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The Iraqi insurgency
June 16, 2006 10:52 AM   Subscribe

IraqFilter: Who is the US fighting in Iraq? A February 2006 report from the International Crisis Group which provides a detailed look at the evolution of the insurgency, and describes its four main groups: Tandhim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (recently decapitated), Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-’Iraq, and al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-’Iraqiya. In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse [particularly their websites], reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising.
posted by russilwvong (49 comments total)

 
Isn't the whole point that the US isn't in it to win? As long as the US is in place until the Iraq government can hold its own, then our retreat is immaterial...
posted by ewkpates at 11:06 AM on June 16, 2006


Did you read the article?
posted by russilwvong at 11:10 AM on June 16, 2006


...And Viet Nam and China are best buddies because they're both Oriental and both communist. Seems the people in charge never really want to pay attention to reality, just a dumbed-down version of it.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:12 AM on June 16, 2006


Sun Tzu: Know your enemy.

George Bush: Eh, they're all terrorist ragheads.
posted by kgasmart at 11:16 AM on June 16, 2006


Sun Tzu: Know your enemy.

George Bush: I've met the enemy, and he is us.

(Apologies to Walt Kelly.)
posted by blucevalo at 11:28 AM on June 16, 2006


Give a gun to a "stupid idiot" (no pleonasm in this case) and you get a Marine
posted by zouhair at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2006


classy
posted by Pacheco at 11:38 AM on June 16, 2006


Did you read the article?

I did not. But from your FPP this mirrors what Anthony Shadid said in Night Draws Near. Basically, the US has no idea who it is fighting. But more significantly, the Iraqi's don't either. There are so many layers, that when a bomb goes off, it becomes a sport among the locals (and victims) to guess who might have done it and why. This is a culture of tribal blood feud and revenge - for any reason at all. Iraqi culture became very violent in the aftermath of the Iraq-Iran war, which was per capita worse than WWI and WWII combined - hard to grasp the trauma that has had in such a short period of time. That's just one layer to examine - there are many others, but one thing you never hear people talk about is "war trauma", "Belfast syndrome" and any number of psychological explanations.
posted by stbalbach at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2006


Who is the US fighting in Iraq?

Those who oppose Dear Leader (treasonous bastards) and victory by "turning the corner" photo-ops?
posted by nofundy at 12:01 PM on June 16, 2006



“For the U.S. to ignore, or fail to fully take into account, the insurgents’ discourse – at a time when they are paying close attention to what Washington is saying – is to wage the struggle with one hand tied behind its back.”

Nah, I think we should send Ollie North out there presenting with his left hand another gooey melted chocolate cake, mid-day, on a blazing desert airport tarmac, during Rammadan. Yeah, that’ll win ‘em over.

“For now virtually all adhere publicly to a blend of Salafism and patriotism, diluting distinctions between foreign jihadis and Iraqi combatants – though that unity is unlikely to outlast the occupation.”

Predictable.

“Optimism stems from a conviction the legitimacy of jihad is now beyond doubt, institutions established under the occupation are fragile and irreparably illegitimate, and the war of attrition against U.S. forces is succeeding.”

Predictable.


“Halt recourse to the most questionable types of practices, including torture and extraordinary methods of interrogation and confinement, collective punishment and extrajudicial killings.”

Ya think?

The main problem with all these suggestions is this they are predicated on a rational, informed opinon and common sense.
All of them (mission specific aside) have been covered in the Marine Corps Small Wars Manual.

I mean “Closely monitor, control and, if necessary, punish the behaviour of security forces”? What a wacky idea.

/ fuck you zouhair
posted by Smedleyman at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2006


this is a good post, but am I the only one here who is at this point totally maxed out on Iraq? I mean, there's no diplomacy, no (international) politics, certainly no policy there -- it's only a body count. and a massive DC brawl trying to figure out how to make political hay out of it in November
posted by matteo at 12:30 PM on June 16, 2006


Agree with Smedleyman. Also, they write about the insurgency's interest in presenting itself as a national struggle, yet still assume that the US simply doesn't know who it is fighting; as if there's no benefit in painting the insurgency as a foreign or unpopular force meddling in Iraqi affairs.. They also claim the US is not reading what the insurgency is writing, but later mention its various actions to close their internet websites and so on, so clearly they are taking notice. Ignoring the first and last page, details about insurgency communications and tactics was an interesting read.
posted by romanb at 12:55 PM on June 16, 2006


matteo: am I the only one here who is at this point totally maxed out on Iraq? I mean, there's no diplomacy, no (international) politics, certainly no policy there -- it's only a body count. and a massive DC brawl trying to figure out how to make political hay out of it in November

Sure, we've gone over the US side ad infinitum, but I thought the report was interesting because it gives the insurgents' view.

romanb: --still assume that the US simply doesn't know who it is fighting

The US public certainly doesn't know. Has anyone here heard of any of the four main insurgent groups besides al-Qaida in Iraq? What are their aims? What's their strategy?

If there's military commanders on the ground in Iraq who know this kind of stuff, it hasn't percolated into the public debate back in the US.
posted by russilwvong at 1:13 PM on June 16, 2006


I find this report to be credible.

I wonder what percentage of US commanders are aware of the nature of the resistance as opposed to the spoon-fed FoxNews view that it is Al Qaeda and Saddamists.

Meanwhile at the White House, I'm pretty certain his advisers are more focused on feeding him phraseology and less on feeding him understanding. Given his difficulty reciting talking points, their approach makes sense.

So when will something change? I am guessing one of 3 things:
- a tragic catastrophe on a US base -- water poisoning or something like that to spur the Beirut-like withdrawal. I give it a 10% chance of happening
- another attack on US soil that diverts our attention to Pakistan, Russia, or Korea. One of the nuclear powers. I give this a 10% chance of happening
- the 2009 election where finally the new president can finally permit a re-thinking of Iraq. 70% chance
- The other 10%: a war somewhere else. some other global event. etc.

What do I think the most likely outcome? The US can't say it, but in 2010 we will finally allow Iraq to face the painful process of partitioning.
posted by surplus at 1:16 PM on June 16, 2006


"The US public certainly doesn't know. Has anyone here heard of any of the four main insurgent groups besides al-Qaida in Iraq? What are their aims? What's their strategy?"

Which shows, russilwvong, that the paper's suggestion that the US have "an anti-insurgency approach primarily focused
on reducing the insurgents’ perceived legitimacy" is clearly working, atleast in one instance. The US public does have an idea of what the insurgency is, which is what they are told they are: a bunch of Islamofascists, foreigners, and Saddam loyalists. Either weak or powerful but beatable, depending on the news of the day.
posted by romanb at 1:28 PM on June 16, 2006


- the 2009 election where finally the new president can finally permit a re-thinking of Iraq. 70% chance

Don't see it. Whomever the Republican nominee is - McCain? - he won't be able to distance himself from the current, failed policy, because that would mean admitting it is a failed policy - and Republicans are never going to admit their mistakes.

The Democratic nominee might provide a viable alternative, but the campaign is going to be so ugly - with accusations about Democrats being cut-and-runners, etc - that we cannot extricate ourselves from Iraq.
posted by kgasmart at 1:42 PM on June 16, 2006


romanb: Which shows, russilwvong, that the paper's suggestion that the US have "an anti-insurgency approach primarily focused on reducing the insurgents’ perceived legitimacy" is clearly working, at least in one instance.

They meant in Iraq, not in the US.

The US can't fight the war successfully if it doesn't know who the enemy is. And I would guess that US policymakers are not much better informed than the US public. Al Franken:
David Phillips, a former State Department official, tells the story in his book, 'Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco'. Phillips was in charge of the Democratic Principles Working Group of the Future of Iraq Project, where he convened a variety of Iraqi exiles to envision how Iraq would be governed after the fall of Saddam. The most prominent exile in the group was Brandeis professor Kanan Makiya, one of Ahmed Chalabi's chief deputies. Makiya was the man who had famously told Bush that Americans would be greeted in Iraq with sweets and flowers. In late January 2003, less than eight weeks before the war began, Phillips wrote:
Kanan was invited to watch the Super Bowl at the White House; he told me later that he had to explain to the President of the United States the differences between Arab Shi'a, Arab Sunnis, and Kurds.
I talked to David Phillips over breakfast and asked what Makiya had meant by this. Did he mean that Bush didn't understand the fine points of their cultural and religious differences? No.

PHILLIPS: What Makiya told me was that he didn't know there was a difference. That among Iraqis there were Arab Shia, Arab Sunni, and Kurds.

ME: He didn't know that there existed those three groups?

PHILLIPS: That's right. This is pretty basic. You're going to go to war in a country, you should know who lives there.
I mean, hell, I knew that, and I'm just some Canadian computer programmer! Doesn't Bush bother to read his briefing papers?

If Bush had a less autocratic style ("I'm the decider"), his ignorance might not have been so damaging.
posted by russilwvong at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


We are fighting truth, justice, and the American way in Iraq, and, so far, Republican war profiteers are winning.
posted by BillyElmore at 2:28 PM on June 16, 2006


Thanks for the article russil.

Maybe we could put this info onto a DVD to play for the Prez and see if any of it sticks.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 2:30 PM on June 16, 2006


Apparently it was on Nightline. (I haven't watched it.) There you go, George.

Alas, if the President doesn't read newspapers, I doubt he reads MetaFilter.
posted by russilwvong at 3:16 PM on June 16, 2006


Excellent post.

To support any further extended occupation of Iraq is to support the needless deaths of American troops (and many, many more Iraqi civilians, but I don't think most Americans really care about that).
posted by bardic at 3:39 PM on June 16, 2006


Iraq is more than Iraq. After the hopefully smoother next Iraqi elections, the US will move into its strategic goal, to set up a Command in Iraq on a par with CENTCOM.

There will still be a Lieutenant General in charge of US forces in Iraq, proper. But there will then be a General (4-star) in charge of this new Command. The Command will most likely cover the ME, possibly Central Asia, and NE and E Africa, and the relative seas and waterways.

It will be set up with a Status of Forces agreement, as was used in Germany post-WWII. The US forces will then almost exclusively stay on the very large bases now being built, no longer engaging in actions against hostile forces in country.

The purpose for doing this is that Iraq is currently one of the world's top strategic locations, right in the middle of where the US may wish to force-project in the future.

The opportunity provided by increased democritization in the region may even create the possible genesis of a Middle East Common Market, based on the European Common Market. The explosive economic benefits to the entire region may strongly encourage further democritization with the prospect of prosperity.

With the creation of the "new" Iraq, J. Paul Bremer set up their banking, insurance, stock market and financial sector with the very best international systems known, yet without the historical baggage those systems are saddled with.

This means that once security is established, Iraq shows prospects for an economic recovery faster than was Japan's in the post-WWII era.

Nothing is guaranteed, however, as a democratic Iraq is seen as a direct threat to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Turkey, all of whom may be inclined to interfere with intent to disrupt Iraq's development.

In turn, Iraq could be destabilized by the collapse and partitioning of Iran. Possibly gaining the Iranian Arabic region, but losing a unified Iraqi-Iranian Kurdistan to be its own independent country.

Given all of these strategic possibilities, a relatively small insurgency that will progressively fight only Iraqi military and police, is of little consequence to the big picture.

In the near future, I anticipate the Sunni insurgency will take a back seat to possible Shiite trouble, supported and stimulated by Iran through their Iraqi proxies. But that will be a contest of wills between pan-Shiites and Iraqi nationalist Shiites.
posted by kablam at 3:41 PM on June 16, 2006


Batshitinsane as usual, kablam. I really don't even know where to begin. But let's make a bet--if you or I or any American is driving an Iraqi-made car or owns an Iraqi-made TV set in 30 years, I'm a big stupidhead and you're not the occupation apologist you look like (c'mon man, even the truest believers among the neo-cons think Bremer was a moron. I mean, call me crazy, but my stock broker thinks buying oil futures on the Baghdad market is not the thing that'll pay my kid's college tuition. Oh, wait, there is no functioning Iraqi market. . . .)

Shorter version--WTF are you talking about?
posted by bardic at 3:54 PM on June 16, 2006


bardic

But if you keep repeating that things are going well and if you can get talking heads on Fox News to say it and Krauthammer and the rest to go along, and talk radio guys to say it, you don't need any actual evidence or facts to back you up. The mere repeating of it will ensure that people like kablam will believe it and repeat it to their like-minded buddies, and pretty soon another election will have been won, allowing another cycle of looting and pocket lining for the Repubs.

Do you understand now?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:24 PM on June 16, 2006


Who is the US fighting in Iraq?

Ourselves.
posted by Relay at 4:36 PM on June 16, 2006


Who is the US fighting in Iraq?
Ourselves.


I could kick my own ass. I'm sure as hell not going to take any lip from me. But I should watch it, I don't look like much, but I'm wiry.

/good post btw russilwvong
posted by Smedleyman at 4:46 PM on June 16, 2006


Apparently it was on Nightline. (I haven't watched it.) There you go, George.

Alas, if the President doesn't read newspapers, I doubt he reads MetaFilter.


He only watches Fox.

That's the problem right there.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 5:15 PM on June 16, 2006


"Who is the US fighting in Iraq?"

