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October 01, 2007

Comments

In his testimony last month, the Petraeus-Crocker team bought themselves a Friedman unit, so it looks like the current strategy is going to last at least through March 2008.

Why do you say this? As I understand the plan going in, the success or failure of the surge was supposed to be clear by September, which is now past. The best reading of Petraeus's testimony is that we really can't tell if it's doing any good, in any meaningful sense.

Why does that lead to the conclusion that we should continue it, and what will you say if it's still unclear as to whether it's doing any good six months from now? Is there any concrete point at which unclear becomes not good enough for you?

deja vu!

this war carries on, and it brings me down, down, down. helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless. our house is out of order. what will we teach our children? should i cut my hair ?

And the eternal cycle of Friedmans turns once more...

When I read the title I thought that this post was going to be about political reform here. We could use some.

I understand there are rank and file citizens who hope that, after many failures and much corruption, a competent manager is now trying to manage a better strategy, and wish that he be given a reasonable amount of time to seriously try.

The problem is that this point of view doesn't exist in a vaccumn. It exists against a backdrop of well-funded, powerful rightwing extremists who want to widen thhe war into Iran and possibly Syria. Also, in the background , are Republican hacks who just want to keep the war going, on the pretext of striving for victory, until a Democrat gets elected President and, presumably, pulls out, so that thhey can all start screaming that we could have won if a Republican had been elected.

In other words I donn't believe in the existannce of a Republican policymaker who really wants to give Petreaus a chance. They either want more war or they want to to turn their foreign failure into a domestic victory.

There's more good news, Charles. Killings of US soldiers are down as well.

All this good news however still doesn't add up to a shift in how optimistic I am. I personally don't believe we can will a positive outcome here, because I believe the strategy in place is naive. A centralized, tolerable government based on the common interest of oil revenue sharing and a whole lot of fairy dust presumably without a concerted, perhaps world-class effort to involve Iraq's neighbors (including Iran) seems doomed to fail. And yet, that seems to be what we're resting all our hopes upon.

Further, if one accepts that Iran's help (or at least lack of interference) is required to get us there, then Cheney's insistence on stirring things up with the mullahs must be read as either sabotage or an indication that we have absolutey no strategy at all.

While I'm somewhat more pessimistic about the current situation, Charles, and I have some issues with the occasional Iran slant provided, I think this a good post. Thanks for collating the figures.

I believe the current surge strategy is the best plan available, and I range from mildly optimistic to mildly pessimistic that it will succeed. It may very well have been implemented too late, but I'm giving it 'til year end before I make a judgment on whether we should stick with the current strategy or opt for Plan B (orderly, phased withdrawal of American troops).

Read that over again and see if you get a sense of real hope from it. What I get is a decidedly mixed assessment, and a strong feeling that Plan B is where we need to be. Anyone who believes that the escalation ("surge" is a weasel word) is not working, after the time and lives invested in it, should be supporting a withdrawal plan. To do otherwise is to condemn some American troops to die needlessly in Iraq.

When you consider the Blackwater episode, the current lack of confidence in the Maliki government, that fact that Mullah Omar -- wanted dead or alive -- may get a seat at the Afghan cabinet table, I think it's past time to declare victory and go home. If the goal was to remove Saddam, it's done. Elections have been held, no matter how representative or progressive the results may be. What are spending the lives of our soldiers on?

Mr Greenspan says it was about oil. After all this time, and all the costs, in blood and treasure, is that what it comes down to?

What are spending the lives of our soldiers on?

Speaking as an outsider, and one deeply opposed to the Iraq war in the first place, I don't think that you guys have much of an option here.

As Salam Pax said in the months following the invasion, your nation spilled the tomato juice on the expensive carpet, now you have to pay to clean it. No matter how dysfunctional the regime of Hussein and the Baathists, at least there was a form of ethnic stability within the nation. That stability is now gone, and the US has a moral responsibility to at least try and shepherd a functioning society out of what remains.

As to whether that is possible or not, I doubt it. But a sudden US withdrawal is almost guaranteed to cause a nightmarish humanitarian crisis, and a regional destabilization that will have long-lasting effects that would most definitely not be in the US' favor.

The discussion may be hypothetical anyway. If there is a US attack on Iran, I'm pretty sure that the US forces will be forced out of Iraq.

