is that we will have an improvement in Baghdad and then more crap happening in the rest of the country and then bagdahd will revert and then we have the slow motion civil war again, the violent partitioning. The we bomb Iran.

Ara: "And, once again, what is WORKING? What are the criteria for success here? How do we know whether we are succeeding or not?
Ah. And what will we win, if the latest plan succeeds?

It seems like we've always wound up with exactly the right general in exactly the right place at exactly the wrong time. Abizaid was the right choice to build institutions. But by the time he got there, security was the problem. Casey was the right choice to impose security. But by the time he got there, insurgency was the problem. Petraeus is the right choice to counter insurgency. But by the time he gets there, sectarian rivalry will be the problem.

And because the perfect plans of these perfect generals might have worked perfectly if implemented at the perfect time, they doggedly persist in the face of obvious failure and succeed only in delaying the implementation of the next perfect plan far past the point at which it might do any good.

The pro-war folks are beginning to look like coke addicts.

“Please, trust me…one more line, I swear….just let me have one more line and THEN I’ll stop”

He did indeed write the book. And according to that book the "surge" is most likely doomed to fail due to insufficient troop levels.

I'm guessing your basing that on the ratio between troops and population of Baghdad. However I think there's a flaw that many are engaging when making this analysis.

1. Some only use the amount of American troops, and don't include Iraqi troops. The total number of troops we're using is around 90,000. However, even that number wouldn't be enough to satisfy the ratio Petraeus demands.

2. The other flaw is that people making this analysis are taking the whole of Baghdad as essentially what we're trying to secure. Instead what the strategy calls for is to divide Baghdad into particular sections, areas where the security is really needed, and then send in a certain amount of troops into each of those sections.

Therefore, when doing your analysis you would first have to ascertain the level of the population for each of those sections, and how many troops are going into these sections.

Now I will admit I do not have those numbers myself, so it's possible the troops won't be enough. But those are the measurements that one must take to determine whether we have enough troops to satisfy his ratio. Of course if you've done so, then I would have to concede to your point.

I'll respond to the other responses in a bit. I'll admit that the arguements are ones I'm having a hard time refuting

I think Sistani took many lessons from that:a)that the Arab Sunnis were intractable, b) that the Arab Sunnis had outside help (SA), and c) and most importantly, that Hakim or Sciri or Moqtada or whomever didn't really care about areas outside their fiefdoms.

I still wonder who was behind that bombing. In many ways, it did not display the attributes of a Sunni insurgent action. The explosives were reportedly placed with extreme precision, and the security guards were safely tied up rather than killed.

Good comments from Jeff. But re:

"But it seems many that criticize the plan aren't really fully aware of all the details about it."

Senator Hagel said just the other day that "There is no plan".

"by providing jobs and building infrastructure."

How much will this cost, and where's the money coming from, and why should we believe it will get to the people who need it given past experience?


Good post, CB. Half looking forward to your November post, "Today I am a defeatist".

boldaway.

2. The other flaw is that people making this analysis are taking the whole of Baghdad as essentially what we're trying to secure. Instead what the strategy calls for is to divide Baghdad into particular sections, areas where the security is really needed, and then send in a certain amount of troops into each of those sections.

First, I don't believe that you can use a 1 to 1 ratio of troops suggested by the Coin manual and Iraqi troops. So far, we've seen that Iraqi troops are not only not as capable as US troops the coin manual envisioned, but are often detrimental to the effort itself.

So that 90,000 number isn't really relative to the Coin manual wouldn't you say?

Secondly, at some point you are going to have to hold not only all of Baghdad, but also the rest of the Sunni Triangle. It's a safe bet the insurgents and militias aren't going to say "hey, they seem to have the capital covered, let's go home and try to get jobs in the oil ministry".

So in effect, best case we have an augmentation of US forces with Iraqi forces, but we can't begin to count each Iraqi soldier as 1 US soldier in regards to the Coin requirements, and in the worst case each Iraqi soldier detracts from the existing US levels.

Surge this!

Today In Iraq

BAGHDAD Contrary to U.S. military statements, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

The brazen assault 50 miles south of Baghdad was launched Jan. 20 by a group of nine to 12 militants. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles - the type used by U.S. government convoys, had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues and spoke English.

In a written statement, the U.S. command reported at the time that five soldiers were killed while "repelling the attack." Two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials now say three of them were found dead and one mortally wounded in locations as far as 25 miles east of the governor's office.

The U.S. officials said they could not be sure if the soldiers were killed as the attackers drove them to the place where they abandoned the Suburbans or afterward. Iraqi officials said the men were killed just before the vehicles were abandoned.

