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July 09, 2007

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"Hey Model 62? That new exercise routine you began last January doesn't look very effective."

"Oh? What makes you say that?"

"Your spreading paunch."

"Ahh, nevermind that. Just look at my running shoes -- they're all worn out -- Clear evidence of progress!"

hilzoy,

Excellent point about the breathing space. As many people, including the field commanders, have said, a political and not a military solution is needed for Iraq. The surge is not an end to itself, but only the means to get to the end of the political reconciliation.

Therefore, I could see changing the benchmarks to reflect other ones with respect to reconciliation, such as the response to the shrine bombing, which was minimal but at least a step in the right direction. However, changing to purely security-based benchmarks like the number of sectarian killings is just silly. However, silly is par for the course with respect to the Administration, so we shouldn't be surprised.

Speaking of the oil law, for something so important to the outcome of the Iraq project, there sure isn't much discussion of what it does or doesn't do.

For those against it, there's this, which looks too reflexive anti-bush/war/GOP/Big OIl to be persuasive (but it does link to an English translation of the proposed law). This looks to be in the same vein, but critique is easier to find.

Wikipedia offers its usual apparently balanced overview, including inks to additional apparently authoritative sources, all of which this correspondent intends to skim.

I just happened to be reading from Justice Story's Commentaries today and ran into this on the power to make war:

War, in its best estate, never fails to impose upon the people the most burthensome taxes, and personal sufferings. It is always injurious, and sometimes subversive of the great commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural interests. Nay, it always involves the prosperity, and not unfrequently the existence, of a nation. It is sometimes fatal to public liberty itself, by introducing a spirit of military glory, which is ready to follow, wherever a successful commander will lead; and in a republic, whose institutions are essentially founded on the basis of peace, there is infinite danger, that war will find it both imbecile in defence, and eager for contest. Indeed, the history of republics has but too fatally proved, that they are too ambitious of military fame and conquest, and too easily devoted to the views of demagogues, who flatter their pride, and betray their interests.
The classics never go out of style.


In an interview with BBC News, Gen. Petraeus once again hints that the counterinsurgency operation in Iraq could last decades:

Gen Petraeus was keen to emphasise that the ongoing unrest in Iraq is not something he expects to be resolved overnight.

"Northern Ireland, I think, taught you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really understand this kind of operation... It took a long time, decades," he said.

"I don't know whether this will be decades, but the average counter insurgency is somewhere around a nine or a 10 year endeavour."

He went on to say that more important than the length of time it would take to stabilise Iraq was the number of US troops which would be required to remain in the country.

"I think the question is at what level... and really, the question is how can we gradually reduce our forces so we reduce the strain on the army, on the nation and so forth," he said.

He said everyone wanted the US forces to be able to leave, both Americans and Iraqis alike, but he said it was vital to ensure that "the gains that have been hard fought in places like Baquba and Ramadi could be sustained, maintained and even built on by Iraqi forces and Iraqi political leaders".

cue Allawi Strongman Strategy in 5...4...3...

byrningman,

"cue Allawi Strongman Strategy in 5...4...3..."

With Maliki is headed for a "no confidence" vote next week, the likelihood is that the PM will get weaker, not stronger.

...which I think is byrningman's point, Dantheman.

(More on the Allawi strongman theory here. A weakened al-Maliki is in Allawi's favour.)

"Theory" s/b "strategy".

Chalabi.

I say 'Allawi', you say 'Chalabi'.
(Let's call the whole thing off.)

(Let's call the whole thing off.)

Indeed, and quickly.

mattt and byrningman,

Not seeing it. If the Iraqi Parliament is able to remove Maliki, I don't see any means for Allawi to be appointed by it to succeed him. Allawi is about as popular among the Parliament as Bush is, and likely would get very few legislators to support him for PM. Further, the Parliament isn't going to take such a step, and then give away their power to a strongman. So, just not seeing it.

mattt and byrningman,

Not seeing it. If the Iraqi Parliament is able to remove Maliki, I don't see any means for Allawi to be appointed by it to succeed him. Allawi is about as popular among the Parliament as Bush is, and likely would get very few legislators to support him for PM. Further, the Parliament isn't going to take such a step, and then give away their power to a strongman. So, just not seeing it.