So, once again, rigged and/or poorly sourced statistics cherry picked and arranged just so justify our continuing the oversee the destruction of Iraq and its people, and we get to wrap it all up in the hope that things may yet get better if only we make sure that more Iraqis die or flee and more of their worldly goods are destroyed or confiscated. Full speed ahead!

Well Charles, given the number of suicide bombings/suicide care bombings that have gone on in Iraq over the years we'd better hope that it's not all attributable to AQI.

We do know that in addition to AQI, the sunni group Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna as well as the Baathist Islamic Army in Iraq.

Keep in mind that we now know that Ansar al-Sunna has engaged in battle with AQI so I don't think attributing all or even most suicide bombings to AQI is a supportable conclusion.

Oops

"Suicide Car Bombings"

Woah. Deja vu.

Double-plus-ungood: "your nation spilled the tomato juice on the expensive carpet, now you have to pay to clean it"

We're not "paying to clean it."

We're stomping around on the carpet trying to clean it ourselves - using a mop, hedge trimmers, and Turtle Wax - while the owners of the carpet beg us to leave. And that's assuming that we are actually acting on noble intentions, which may be overly charitable.

...while the owners of the carpet beg us to leave.

I'm not sure who the owners would be in this analogy.

So, once again, rigged and/or poorly sourced statistics cherry picked...

Please tell me why you think the ICCC or the IBC are poorly sourced and cherry-picked, Bruce. The ICCC gets its numbers from independent media reports, and they certainly don't have a pro-war reputation. The totals may be on the low side because they don't count what doesn't get reported by the media. The IBC has an anti-Iraq war POV, and they also use independent media reports, plus but they also get data from hospital morgues, so their data may be more accurate and complete. However, morgue data comes from the Interior Ministry, and they've had a history of fudging the numbers in the more distant past. For about the last five months, the information from IBC and the U.S. command has been highly similar.

to quote David Byrne:

    Some folks are saying we broke it we should fix it. Tell that to someone who comes into your house and smashes all the furniture. That’s not the repairperson I would call. You might want to sue them, or kill them, or have them thrown in jail, but you don’t want them in your house ever again.

Some folks are saying we broke it we should fix it. Tell that to someone who comes into your house and smashes all the furniture.

Does this mean that you think that there will be no humanitarian crisis up to and including genocide if the US withdraws? Yes, I know that there is ethnic cleansing that has been going on for a year or so, and yes, I know that there are already an incredible number of refugees. And yes, things will likely get worse even if the US stays in.

But there's every indication that a US withdrawal will result in a bloodbath well beyond what we've already seen.

As far as the breaking furniture analogy goes, I'd say the situation is more like someone who barges in, breaks all the furniture, and also releases a pack of savage dogs. Yeah, I'd want them out of the house, but I'd like the dogs locked up first please.

As far as the breaking furniture analogy goes, I'd say the situation is more like someone who barges in, breaks all the furniture, and also releases a pack of savage dogs. Yeah, I'd want them out of the house, but I'd like the dogs locked up first please.

some of them are our dogs.

But there's every indication that a US withdrawal will result in a bloodbath well beyond what we've already seen.

and our staying will result in the same.

it may be time for people to start getting used to the idea that some things are beyond our power to "fix".

it may be time for people to start getting used to the idea that some things are beyond our power to "fix".

Indeed, and as noted above, that's assuming we know the goal. And at this point, it wouldn't be unfair to call someone who is positive they do a bit naive.

I agree that post withdrawel things might get worse, but I also realize the could stay the same, or possibly even improve.

Regardless, we can't maintain the status quo forever. Unless of course we give up the pretense, annouce Iraq as our regional proxy, finish off those mega bases with permanent buildings and start the new cold war with Iran. Which I'd give a 50/50 chance this was all about in the first place. Or at the very least, a delightful by-product.


Thanks cleek -- I did not know Byrne blogged. Interesting stuff.

Deaths are down and that is a good thing. But you have to know that the bad guys know as well as we do that the US mil can't stay for much longer without major policy change and a shift to a much greener force. So are there any measurable numbers that would tell us whether this reduction in violence is a trend or just a lull before the next push? How would one go about determining this?

Charles, in the last year or so there's been discussion of the problems associated with various means of reckoning data about Iraq, including but not limited to casualty figures, from Hilzoy and Publius here, and elsewhere by Kevin Drum, Tim Lambert, folks at Crooked Timber, and so on. You've consistently dismissed it all and I'm not going to rehash it just so you can do it again. I'm just saying that there's no reason for those who lack a preset commitment to war in and on Iraq to trust the official figures, nor those in increasing sync with them like the IBC. (And of course it's not just the war, this is part of an overall administrative policy of, apparently, never telling the truth except when actually compelled, in favor of whatever propaganda strikes someone in charge as convenient at the moment.)