It's begining to look like the Iraqi Army is somebody's militia, which has no qualms stabbing the US in the back, go figure.

New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

i demand Michelle Malkin goes back to Iraq and tracks down the source of this "information".

Let's face it, folks. Bush is just trying to delay the inevitable failure long enough so that he can pin blame on his successor in the White House and the Democratically-controlled Congress. At least that's my hope. (I'm a bit freaked out by the fact that I'm hoping this, but the alternatives are much too scary to even contemplate.)

BTW, CB: I find that pledge kinda creepy and even unAmerican.

BTW, CB: I find that pledge kinda creepy and even unAmerican.

It also reeks of desperation.

Let's change the question: What is it that, given what we know about the nature of leadership in Iraq, people who support this surge (a means in search of an end) envision as the future Iraq? If it's been made painfully clear that there is no responsible unity government there to prop up, what do they mean to prop up? And what good will these temporary gains do once we leave?

When article after article after article points to the fact that we simply can't find the kind of leadership we wanted, what exactly do people imagine will happen?

New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

Laura Rozen speculates that Iran was behind this as a tit-for-tat for our seizing their diplomats.

No one is looking past face-saving, Ara.

Bush just wants to looks as if he's doing something other than "losing," just long enough to get out of town.

The Right wants troops there just long enough for the WH to change hands, at which point they can blame a Democratic President for Bush's failures.

There might be some people out there who sincerely want to be in on rebuilding a strong, stable, democratic Iraq... but unless they have access to a time machine, they're holding tickets to a destination that no longer exists.

"But if we go down, I'd rather go down after making every effort to make it work. "

Then go grab a rifle and get out to the desert. How dare you call for one more round of flushing other people's lives down the toilet in order to try to salvage your Republican party.

You still persist in carrying water for a bunch of criminals. You and your pals at Red State are as much responsible for this disaster as any other member of the Bush propaganda organ.

In ten years most of us can tell our kids we didn't vote for this crap. You will be making up reasons why it wasn't the GOP's fault and propagating your own little stab in the back myth.

So, would an accurate summary here be, "If we're going to lose, I plan to see as many of those ungrateful bastards dead as we can possibly kill?"

As for the loyalty oath pledge, well, please don't throw us in the briar patch, Charles.

I don't think pledging not to donate or support to candidates who oppose a policy you feel strongly about is especially unAmerican. I don't expect it to do any good, either, but I've certainly promised myself not to contribute to people who crossed certain red lines. What I don't get, Charles, is that you say you yourself would oppose the surge if you didn't trust Maliki. Well, I don't trust Maliki. I don't think he has either the will or the ability to make the plan work politically. And if there's a leader in Iraq with the will and ability, I have no idea who it would might be (and I might add, even if such a person exists, if the Americans put him into power he would quickly lose any legitimacy will, and ability.) There's plenty of empirical support for this position--I would say more empirical support for distrusting Maliki than trusting him. (If you disagree, I would be interested in knowing exactly why). You admit you may resign yourself to it by November if things are no better. So what on earth are you taking doing pledging yourself against people who you yourself admit may be completely right? If you are honestly convinced that the surge is wrong, will get US soldiers killed and do nothing (at best), for Iraqis, why is the courageous thing to vote for it anyway so Hugh Hewitt won't be mad at you?

I don't think pledging not to donate or support to candidates who oppose a policy you feel strongly about is especially unAmerican.

It's all in the execution, and in this case, the marketing. You're right, of course. This particular pledge doesn't seem based on principles and informed decisions than purely on faith and loyalty. Which is what gives it the creepy vibe.

although I would also not block it, because the cure would be worse than the disease).

Really, Von? I see two choices:

(1) Iraq FUBAR with n Americans dead; or

(2) Iraq FUBAR with n + p Americans dead,

where "p" is the number dead due to our continued involvement and "surge."

Why, exactly, would anyone at ObWi prefer n + p dead Americans?

You *admit* the plan can't work without serious Iraqi-gov't support; you *admit* how implausible that is; but "the alternatives are worse."

Worse for which relatives of our soldiers in Iraq?

Or am I just hopelessly Americanocentric?

I don't really see a huge problem with The Pledge either.

It's your right to signal in advance what you plan to do with your disposable income.

The problem is, it's an empty threat. Even assuming 100% of a Republicans "base" sticks with the candidate, there just aren't that many congresional congressional districts where that base is enough to get you re-elected.

Also, it would be interesting to cross reference the list of "pledgers" with a database of past contributors such as opensecrets.org.