Whoever we have to, so that, for $320 billion and ~2500 dead Americans, the President of the United States can sneak into Baghdad on pointless day trips, whenever the spirit of freedom moves him. That was such a surrealistic piece of anti-apologist theatre, I thought I'd go nuts laughing. But even more amazingly, much of the world apparently took it as straight news. Now that's batshitinsane.
posted by paulsc at 6:11 PM on June 16, 2006


Bush, Rumsfield and Cheney just want to make the world a better place. Especially for the poor suppressed Iraquis that were living under Saddam. They're good-hearted men that care about Muslim world. Why can't you all see that? Don't you know that Haliburton mails a Christmas card with a $20 bill inside to every poor child around the world.
posted by disgruntled at 6:15 PM on June 16, 2006




It's actually refreshing to read such agonized denial now and then. The shrieking refusal to accept any reality other than the contrived nonsense that is believed by you as a religion, and the slow, rhymical bashing of your faces against the concrete wall, like children who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorders.

You are losing your edge, though. Nobody called me a Nazi or a fascist in their first response. Could it be the first inkling of self-doubt? The glimmer of a realization that you really never had a clue what was going on beyond the prevarications of the New York Times? That you foolishly believed the bitter and burning hatred of those denied a chance to re-live the halcyon days of their imagined 1960s nostalgic youth?

Now, whose fault will it be when the democratic radicals actually lose seats in the upcoming elections? Will it be Karl Rove's fault? Some invisible plot to "steal" yet another election? Space aliens?

Your collective zeitgeist has collapsed. Your reality is doomed. You screwed up and believed them.
posted by kablam at 8:51 PM on June 16, 2006


Man, this just keeps getting better and better with the Tom Clancy on Crack milporn scifi shit ! Comedy gold !

However, one must note that predicting the inevitability that things can and will get unimaginably worse has proven far more accurate so far.
The situation for American troops may be even more precarious. While our forces are still able to carry out aggressive patrolling, it nets little except to increase popular hostility, which, of course, makes it yet easier for the various insurgents and guerrilla groups to operate against us. It appears that in many places our people may have simply hunkered down to stay out of trouble. The vast construction projects of a few years ago are all but closed down, too, as the American forces appear to be doing less and less of anything but holding on and holding out.

The shortage of troops, which three years ago was a restraining factor, has become a potential disaster, with the ever-rising level of hostility to the American presence. To stay the course, to win, to realize our objectives, we need a half-million soldiers to pacify that country. If the force levels remain the same for another year and a half, this small, exhausted and overused American force may become so unglued that staying in Iraq will be come impossible. There may be no choice but retreat.

No, that's wrong. There is another choice. Americans can try to make up for their lack of numbers with firepower. Blow what's left of the country to smithereens. The political effects would be unspeakable and the ground troops might well still have to be extracted from their plight...

Air evacuation would mean abandoning billions of dollars of equipment. There is no seaport troops could get to, so the only way out of Iraq would be that same desert highway to Kuwait where fifteen years ago the American Air Force destroyed Saddam Hussein's army.

Dunkirk in the desert.
Or we could still nuke Iran. Or supersize our order and get both. Oh, well, look on the birght side, hope for the not worst.

am I the only one here who is at this point totally maxed out on Iraq?

Picture Edvard Munch's The Scream wearing headphones with a tape loop of Brando as Kurtz mumbling The horror, the horror... left channel and Homer Simpson going Ah ! What're ya gonna do ? on the right.
posted by y2karl at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2006


The U.S. isn't losing the war because it "doesn't know its enemy", it's losing because Iraqis are not welcoming, and they have enough bullets, cell phones, explosive materials, and men. The mistake the authors make here is that they try to come up with obvious 'recommendations' and describe how the U.S. can win the war by playing nice, oh if only they could non-violently violently control a country.

The authors claim that the U.S. does not take the insurgency seriously enough, but it is actually them who do just that. The reason the U.S. can't control Iraq is because Iraqi technology, intelligence, and weaponry is sophisticated enough to harass American forces, not because the U.S. doesn't know enough who it's fighting, and that it could sweep things up with just the right plan to convince the Iraqis that they're there to help, those gullible Iraqis.

The text never makes a connection showing that the U.S. doesn't take into account insurgent communication besides that the U.S. authorities don't acknowledge *publicly* the growing strength and sophistication of the insurgency, something the authorities wouldn't do anyway, for their own survival. If I remember the CIA has written enough documents acknowledging the gloomy situation of the war, so it's not that they don't know how strong the insurgency actually is; they see it everyday. It's been in the news, the administration's push to have those documents made more positive. Is it because they refuse to see the situation as it is, or because they know how much it affects public perception of the war?

as stated on the first page, the war will be won "in the court of public opinion as on any battlefield. The U.S. administration faces an increasingly skeptical domestic audience". They later mention the insurgency's interest in influencing US and western public opinion on the nature and strength of the insurgency. And so as I said, the US authorities' strategy is working in *one* instance, which is arguably the most important one by their likely standards. They will lose that too, but it's nothing they can control.
posted by romanb at 10:07 PM on June 16, 2006


Bremer set up their banking, insurance, stock market and financial sector with the very best international systems known

Sorry, no. Bremer initially attempted to unilaterally impose a radically extreme version of American-style free-market capitalism upon the Iraqi economy, basically a right-wing wet-dream of economic ideology coupled with installing US corporate control of the 'commanding heights' of the country's economy.

Under his "Trade Liberalization Policy", the borders were thrown open to unlimited importation, contributing to collapse of in many sectors of Iraq's domestic industry. The "Foreign Direct Investment Law" allowed immediate 100 percent foreign privatization in all economic sectors in the country [aside from oil and gas], and the unimpeded removal of all profits out of Iraq without any oversight or taxation. Bremer also imposed the infamous 'flat tax' which only applied to Iraqis and those foreign entities unaffiliated with the Coalition... that's right, Halliburton didn't have to pay anything into the country's coffers. So Bremer slashes domestic business protections that nurture indigenous capacity building, increases unemployment [even before firing the Iraqi Army], saddles the citizenry with a regressive taxation scheme, and tries to turn over the foundations of the country's economy to US corporate raiding of whatever residual value is left.

Not quite the 'best international systems' to transition Iraq from a heavily state-directed economy to a relatively open and liberalized one... but perfect if your goal is to allow corporate cronies to loot the country's remaining wealth and establish a ideological free-market Frankenstein experiment as quickly as possible with an economic 'shock and awe' to mirror the military one.
posted by SenshiNeko at 10:56 PM on June 16, 2006




kablam: Given all of these strategic possibilities, a relatively small insurgency that will progressively fight only Iraqi military and police, is of little consequence to the big picture.

Did you read the article?

romanb: The mistake the authors make here is that they try to come up with obvious 'recommendations' and describe how the U.S. can win the war by playing nice, oh if only they could non-violently violently control a country.

The main point of the report is to provide a more detailed and realistic picture of the insurgency, not to provide a blueprint for winning the war. (ICG reports always includes recommendations to policymakers, often quite specific, but the recommendations in this particular report are quite vague and general--it's not like there's some way to win the war that nobody's thought of.)

If I remember the CIA has written enough documents acknowledging the gloomy situation of the war, so it's not that they don't know how strong the insurgency actually is; they see it everyday. It's been in the news, the administration's push to have those documents made more positive. Is it because they refuse to see the situation as it is, or because they know how much it affects public perception of the war?

Since we're talking about internal reports, not public reports, I'm guessing the former: they refuse to see the situation as it is. It's not that US policymakers know the score and are just trying to maintain public support for the war; they appear to regard people who give them bad news as defeatists and traitors.
The New York Times and others have reported that in 2003, the CIA station chief in Baghdad authored several special field reports that offered extremely negative assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq—assessments that later proved to be accurate. The field reports, known as “Aardwolfs,” were angrily rejected by the White House. Their author—who I'm told was a highly regarded agency veteran named Gerry Meyer—was soon pushed out of the CIA, in part because his reporting angered the See No Evil crowd within the Bush administration. “He was a good guy,” one recently retired CIA official said of Meyer, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.”

In 2004 Meyer was replaced with a new CIA station chief in Baghdad, who that year filed six Aardwolfs, which, sources told me, were collectively as pessimistic about the situation in Iraq as the ones sent by his predecessor. The station chief finished his assignment in December 2004; he was not fired, but according to one source is now “a pariah within the system.” Three other former intelligence officials gave me virtually identical accounts, with one saying the ex–station chief was “treated like shit” and “farmed out.” (I was given the former station chief's name and current position, but I am not publishing the information because he is still employed by the CIA.)

As has been the case with other people deemed to be insufficiently loyal, the White House went fishing for dirt on the two station chiefs, including information on their political affiliations. “I spent 30 years at the CIA,” said one former official, “and no one was ever interested in knowing whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. That changed with this administration. Now you have loyalty tests.”

The fate of those two station chiefs had a predictable effect. In 2005, I'm told, the Baghdad station chief filed but a single Aardwolf. The report, which one person told me was widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” asserted that the United States was winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear; at the end of his tour, that Station Chief was given a plum assignment. “This is a time of war,” said one former intelligence official. “Every day American kids are getting killed over there. We need steady, focused reporting [from Baghdad] but no one is willing to speak out since they know they'll get shot down.”
posted by russilwvong at 11:09 PM on June 16, 2006


The Emperor must not be told night is coming.
His armies are chasing shadows,
Arresting whippoorwills and hermit thrushes
And setting towns and villages on fire.

In the capital, they go around confiscating
Clocks and watches, burning heretics,
And painting the sunrise over the rooftops
While the people wish each other good morning.

The rooster brought in chains is crowing,
The flowers in the garden have been made to stay open,
And still dark stains appear on palace floors
Which no amount of scrubbing can wipe away.

--Charles Simic, The Lights Are On Everywhere
posted by russilwvong at 11:10 PM on June 16, 2006


"Give a gun to a "stupid idiot" (no pleonasm in this case) and you get a Marine" - posted by zouhair

"Your collective zeitgeist has collapsed. Your reality is doomed. You screwed up and believed them." - posted by kablam

I'm seriously rethinking my position as a centrist. You get it in stereo. It just seems so darn comfortable being a fanatic.


"The main point of the report is to provide a more detailed and realistic picture of the insurgency" - russilwvong

I'm with you on some of this. The politicizing of intelligence is crippling.

But some folks have their agenda, some folks have their anti-agenda, meanwhile the people who said "Uh, we should really do some of 'x,y,z' here" from the outset of the war were ignored and will continue to be ignored.

There's no percentage in ignoring your feedback. It's like turning up the radio so you don't hear the grinding noises coming from the engine which your mechanic told you might happen (so you found another mechanic, who would tell you what you want to hear)

There used to be this device we used to train with in football. It's like a big spring-mounted blockade with flaps on either side of a narrow entrance. I forgot what it's called.
Anyway, if you didn't run at the thing and hit it hard, you got stuck. And it wasn't pleasant.

That's kinda where the U.S. is right now. Not running full tilt, not backing off.
And the guys who are doing the running are stuck in it.
Now I grant that's simplistic. And one could argue there's a bed of nails or something on the other side so we shouldn't run full tilt.
But a small pussyfooting error is sometimes worse than fucking up really good so you actually learn something from it. Sometimes.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2006


Smedleyman: If you want to be centrist, then you should rely on objective criteria for success or failure. In turn this requires definition to what success and failure mean.

By my lights, success means that the military administration of Iraq has been turned over to Iraqis, not that "the troops have come home." This is an important distinction. More and more of Iraq is being turned over to a force approaching 200,000 Iraqi police and military, requiring less participation by the US military. If the troops are not fighting, then they can perform those regional tasks I detailed above.

In turn, failure would mean that Iraq has an unstable and undemocratic government, that its military and police could not effectively function, that Iraqis, rather than foreigners, were in increasing numbers occupying and destabilizing more of the country, rather than less. And finally, that outside forces were able to lend significant military support in an effort to cause the nation to collapse.

So, using objective criteria, not vitreol, opinion pieces, or terribly partisan bickering, what conclusions would you reach about the dynamic state of affairs in Iraq?
posted by kablam at 2:11 PM on June 17, 2006


Baghdad - A car bomb struck an Iraqi police checkpoint in a Shi'ite area southwest of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding 38, police said.

Baghdad - A car bomb targeting a police patrol in Baghdad's southern Dora district killed one policeman and wounded four others, a police source said.

Baghdad - A bomb on a minibus killed four people and wounded 14 in eastern Baghdad, a police source said.

Baghdad - A car bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four people, including three police commandos, in eastern Baghdad, police said.

Mahmudiya - A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint killed seven people and wounded 15 in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of the capital, police said.

Baghdad - A car bomb targeting Iraqi army and police forces in Baghdad killed 11 people, including an Iraqi soldier, and wounded 15, police sources said...
Some but by no means not all of today's entries from Reuters's Factbox: Developments in Iraq on June 17

See also
While the security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, there are further indications of the slide towards open insurgency in Afghanistan. The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) is still meant to be taking control of all substantive military operations from the United States, thus enabling the Pentagon to withdraw several thousand troops from the country. Amid conflicting estimates, the intention seems to have been to evacuate around 4,000 troops in the coming months, taking the US forces in the country down to perhaps 15,000 from the current figure of close to 20,000.

Instead, and quite extraordinarily, the reverse is happeningjust as Nato member-states feed in several thousand more troops for Isaf, the United States is adding thousands more to its own contingent. In all, there will be well over 30,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan by mid-summer 2006--the largest number since the war began nearly five years ago.

Furthermore, the evidence of the past few weeks indicates that Taliban militia groups have hugely increased in confidence, taking over some districts and even engaging foreign troops in large groups of fifty-strong or more (rather than in units of fewer than ten, as formerly). It is also likely that as they permeate more districts across the south and east of the country they will tend to identify the weaker and less well-trained elements of the Isaf military, isolating them for specific attack and further complicating the whole Isaf stance...
A Tale of Two Insurgencies
posted by y2karl at 4:24 PM on June 17, 2006


...Visits to detention centers in southern Iraq in recent months indicated they are often badly overcrowded and unsanitary. At the Tesfirat prison in Najaf last October, 122 prisoners were packed into cells designed for a maximum of 60, according to Lt. Jassim Juwad, the prison officer in charge. A prison maintained by police commandos in Hilla and designed for 150 inmates housed 400 as recently as April. Inmates at both locations had been incarcerated for up to 18 months without trial.

On Saturday, a group of parliament members paid a surprise visit to a detention facility run by the Interior Ministry in Baqubah, north of Baghdad. "We have found terrible violations of the law," said Muhammed al-Dayni, a Sunni parliament member who said as many as 120 detainees were packed into a 35-by-20-foot cell. "They told us that they've been raped," Dayni said. "Their families were called in and tortured to force the detainees to testify against other people."

"The detention facilities of the ministries of Defense and Interior are places for the most brutal human rights abuse," he added.

Despite broad U.S. efforts to encourage the Iraqi government to improve conditions in prisons, the problem of militia control could prove particularly intractable. Shiite militias such as the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army, loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, are backed by dozens of members of parliament whose political parties run the armed groups.

"You can't even talk to the militias, because they are the government," Yei said. "They have ministers on their side."
Shiite Militias Control Prisons, Official Says
posted by y2karl at 4:33 PM on June 17, 2006


..."My question to the panel is, What is the path to success in Iraq?"

There was a damburst of laughter in the audience, then the scholars took it on, one by one. The first, Stephen Walt of Harvard, said "This was a huge strategic blunder, there are no attractive plans forward." The greatest danger—an international conflict in Iraq—would be there no matter when we left. The next man, Robert Art of Brandeis, said, he thought it was extremely important for America's image in the Arab world not to have permanent bases in Iraq.

The last one to speak was the one who had used the word "folly" in the program: John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. Mearsheimer is 58. He told the audience that when he was a teenager, he had enlisted in the Army. Then he'd spent 1966-1970 at West Point. Then he said this:

I remember once in English class we read Albert Camus's book The Plague. I didn't know what The Plague was about or why we were reading it. But afterwards the instructor explained to us that The Plague was being read because of the Vietnam War. What Camus was saying in The Plague was that the plague came and went of its own accord. All sorts of minions ran around trying to deal with the plague, and they operated under the illusion that they could affect the plague one way or another. But the plague operated on its own schedule. That is what we were told was going on in Vietnam. Every time I look at the situation in Iraq today, I think of Vietnam, and I think of The Plague, and I just don't think there's very much we can do at this point. It is just out of our hands. There are forces that we don't have control over that are at play, and will determine the outcome of this one. I understand that's very hard for Americans to understand, because Americans believe that they can shape the world in their interests.
But I learned during the Vietnam years when I was a kid at West Point, that there are some things in the world that you just don't control, and I think that's where we're at in Iraq.


The panel was over. For a moment or two there was stunned silence, and then applause—at once polite, sustained and thunderous.
At U.S. Naval War College, Scholar Likens Iraq to Plague
posted by y2karl at 5:49 PM on June 17, 2006


So the rape rooms are back? Wonderful.
posted by homunculus at 7:49 PM on June 17, 2006






"If you want to be centrist, then you should rely on objective criteria for
success or failure."

I would assume everyone believes their criteria is objective.


"By my lights, success means that the military administration of Iraq has been
turned over to Iraqis, not that "the troops have come home.""

Apparently your criteria doesn't line up with the actions of this administration.

Not their statements - their actions.

"So, using objective criteria, not vitreol, opinion pieces, or
terribly partisan bickering, what conclusions would you reach about the dynamic state of affairs in Iraq?" - posted by kablam

None. I make no assumptions. Any opinion I have concerning the situation would be based on a military doctrine which seems to have been abandoned.
I've long said dealing with and confronting, not necessarily conflicting with any group, even extremists, even terrorists, is a proven, useful tactic.
I don't see that here. Which leads me to question not only what the actual strategy is, but if there is a strategy other
than sit on the situation.
The actions support that. This is as fundamental as observing a fighter and saying "He's trained in Tae Kwan Do" or some such.
The moves you use form a discernable pattern. The actions I've observed don't go much beyond just being in the neighborhood and weathering the storm. Apparently something is going on politically, but I wouldn't know it because the administration hasn't been that forthcoming about what they are doing to reach their stated goals other than kicking ass in general.

My overall opinion on the state of affairs in Iraq is predicated on the lies the administration used to put us in the situation.

Therefore - it can turn out wonderful or it could be the worst disaster in our history; either outcome is irrelevant as it regards the political situation to which I was referring (marines are morans/teh liberals suck) because the will of
the American people was subverted or beguiled in the first place. There has been more than enough objective criteria to substantiate this opinion.

Failure to me in Iraq doesn't matter to me as much as failure of the democratic process here at home.
And even a stellar performance in forming and stabilizing an Iraqi government, even putting the 'friendly to the U.S.' cherry on top (which would be just fine by me) - doesn't retroactively justify committing troops to war under false pretenses.

Not to mention that our continued responsibility is in question - particularly under a new administration. So 2 years after we're gone Iraq starts torturing people again - is that our problem? Do we get involved again?
There are a whole slew of issues that go with nation building that conservatives generally oppose for the same reasons they have traditionally followed a foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.

William F. Buckley Jr likened this to the intervention under Wilson: "...it over-stretches our power (and) takes insufficient account of the institutional requirements for genuine reform, to simply impose a constitution on Iraq or anybody else..."

It's always those tricky 'institutional requirements' innit?
You can't just shoot at those.
Now, I do think some intervention is warranted when our security is at stake, but that goes back to the initial premise of the war - that it somehow was. Which is why I favored it initially. 'Cause maybe we dropped the ball in dealing with the post-Soviets and something got lost. (But nope, did our job there)

And whether there were mistakes in intelligence or what have you also don't matter.
I would not take that kind of excuse from a subordinate, I certainly will not tolerate it from (ostensibly) leadership.

The hope now is to undo the damage. That is best done by fair and honorable treatment of the people of Iraq which would lead to the outcomes you describe.
That may mean more casualties, but that cause at least is worth it. Because it means a lasting peace.

zouhair is an irrational prick - but one has to question
(barring some kind of mental illness of course) why?

As in - why do the 'insurgents' feel as they do? What are their motivations?
(Some guy wrote something about "soaking in" to the enemy some time ago - probably wasn't an important book on strategy or anything)

For example one could argue that Hitler came to power at least in part because of the treatment by the allies of Germany after WWI.
The German people would have had less a need for nationalism if the peace had been more fair and honorable.

Same thing here.

Dominance is fine in the field, but it's not a long range strategy. Nor is victory achieved by military force alone (unless genocide is on the table, and I'm not yet cynical enough to believe the American people will stand for that bar stool generals aside.)

-------------------------

I disagree with Mearsheimer's take y2karl. despair, like denial, is another form of feigned helplessness people use so they themselves don't have to do anything about
the problem. I suspect some folks oppose the war, but don't feel any direct affects and in fact may secretly believe they are profiting from it (gas prices could be much higher, maybe) but we in fact do have lots we can do about it. Those answers don't have to do with variations in the use of force however. There are methods other than force.

Talking works pretty well. But who's listening? (To paraphrase Megadeth).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:27 PM on June 18, 2006


Three outcomes:

1. The US stays forever, and things go on they way they are.
2. The US leaves, and there is a civil war, where the best financed and most ruthless side wins.
3. The US leaves, and the new government is strong enough to control the violence minority and organized enough to maintain the electoral process.

What does it matter who the violent minority is? So what the US doesn't know who its fighting. That's even begging the question... the US isn't fighting anyone... the US is fighting everyone involved in violent criminal activity in Iraq. With no police, no jobs, no social institutions and no social fabric... well, you do the math.
posted by ewkpates at 6:11 AM on June 19, 2006




Smedleyman: Failure to me in Iraq doesn't matter to me as much as failure of the democratic process here at home.

Agreed. Failure in Iraq may be unavoidable at this point. But the US has lost wars before (see Vietnam). The fact that Bush and his defenders are arguing that he doesn't need to obey laws passed by Congress--violating the whole checks-and-balances approach that the nation was founded on--is even more alarming.

Which leads me to question not only what the actual strategy is, but if there is a strategy other than sit on the situation.

Benjamin and Simon describe it like this: It would emphasize Iraqiization--that is, the rapid training and deployment of Iraqi security forces to maintain order; the formation of a predominantly Kurdish and Shiite military alliance against the Sunni rejectionists; the gradual drawdown of large U.S. military formations, first to cantonments to reduce their visibility and exposure to attack, and then out of the country, leaving a much smaller number of American troops in an advisory capacity.
posted by russilwvong at 5:12 PM on June 20, 2006


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