One more time, Bruce. We're not arguing statistical analysis or Lancet, and I don't want to open up that can of worms here. You made an accusation that I'm using poorly sourced and cherry-picked, and I'm asking you to back up your comment.

it may be time for people to start getting used to the idea that some things are beyond our power to "fix".

I agree, and I completely sympathize with not wanting this farce to continue. However, enough people that are knowledgeable about the situation have expressed the fear that a US withdrawal would trigger some unpleasant consequences well beyond what we've seen so far that I think it a real concern.

The process of mitigating the risk and making it safe to withdraw is likely to be an expensive and long-term process. Changing leadership would be a good start, and getting international involvement in the process would be another.

Charles, like I said: the problems with Petraeus' numbers, the IBC, and the like are already out there. I have nothing new to add to the comments about them. I'm just reminding bystanders of the prior exchanges. Here is one from Hilzoy from September on casualty figures, another on the distorting of intelligence gathering, and another on the problems with defining what is or is not succeeding in this whole surge thing. There are lots more in the Iraq and Terrorism category here, with plentiful links to elsewhere.

We're seeing three things:

The first, and biggest, is that Petraeus capitulated to the Sunnis and is letting them do as they wish with the Sunni-majority area. The Sunnis have then largely squashed the Al Qaida knockoffs, who they never liked and only tolerated as an enemy-of-my-enemy against us. Of course Petraeus could have just sent the soldiers home for the capitulation but that would have exposed Bush's "surge" strategy as bogus and merely saved government money and soldier's lives. We all know what Bush does when he chooses between his personal benefit and the good of the country. The funny thing is that he calls *us* "surrender monkeys".

Second the Iranian proxies, which run the government of Iraq, have gotten the upper hand in their secondary civil war against al-Sadr. It's funny to see Charles describe the Iranian-backed groups like Sciri as being set back when they are winning. I assume Charles knows that SCIRI, now SIIC, which dominates the Iraqi goverment, was founded by the Iranians, and has always had its alliegance to Ayatollah Khamenei. However, he neglects to mention it. It does expose the utter hypocrisy of Bush having handed control of most of Iraq's oil to an Iranian proxy and broken the army and treasury supporting said proxies.

Third, and in the long term most importantly, the civil war is largely fought out. Half a millions are dead and about 5 million are refugees. The country is now largely partitioned by sect and the fighting is thus winding down. This is now worse than a number of horrific civil wars, including Botswana and Darfur. But all civil wars come to an end, and a five-year war which kills 2% of the population and pretty much destroys the country is usually enough.

So Bush has capitulated to the Sunnis he spent four years fighting, propped up a government loyal to possibly the US's most dangerous opponent, and acquiesced in one of the more brutal civil wars of modern history. Perhaps Bush should cheer the Burmese government, which seems to have put down a popular rebellion? There also many have died to get an unfriendly government in power. But then again, perhaps Bush is only happy with tragic outcomes if they also cost thousands of American lives and trillions of American dollars.

Third, and in the long term most importantly, the civil war is largely fought out.

I don't think so. Suppose, for example, that Saudi Arabia starts heavily arming the Sunni as a counterforce to Iranian influence in southern Iraq, an area that they have been historical sensitive about? Supposing, too, that the Shia south make a grab for Kirkuk? It would certainly be in Iran's interest to destabilize Iraqi Kurdistan.

There is a lot of issues that are boiling at the moment.

Sorry, make that "There ARE a lot of issues..." above.

That wouldn't be a civil war, ++ungood, that would be Saudi Arabia or Iran starting wars to grab territory through proxies. Neither has done this for centuries, why would they start now?

Also, if arming the Sunnis is a bad thing, there's more need to leave, because that's exactly what Bush is doing right now.

Neither has done this for centuries, why would they start now?

The bulk of Saudi Arabia's oil lies in the Shia-dominated portion of the country directly adjacent to Iraq and Iran. This area is primarily responsible for Saudi Arabia's invitation for the US to do something about the Kuwait invasion by Iraq in 1990, and they dislike the idea of Shia nationalism next door. As Iran has considerable influence with the Shia of both Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it's quite likely that they would try to counter this influence both politically and militarily.

