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July 24, 2008

Comments

I think Eric Martin at 3:02 PM put his finger on the problem:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_equivocation

"The Surge" -- before, at the time, and after -- has always included counterinsurgency tactics, including those used in Anbar.

This is flat out false. The surge was, is, and always has been, an increase in the number of troops. That's what it when it was announced -- you can't go back in time and make it something it never was.

That's called lying. von, McCain LIED about what the surge is, and you're trying to find ANY excuse to cover that. Cognative dissonence much?

Could it be that all of us, (well, OK, many of us), have gotten a little imprecise and sloppy with the term?

No. Because

And it's fairly common to see The Surge used to refer to the five brigade force buildup ordered by the President to support Petraeus' effort in Baghdad.

is the only meaning of "surge" (which is why progressives called it "escalation". Referring to anything else and saying it's part of the surge is pretty ill-informed.

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"More troops" was just the headline -- and an inaccurate one at that.

Fixt! That was what Bush asked for when he announced the surge. He didn't go to Congress and ask to pay insurgents the year before.

==================

the Surge was about bringing a counterinsurgency strategy that was succeeding in Anbar to the rest of Iraq.

It wasn't until Your Hero goofed and needed to change the definition of "surge".

I bet if we go in the Way-Back to the start of the troop escaltion, we won't find any von posts or comments saying that the surge is already underway. Any takers?

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The sheiks came to us, not because of anything we did, but because they were getting fed up with al Qaeda in Iraq and saw that as an excellent way to get money from us.

And guns. For when we do leave, to force the Shi'ites into preserving their autonomy.

==========================

The COIN that Petraeus implemented was an escalation, and that's exactly what you liberals called it last Jan-Feb of 2007.

No, that was the surge. Do try and keep up. I know if you're as brain-dead as mcCain, it's tough, but COIN and the surge/escalation are NOT the same no matter how loudly you now claim they are.

=======================

McCain has clearly explained that he is using the phrase "the surge" to encompass the larger counterinsurgent strategy. It's shorthand. A little confusing, maybe, but it holds together fine.

Funny, where I come from pointing to a moose and calling it a horse isn't "shorthand" or "confusing", it's either [email protected]$$ stupid or a lie. take your pick.

I'll not embarrass anyone with quotes unless necessary.

Thank you, Gary, but as I said in a quite similar (yet oddly parallel) context, the pain makes me a better person.

Charles said:

"Obama outright rejected the troop increase AND strategy in Iraq, yet he favors a troop increase in Afghanistan and has said nothing about those troops would do when they get to Karzai country. If he proposes a proper COIN strategy, then he would look like a hypocrite, so I have serious doubts that he would recommend such a plan."

Lets set aside the fact that no one can offer quotes as to Obama rejecting COIN strategy.

Let's focus on the alleged contradiction--if one believes, as Obama did, that it was a mistake to invade Iraq to the detriment of Afghanistan, how is hypocritical to reject (allegedly) a particular strategy that would prolong said mistake while advocating a similar policy in what he considers to be the more important theater of operations?

Wait a minute, you said that Obama opposed COIN doctrine. Thus, it is incumbent on you to show me where he opposed it.

I looked for evidence that Obama supported COIN doctrine, Eric, and came up empty. I can't show you something that either does not exist or is beyond my ability to find. But be that as it may, the bill is prima facie evidence of Obama's opposition to the strategy. It is in diametric opposition to the plan that Petraeus proposed and put into practice. Obama's 16-month timetable is in direct opposition to Petraeus, who favors a conditions based approach. Logic would dictate that if a politician puts forward a bill and makes proposals that accomplishes the precise opposite of what the general intends, then it's fair to say that said politician is opposed to what the general intends to do. I will conclude that your refusal to find evidence of Obama's support of COIN doctrine is because you can't find it. Obama's emphasis from the beginning of the surge (read strategy) has been troop withdrawals, with nary a comment whatsoever on the strategy actually proposed and in place.

BTW, when you put more troops at risk and in harm's way, you are escalating. It isn't merely placement decision, especially in Anbar 2006. You can call it a "Sunni outreach", but the fact of the matter is that this outreach involved the application of a comprehensive COIN strategy in Ramadi, which then spread to Anbar and other provinces. Ironic that you're accusing me of spinning.

Do you have any links to McCain calling for the Awakening strategy four years ago? Three? Two?

What a disingenuous question, Eric. The fact of the matter is that McCain has been calling for implementation of a COIN strategy for several years, and the Awakening strategy used by the Marines in Anbar is a COIN strategy.

