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August 07, 2008

Comments

Eric, how much do you think the movements of the Iraqi parties are currently constrained by awaiting the outcome of the U.S. elections?

It certainly seems logical that the strategy of each of the parties is highly dependent upon who becomes our next President. If Obama, troops will leave (which could either allow for reconciliation or open up the battlefield). If McCain, troops will stay (allowing for some continued violence suppression, but angering large swaths of the Iraqi population and potentially providing enough frustration to spur them to violence).

I don't have anything to add. I just want to thank Eric for such an excellent post.

I hate to tell you this, Eric, but according to Expert on Iraq http://www.peterheck.com/>Peter Heck, The Surge worked and anyone who says otherwise "aids and abets our enemy."

Unfortunately, Heck is the biggest local talk radio in the area and it would appear a lot of people take him seriously when he says things like Thomas Jefferson was a biblical literalist.

Depressing idiots aside, do you think that withdrawing withing ~16mos is a good idea for the Iraqis? Or will our staying there be better for them? Both questions are mostly in reference to what's best for the political process, since that's the topic at hand, but I'd be interested in hearing about their general welfare (safety, quality of life, etc.) too.

One thing that is working in Iraq:

All the money that is being made from Iraqi oil -- giving that country a projected budget surplus in the billions.

When I heard that on the news last night, I thought, "What's wrong with this picture?" And: "How is George Bush/John McCain going to sell this one?"

Our deficit is in the tank, and we just keep paying for the Surge and the rebuilding of a nation.

Of course, as my wife told me last night, telling me to calm down: It's our mess we're cleaning up.


according to Expert on Iraq Peter Heck, The Surge worked and anyone who says otherwise "aids and abets our enemy."

Anyone who uses the phrase "aids and abets our enemy" should be required to make a formal charge of treason. If they can't or won't, slap them [I'd like to stop here] with a slander charge.

Eric, how much do you think the movements of the Iraqi parties are currently constrained by awaiting the outcome of the U.S. elections

I think that there are definitely factions that have decided to "wait out" the Bush administration. Plus, the Surge convinced them to pull back on operations.

Sadr is doing this. Many of the Awakenings groups are doing this. And importantly, Maliki is doing this. But that pause won't last for long. And I'm dubious about whether or not political reconciliation will flow from either outcome in November.

Depressing idiots aside, do you think that withdrawing withing ~16mos is a good idea for the Iraqis? Or will our staying there be better for them? Both questions are mostly in reference to what's best for the political process, since that's the topic at hand, but I'd be interested in hearing about their general welfare (safety, quality of life, etc.) too.

Withdrawing troops might force Maliki and others to make the real compromises necessary to make abandoning violence acceptable. Currently, he and his cohorts are able to push an uncompromising agenda, safe in the knowledge that the US military is around to take care of the opposition. Our only credible leverage is through withdrawal.

Now, even if we withdraw, Maliki et al may not be persuaded to compromise (and some Sunni groups might not be looking for a compromise-type deal regardless), and so a flare in violence could very well occur (I believe it will, personally).

But if the latter scenario is the more accurate description of the calculus of Maliki and certain Sunni groups, well, us sticking around for ten more years will do little other than keep violence on a low boil for a prolonged period, rather than a high boil over a short term span.

One of the things that the "if we leave, they're will be genocide" crowd fails to acknowledge is that even with us in country for the past 5+ years, roughly half a million Iraqis have died and another 5 million have been internally or externally displaced. A steady drip of the supposed worst case scenarios that would befall Iraq upon our departure.

Then there's the fact that our soldiers do end up killing a lot of Iraqis while performing their missions - many of which include targeting certain Iraqi factions for elimination. And the fact that our presence inspires foreigners to come to Iraq to fight us there, which is destabilizing. And portions of the domestic population are being radicalized by our presence.