I wonder percentage of these pledgers have never given a dime to a political campaign in their lives? 40%? 50%? Or even more?

This is a nice post and must have been painful to write -- but there is no reality behind the wish to make things better, just an admirable if misguided sentiment. Unfortunately, it is also wasting American lives for no good reason -- no one can morally indulge this vain wish for "one last chance."

We are not really in a COIN situation. First, all of the locals hate us and want us gone, except for those who are dependent on our presence to maintain some degree of power. Those factions have no future (are there any anymore?). You cannot wage successful COIN in this environment -- we are wasting the lives of Americans trying to do so.

This point should be re-emphasized -- the presence of Americans inflames the fighting. Americans are not able to calm things down, restore order and rebuild the economic and political strucutre so that some normalcy can return. It is not possible for COIN to work.

To the extent that locals "cooperate," it is because we are the 800 lb. gorilla that they must accommodate -- we are the most powerful faction. But they know we will be gone someday, and they are holding their positions and exploiting circumstances with a view to the long term situation. It is blindly foolish to expect any Iraqi to be our partner in this endeavor. Certainly not now after they have seen us utterly botch the situation, and being identified as friendly with Americans is the kiss of death -- we have zero goodwill there.

Second, this is no longer an insurgency, but a massive power struggle amongst many armed factions. Sunni v. Shiite and also major rifts amongst Shiites. We cannot solve this problem. Our presence keeps this conflict at a lower boil, but it will explode at some point (and certainly will as we ramp down our presence -- hopefully it can be moderated to lessen the violence; does that meeean partition?). COIN and Gen Petraeus have no power to stop it. Which faction will they back? -- that is what it comes down to, and how the Iraqis view it. Whether its a civil war or a failed state scenario (they would seem to overlap anyway), this is simply not a problem that US military force can solve.

Frankly, what do you expect to happen by November? My prediction is that the dead-enders for this war will find enough of a glimmer to insist on another 6 to 9 months "to give it a chance to work," and some other variant of a plan will be floated that justifies more time. Its a variation on the Cheney 1% doctrine -- so long as there is a slim glimmer, we must keep trying.

The Republican party is now wedded to the necessity to find someone else to blame for failure rather than solve this war. That, in my opinion, is the ultimate point of the pledge. Keep the Party together even if behind a hopeless plan rather than ever be part of a withdrawal since that means accountability and will be the political kiss of death. Charles presages this view -- he still calls it "defeatist."

I note that Charles has indicated he is a believer in the nonsense (evil nonsense) that Viet Nam was lost in 1975 because Congress would not approve new funding as South Viet Nam collapsed. I would expect the same pattern to take hold with this war as Republicans grope for a way to blame someone else rather than deal realistically with the problem; anything to avoid admitting 100% Republican culpability in the worst strategic blunder in American history. The Viet Nam failure was overcome with time and no long term harm resulted, but what is going to be the consequence of massive instability in the heart of the Middle East?

And lurking in the background for the pledge crowd is the lurking possibility of Iranian conflict.

Even though it isn't needed (or maybe because it is not needed), there's a meta thread at TiO

What do the Iraqis want?

Do they want us to leave, or stay?
Do they want Maliki in charge, or someone else?
Do they want to forge a single government, or do they want to separate politically along ethnic and religious lines?
If there is no consensus among the Iraqi people regarding what they want, what process can be created to let them negotiate their differences?
Who will referee that process?
Do they want us involved?

What do the Iraqis want?

Thanks -

What's un-American is the notion that a general has declared (at the urging of Sen. Lieberman, as it happens) that expressing opposition to the current strategy would encourage our enemies, and thus we shouldn't feel at liberty to dissent.

The underlying principle of withdrawing support from candidates you disagree with is, of course, unobjectionable.

"I don't think pledging not to donate or support to candidates who oppose a policy you feel strongly about is especially unAmerican."

Hmm, why do I have that reaction? Maybe it's "pledge". If it was a "list", as CB put it, I think I'd have less of a problem. And this struck me as out-there:

Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.
This isn't, "Vote my way or I'll support a primary challenger", it's more like a nuclear option - over a non-binding resolution to be signed by plain everyday conservatives.

Somewhere above was the question why no commander on the ground has asked for more troops.
My answer to that can be summed up in one word: Shinseki.
If there was one thing clear in the last few years, it was that asking for more troops was assured career suicide. The same with the generals who opposed the surge plan: replaced immediately. And there are signs that Rumsfeld was fired not for botching Iraq or costing the GOP their majority in the midterms but for doubting the Endsieg.