Neither has done this for centuries, why would they start now?

Oil wasn't a particularly precious commodity until no too long ago. It's likely to far more valuable in the future, especially as Saudi Arabia's production may have levelled off. And Saudi Arabia has not had the need to intervene in the past because Hussein kept the Iraq Shia relatively powerless. That's changed recently.

That wouldn't be a civil war, ++ungood, that would be Saudi Arabia or Iran starting wars to grab territory through proxies.

The results would be the same, no matter what it's called.

Bruce,
Your links go to Hil's posts, which critiques numbers from the U.S. govt. As far as military casualties go, I don't have a problem with that, but not for civilian casualties as my prime source. That's why I use ICCC and IBC figures because they're non-governmental sites that do not favor one side or the other. So one last time. Do you have any evidence to support your asscusation that I am using poorly sourced and cherry-picked information?

The "Surge" was supposed to pacify Baghdad.

The drop in attacks happened in al Anbar only.

Nice to leave attacks on Iraqi security forces off the charts.

The "Surge" was supposed to pacify Baghdad.

The strategy was supposed to cover the areas of operation, alphie, which excludes southern Iraq (the Brits were responsible there) and Kurdistan (which has sufficient forces on its own). A higher number of troops were deployed to Baghdad but the strategy itself is countrywide.

The drop in attacks happened in al Anbar only.

Not true. See the graph on execution-style killings in Baghdad.

Nice to leave attacks on Iraqi security forces off the charts.

The second graph above (the one with the IBC numbers) includes police and military casualties.

Charles,

Look back at the testimony from January when Bush & Co. were asking Congress for another $86,000,000,000 to keep their social experiment in Iraq going.

It was all Baghdad, all the time.

Success in al Anbar, such as it is, shouldn't count as partial credit.

Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution begins:

"First: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation:

A. No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.
B. No law that contradicts the principles of democracy may be established."

The ignorance of the handlers of the people of Iraq will be mocked by historians.

The strategy speaks for itself, alphie, and the counterinsurgency ops that are in place right now are not confined to Baghdad. Anbar is a partial credit because the sheiks joining the coalition was both a political and military step forward. They needed our help to excise al Qaeda from the province.

It is no surprise that after four years of failure, Charles remains in a "wait and see" posture. It is a feckless attitude that tolerates a complete failure of policy because allegedly tomorrow might be a better day -- while thousand continue to die in service of a failed policy.

It is also humorous to note that Charles' graphs show a steady increase in civilian casualties from June through August, 2007, which of course was right before Petraeus took the stand and told us how everything was improving.

There is a "post hoc ergo proctor hoc" element to all of the reasoning in this post -- that better numbers for one months (after months of bad ones) prove the Surge is working without regard to any number of other causes.

And "working" here means that violence has gone from truly horrible to just horrible -- that does not creates any prospect for political reconciliation, which is the alleged measure for evaluating the Surge and not body counts.

What is no display here is the rationalizing process whereby war supporters continue to stand by a failed policy.

www.ask-imam.com is an excellent resource (and a good source of entertainment as well). Here is the respected Mufti Ebrahim Desai’s take on a certain type of political reform:

Question #15522 from South Africa:
“What is the islamic understanding about democracy, Is there any place for it in islam.”

Answer:
“The common form of democracy prevalent at the moment is representative democracy, in which the citizens do not exercise their right of legislating and issuing political decrees in person, but rather through representatives chosen by them. The constitution of a democratic country will be largely influenced by the needs and wants of its people. Thus, if its people want casinos, bars, gay marriages, prostitution, etc. then with sufficient public pressure, all these vices can be accommodated for. From this, it becomes simple to understand that there can never be scope for a democratic rule from the Islamic point of view.

and Allah Ta'ala Knows Best

Mufti Ebrahim Desai”

Charles, first of all, I give you credit for coming forward with this post, knowing that it would be received by many with a great deal of, at best, sketicism, and, at worst, derision.

Secondly, yes the numbers are positive, and I am very happy to see the change. Unfortunately, it does nothing to change the environment for political reform. And I had always doubted it would.

It may, for some Iraqis, increase the sense of safety, although that is still to be seen, but the environment for political change never depended on security. It has always depended on a willingness for the different factions to work together. That has never been, nor is it now, evident.

And the surge was always about Baghdad and never about Anbar. We increased the presence in Baghdad only, and in fact, to do so, decreased our presence in other areass.