Sorry about the double post -- typepad said it had a problem.

I think it was the Capitol Steps who had a song back in early 2003 (this is from memory):

You say I-rock-i, I say I-rack-i
You say let's talk-ee, I say attack-ee
I-rock-i, I-rack-i; let's talk-ee, attack-ee
Let's call the whole thing off!

I remember hearing it and thinking: I wish.

If the Iraqi Parliament is able to remove Maliki, I don't see any means for Allawi to be appointed by it to succeed him.

Well the point is that the constitutional niceties will be ditched. They are pretty irrelevant anyway, but the fact that it will look so ugly is the reason Washington hasn't done it yet.

They'll presumably have to take advantage of [engineer?] some crisis to appoint an 'emergency unity government'. The Turks marching into Kurdistan sounds like a promising trigger - wouldn't be the first time the White House gave the secret nod to an invasion/military incursion which they publicly decried.

DTM: To clarify, I don't think Allawi as strongman PM has any likelihood of success in the current Iraqi parliament, exactly for the reasons you've outlined, DTM*. However, I can easily envision dissident Congressional 'realists' like Lugar and Warner, eager for a 'new US strategy' but loathe to aligning with the loser-defeatist camp, presenting the notion as a viable alternative to the current course.

Hil: there's so much beltway chatter about this latest Friedman being the big one, the ALL IMPORTANT LAST CHANCE TO END ALL LAST CHANCES!!!!1

Bullsh*t.

We all know that come September, Petraeus is going to request more time to allow 'his' counterinsurgency plan to 'succeed'. And despite the latest rumblings of Congressional discontent, the futile effort will continue to receive funding simply because the good General is the new Colin Powell, a guy who'll always tell it like it is. His precious reputation is why he got the position in the first place; mark my words, September is going to be 'Powell goes to the UN' all over again.

The real architects of the surge, Jack Keane and Fred Kagan, have stated that their plan needs at least 18 months to gain meaningful results. And that's starting only after full troop deployment.

Nice - just in time for Bush to pack up his pretzels and Segway and wave bbye to all responsibility re: what happens next.

So, yes, wish in one hand...


*Of course, this assumes A. Allawi would be the chosen figurehead du jour

and

B. the Iraqi parliament would have a choice.

Both Bush and Petraeus seem to be thinking in the very long term -- if we could stay there indefinitely, the ten years Petraeus mentioned or longer -- then all of these little straws in the wind might eventually translate to Sunni engagement in the nation-building process, and we would actually create a stable state. Assuming Iran didn't invade, or the Kurds secede, or whatever.

And in a sense, the only thing stopping us from staying indefinitely is money. After all, the lives we feed into the grinder are small change compared to the likely cost of a full-scale civil war. Throw enough money at it, and the rest of the problems are solved, even troop exhaustion (hire more mercenaries, attract more enlistment by raising salaries and benefits). The real question is, can we afford to do this for ten or fifteen years? To anybody reasonable, obviously not. But then, to anybody reasaonable, the cost (just in the financial sense) of this war has already gone far beyond acceptable levels.

Bush's whole career, and especially his Presidency, shows, however, that he has a special attitude towards money. Well, other people's money. Well, ours. He seems reasonably cautious and sensible with his own money -- I haven't heard of him running up massive credit card debts or taking on unsustainable mortgages or the like. But he has what might be kindly described as a cheery optimism about overspending OUR money.

Remember "Reagan showed us that deficits don't matter"? Bush, and his whole crowd, either honestly believe the well has no bottom, or they don't care because whatever happens to the rest of us, they can always retire to a nice gated community with private armed guards. And if you look at his plans and platitudes from that perspective, they all make sense. Is he worried about success taking longer? Nah, it'll just cost more, just have the Mint print up some more moolah, no problemo.

Basically, he's an adolescent on the bestest ever spending spree. Aren't you glad you gave him a credit card?

"However, I can easily envision dissident Congressional 'realists' like Lugar and Warner, eager for a 'new US strategy' but loathe to aligning with the loser-defeatist camp, presenting the notion as a viable alternative to the current course."