Check out juancole.com. His latest post is on the surge, noting that:

-the reduction in violence in Baghdad from the troop increase was directly related to an uptick in ethnic cleansing of Sunni's from the city this winter and spring.

-Iraq remains as violent as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and recent Somalia.

-political reconciliation has not been acheived.

-the success of the Anbar Awakening was likely related to a lack of US troops. Too many troops would have led to Iraqi support for guerrillas that would have made it difficult for Sunni leaders to call on the Americans for help.

Juan Cole is definitely an authority; his take is based on an intricate and ongoing study of the region, as is displayed in the above mentioned post.

I see that each time Charles Bird is asked to supply specifics, he falls back on "what he knows". No wonder he likes McCain. They're two low information peas in a pod.

Charles: "The fact of the matter is that [...] the Awakening strategy used by the Marines in Anbar is a COIN strategy."

Charles: "If [Obama] proposes a proper COIN strategy [in Afghanistan], then he would look like a hypocrite, so I have serious doubts that he would recommend such a plan."

So it's your contention, Charles, that Obama should propose what's already being done?

"Logic would dictate that if a politician puts forward a bill and makes proposals that accomplishes the precise opposite of what the general intends, then it's fair to say that said politician is opposed to what the general intends to do."

Charles, as always, Iraqis are invisible in your plans and determinations about Iraq. It's nice that the occupying general has various thoughts. What is it that Iraqis think, and why do you more or less never mention them, when, you know, discussing Iraq?

then it's fair to say that said politician is opposed to what the general intends to do. I will conclude that your refusal to find evidence of Obama's support of COIN doctrine is because you can't find it.

Try as you might, Charles, you can't reduce the meaning of "COIN doctrine" to "what the general intends to do". As such, your conclusion is without merit.

So your assertion, then, Charles, is that even now there is no proper counter-insurgency strategy being run in Afghanistan by President Bush and his appointees?

The Afghanistan operation is run by NATO, Gary, so there are different lines of command and the different nations will only do certain things. Germany refuses to go to the "hot" areas in southern Afghanistan, for example. As it stands now, we don't have a proper COIN strategy there because we don't have the force projection necessary. The Marines in Helmand province are a notable exception. They're taking the principles that they learned and applied in Anbar, and they're putting them to good use in Helmand.

Fascinating, Charles: how about a recap of your positions on how well Bush's strategies were doing in 2003 and 2004? Did, you, too, always criticize them as obvious failures?

Since I know you read this post, I conclude that your questions are rhetorical.

It's your claim then, that military operations in which U.S. troops engaged in search and destroy operations against Sunni insurgents is what has led to a lessening of violence in Anbar province?

COIN is not search and destroy, Gary, as I'm sure you already know. I don't understand why you're saying that I claimed that our troops were engaged in search-and-destroy when I claimed no such thing.

similar, yet oddly similar, I guess. I think I meant different, yet oddly parallel, but bad writing either way.

Getting worse by the minute, probably. When's quitting time?

"As it stands now, we don't have a proper COIN strategy there because we don't have the force projection necessary."

Interesting. Why is that?

"COIN is not search and destroy, Gary, as I'm sure you already know. I don't understand why you're saying that I claimed that our troops were engaged in search-and-destroy when I claimed no such thing."

You wrote:

Since November 2003, McCain has called for both more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. See the timeline for yourself. Quote:
To win in Iraq, we should increase the number of forces in-country, including Marines and Special Forces, to conduct offensive operations. I believe we must have in place another full division, giving us the necessary manpower to conduct a focused counterinsurgency campaign across the Sunni triangle that seals off enemy operating areas, conducts search and destroy operations and holds territory. Such a strategy would be the kind of new mission General Sanchez agreed would require additional forces.
So McCain wasn't calling for a "counterinsurgency strategy" when he "called for both more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy," the "new" counterinsurgency strategy of search and destroy replacing the counterinsurgency strategy that didn't exist, until he called for a "new" counterinsurgency by called for something that wasn't a counterinsurgency strategy.

I see. Thank you for clarifying that so well.

Fascinating, Charles: how about a recap of your positions on how well Bush's strategies were doing in 2003 and 2004? Did, you, too, always criticize them as obvious failures?

Since I know you read this post, I conclude that your questions are rhetorical.

I don't memorize your posts, to be sure. Thanks for the link reminding me of some of your observations. So now you're praising McCain for alleged positions you denounced at the time? Ok.

I looked for evidence that Obama supported COIN doctrine, Eric, and came up empty.

Just so I have this straight:

1. Charles says Obama opposed COIN in Iraq
2. Eric asked Charles for evidence
3. Charles says, do you have evidence that he supported it...
4. ?
5. Therefore Obama opposed COIN.

Neat!

But be that as it may, the bill is prima facie evidence of Obama's opposition to the strategy. It is in diametric opposition to the plan that Petraeus proposed and put into practice.

This is the perfect example of the perniciousness of the conflation that McCain, and now you, are attempting to pull off.

Petraues and others were pursuing many different strategies. One of those strategies was to work with (fund, support, arm) Sunni tribal elements and other former insurgents in an effort to turn against AQI. The "Awakenings strategy" to use YOUR term.

This began before the surge of troops.

This was not the surge of troops.

This was something different.

Yet you claim that Obama opposed this because he opposed the surge of troops.

No.

BTW, when you put more troops at risk and in harm's way, you are escalating. It isn't merely placement decision, especially in Anbar 2006.

But you're saying that people were calling this shift an escalation which isn't true! The complaints were about the surge of troops, which was being called an escalation. No one was claiming that we were escalating because we were moving soldiers out of FOBs and into the neighborhoods.

The fact of the matter is that McCain has been calling for implementation of a COIN strategy for several years, and the Awakening strategy used by the Marines in Anbar is a COIN strategy.

Again, conflation with a little reductio ad absurdum thrown in for flavor.

You specifically said that McCain was calling for the Awakenings strategy for four years. I called BS. I was right. You can only bolster your point by claiming that McCain called for COIN vaguely, and the Awakenings strategy is arguably COIN, thus McCain called for the Awakenings strategy. Thin gruel.

Further, it contradicts your central thesis. Recall:

1. You argue that Obama opposes COIN in Iraq
2. You argue that the Awakenings strategy is COIN
3. You argue that Obama favors the Awakenings strategy
4. But then Obama favors COIN!!!!

Charles Bird:

Oh, and I didn't say that Obama opposed Sunni outreach. I don't doubt that Obama likes to reach out, with or without preconditions.

Thus, you would argue that Obama favors COIN in Iraq.

Your spun about my good man.

I agree that what McCain said was incorrect, but I think there is too much effort going on here to separate “surge” from “COIN”. It was very clear that the surge was not just about putting more boots on the ground to continue with the same old failed strategy. The surge was explicitly in support of the strategic shift to COIN.

2007 SOTU:
In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out.

The two terms/concepts were explicitly linked from the first. I don’t think it’s unusual that many or even most people/reporters/pundits/politicians took to just calling it “the surge”. I supported the shift to COIN, but I did not support sending an additional 20,000 troops. But it’s certainly not clear to me that there is any way possible it would have been successful without them.

Obama doesn't like to run off tackle on third and eight. Thus I have proven that Obama is opposed to playing offense.

I supported the shift to COIN, but I did not support sending an additional 20,000 troops. But it’s certainly not clear to me that there is any way possible it would have been successful without them.

To the extent it was "successful."

I mean, the whole point was to usher in an era of political reconciliation.

Bush said that in the same speech.

And Bush and Petraeus both said without that political deal, there would be no solution to the violence.

Reduced levels of violence are a good thing. To some extent, the extra troops helped with that. But unless there is meaningful and lasting rapprochement, then this will be a temporary and fleeting downturn in violence as often occurs in long lasting civil wars.

Mind you: The reduced levels of violence are considered reduced even though between 500-1000 Iraqi civilians and ISF are dying each month. So, "reduced" is relative.

So, "reduced" is relative.

By definition.

Obama doesn't like to run off tackle on third and eight. Thus I have proven that Obama is opposed to playing offense.

For Herm Edwards at least.


Damn you slarti!

Turb said (way up there): "So, are you saying that making Iraq more stable is worth any cost? Could we just nuke the whole country? I've been told that glass is extremely stable."

Hard-De-Har-Har. I'm sure the Iraqis would find your commenting act hilarious.

And do you really think domestic opposition to the COIN strategy was higher than military opposition to COIN? It seems that historically, the US military has been unbelievably good at failing to fight insurgencies properly and then failing to actually institutionalize knowledge of how to fight insurgencies after they learn the hard way.

Always looking for the jab at the military. Are you familiar with Small War Journal. It has many civilian and military writers that were looking for solutions to violence in Iraq, when the majority of people in America wanted an irresponsible withdrawal.

Violence has been reduced from the appalling levels of 2006 to the merely unacceptable levels of 2004. Why can't we just accept that?

And anyone who objected to this (COIN), and called for winning hearts and minds with a traditional counter-insurgency approach, was a terrorist-sympathizing, mush-headed, liberal who wanted to apply therapy and wimpiness, thus proving that Democrats/liberals could never be trusted with national security/military issues.

I can't vouch for what the rightwingosphere was saying back in early 2007, but the leftwingosphere was critical of COIN as late as 2008. See Ygleisas post here on the new "imperial reality". FWIW, I think liberals are right about lots of issues (gay rights, abolishing capital punisment, anti-torture, etc.), but the American Left was totally wrong about Iraq in 2007. Their big narrative on Iraq was continuous and futile pushing for a haphazard withdrawal.

I can't vouch for what the rightwingosphere was saying back in early 2007, but the leftwingosphere was critical of COIN as late as 2008. See Ygleisas post here on the new "imperial reality". FWIW, I think liberals are right about lots of issues (gay rights, abolishing capital punisment, anti-torture, etc.), but the American Left was totally wrong about Iraq in 2007. Their big narrative on Iraq was continuous and futile pushing for a haphazard withdrawal.

I dunno. I think it's more accurate to say (at least for me) that many of these same folks were pushing for COIN on a much earlier and much more effective basis. Pushing for it it now seems more haphazard than anything else, because it will be of limited effectiveness (particularly compared to when it could have been implemented earlier).

But LT, what has changed in a fundamental way? I repeat:

the whole point was to usher in an era of political reconciliation.

Bush said that in the same speech.

And Bush and Petraeus both said without that political deal, there would be no solution to the violence.

Reduced levels of violence are a good thing. To some extent, the extra troops helped with that. But unless there is meaningful and lasting rapprochement, then this will be a temporary and fleeting downturn in violence as often occurs in long lasting civil wars.

Mind you: The reduced levels of violence are considered reduced even though between 500-1000 Iraqi civilians and ISF are dying each month. So, "reduced" is relative.


The withdrawal crowd argued that even under ideal circumstances, we would continue to blow 10 billion a month, thousands of lives, tens of thousands of injuries, and a host of other vital costs to achieve an uncertain and unlikely outcome.

Even now, Petraeus doesn't give the odds for success as very high.

Even now.

Hard-De-Har-Har. I'm sure the Iraqis would find your commenting act hilarious.

So, just to be clear, does that mean that you are going to stick with your benefit-only analysis while eschewing the more traditional cost-benefit analysis?

Also, are we only allowed to consider immediate short-term benefits? Because while paying off people that were killing our soldiers might reduce violence in the short term, I think that systematically reducing the power of the Iraqi state (by equipping and training non-state military forces) might have problematic consequences for Iraq in the long term.

Always looking for the jab at the military.

Not really. I think the US military is a lot like most large American organizations; it does some spectacularly good work and some incredibly bad acts and while it is staffed by many simply outstanding human beings, its behavior has a lot more to do with institutional structure than all those outstanding people's wishes and virtues.

I raised the issue of the military because you alleged significant civilian opposition to COIN and that strikes me as hilarious given how much institutional hostility the military has long had towards COIN.

Are you familiar with Small War Journal. It has many civilian and military writers that were looking for solutions to violence in Iraq

Yes, I am. I stop by and read things posted there on occasion although I prefer Abu Muqawama. SWJ is a great resource; what a pity that the people writing there don't actually control how the US military spends its money or develops its doctrine.

So, are you now ready to substantiate your claim that there was significant domestic opposition to the COIN strategy? That is what I actually asked you about, but if you'd prefer to discuss what I read, we can do that too. Seems like it would bore most people though.

Also, does this mean that you're not questioning my claims that the US military has traditionally ignored counterinsurgency and then worked hard to forget any institutional knowledge of it when forced to learn?

when the majority of people in America wanted an irresponsible withdrawal.

Phrases like this simply confound me.

the leftwingosphere was critical of COIN as late as 2008. See Ygleisas post here on the new "imperial reality"

Can you explain exactly how Yglesias was critical of COIN? I read his post as saying that most Americans would be extremely unhappy if they awoke to suddenly find their towns administered by a 20-something year old foreigner who did not speak their language, knew nothing of their history, and had the ability to call on awesome amounts of firepower from the sky on a whim. Do you disagree with that?

In general, criticizing the way we do COIN is not the same as criticizing that we do COIN. If you think that any discussion of problems implementing a strategy are equivalent to criticisms of that strategy, then um, Yglesias did indeed criticize COIN.

Note again that there is no reason to believe that COIN in Iraq will be successful. The best of bad options is not the same thing as a good option.

... the American Left was totally wrong about Iraq in 2007.

And the American Right has been totally wrong about Iraq for the majority of this millenium.

The current wingnut spin is that Obama should acknowledge he was wrong about 'the surge' -- it worked brilliantly, just like McCain said it would. It worked so brilliantly that Obama is wrong to even PLAN on leaving. Mission, the wingnuts fondly hope, accomplished.

-- TP

Turb,

In your reply you forgot to click on the link to a poll in March 2007 that says:

Twenty-one percent of responders support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and 37 percent said troops should come home within a year.

That's a majority of Americans saying we need to bail on Iraq right when the COIN strategy was shaping up countrywide. Isn't it safe to say that most Americans weren't interested in this strategy in Iraq when it was initially implemented?

What do you want me to say about COIN and the military? Petraeus is pretty well-respected inside the service and he's a big COIN advocate. I dunno, I'm some lowly junior officer, but I thought it was a good idea.

That is what I actually asked you about, but if you'd prefer to discuss what I read, we can do that too. Seems like it would bore most people though.

Your smug comments are really entertaining, BTW.

That's a majority of Americans saying we need to bail on Iraq right when the COIN strategy was shaping up countrywide. Isn't it safe to say that most Americans weren't interested in this strategy in Iraq when it was initially implemented?

Safe, but incomplete.

Reduced levels of violence are a good thing. To some extent, the extra troops helped with that. But unless there is meaningful and lasting rapprochement, then this will be a temporary and fleeting downturn in violence as often occurs in long lasting civil wars.

Eric, I agree that long-lasting stability is incumbent upon the Iraqis and it is political, and "The Surge"/COIN is not some end all strategy. But I think the dismantling of terrorist networks by US/Iraqi forces, like the ones that bombed the Askari Mosque in 2006 and escalated sectarian strife, is a necessary component to stability. COIN was instrumental in allowing their terrorist networks to lose their safe-haven and tribal support. Once the government can establish legitamate law and order country wide, that will greatly enable a functioning government.

LTNixon: this is not meant in a snarky way at all, but: I'm having trouble categorizing myself. Insofar as I understand COIN doctrine, I think it's appropriate to any situation not involving very traditional battles between conventional armies. And even in such battles, if there are civilians around, I would think that trying to use some lessons from COIN would have to be a good idea, inasmuch as having the surrounding population on your side is a good thing.

I thought from very early on that we were not doing nearly enough of this. Obviously, I wasn't in a position to judge a lot of our tactics, but there seemed to be a lot of things that might have been calculated to alienate the population -- starting with allowing the looting to proceed, at latest -- that were needless.

(Nb: I do not particularly blame the troops for this, generally. I suspect, for instance, that a fair amount of the problem was troop strength -- at least, I assume that when you have enough troops, you're less likely to need to protect yourself in ways that alienate the people around you. And obviously not having enough troops is not something the troops themselves are responsible for.)

So: I've thought pretty much from the get-go that if we had to be in Iraq at all, then we should have paid a lot more attention to trying to deprive the insurgency of support from the population, which presumably means, in part, trying to do things ourselves in such a way that we have as much support as an occupying army could reasonably expect to have.

This means that I pretty clearly did support COIN strategies during the period in which I thought we should be in Iraq, meaning: from right after the invasion through, oh, maybe the fall of 2005, if memory serves. (I opposed the invasion, but after we had invaded, I opposed withdrawal, on the grounds that we had to try to make it right. Then, in fall 2005 (iirc), I lost hope that we could.)

But what about the rest of the time? After I decided we should leave, I still thought: well, if we have to be there, far better we pursue a COIN strategy than not. But I would have preferred that we leave.

I'm just not sure how to categorize myself, here.

That's a majority of Americans saying we need to bail on Iraq right when the COIN strategy was shaping up countrywide. Isn't it safe to say that most Americans weren't interested in this strategy in Iraq when it was initially implemented?

I don't know what you mean by "weren't interested". One interpretation is that many Americans were familiar with both the principles of COIN and the economic concept of opportunity costs and concluded that without a draft, there was no way we could ever get enough soldiers into Iraq to implement a proper COIN strategy consistent with the force to population ratios described in FM 3-24. Also, they might have concluded that given how badly we screwed up in Iraq during the first 5 years, a perfect COIN strategy was unlikely to succeed (note that we were not planning anything like a perfect COIN strategy). Alternatively, they might have concluded that stationing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Iraq for years and years would not benefit the national security of the United States. Or they might have assumed that Afghanistan was a higher priority and continuing the Iraq debacle made it impossible to devote enough resources to Afghanistan to keep the Taliban at bay.

