« Here All the Bombs Fade Away | Main | I will stand by my assessment »

March 31, 2009

Comments

Sullivan is obviously a very smart man, but it is a bit disconcerting how closely his opinions track his hero-of-the-day.

McCain's right on this one.

Not everything McCain does is a dogwhistle to refight arguments over the Vietnam War.

"I would have... went ahead and announced the overall addition of troops," said McCain. ["]Rather than be accused of a Lyndon Johnson style of incrementalism"

I suppose you are correct that this isn't a dogwhistle. It is a message anyone can hear.

I suppose you are correct that this isn't a dogwhistle. It is a message anyone can hear.

Yes, and a trenchant one. If it's likely that you are going to send more troops, isn't the prudent course to be up front about it? Such will avoid, among other things, "be[ing] accused of a Lyndon Johnson style of incrementalism."

I bet McCain's glad he didn't win in November, so all he has to do is make Monday-morning quarterbacker comments about how if he were President, he'd do things differently, like, uh... moar troops for a war the US can't win!

Obama's committment to war in Afghanistan is stupid. McCain's bright notion that he can look good by making noises about how he'd show a bigger committment to war in Afghanistan if he'd won... well, it evidently works on loyal Republicans and wannabeloyal Republicans.

Wasn't McCain promising to stay in Iraq forever back before November happened? Anyone asked McCain how he reconciles a permanent occupation in Iraq with more troops for Afghanistan?

McCain's statement is exactly what a loyal opposition is supposed to do. (You do expect the loyal opposition to oppose on occasion, right?)

Yeah. FWIW: we still see this kind of non-opposition opposition happening in the UK since New Labour moved into the political position occupied by moderate Conservatives.

For McCain to oppose Obama, he would need to point out that Obama's basic policy of maintaining a military occupation in Afghanistan in the vain hope of "solving" the Taliban problem by killing more and more Afghan peasants, is fundamentally flawed in fairly obvious ways.

Saying that Obama's policy of ramping up the war in Afghanistan is basically just fine but doesn't go far enough, is the kind of non-opposition opposition the Conservative party has been reduced to so often since May 1997: "We'd do just what they're doing, but we'd do it harder, faster, and more often!"

And, also FWIW: it really messes up a country's politics when the Loyal Opposition are left flatfooted and trying to decide how to react when the party they are supposed to oppose is doing the kind of thing the Opposition have already made clear they support.

Of course, given this is US politics, you may not notice the difference...

"He is trying to avoid the consequences of Vietnam by being clear with the American people regarding [...] the need to expend more blood and treasure."

Curiously, this is always the solution John McCain advises as regards any foreign policy situation.

Last I looked, our struggle with evil Muslims was the Defining Struggle Of Our Time, but, wait, before that it was the Chinese, but wait, now it's We're All Georgians, and Standing Up To Russia, but wait, it's Afghanistan....

And the solution is always bomb, bomb, bomb....

"McCain's point is that more troops are almost certainly necessary."

To accomplish what, specifically? I don't notice you bothering to mention a goal here, Von, or any kind of benchmarks or exit strategy. What, exactly, are McCain's statements on those? (Or yours, at least?)

"McCain proposes sending 40,000 more troops as part of a broad, multi-faceted effort to address US regional concerns (that is to say, US concerns regarding Pakistan)."

What are you and McCain proposing the 40,000 troups do as regards "US concerns regarding Pakistan," exactly?

I don't think that disagreement with the Afghanistan War makes Sullivan's point valid.

McCain has a policy he favors, right or wrong. Unless Sullivan or someone else can show where McCain advocated a less aggressive approach than Obama is taking I don't quite see the criticism.

screw John McCain. if we wanted to hear his opinions on things, we would've voted for him.

Gary, see the link at "multi-faceted effort."

So JMac wants to put 40k more troops in afghan.

Since he opposes pulling them out of Iraq where does he plan to get them from Von?


Von, thanks, first of all, McCain starts off by lecturing about what a great success Iraq is:

[...] With the right strategy finally in place – and I should note the intellectual contributions to it by General Jack Keane, Fred and Kim Kagan, Andrew Krepinevich, and Gary Schmitt – and the resources on the ground necessary to implement it, we not only stepped back from the precipice of a strategic disaster of immense and long lasting consequences, but progressed toward obtaining our objectives in Iraq beyond the most hopeful projections for the new strategy’s success.
Which is great, aside from the fact that Iraq is falling apart again. The "Awakening" has continued to be completely unwelcomed by the Iraqi government, and now open fighting has broken out, including against American forces.