Secondly, the tribal sheiks didn't need our help against al Qaeda, we needed theirs.

And since that preceded the surge, it cannot be considered a faction of or result of the surge.

BTW, as a side point, there have been some Sunni's in Anbar that have gone against al Qaeda well befor ethis latest effort, and even that agreed to stop fighting the US over 2 years ago and wanted to negotiate with the US. Unfortunately, the US refused.

Finally, al Sadr pulled down his militia, but there are many possible reasons for that, few of them positive for the long run. Personally, there is a part of me that thinks for long term US interests, we would be best served if he took over the reins of power in Iraq.

DPU, yes it is possible, and one scenarion of our leaving would be a greater bloodpatyh. But another, and just as reasonable prediction, is that the bloodpath would decrease once we left.

DPU, yes it is possible, and one scenarion of our leaving would be a greater bloodpatyh. But another, and just as reasonable prediction, is that the bloodpath would decrease once we left.

I'm not sure why that would be the case, nor why that prediction would be considered reasonable, as I can't think of a credible reason why sectarian violence might be being caused by the presence of American forces.

Of course the flippant answer is, how much sectarian violence was there before American forces got there?

More seriously, however, it is important to remeber that an immediate withdrawal of all ground forces is not logistically possible.

Therefore, there would be a period of time wherein all factions would realize that they better get their sh-t together and reach some accomodations.

In some ways, our presence may be fueling the whole thing. If, as the administration claims, much of the violence is caused by AQI, and if, specially realizing we are leaving, AQI finds their position untenable, AQI will either leave or be destroyed by the Iraqis.

That would get rid of a major trigger of the sectarian violence.

Also, as has been pointed out above, one of the reasons for the lessening of the sectarian violence is the increasing separation of the Shiites and Sunnis. Our departure could hasten that.

Finally, there is little incentive for the various factions to try to work together at present, as we are viewed as a safety valve. Our departure creates that incentive.

I am not saying this is what would happen, but a good case could be made that it is as likely as an increase in the violence.

The environment is there for political reform

Reform what? There's nothing to reform. Politically, there is no "there" there.

If we want to establish a secure environment in Iraq so that the folks who live there can sort out their differences without blowing each other up, it looks like it will take something like Shinseki's original estimate of 400K folks in country, for another 5 or 10 years.

That's what the pros said it would be up front, and that's what it will be. Assuming it's not already too late.

If we don't want to sign up for that, then it's time to get the hell out.

Enough is enough.

Thanks -

Charles,

The folks who we bribed to fight "al Qaeda in Iraq" hate us just as much as the bad guys do.

One of the biggest groups we've bribed call themselves "Hamas in Iraq."

Not much of a victory.

A short term solution at best.

The Viet Minh and the Taliban provided the U.S. with similar services in the past.

Therefore, there would be a period of time wherein all factions would realize that they better get their sh-t together and reach some accomodations.

Where else has that approach worked? Lebanon? Cyprus? The Balkans? Rwanda? Congo? Sudan? India? Armenia?

Yes, there would eventually be peace. I'm just afraid that it would be over a million rotting corpses.

What is no display here is the rationalizing process whereby war supporters continue to stand by a failed policy.

Noted, dm, that for you, seven months is long enough for you to judge the success or failure of the current policy. I'm not with ya. I agree that the policy under Rumsfeld was failing, which was why I thought he should have left the same time as Colin Powell. For me, I'd rather give it longer than seven months.

And the surge was always about Baghdad and never about Anbar.

john, the increase in manpower was indeed about Baghdad, and one of the reasons we increased manpower there was so that we wouldn't have to shift personnel out of other areas. What you and alphie seem to be missing is that we also changed our strategy countrywide starting last February. That's why it's a misnomer to just call this thing a "surge", because it's much more than that.

As for the tribal sheiks, we needed them to join the coalition, but they also needed us to help them rid al Qaeda. It was Sep-2006 when a Marine Corps general said that Anbar was lost for good. Then the sheiks came to us in December, and over the ensuing months 25± sheiks in Anbar came together, turned on al Qaeda and joined us. That is part of a proper counterinsurgency strategy.

The Marines were already employing this tactic in Anbar, but only in fits and spurts prior to Petraeus coming in. It wasn't employed system-wide. Ramadi is one example where it was tried and had some measure of success. Anyway, I appreciate your comments.

I agree that al Sadr stood down not just because of the current strategy. He made his decision shortly after Kerbala, when it was clear that he didn't have control over those Mahdi militias that attacked the mosques during their holy observances.

Charles,

The tribes of Anbar began their fight against "al Qaeda in Iraq" in january of 2006.

The drop in attacks in al Anbar account for the whole decrease in violence the military is claiming Iraq-wide.

Which means...nothing has changed outside of a province that has about 4% of Iraq's population.

The clearest demonstration of what will happen when we pull out is visible now in Anbar. Petraeus stopped shooting and gave up, and the Iraqis stopped shooting us and each other. If he's just do the same in Baghdad things would get a lot better there too. If he went home things would be better still.

The sheiks didn't need us at all to handle Al Qaida in iraq (which isn't Al Qaidi. Bush hasn't done anything against Al Qaida to speak of since November of 2001. Nice to see his priorities) The "normal" Sunnis have 20 times the forces of Al Qaidi, and once we stopped fighting Al Qaida lost shielding by the citizenry. The sheiks defeateed "Al Qaida" easily without any meaninf help from us.

Anbar is almost completely Sunni. You can not apply the test of Anbar to all of Iraq. Baghdad is calmer now because Sunnis are down to 25% of the population, and there are few mixed neighbourhoods today. AQ is only 3-5% of the Sunni insurgency, and 45% of the foreign insurgents are from Saudi Arabia, so maybe the Saudis are doing a better job of keeping more suicide bombers from crossing the border. The Mahdi Army standing down is a big factor, as is the fact Ramadan started on Sep 13. Basra is said to be queiter since the Brits withdrew from the city.

The million dollar question of course is how long does this last, and will it last when we finally leave, if we ever do.

A lot of the violence has also been blamed on Iran. Yet if casualties are trending downward, then Iran must also be laying low, assuming they were behind the violence in the first place, so then why the push to do Iran now? The threats worked.

There are a lot of mixed signals. At times the General and Bush seems not to believe their own numbers. Both the General and the Iraq government, not to mention Iran, have an interest to making sure the numbers are low.

The General so he can say the surge is working. The Maliki government so the US does not have an excuse to topple his government. Iran obviously prefers not to be attacked, and Mahdi Army and Maliki recognize that an US attack on Iran means a permanent US occupation, and high casualties given us an excuse to do Iran. So it may be that inadvertently they are now aligned so as to keep the violence down for many divergent reasons, and one common reason, to get us out of Iraq. Let us believe the surge worked, so we get out, and then they take care of unfinished business after we leave. That may be the hope.


It may be that they are just war fatigued, most areas are already sectarian cleansed so it's harder to find targets, laying low to avoid the cholera thats going on there, and that after the holidays and the cooler weather come, they will start up again.

Hope not. Guess we will find out.

Noted, dm, that for you, seven months is long enough for you to judge the success or failure of the current policy.
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September.

At what point do we give up the fantasy that this is a "surge" Charles.

Charles Bird: For me, I'd rather give it longer than seven months.

Since you say this every six months or so, why should you possess any more credibility this time around?

Noted, dm, that for you, seven months is long enough for you to judge the success or failure of the current policy.

Charles; this is what is completely absent from your post and analysis, and also why I call you feckless -- what is the measure of success for the current policy?

According to Petraeus himself at the beginning of the year, it was about achieving political accommodation so that the country had a chance at stability. The Surge was a means to an end -- to provide some measure of calm in the hope that political reconciliation could proceed. We have ample evidence to show that essentially nothing has been achieved on the only criteria that matters, and no reason to expect conditions to improve. That is why the Surge is a failure -- whatever small lessening of violence can be attributed to it has not resulted in any political progress.

Ironically, your position repeats the critical error of the Viet Nam war -- substituting body counts as the criteria for progress as opposed to actual progress in establishing a legitimate government.

Your analysis of Anbar demonstrates this better than anything. Our Anbar policy has not brought peace or greater stability except to the extent that it has driven a tiny faction of troublemakers (the Al Queda wannabes) from Anbar. This was achieved by arming militant Sunni and deepening the gulf between Sunni and Shia -- guaranteeing long term instability and greater bloodshed.

The Sunni tribes that we are arming in Anbar are not our friends and not allied to the basic goal of the Surge. It is madness to pretend that they are.

Reduced sectarian killing in Baghdad is almost certainly the result of successful ethnic cleansing rather than any form of political easing of tension. The country remains locked and loaded for ongoing sectarian civil war -- the Surge has not lessened that reality one iota. That is why it is a failure and waiting around with no realistic plan for achieving that goal is a criminal waste of lives and treasure.

For you, graphs of body counts matter more than critical analysis of the tensions and forces at work on the ground. It is an ongoing disasterous error.

A general comment about the current strategy. David Kilcullen is a military advisor who works closely with General Petraeus, and his area of expertise is counterinsurgency doctrine. At Small Wars Journal, he put together an informative PowerPoint presentation on the current strategy and how it's being executed in Iraq. I highly recommend that the skeptics here read it.

At what point do we give up the fantasy that this is a "surge" Charles.

Davebo, I haven't said that the current plan was just a "surge", so I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Since you say this every six months or so, why should you possess any more credibility this time around?

Your premise that I say it every six months is a lie, Anarch. Why should I accord you any credibility when you spout such falsehoods?

Charles; this is what is completely absent from your post and analysis, and also why I call you feckless -- what is the measure of success for the current policy?

Like I said, dm, you've already made your mind up about how the current plan is doing, even though it was never realistic that the national government achieve all of its objectives in seven months. For me, I'm watching the trends and seeing how things are progressing. You can call it "feckless", but it sounds like basic common sense to me.

Also, the graphs above aren't the be-all end-all. I addressed migration and the political climate because this conflict cannot be turned around by military means alone.

As for attempt to bring Vietnam into this, you'll note that I don't have a graph on enemy casualties because that a measure of success. Civilian casualties are relevant because they're an indicator of how well the coalition is protecting the populace. As for the rest, you're entitled to your opinion.

Charles:

For me, I'm watching the trends and seeing how things are progressing.

As if myself or other war skeptics are not?

As far as I can tell, your justification for another six months or so of "watching" (which means another 500 dead Americans) is that maybe meaningful political improvement can happen. This is based on fluctuations in civilian casualties that are down for one month (after two months of increases). It is not based on any criteria as to actual political progress.

Instead, we get this -- it was never realistic that the national government achieve all of its objectives in seven months.... How about the fact that it achieved nothing of any consequence? Isn't the utter failure of political progress to date ample evidence of the failure of the surge? Explain how it is that allegedly more time will reverse this?

Charles, as a war advocate, you need to detail how it is that the elusive political ends that constitute victory can realistically be achieved. If you cannot do so and defend that opinion, you have no business advocating more war.

As for the power point presentation re COIN that you link, missing from it is an explanation of how COIN can work when very large majorities in Iraq hate us.

And it bears repeating -- the Sunni tribes we armed in Anbar to boot out AQI are also "insurgents." They violently oppose the central Shia government, who violently oppose them. Neither side agrees to a peaceful partition. COIN is not working in Anbar -- Anbar is simply a short term policy of partition which neither Sunni or Shia want long term.

@paul: Mr Greenspan says it was about oil. After all this time, and all the costs, in blood and treasure, is that what it comes down to?

Yes, pretty much. Plus the "enduring" bases that are essential to that objective:

Iraq wants the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate of the United States-led multinational force in Iraq only through the end of 2008, then replace it with a long-term bilateral security agreement, Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday.

Aides to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the mandate extension for the 160,000-strong force, scheduled to be discussed at the end of this year, would be the last. Iraq would then seek an agreement with the United States like the ones Washington has with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt, they said.

This is what four thousand Americans will have died for, and another four thousand seriously maimed for life... not to speak of a million Iraqis dead and another two million exiled.

Your premise that I say it every six months is a lie, Anarch.

Learn what a "lie" is before you spout off, Charles. "Wrong", or even "falsehood", might be correct; "lie" is simply crap.

Why should I accord you any credibility when you spout such falsehoods?

Oooooh, the cunning reverse. How clever.

As for credibility, let me re-draw your attention to this post of mine from earlier this year. If I cared more, I'd go hunting through RedState and the other forums you frequent -- once again I lament the passing of the Tacitus archives, since there's ever so much fun to be had there -- but I think my point has been made. Feel free to point to a record of your predictions which are actually correct, though, if you feel so inclined; I haven't been able to anything substantive in that regard, but maybe you'll surprise me.

Oh, and any time you want to compare credibilities, name the time and place; you'll get your ass handed to you in a heartbeat. Or, in the sadly immortal words of our beloved President: bring it on.

Charles: For me, I'm watching the trends and seeing how things are progressing. You can call it "feckless", but it sounds like basic common sense to me.

While I'm passing through, I'll note that this sounds convincing except that it discreetly evades the crux: "watching the trends and seeing how things are progressing" is not an inherently positive thing. [Also, you don't. See here, here and here; hardly the Solomonic neutrality you profess.] For example, I'm sure it was "basic common sense" to keep piling soldiers into the Somme -- after all, why not continue watching the progress of mass slaughter? we'll turn the corner any minute now and be home for Christmas! -- and what fool could argue with such basic common sense?

So here's my challenge to you: name a date -- an actual honest-to-goodness date -- and a metric -- an actual honest-to-goodness metric -- by which you will renounce the administration's current policy should such a metric not be reached by such a date. None of this indecisive waffling and flip-flopping; this is the "...or get off the pot" portion of the proceedings. Do that, hold to it, and I (and innumerable others) will consider your credibility at least partially restored; fail to do so, and -- irrespective of the localized merits of any given post -- you'll continue to be regarded as just another Bush water-carrier with all the credibility thereof.

It is apparent to me that Ms. Zavis is spinning the news to put Iraq in a worse light, especially when you consider that civilian casualties plummeted in the month of September.

They "plummetted" to the levels of Janyary '06. Whoop. So now, instead of massive numbers dead each month, we only have "relatively normal" (700) dead per month. Fogive me if I don't clap.

which means another 500 dead Americans

Hey, you can't count those as part of an FU! It's just not... um... fair?

I believe you're presenting this information in good faith, and that you are trying to make an honest best case that we're making progress in Iraq.

What I feel compelled to say is that all of this strikes me as good news along the lines of "the arterial bleeding is not quite as profuse as before", or "yes, we had to take the legs off at the knee, but the gangrene isn't spreading quite as rapidly as it was yesterday".

I guess it's good news in its own way, and I'd rather have that sort of good news than none at all, but it still makes me want to puke.

We've now been in Iraq longer than we were in WWII. Every substantive reason for going in has been proven false, and other than ousting Hussein, none of our ostensible goals for going in have been met. There's no projection of them being met that doesn't require a deus ex machina of one kind or another.

There is no exit strategy available that amounts to anything more than a choice between different types and degrees of chaotic, bloody disaster.

It's great that fewer folks were slaughtered in the last couple of months than were slaughtered in the months before that. But there is no, absolutely no, measure by which our adventure in Iraq can be accounted to be anything other than a catastrophe. For us, for the Iraqis, and for anyone else with a stake in the matter.

Petraeus is a smart, hard-working guy, and IMO a well-intentioned one. I'm sure things under his watch will continue to be not quite as bad as they were before his watch.

But that's just not enough. It's so far from enough that it might as well be on another planet.

My two cents.

Thanks -

Bruce Baugh linked to Hilzoy's article questioning the methodology Petraeus was using. I wonder if anyone can explain why what seemed like a strange "front of the head/back of the head," "car bombs don't count" methodology would be producing the same kind of numbers as Iraq Body Count?

I appreciate your comments, russell.

As for credibility, let me re-draw your attention to this post of mine from earlier this year.

I remember it quite well, Anarch. I only wish you had a better recollection of my comments. I had written earlier in the thread in question, telling Katherine that I haven't said that Iraq had turned the corner or that we were winning since early 2004, and you confirmed that what I said was true, so thanks. The rest of your pathetic drunken search proved that we have different opinions. No surprise there. Meanwhile, your comment that "Since you say this every six months or so..." is still wrong. It's a falsehood. The statement is a lie.

I had written earlier in the thread in question, telling Katherine that I haven't said that Iraq had turned the corner or that we were winning since early 2004, and you confirmed that what I said was true, so thanks.

Wow. Just... wow.

That's good-quality historical re-engineering, that is. Charles, I hear there's a job opening at Minitrue after Winston was "retired": you'd be a shoo-in.

Anarch:

So here's my challenge to you: name a date -- an actual honest-to-goodness date -- and a metric -- an actual honest-to-goodness metric -- by which you will renounce the administration's current policy should such a metric not be reached by such a date.
Like many recent threads where the amount of dumb was just too high, and the topic too repetitive (gnu control? -- gimme a break), I consciously stayed out of this one, having said all I had to say on the topic the last time Charles played with irrelevant numbers, but I will note that Charles appears to decline.

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