I do agree that since it's so poorly supported--it doesn't make sense, in light of the rest of Charles' post, that he would sign this--that it seems to based primarily on loyalty to our Commander in Chief rather than anything else. And it's creepy seeing people voluntarily dedicate themselves to that, punishing party members who don't support the Commander in Chief.

I guess I'm just used to that sort of thing by now, though.

I find it difficult not to be pretty upset by this post.

If you gave up on Iraq earlier, you were a "loser-defeatist". If you give up now, you're just a defeatist. If you give up next November, you're still a defeatist, but at least CB will join you. (Whether he will retain posting privileges at RS following such a shift remains to be seen.)

Question 1: What the hell does defeatist mean in this context? A desire for the US to adopt sharia as law of the land? What's the opposite of defeatist, a victorist?

Q2: I believe that the only possible alternative to hot civil war in Iraq is ethnic cleansing, followed by the slow collapse of the central government. Yugoslavia, essentially, with a little less fighting. I do not desire this solution.

What am I? A defeatist or a victorist?

Q3: since when did basic security become victory? Saddam had that. We were supposed to have higher goals.

Let's remember CB's victory criteria:
(a) unified;
(b) stable;
(c) democratic;
(d) pro-Western;
(e) non-theocratic;
(f) ally against terrorism.

Since the Shia hate al Qaeda, it looks like (f) alone is what we're likely to achieve. If Petraeus can pull the rabbit out of the hat, we can add (b). Does going 2 for 6 justify this war?

Q4: Pointing out that the President's (and CB's) goals are impossible to achieve has gotten one called things much worse than loser-defeatist. Objectively pro-Saddam was one. Traitor was another.

Are there any apologies coming forth?

The only "solution" I think could technically work (though totally unacceptable of course from any moral POV):
a) Divide the country into a Kurdish region with as much oil as possible in it (and a land corridor to the West).
b) raize any revenue producing infrastructure in the rest of the country to the ground and make clear that any attempt to rebuild would be punished by bombing
c) withdraw to the Kurdish region
d) thorough ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish regions and eviction of any non-Kurds
e) (optional) encourage the neighbouring states to deport their own Kurdish minorities into Kurdish Iraq while taking in their cleansed kin from point d)
"Positive" Results:
a) residual Iraq worthless for Iran
b) the oil there would stay save until the US needs it later
c) the Northern oil secure for US
d) secure ME foothold outside Saudi Arabia (the Kurds need US protection)
Again, not even Bush (not sure about Chain-Eye) would actually consider that amount of "amoral realism".

Too bad that more politicians in DC do not believe so, and do not have the stones to stick to it.

CB,

Careful, you almost sounded reasonable until this point. But if you feel this way, by all means go sign your little "pledge"*, it's not like one more documented example of your wrongness will be a tipping point in causing you to rethink the thought processes that brought you to that point. The rest of us have seen enough and aren't particularly enthused by the idea of 2 more Friedmans of stay the course.


* Of course you are fully within your rights to advocate for the surge and to pressure your representatives to do likewise. Non-loyalty oath loyalty oaths don't seem to be the smartest way to reach an intelligent consensus on anything, however.

">http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/25/AR2007012502087.html?nav=hcmodule"> Tehran's Influence Grows As Iraqis See Advantages
Washington Post Foreign Service

BAGHDAD, Jan. 25 -- When Fadhil Abbas determined that his mother's astigmatism required surgery, they did not consider treatment in his home town of Najaf, in southern Iraq. Instead they joined a four-taxi convoy of ailing Iraqis headed to Iran.

For more than two weeks last fall, Abbas, his sister and his mother were treated to free hotels, trips to the zoo and religious shrines, and his mother's $1,300 eye surgery at a hospital in Tehran, all courtesy of the offices of Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's ascendant Shiite Muslim cleric. Abbas returned to Najaf glowing over the technical prowess of Iran.

"When you look at this hospital, it is like something imaginary -- you wouldn't believe such a hospital like this exists," said Abbas, a 22-year-old college student. "Iran wants to help the patients in Iraq. Other countries don't want to let Iraqis in."

The increasingly common arrangement for sick or wounded Iraqis to receive treatment in Iran is just one strand in a burgeoning relationship between these two Persian Gulf countries. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit the Shiite holy cities in southern Iraq each year. Iran exports electricity and refined oil products to Iraq, and Iraqi vendors sell Iranian-made cars, air coolers, plastics and the black flags, decorated with colorful script, that Shiites are flying this week to celebrate the religious holiday of Ashura. But when President Bush and top U.S. officials speak of Iran's role in Iraq, their focus is more limited. U.S. officials accuse Iranian security forces, particularly the al-Quds Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards, of funneling sophisticated explosives to Iraqi guerrillas.