Thomas Ricks, who has been known to say that Iraq was getting better, and that American needs to say, now says:

Proven provider John McCreary of NightWatch fame is even more emphatic:
This is a pre-cursor of the second round of the Sunni-Shia civil war to follow."
Question of the day: What should I say the next time someone tells me the surge "worked"?
So what does one say? And isn't it a bit ripe of McCain to be lecturing on how we need to duplicate the "success" of Iraq exactly when it's unraveling, and also given the vast differences between Afghan and Iraqi tribes and groups anyway?

Moreover, I asked:

I don't notice you bothering to mention a goal here, Von, or any kind of benchmarks or exit strategy. What, exactly, are McCain's statements on those? (Or yours, at least?)
I'm missing where McCain says anything about such. Instead, he's all: "I am confident victory is possible in Afghanistan" and "[b]ut we must win the war in Afghanistan" and "Success is possible in Afghanistan."

Which is all very nice, but I'm still looking for a clue as to what McCain's and your definition of "victory" and "success" is, and how we get there, beyond putting in 40,000 more Americans, step 2:? and "success!"

What McCain says is We Need A Plan. Which is also very nice, but what the magical Plan will be, he's more than a tad vague about. There's:

[...] There is no comprehensive, nationwide plan for the war that spells out what level of combat troops and resources will be required, where, and to do what.
Yes, but what should the plan be?
[...] In order to carry out the necessary planning and coordination for a nationwide counterinsurgency campaign, we should establish a military headquarters that is adequately staffed and resourced, similar to that of General Odierno when he served under General Petraeus in Baghdad. In addition, the senior coalition commander and the senior international civilian in Afghanistan must better coordinate efforts by the various international agencies and nongovernmental organizations, ideally through a body in Kabul that can routinely synchronize these efforts with military operations and Afghan government activities. And as we deploy more troops to carry out new operations, we must focus quickly on securing supply lines into Afghanistan – a task made more urgent with the recent loss of the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan.
This is amazingly content-free. I mean, securing supply lines is great, but doesn't win a war. Neither does "establish a military headquarters that is adequately staffed and resourced" go very far.

Beyond this, we get the anodyne Get The Europeans To Help More, Train A Bigger Afghan Army, "work to reduce corruption and improve [the Afghan government's] delivery of services," and "agreeing with the government in Kabul on specific governance and development benchmarks, then working closely with its leaders to ensure they are met."

What the actual benchmarks are, which asked? He doesn't say. But we should have them! And a plan! And an hq! And we should fight corruption! And get more Afghans to fight on the right side!

These are goals, not plans.

And, oh, yes: "Get control of the narcotics problem."

Sure, that'll happen.

Lastly, he wants us to "[w]ork regionally," and "[c]ommunicate the stakes and the challenges to the American people."

And our definition of "success, which I asked about? Can you quote me which lines of McCain's speech you're specifically pointing to? And the place where he outlines benchmarks? The sentences where he explains our exit strategy?

Thanks very much, because I'm missing seeing all that stuff in there. I may have read too fast.

Mind, I'm not much more complimentary towards Obama's approach to Afghanistan, either.

Oh, my first Ricks link should have gone here. Sorry about that.

Which is great, aside from the fact that Iraq is falling apart again. The "Awakening" has continued to be completely unwelcomed by the Iraqi government, and now open fighting has broken out, including against American forces.

Gary, there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic on Iraq. Check my (relatively) recent frontpages: all guarded, no optimism. But one report does not a trend make. (The breathless: "open fighting has broken out" .... please. What was the fighting before? Closed? Iraq is a violent, dangerous place. By any measure, however, Iraq is hugely improved from a year ago, and a year before that. Step back and look at the big picture: there's lots of room to debate on Iraq, but your microscope is not a good lens for long-term policy.)

Meanwhile we have four tour veterans of Iraq talking about the "old days" of the war. The war which has run longer than WWII. So far.

Success!

That is, veterans of four tours; not four veterans. A sign I should stop posting for the night. G'night.

By any measure, however, Iraq is hugely improved from a year ago

No, not by any measure. This, for example. Or, if the issue of people being killed for their sexual orientation is just too trivial a measure for a Republican to care about, you might think about the measure of "has life improved for 65% of the population?"

Or not. Your choice. But don't go throwing "hugely improved" around when what you mean is, fewer US soldiers getting killed, and much less reporting of how dangerous life is in Iraq. With regard to the latter link, sure, 11 journalists killed in 2008 is down from 32 journalists killed in 2007, but is this because it's now only a little more risky to be a journalist in Iraq than it was to be a journalist in Afghanistan 2001-2004 (9 journalists killed over 3 years) - or because fewer and fewer journalists take the risk of going in? Only two journalists have been killed so far this year...