Also known as the "We had to kill the democracy in order to save it" Plan? Still not seeing it, as any emergency unity government imposed by the US has no chance of actually taking steps forward towards reconciliation. It just won't have any credibility.

DTM: I know that, and you know that. But do the Congresscritters know that (or, rather, do they even care)? Regardless, any 'new strategy' presented by the GOP will be a political gesture meant purely for domestic consumption. As stated above, I think the 'surge' will go on (if not further escalate) at least until Bush turns in the keys.

YMMV, of course.

mattt,

I have enough respect for the Lugars and Warners of the world to think that they won't support a plan which puts their goals for Iraq even further out of reach with nothing to show for it.

I don't disagree on the surge continuing until Jan 21, 2009. But that's the difference between my views of Bush and the Congressional realists.

my bet is that a Shiite general that few of us have ever heard of will launch a coup within two years, to be followed by ethnic cleansing limited only by the desire to prevent a larger war.

It would really make me happy if we could start to make a difference on this blog by calling the 'surge' by its proper name - reinforcements. The success of that particular piece of spin-doctoring really drives me crazy.

I don't disagree on the surge continuing until Jan 21, 2009.

Various people claim that the surge will end by May, 2008.

We simply don't have the troops to keep them in the war zone for 15 months on and 12 months off, for very long. We'll have to start a drawdown regardless of strategy and regardless of metrics.

If we're still in iraq in January 2009, it will be with somewhere around 90,000 troops or less, trying to do the work of 250,000.

CharleyCarp: Another excellent quote. Thanks.

"Reinforcements" ? No, it's escalation, byrningman.

There's no way an Allawi coup would happen for the exact same reason that the U.S. agreed to the elections that put Iraq's current parliament in power--the Ayatollah Sistani. If Sistani decided to actually pull the plug on the occupation, we'd have 160,000 people having to shoot their way out of Iraq. Which could probably be done, but it would be really, really bloody.

The thing is, I think that Sadr himself is giving indication that the momentum does not seem to be heading towards a sectarian civil war. Note how vehemently he denies association with those Mahdi Army members who are running about Baghdad conducting execution-style killings. He also called on his followers *not* to retaliate (in fairly harsh terms) after the Samarra shrine bombing. Moreover, Sadr has been in talks with Sattar and company.

All of those together indicate that we might wind up with something that will not be what we'd like to see as reconciliation. It just might, though, be a collection of mutually armed camps that are willing to exist in a state of truce once the U.S. is gone.

The wild card, of course, is the so-called Islamic State of Iraq. Even a truce is impossible if you have one side doing it's damndest to foment full scale sectarian civil war. So adding enough troops to break the back of Al Qaeda might give space, if not for reconciliation, then at least for some sort of tentative settlement between the armed factions, if not necessarily their political counterparts in the Green Zone.

Or the U.S. could just be giving out enough weapons that any eventual slaughter will be that much worse.

Andrew R said it best about the DOA Allawi strategy.

Sistani would give that project a beard full of HELL NO (to quote swopa).

Game over. The thing is, we don't get to tell Sistani, SIIC, Dawa AND Sadr what to do. They tell us. If we can't tamp a Sunni based insurgency, how are we supposed to live with a hostile Shiite mass? Green Zone = overrun. Helos on rooftops, and all that.

As for Sadr turning over a new leaf, I'm less convinced. Sadr has been playing the "I'm not a sectarian" card from the beginning. And his Mahdi boys have been working steadily toward ethnically cleansing Baghdad all along. Granted Mookie probably wants a better command and control dynamic, and there are rogue elements freelancing, but still.

I'll believe his words when the actions match up. For now, all we get is pretty words and ugly actions. Actions to which nobody wants to claim fatherhood (for good reason), but for which immaculate conception ain't in the cards.

"The Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January

And the US government hasn't met the only goal the Iraqi government set for it in May, which was to announce its timetable for military withdrawal from Iraq.

Does Sistani still really hold that veto power, though?

Does Sistani still really hold that veto power, though?

You saying you want to call his bluff?

I would guess he does. If he called on all Shiites to expel the foreign aggressors, gave Sadr the green light and pressured SIIC and Dawa to follow suit, I can't imagine things would stay the same.

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