So we help to contain the violence that we also help to spur on, and we keep a lid on civil wars that we unleashed and exacerbated. And we faciliate uncompromising stances by Iraq's ruling factions.

Nevertheless, many Iraqis believe that things will get worse if we leave, and I don't think they're wrong entirely. Then again, the situation will only normalize after we leave. Even if only after a bloodletting.

Then again, the situation will only normalize after we leave. Even if only after a bloodletting.

Yeah, I was just about to say, I have a strong feeling that the Awakening crowd will eventually be grinded between the opposing jaws of the regime in Baghdad and Sunni insurgent/Islamist groups. They look an awful lot like local cooperators who've done what the occupying power wanted, and are now being forgotten about. Comparisons to France in Algeria are overrated, but I wonder if these guys aren't in a similar position to the harkis back in the day.

Taking the view that the point of the "Surge" was more about domestic politics than Iraq, then it has been a success. Right wing blowhards get to pretend everything is wonderful, and the war has gone off the front page.

But these problems (elections, Kirkuk) have been festering for years now, and have always been predictable blowups. It is another example of how brain dead the strategy and discussion is about Iraq. It remains focused on domestic political concerns rather than any particular understanding of goals or accomplishments there.

Jeff- The sad thing is that he's a teacher at a local HS. The really sad thing is that he teaches AP Government.

Eric- Damned if we do, damned if we don't. But your summary:
So we help to contain the violence that we also help to spur on, and we keep a lid on civil wars that we unleashed and exacerbated. And we faciliate uncompromising stances by Iraq's ruling factions.
makes me think that since we have to leave sooner or later (realistically, at least, 100yrs isn't an option), I'd rather see an ugly spike now rather than a steady beat of low-key violence for 5 more years.

MeDrewNotYou:

Yeah, that and the fact that it costs us 10 billion a month, is breaking our military, we're losing hundreds of soldiers a year on the battlefield and thousands more to injury, we're ginning up anti-Americanism around the globe, we're neglecting a myriad of other crucial issues (foreign and domestic), we're providing a recruitment tool (and state of the art training facility) to al-Qaeda and like minded terrorists, etc.

Other than all that, eric, you'd have to say the war is a huge success.

The sad thing is that he's a teacher at a local HS. The really sad thing is that he teaches AP Government.

I'd love for one of his students to question the success of the "Surge", and when accused of "aiding and abetting the enemy" ask him flat out if he's accusing the student of being a traitor. For real fun, go to the Principal and the Superintendant of Schools and ask why this teacher is calling a student a traitor for asking a question.

Let's see how much courage Mr Hicks really has!

This is all an example of why, back when McCain's conflation of the Surge and the Awakening was happening, a few commenters pointed out that the Awakening was not in any way part of COIN.
There was never any atempt either by the Iraqi leadership, nor by the American Overlords, to bring the sheiks into the government.
Another example of McCain's total deficit in the knowledge, awareness and judgement areas.

Iraqis were not unable to achieve the necessary political accords because there was violence, there was violence because Iraqis were not able to achieve the necessary political accords.

Now what?

Now U.S. troops retreat to the megabases, control Iraqi airspace, and wait it out.

Some sizable proportion will come home. But we'll still have 40,000-60,000 troops there at the end of Obama's first term. Which is at least 35,900 too many.

And we'll be spending, say, a third to a half of what we do now on the project. Which is a lot of freaking billions of dollars down the imperial rathole.

Jeez Nell, I think you pretty much pinned it. The sad truth.

Speaking of the sad truth, is anyone else watching "Generation Kill" on HBO?

Just finished watching Episode No. 3 last night and it looks like a fairly realistic portrait to me.

The whole thing seems to be saying: Just as we don't know exactly what we're doing now, we really didn't know what we were doing during the initial days of the invasion.

Anyone who has had a boss who seemed to be whacked can relate to the grunts serving under commanders who all seem to have their own agendas.

But this is war.

Sad.

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