He is trying to avoid the consequences of Vietnam by being clear with the American people regarding the difficulty of the struggle against the Taliban, and the need to expend more blood and treasure.

Screw the treasure – we’re dropping that from helicopters these days and I’m already assuming my savings will be worth 70% less by the time I need it...

But more blood? Really? I was all for attacking that sh*thole. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the bombs were finally falling and I cheered it. Hell, I wouldn’t have flinched if we had nuked it in the fall of 2001. But now? It’s not worth the life of one more person – American soldier or Afghani peasant. If you need a Vietnam analogy - we lost there just like we did in Vietnam. Face it and GTFO.

What OCSteve said.

what Ugh said.

I didn't cheer when I heard the US was going to kill lots of Afghans in revenge for al-Qaida's strike on the US. "Flinching" doesn't begin to describe my reaction if Bush had decided he could get away with nuking Afghanistan in revenge for a strike by 19 terrorists, not one of whom was from Afghanistan. Taking revenge for 9/11 never was worth the life of even one Afghan - man, woman, or child: doctor or peasant. (Some US soldiers may have thought it was worth dying to take revenge, I suppose.)

But other than those major details, what OCSteve, Ugh, and Cleek said. "You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

"The breathless: "open fighting has broken out" .... please. What was the fighting before? Closed?"

Between the "Sons of Iraq" and U.S. troops, fighting was non-existent. Did you read my links? Did you miss the news about the pitched battle? (The first between SOI and U.S. troops and air support.)

BAGHDAD, March 28 -- American and Iraqi forces arrested an influential U.S. ally Saturday, triggering fierce clashes in central Baghdad that threatened to disrupt a key pillar of American efforts to stabilize the capital as combat forces draw down.

As Apache helicopter gunships cruised above Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood, former Sunni insurgents fought from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces, according to witnesses, the Iraqi military and police. At least 15 people were wounded in the gunfights, which lasted several hours. By nightfall, the street fighters had taken five Iraqi soldiers hostage.

The battles, the most ferocious in nearly a year in Baghdad, erupted minutes after the arrest of Adil Mashadani, the leader of the Fadhil Awakening Council, which is composed mostly of former Sunni insurgents who allied themselves with the U.S. military in exchange for monthly salaries that are now paid by Iraq's government.

The formation of Awakening councils across Iraq, which include an estimated 100,000 fighters, is widely credited with bringing down levels of violence in many Sunni insurgent strongholds such as Fadhil. But mistrust has lingered between the councils and Iraq's Shiite leaders; Saturday's violence put on display these tensions, which appear to be deepening.

"We will fight them till the end if they don't release him," declared Abu Mirna, a spokesman for the Fadhil Awakening Council. As he spoke by phone, the sounds of heavy gunfire could be heard in the background.

Iraq's chief military spokesman, Gen. Qassim Atta, said an arrest warrant had been issued for Mashadani and an aide for committing "terrorist acts."

Etc. More:
BAGHDAD — Iraqi and American soldiers have completely disarmed a rebellious Awakening Council that staged a brief uprising after its leader was arrested in a Baghdad neighborhood, and they are not going to allow it to re-form, both Iraqi and United States officials confirmed Monday.

The Sunni neighborhood, a hotbed of insurgent activity before the Awakening movement started, remained under a total curfew and military blockade on Monday, three days after American and Iraqi forces arrested Adil al-Mashhadani, the neighborhood’s powerful Awakening leader, on criminal and terrorism charges.

It is the first time an Awakening Council — many made up of former Sunni insurgents who switched sides for pay — has been forcibly disbanded in the capital.

Eighty members of the Fadhil council have been detained by the authorities, according to Mr. Mashhadani’s deputy, Khalid al-Samarraie.

Only a week ago, Mr. Mashhadani had complained publicly about late pay and a lack of jobs, warning that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia might well return to the community. After his arrest, many of his followers began shooting at American and Iraqi forces, and briefly took five Iraqi Army soldiers prisoner, releasing them unharmed.

More:
BAGHDAD — American and Iraqi troops arrested the leader of a crucial Awakening Council in Baghdad on Saturday, setting off a rare spasm of street fighting and raising fresh concerns about the troubled Awakening program, which has brought many Sunni extremists over to the government’s side.

A combined force of American and Iraqi Army troops and National Police descended on Fadhil, a Sunni neighborhood and former insurgent stronghold in central Baghdad, and arrested the head of Fadhil’s Awakening Council, Adil al-Mashhadani, on terrorism charges, according to Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. He said firefights broke out afterward.

[...]

“There’s a 50-50 chance that Awakening guys who are not very loyal to Iraq or who need to support their families may decide to join Al Qaeda again,” Mr. Mashhadani said in an interview a week ago.