Petraeus is pretty well-respected inside the service and he's a big COIN advocate.

If you think that the fact that Petraeus is a general who is respected means that the US military is serious about COIN, then maybe you should read this; it was linked from SWJ. Note also that I'm talking about the US military and not only the US Army.

Finally, I have no idea how to determine whether or not Petraeus is well-respected inside the service; is there polling? He wasn't well respected enough to have his COIN ideas taken seriously throughout most of his career. Certainly, other officers who focused on counterinsurgency have not fared nearly so well, despite Petraeus' position on the promotions board. How are things working out for H.R. McMaster or John Nagle career wise? Are they well respected too, or just not enough to ever get promoted?

I dunno, I'm some lowly junior officer, but I thought it was a good idea.

I'm glad you thought it was a good idea. Did you ever ask how likely it was to succeed? Because according to Petraeus and what FM 3-24 says, success is very unlikely given what force levels the US military can sustain. So, do you think Petraeus was wrong in saying and writing that or do you think the US should engage in efforts doomed to failure at a vast cost in money and lives?

Claiming that the "surge" (as defined as starting the Awakening) had ANYTHING to do with Petraeus or COIN is just flat-out wrong:

From the http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/iraq/20070325-1237-fightingbackinanbar.html>San Diego Union-Tribune, a VERY conservative paper (via http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=10908>Ballon Juice:

In November 2005, American commanders held a breakthrough meeting with top Sunni chiefs in Ramadi, hoping to lure them away from the insurgents’ fold. The sheiks responded positively, promising cooperation and men for a police force that was then virtually nonexistent. (emphasis mine)

Either Petraeus has a time-machine or McCain (and his supporters) are so far off on what the "surge" what the surge is and is not as to be completely embarassing.

I seem to remember that in July of 2007 we were being told that we couldn't blame the roaming death squads or the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad on the surge, because the surge hadn't really started yet.

@CB et al
I said Obama opposed the strategy that caused the Sunni outreach to succeed.

To all who've asserted that the Awakening movement would have failed but for the Surge: might you deign to provide any evidence of this whatever beyond your intuition and unsupported assertions? Please?

And assuming that you can't prove this counterfactual, or that you wouldn't want to deprive me of the character-building experience of proving it for you, would y'all kindly do one of the following things:

1) Cease to make this claim.

or

2) Buy a very lovely tiger-repelling rock from me.

I want to see von explain how "The Surge" started in November 2005. This should be fun.

Popcorn, anyone?

The entire focus on the surge and how we can succeed is a republican frame.

The correct frame is: the war was an illegal act of aggression that currently saps our resources with more geopolitical cost than benefit. We need to get out as soon as possible.

The "surge" debate, though it further reveals the ill-informed, dogmatic, and desperate spin cyling of the right, is a distraction: another attempt for the imperialists to blow oxygen on a fire that needs to be put out.

US out of Iraq, no blood for oil.

Chuck Hagel as quoted in Time:"Quit talking about, 'Did the surge work or not work,' or, 'Did you vote for this or support this,'" Hagel said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.

"Get out of that. We're done with that. How are we going to project forward?" the Nebraska senator said. "What are we going to do for the next four years to protect the interest of America and our allies and restructure a new order in the world. ... That's what America needs to hear from these two candidates. And that's where I am."

SO, Sen. McCAin, if the surge is working why can't we set up a timeline for our departure?

Also, since the Iraqis want us out, why is it a defeat to set up a timeline for departure?

The whole surge debate is a diversionary tactic to keep McCAin from having to explain his irrational and contractory statements about iraq.

I'm glad you thought it was a good idea. Did you ever ask how likely it was to succeed?

I volunteered to be part of it...er, sort of. I guess the Surge could be defined as the 5 additional combat brigades, and I'm no soldier.

Finally, I have no idea how to determine whether or not Petraeus is well-respected inside the service; is there polling?

We don't really have polls for stuff like that, so my evidence is based on casual observation and discussions. Do you read a lot of milblogs? Most of them are pretty supportive too. A lot of that may have to do with people in the military respecting flag officers by nature of rank, but I think people are glad that stability has improved in Iraq.

But what about the rest of the time? After I decided we should leave, I still thought: well, if we have to be there, far better we pursue a COIN strategy than not. But I would have preferred that we leave.

I'm just not sure how to categorize myself, here.

Thanks for clarifying. Iraq is a pretty complex issue and it's hard to pigeonhole yourself into the "left" or the "right" camp on it.

On 9/20/07, NPR interviewed the colonel McCain invoked in his surge=counterinsurgency=surge remarks Wednesday. Here's a link ...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14566803

At 25:58 in the NPR audio, there's this exchange ...

CALLER: My question for the colonel is the following: The Petraeus Report used Anbar as an example of success. But my question is did what happened in Anbar really have anything to do with the surge or was it the adoption of classical counterinsurgency techniques which have been proven to work elsewhere, rather than the buildup of troops?

NPR: Col. McFarland?

MCFARLAND: I think it had to do with both. We did adopt classic counterinsurgency tactics, although the manual wasn't out at the time so we did a little bit of trial and error there ...

NPR: That's the new manual written by Gen. Petraeus.

MCFARLAND: That's right. But the addition of some two battalions worth of Marines to Al Anbar along with a Marine expeditionary unit, almost a brigade's worth of combat power went to Al Anbar as part of the surge. And that gave the Marine expeditionary force out there a great deal more tactical and operational flexibility. They were able to exploit success. And rather than just play whack-a-mole and just chase the enemy around Al Anbar, they were able to put enough pressure at enough pressure points to drive the enemy completely out of the province.

NPR: That breakthrough, the political breakthrough we were talking about earlier, that really happened before the surge.

MCFARLAND: It did. The Tribal Awakening began in September 2006. And we were seeing steady progress, really a decline in enemy attacks, began really right after Ramadan in November of 2006 and continued on a steady downward trend. But that trend, normally in the springtime, you'd begin to see a turnaround and the enemy comes back in strength. But that never happened. You continued to see a downward trend. And I think the surge was the reason for that.

***********

So, basically, McFarland can make an articulate case for the helpfulness of the surge. But McCain's surge=counterinsurgency=surge formulation is utter nonsense. I want to believe McCain was spinning, but I'm concerned he may actually think that counterinsurgency is synonymous with the surge. A scary thought.

wonkie: thanks for the Hegelian remarks.

The way forward is clear: US out of Iraq, no blood for oil.

We've seen what Iraq was like as a failed state. Geopolitically, it was not a threat to the intergity of the United States or the safety and prosperity of its citizens.

Of course, our coopeation in the violence there not only killed and maimed innocent as well as criminal Iraqi's, it killed and maimed US soldiers and cost us a lot of money.

Iraq is not an insolvable problem. We solve our problem in Iraq by leaving. Pakistan, Afghanistan. Now that might be a problem.

As a citizen with a conscience greater than some vicarious joy in watching the Empire struggle for its existence, I see our support for Israeli occupation, our nuclear escalation, and our failure to engage the international consensus on climate change as national security priorities ranking higher than the destiny of Iraq.

"The way forward is clear: US out of Iraq, no blood for oil."

I'm not sure that, in the end, I disagree, but I have to say that reducing one's argument to a cliche bumper sticker, while succinct, isn't necessarily the most persuasive argument.

I'd venture to suggest that, in fact, by reducing it to a cliche, you likely turn off a lot of wavering people who might give consideration to a formulation that they haven't already heard ten zillion times before.

Have you read Politics And The English Language?

(Everyone should, of course.)

I agree that what McCain said was incorrect, but

A wiser man would have stopped here.

Gary,
When you were talking about "search and destroy", I thought you were taking us back to the days of Westmoreland and his failed big unit warfare operations. In the context of clear-hold-build, search and destroy takes on a different meaning because those operations are much more limited and are conducted within the overall context of the strategy. S&D is one component, whereas for Westmoreland it was a major activity.

Just a brief comment on why Obama was and is opposed to COIN. His policies and statements speak for themselves. His Jan-2007 bill required the removal of all combat brigades in around 12 months. There's no way a military force can clear and hold areas when they're so busily and quickly bugging out, and there's nothing they could build because they're already gone. His bill was the anti-COIN.

Second, if Obama really approved of a COIN strategy, he would've been in the forefront with McCain and others, calling for an increase in troops. Using the FM3-24 guidelines, the civilian-to-military ratios were already strained, even with 30,000 extra personnel. Those ratios work a little better when you add contractors, Iraqi troops, police, Kurdish forces, Sons of Iraq, etc., but the troops levels were still troublingly light. To conduct a proper strategy, you need sufficient numbers on the ground in order to provide sufficient security to the populace. In the Petraeus plan, the idea was to keep forces where they were and add additional troops to secure Baghdad. As it turned out, Anbar also got extra reinforcements.

Third, Petraeus needed those forces to execute the strategy, so the added forces were inextricably linked to the plan. Since increased force levels were an integral part of the strategy, if you oppose the increase you also oppose the strategy. Calling for a de-escalation like what Obama did would undermine and gut the strategy.

Just because Obama didn't say it doesn't mean a damn thing. His words and actions spoke--and continue to speak--volumes.

As for McCain, the older version of McCain's website clearly showed support for for more troops and implementatin of a COIN strategy. For example, this: "McCain agrees with retired Army General Jack Keane that there are simply not enough American forces in Iraq," and McCain recommended that we "implement a new counterinsurgency strategy", so it pre-dated the confirmation of Petraeus. General Keane is a huge COIN proponent and he was one of the guys who persuaded Bush to change to this course. I wish I had more than some snippets, but McCain updated his webpage a few weeks ago.

Petraues and others were pursuing many different strategies.

No, Eric, Petraeus and others were pursuing many tactics under the umbrella of one strategy.

You specifically said that McCain was calling for the Awakenings strategy for four years.

No, I didn't. I said McCain had been calling for COIN strategy for several year, and awakening strategy is a COIN strategy. You're still stuck on nomenclature while ignoring the underlying concepts.

Gary Farber:

"I'd venture to suggest that, in fact, by reducing it to a cliche, you likely turn off a lot of wavering people who might give consideration to a formulation that they haven't already heard ten zillion times before."

Perhaps, but perhaps people are convinced by strength and confidence. If something is simple - and opposition to careerist wars of choice is fundamentally simple, not simplistic- then we ought to keep opposing.

Being against the Iraq war, today's Iraq war, is only slightly less important than being against it was in February '03.

Nevertheless, I take your point so let me try a more sophisticated formulation.

The "success" of the surge, which is still fundamentally hypothetical, is at its best a success that requires thousands of US troops and billions of dollars to try and keep a polity half way around the world from redescending into the chaos we created for it.

This "success" continues to cost us very much as a society; concrete costs. They are not academic. The benefits are entirely hypothetical and might, just as hypothetically, accrue to us without any cost.

On a more meta-level, we can't possibly hope to make domestic progress in constructing a democratic republic while we tolerate these unnecessary foreign entanglements whose immediate, tangible benefits go to economically inefficient and unproductive agents.

These ideas, the backbone concepts of the anti-war majority who flexed muscle in the mid-terms, are being diverted and drowned out by the "surge" debate that takes it as a given that "we must win" and Iraq poses a "grave strategic threat".

As a small r republican, its the war itself that is the grave strategic threat.

Johnny Pez: A wiser man would have stopped here.

A wiser man would not have spent the time to make the comment, not on this thread, on this blog.

So there you go…

"Nevertheless, I take your point so let me try a more sophisticated formulation."

I wasn't arguing against your position. I merely abjure cliche.

LT:

COIN was instrumental in allowing their terrorist networks to lose their safe-haven and tribal support. Once the government can establish legitamate law and order country wide, that will greatly enable a functioning government.

I agree with this in a general sense, but unfortunately for us all, the problems of Iraq are larger than "terrorist networks." The real violence has not been committed by terrorists, but by sectarian rivals. Many of those practitioners are in the Iraqi government itself. Those combatants are not done fighting, even if they're taking a pause for the moment and consolidating gains.

Without political reconciliation, they will fight again. Soon. Some still are of course, and the body count is still quite grisly.

Charles,

No, I didn't. I said McCain had been calling for COIN strategy for several year, and awakening strategy is a COIN strategy. You're still stuck on nomenclature while ignoring the underlying concepts.

To quote you, verbatim:

The Petraeus strategy is the Anbar strategy is the Awakening strategy. McCain has been right for over four years that this was the course we should've been taking.

You claim that McCain has been calling for the Anbar strategy and Awakening strategy for four years. Those are your words. I'm not stuck on nomenclature. I'm just quoting you. If you would like to clarify, feel free, but you can't simply pretend that you didn't say what you...said.

Further, the problem for you is that you claim the Awakenings strategy was COIN, but you admit that Obama never opposed that and likely supported it. Thus, using your metrics, Obama supported COIN.

After all, COIN is a multifaceted doctrine and it has many interpretations and contextual nuances. Even an army that is withdrawing could practice COIN.

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