Other countries don't want to let Iraqis in."

The United States doesn’t trust the people it is liberating.

What do the Iraqis want?

A couple of data points:

Alaa:

Yet there is this new American strategy, and the new security plan. We have to admit that for the ordinary people of Baghdad such announcements have lost much of their credibility due to successive failure of previously much trumpeted similar attempts. Nevertheless, deep down, there is a faint hope that something different might be achieved this time. And, you know, nothing succeeds like success. Any kind of appreciable change in the dismal situation will have a huge uplifting effect. If security in Baghdad can be restored to some bearable level, and if basic services, i.e. electricity, water, garbage collection etc. can be improved to something less absurd than the present levels; then this will have a tremendous effect completely out of proportion with the actual size of the achievement. For you know for someone who is drowning, anything that can keep him afloat will produce a surge of hope. And this surge of hope can have beneficial ripple effect. Well, hope is the stuff of life. Life without hope is not possible. So let us hope and keep our fingers crossed. And at least President Bush is still there, fighting and persistent and knowing well the stakes and not shirking responsibility. Let us hope that the famous saying of Churchill ones again proves right: “The Americans always end up doing the right thing after committing all the mistakes” (or something to this effect)

Mohammed:

I think people who use this "last chance" idea are not helping Iraq or America here or they are of the type of people who do not want to deal with the challenge seriously. This term has a tone of defeatism, it's as if Iraq was a totally lost case while in fact the huge change that's been happening in the form of replacing a totalitarian regime with a democratic one is a lengthy process that cannot be accomplished through military action alone; success has economic and social elements along with the military one in addition to international and regional cooperation. It is no wisdom to think of closing this file or abandoning it based on the results of one security operation.

It is unfair to demand the impossible from the coming operations; total eradication of terrorism and militias within months is a long shot because the violence in Iraq is a result of domestic and regional conflicts that are not limited to Baghdad and it is part of heavy legacy of mistakes and evil the Baath era left.

I see that those who talk about last chances are in fact rushing failure in Iraq by putting a very high bar that is technically impossible to pass within months or a year.
We need to identify what we really want to accomplish and can accomplish through this plan and in my opinion total victory over militias and terrorists is a fantasy, and there are several examples of advanced nations that still suffer from persistent armed factions like in Spain or even the UK until recently.
Let's look at what's possible, it is possible to stop the deterioration of security, limit the extension of insurgency and limit the influence of militias; these in my opinion should be the slogan of the new campaign.

It has been only a little over a year since Iraq's elections, and 8 or 9 months since Maliki took office. I don't see a problem with giving Iraq's government support and showing a little more patience.

Those elections were a good thing, I think. This time last year, things were looking pretty good. Then the terrorists had their biggest success when the mosque in Samarra was bombed last February, after the election and before Maliki's cabinet was sworn in. Why not give Maliki a chance? Eight months is not a long time. I am well awarch how much the Democrats despise him, but Maliki has a tough job, and no he's not a US puppet, hence the protest against him in congress.

Patience.

"But if we go down, I'd rather go down after making every effort to make it work."

So where's the demand for a draft?

A couple of data points:

Two Iraqi bloggers with established reputations for going against the grain of Iraqi public opinion do not a data point make.

Hey Charles:

Petraeus is a very good general.

Bush is a very bad President, but he happens to be Petraeus's boss.

Even when the crappy boss is putting his star employee in an terrible situation, it's still a good idea to vote for the employee who is competent and still oppose the boss who is not.

Bush's policies in Iraq have already failed and the surge will not result in a great big pony, but maybe Petraeus can get us to a place where we can disengage without too much of the added chaos that Bush's policies could still create.

Any questions?

But, oh that's right, you've been right about Bush and Iraq since the very beginning so we should all be giving you the benefit of the doubt. After all, if those weak and stupid opponents of the war had been right all along, then you would surely give them the benefit of the doubt now and not question their courage or motives... or something like that.

Stop insulting us and go take a hard look in the mirror.

Cheers,
Sean

Had Iraq clearly been on the path of becoming a free, peace, non-theocratic representative republic, the GOP would have been in the majority today (in my opinion), missteps by Republicans in Congress notwithstanding.

To quote my beloved father, if my Aunt Sally had balls, she'd be my Uncle Jake.

Tony Snow can challenge reporters to embed more and rely less on stringers with unknown biases.

He can, but only in the spirit of not buying the cow when you can get the propaganda for free. What he should do, if he were interested in getting accurate reportage, is encourage them to leave the Green Zone -- not embedded with a particular squad but rather as free and independent (and hopefully heavily protected) reporters in a dangerous area. It's the only way to guarantee fair coverage.

Of course, that's precisely what the administration doesn't want but hey, while we're wishing for ponies...

Quite frankly, it appears to me that those advocating unilateral withdrawal must also believe that Iraq is a lost cause. It is a defeatist position.

Alternatively, those who believe Iraq is winnable are fabulists. And some of us have outgrown fairy-tales.

As to Petraeus: I agree he's about as good a man for the job as we're likely to find. And I too look forward to your full-fledged embrace of "defeatism" in another Friedman or two.

"If we go down..."

Just what the heck is that supposed to mean.

Listen, we can't go down if what you mean is be destroyed as a country. That is a defeatist's phrase. So let's drop the macho lingo right now.

As mentioned above, just what is the goal. Initially it was remove wmds. There weren't any so accomplished.

Then it was regime change. Done.

Then we decided we had to take care of al Qaeda in Iraq. Of course, if we hadn't gone in, there would have been no al Qaeda in Iraq. And I still think the best way to get rid of al Qaeda in Iraq is to leave.

Then we will have accomplished that goal.

Democracy? Not the way we want it in any of our lifetimes.

What do we lose if we leave? Maybe a little credibility, but then that is shot anyway.

Charles: "But most of the soldiers on the ground appear optimistic of success and believe in their mission. Too bad that more politicians in DC do not believe so, and do not have the stones to stick to it."

As other people have noted, you say this without citing any evidence at all, and in the face of polls that show the opposite. This isn't the first time you've had a faith-based view of what's happening in Iraq -- to pick an example more or less at random, there was this:

"While it's commendable that Murtha goes to Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals "almost every week", he should spend more time in Iraq, talking to the soldiers on the ground, getting firsthand accounts of what's taking place. Murtha's problem is the mainstream media's problem: They observe and report the truth they see, but what they see is a slice."

in which you were apparently certain that you had a better idea of what was going on in Iraq than John Murtha, based, as far as I could tell, on a lot less information.

Do you ever wonder about this ability to feel certain that you know what's happening in Iraq -- certain enough to know that reporters who have been there, a Congressman who goes every week to talk to wounded soldiers, etc., are all mistaken? Does the fact that you have consistently been wrong about what's happening there give you pause?

And does it worry you at all that the cost of going along with the surge only to discover that this President was wrong yet again is measured in people's lives -- lives that will be cut short long before their time, kids who will have to grow up without a father or a mother, husbands and wives whose hearts will be broken, parents who will outlive their children?

This is not a game. This President's incompetence has already broken a country apart, inflamed the Middle East, provided both a recruiting and training ground for terrorists and a new safe haven for them, distracted us from our real enemy in Afghanistan, and put us in a position where we could very well lose that war, cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives, and done immeasurable harm to our national interests and our moral standing.

On what possible basis would you want to trust him with more?

What Hil said. And it's not about 'stones.'

I agree with everyone on this thread, or nearly everyone. But.

I'm afraid that when we leave the Shia militias and the Iraqi army, which appears to be a Shia militia too, will surround the Sunni neighborhoods and just go door to door killing everyone. I realize that COIN, as it is actually implemented in Iraq, puts our soldiers in the postion of supporting the Iraqi army/Shia militia, but I don't think think it will get to the level of ethnic cleansing if we are there.
I never supported this stupid awful war but, if the aftermath is the mass killing of Sunnis, I will feel responsible.
Can anyone reassure me about this?

What Hil said. And it's not about 'stones.'

It must therefore be about 'sticks'.

Less snarkily, this:

in which you were apparently certain that you had a better idea of what was going on in Iraq than John Murtha, based, as far as I could tell, on a lot less information.

reminds me of one of the things I think betokens the fall of the American civilization [and I'm not exaggerating here, I really do think it's that dangerous]: the inability to perceive or acknowledge differing levels of expertise, coupled with an odds-defying belief in the correctness of the outsider-iconoclast who "challenges the system" or "speaks truth to power" or some BS like that. In less hifalutin' terms, we have a simultaneous crisis in our ability to process the world, namely:

1) There's too much information out there for us to process individually

2) Many people can no longer distinguish between genuine expertise and fake expertise

3) Many people have bought into the myth that all pronouncements on fact and/or science are reducible to an arbitrary belief, and hence

3') Many people have become convinced that there is no true distinction between genuine expertise and fake expertise; alternatively, that there are no such things as experts as all, merely differing points of view.

4) Many people have bought into the myth of a single rebel or iconoclast bringing Truth to the Establishment; and what is more, they seem to think that they personally are such people, in defiance of all the odds.*

[Note carefully that I'm not imputing these failings to any one particular group; while I believe that certain ideologies lend themselves to these flaws, I've seen enough to convince me that they're rampant everywhere.]

These are utterly pernicious, insidious and devastating and I haven't got a damn idea how to fight them except laboriously, one person -- or in my case, student -- at a time. It really is like watching the Enlightenment get rolled back.

* The most irritating version of this I've ever encountered was a friend of mine who had dropped out of college but was convinced he might have great mathematical insights because -- wait for it -- Ramanujan had. I kid you not.

lily: no.

The only real questions, I think, are: on what timetable will the awful aftermath take place? What other countries will get involved? And will we be in the middle of it, or, worse, overseeing it because we are unable or unwilling to stop our alleged allies from killing people?

Charles may find this "defeatist". If "defeatism" involves some sort of wish that this happen, he could not be more wrong. One of the main reasons I opposed the war at the outset was that I thought that while some combination of skill and luck might enable us to avoid this, it was way too likely to be risked, especially given the reasons for war being presented.

If "defeatism" involves recognizing defeat when it becomes inevitable, then I think it's a completely misleading term -- like calling the doctor who gives you the bad news "pro-cancer". But I believe we have irretrievably lost in Iraq. I also think that while losing was always way too likely to be risked, it was made much more likely by people who shouted down the kinds of criticisms that might actually have helped had they been heeded.

Those people thought they were being "loyal" and "pro-American". But our country has always been about tolerating debate, not about providing a misleading picture of unanimity to the world. (That's North Korea's style, not ours.) We argue, and we are stronger for it, since in the course of hashing things out everyone's ideas are improved; but preserving some fake silence completely precludes the kind of self-correction that is our real strength.

Even now, we could be doing a lot to mitigate this disaster. We could be trying to negotiate some sort of plan for what comes next with Iraq's neighbors, or at least trying to prevent them from doing maximal damage. Instead, we're wasting this time, as we have wasted those earlier moments when more troops might have made a difference, pretending that everything will be OK.

We could have done a lot in the summer and fall of 2003, if Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush had not been so invested in believing that everything was fine except for a few "dead-enders". Recognizing that things were going badly wrong and responding accordingly might actually have done a lot of good. But we squandered that time being lectured about how we weren't paying enough attention to all those freshly painted schools.

We could do a lot now, but instead we get to be lectured about how we need to give the President one more chance, and how we're "defeatist" if we disagree.

I only hope this line of thought is less disastrous this time. But I'm not the least bit optimistic.

I admire, but do not for a moment envy, those of you with sufficient energy and - dare I say it? - belief in the redemptive power of reason to engage "loser-defeatist" CB in dialogue once again.

Me - well, I don't actually have A Life, but I must have something better to do!

Shall I offer a suggestion?

dr ngo: look at the pictures in my new post!

Hilzoy: Thanks for the pretty pictures. ;}

Anarch: I already know what your suggestion might be, thank you very much. (I blame the children.)

'we get to be lectured about how we need to give the President one more chance, and how we're "defeatist" if we disagree.'

I took CB's penultimate sentence above to be an understated ironic acknowledgment that "defeatist" isn't useful.

I think lily makes an awful, wrenching, unavoidable point here:

I never supported this stupid awful war but, if the aftermath is the mass killing of Sunnis, I will feel responsible.
Can anyone reassure me about this?

Well, lily, all I can say is this: My passport is blue and has a big, bombastic eagle on the front. Does yours? If so, then we both bear at least some of the blame for this disaster. At the very least, whether we voted for the SOB or not (as I to my undying shame did in 2000), we are citizens of the Republic which sent its Army forth to wreck Iraq without a very good idea what might happen afterward. (Oh, the Republic's State Department had a 1200 page plan for what might happen thereafter, but the Republic's Minister for War ordered that his paladins ignore that plan. As they said in Paris in 1941, so ist das Leben, meine Lieben!)

So there we are. Passengers in a badly-driven bus.

And that is why I put my name on the list, and I find myself in full agreement with Mark I.

Damn, and here I was thinking that you had joined my beloved Corps and then I saw that you had put your name on a list, I followed the URL hoping to see that you had pledged to join the Corps with a bunch fellow Conservatives. You have no idea how disappointed I was to see that it was a pledge not to financially support elected republicans with a solid grasp on reality.


So there we are. Passengers in a badly-driven bus

When the driver was selected, we should have realized that he was drunk, had never driven a car and could barely steer a tricycle,therefor it is not a surprise that the bus slammed into a concrete wall a seventy miles an hour.

Could you all puleeze lighten up on Chuckydoodle (sorry, Charles). Let's understand something. Of course his post is idiotic--I would have expected more from ObWi--but to criticize him for use of "securitizing" (or whatever it was) instead of "securing" is about as dumb as criticizing others for using "medication" instead of "medicine."

Let's understand something. Like the universe, the english language expands. First we had "medicine." Then we had "medicate." Next we had "medication" (same as "medicine"). Next we'll have "medicationate," followed by medicationatizing."

Chuckydoodle's "securitizing" was in the same vein. First we had "secure", then "security," next "securitize," and possibly later "securitization." Und so weiter.

BTW, Chuckydoodle's rant was hillarious.

BTW, the reason that Chuckydoodle's rant was hillarious is that it evokes the message of "triumph of hope over experience." Chuckydoodle doesn't have the slightest inkling of the history of Iraq or what a "desirable" outcome (although the definition of "desirable" is is highly debatable) from the US's little adventure in Iraq. Quite frankly, as it appears, Chuckydoodle's Grand Poobah Dubya seems more interested in defeating the militia of the lesser-Iran-associated Shia Militia, the Mahdis, in favor of the more-Iran-associated Shia Militia, the Bugrs (associated with Maliki), and the Sunni-be-damned.

And the Kurds are going to be allowed to go along their whey, potentially wreaking havoc in Turkey. Need I remind Chuckydoodle that Turkey is a NATO ally of the US? On the other hand, it has become abundantly clear to the other "allies" that the American government under our popinjay president does not consider alliances worth the paper they are printed on.

I'm sorry, Chuckydoodle, but your prescription for "victory," such as it is, and whatever it is, is stupid.

I don't bear any responsibility for the debacle in Iraq. I thought it was a bad idea, and said so. I voted for people who thought it was a bad idea, voted against it, and have said so consistently.

I should say that I wouldn't blame an Iraqi who thinks I share responsibility, but I certainly don't have to listen to any American at all who says that. Especially not from people who voted for the President. The extent to which they say they didn't know who he really was at the time, they're saying they weren't paying close enough attention to make a decision. Or that they didn't want to vote for the guy who was "boring" or the guy who "invented the Internet."

We got into this through the immaturity, and pandering to immaturity, of millions.

At a different level, I'm also not responsible if, after we leave, people of one Iraqi faction kill people of another. We've neither created the factions nor their rivalry. When we're gone, they can either come together and stop or not. If Shiites start a genocide, maybe the saudis will intervene, I don't know. I do know that we lack moral authority or legitimacy to re-intervene, or to be trying to fine tune matters there now.

(That is, the talk of a coup in Iraq -- and the President's explicit threat to Maliki that unless he does X, he "will be out" is exactly the wrong way to go. And I'm not going to take responsibility for it, either.)

Charlie, I will be quietly amused when they finally ban your ass at Redstate for not clapping loud enough.

Katherine: I haven't read them, I confess.

But that doesn’t stop you from taking a swipe at MM? Over one picture…

At the very least, I highly recommend you take the time to read through Bill’s posts. The guy took a month long leave of absence from work and spent thousands of dollars of his own money (with some support by readers) to embed in Iraq.

This trip has briefly exposed me to personal extremes of stress, humor, camaraderie, nobility, savagery, hope, despair, fear and excitement, either as an observer or participant. I've arrived at a better understanding of the chaos that stalks civilization and met a lot of inspiring folks who make me want to be a better human being. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.

His writing is very straightforward and is nowhere near cheerleading for the administration. His interviews with Iraqis are quite sobering. His interviews with the troops show a very human side to those who are there risking their lives every day. All of it is well worth reading for anyone on any side of the political spectrum.

Seriously – shelve the politics for a little bit and just read these folks. I read your posts and give them serious consideration even though I rarely agree with you. Obviously you don’t owe me a minute of your time for doing that, but you are missing some great reporting if you skip it.

BTW – Can anyone name a lefty blogger who did an embed? It is very possible it happened and I just missed it. But I think it is ironic that one of the left’s favorite slurs against righty bloggers is that of chickenhawk. Yet we have plenty of examples of these chickenhawks on the ground in Iraq, outside the green zone, bringing us some great first hand reporting. On the left?

OCS, 'chickenhawk' doesn't have anything to do with whether someone will go to Iraq and be an embedded reporter.

I read embeds now and then, and appreciate the human side of the thing. But then losing sight of that has never been my problem. Or, to put it differently, it's not my side of the argument that seems to forget about the humanity of these people: we're not the ones playing with their lives like chess pieces.

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