Abu Mirna, the media coordinator for the Fadhil Awakening Council, said: “American forces have broken the alliance with us by arresting our leader. Now there are clashes in the area between the Americans and Awakening fighters and you can hear shooting. It’s chaos.” Heavy gunfire could be heard over the telephone while he was speaking.

Fifteen Iraqis were wounded in the fighting, according to a high-ranking police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. American officials did not respond to requests for information.

Five Iraqi Army soldiers were also taken hostage, according to two officials in the Ministry of Interior, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were also not authorized to speak to reporters. The officials said the Iraqi Army called off the fighting to negotiate for the soldiers’ release. Awakening Council members demanded Mr. Mashhadani’s release in exchange for the soldiers’ freedom, the officials said.

It was the first time that disputes between the Sons of Iraq and the authorities have erupted into armed clashes in Baghdad. There have been arrests of some other Sons of Iraq members suspected of still working for insurgents, but not of anyone so prominent.

There were immediate expressions of concern from other Awakening Councils in Baghdad. “Members of the Iraqi Army are trying to pick a fight between them and the Awakening,” said Ahmed al-Rubaie, one of the leaders of the council in the nearby Abu Safain neighborhood. “Do they want the sectarianism to come back, like in 2006?”

Yes, open fighting between the SOI and U.S. troops has broken out for the first time. Why the sarcasm?

Yes, open fighting between the SOI and U.S. troops has broken out for the first time. Why the sarcasm?

You're confident that fighters from the Sons of Iraq never fought US troops in the past? (I'll grant you that they haven't fought US troops under the banner Sons of Iraq, if that's what you think the evidence shows. But the individuals who make up the Sons of Iraq?)

"(I'll grant you that they haven't fought US troops under the banner Sons of Iraq, if that's what you think the evidence shows. But the individuals who make up the Sons of Iraq?)"

No, and since everyone knows the "Sons of Iraq" are made up largely of former Sunni insurgents, I don't grasp what point you're making, I'm afraid. What's your point here?

And any chance of answering the questions I've asked? (No obligation, of course, but I'm thinking maybe some others might also be interested.)

No, and since everyone knows the "Sons of Iraq" are made up largely of former Sunni insurgents, I don't grasp what point you're making, I'm afraid. What's your point here?

Well, that is my point. Saying that US troops have never engaged the SOI, as you did at 9:23 am OWT (Obsidian Wings Time) this morning, doesn't really say much.

And any chance of answering the questions I've asked? (No obligation, of course, but I'm thinking maybe some others might also be interested.)

Which questions are those? I mean, I didn't follow your links but I read about the pitched battle. It's clearly not the greatest situation -- particularly the potential that we'll turn on former allies to support the current Iraqi government. But it's not clear that we are there yet. Patience is unwarranted in my view.

I meant to write: "Patience is warranted in my view."

(My original draft was "Panic is unwarranted ..."; replaced panic with patience, but didn't fix the unwarranted.)

"Saying that US troops have never engaged the SOI, as you did at 9:23 am OWT (Obsidian Wings Time) this morning, doesn't really say much."

I have to disagree. The fact is that the whole SOI phenom was a product of: a) the initiative of the Iraqis involved; and b) that the American leadership became wise enough to take them up on it and take advantage of their willingness, and fund them, etc.

But the Iraqi government, led by Shiites, has, of course, barely touched the SOI with a ten foot pole.

The fact that the SOI has begun to reach the breaking point, and that violence is up again (as you know if you read my links), and that the organized SOI has reached the point of fighting breaking out against Americans and Iraqi government troops, is entirely significant.

"Which questions are those?"

To accomplish what, specifically? I don't notice you bothering to mention a goal here, Von, or any kind of benchmarks or exit strategy. What, exactly, are McCain's statements on those? (Or yours, at least?)

[...]

What are you and McCain proposing the 40,000 troups do as regards "US concerns regarding Pakistan," exactly?

Mind, the latter assertion you made is that 40,000 more U.S. troops are needed to deal with "US concerns regarding Pakistan."

Not Afghanistan. So I'm really wondering what those 40,000 troops are going to do about Pakistan, to emphasize just one of your points. Invade? Shake their fists angrily?

But I'd also like to know, as I've said, what your definition, and McCain's definition, of "victory" and "success" is. Mind, McCain specifically says it isn't enough to do counter-terrorism. We've got to defeat narcotics trafficking, and corruption, among other easy tasks. But beyond that, what constitutes "victory" in Afghanistan: well, what do you think? And what do you think McCain thinks?

Thanks for responding.

Crap, forgot to preview! Sorry!

"I mean, I didn't follow your links"

That makes conversation difficult.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad