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Waiting for the New Way Forward
June 24, 2008 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Fables of the Reconstruction. According to a new GAO report [PDF of full report], the surge has resulted in security gains and reduced violence in Iraq, but the political goals the surge was supposed to buy time for mostly haven't happened.

From the GAO report:
  • The Department of Defense reported in March 2008 that the number of Iraqi units capable of performing operations without U.S. assistance has remained at about 10 percent.
  • Between 2005 and 2007, Iraq spent only 24 percent of the $27 billion it budgeted for its own reconstruction efforts. More specifically, Iraq's central ministries, responsible for security and essential services, spent only 11 percent of their capital investment budgets in 2007--down from similarly low rates of 14 and 13 percent in the 2 prior years.
  • Since 2003, the United States has provided more than $20 billion to develop Iraqi security forces
  • Although oil production has improved for short periods, the May 2008 production level of about 2.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) was below the U.S. goal of 3 mbpd.
  • The daily supply of electricity met only about half of demand in early May 2008.
Here's what President Bush said the surge would accomplish, with updates:

"To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November." That didn't happen. The Iraqi government is taking control of Anbar Province this week. It'll be the 10th province out of 18 that the Iraqi government has taken responsible for--but the first Sunni-controlled one, and the Kurdish and Shiite provinces were previously run by militias that were folded into the government. Security gains in Sunni areas are largely due to co-opting insurgents into the Sons of Iraq. The US military pays the 103,000 overwhelmingly Sunni members $300 a month, but fewer than 17,000 Sons of Iraq members have joined Iraq's security forces and 6,100 more have been approved, leaving around 80,000 unemployed armed men (again?) when the money runs out.

"To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis." That didn't happen. Talks are resuming this week. Meanwhile the Iraqi government is about to sign no-bid contracts with several U.S. and European energy companies. "We fear that any such agreements signed by Iraq's Hydrocarbon Ministry without an equitable revenue sharing agreement in place would simply add more fuel to Iraq's civil war."

"To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs." That didn't happen. Iraq spent a little over half of the $10 billion allocated in 2007. In 2005 the Iraqi government estimated the total cost of reconstructing Iraq at $200 billion.

"To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year." That didn't happen. Provincial elections are scheduled for October 2008, but could be delayed due to disputes over election law.

"And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws..." That happened, kind of. The re-Baathification law passed in January but the law isn't being implemented.

"...and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution." That didn't happen either, but it might happen in July.

Most of the troops that made up the surge have been withdrawn. Violence is down to only 300-850 violent incidents per week after spiking in March and April.

Apparently the surge has always had the Maoist name of The New Way Forward; I seem to have missed it until now.
posted by kirkaracha (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
leaving around 80,000 unemployed armed men when the money runs out.

I fail to see how this differs substantially from, say, Alabama.

The security gains described in that report seem to be gains in the security of American forces. Something about that yardstick rings false for me.

I'm also thinking about how brutal it may get a few years from now, especially if things are "safe", for all the foreign employees of the foreign corporations who benefit from those no-bid contracts. Unless every office is in some future green zone under heavy US guard forever, those people are going to be targets for some still unhappy, still-unemployed and still heavily-armed Iraqis.
posted by rokusan at 3:08 PM on June 24, 2008


What, this? This is my "surprised face."
posted by stenseng at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2008


Thanks for all the information, kirkaracha. I'm more interested in that than in weighing in here to register that I am eligible for the More Cynical Than Thou prize of the week.
posted by digaman at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2008


Actually, I don't think I'm eligible. I've won several weeks in a row now...
posted by stenseng at 3:25 PM on June 24, 2008


If both parents don't want a kid to do something, the kid just waits until both parents aren't around anymore. Even if it means death. The kids intrinsically know the odds are in their favor. The parents can't be vigilant forever.

The cultures in asia have been at this a very long time. They have been fighting amongst themselves for millenia, so their idea of 'temporary' is glacial...
posted by ZachsMind at 3:44 PM on June 24, 2008


Mission Accomplished!
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on June 24, 2008


rokusan - Figure 2 details the average daily attacks, featuring a breakout by target classification.

Attacks on civilians have dropped as well - not by as much as attacks against coalition forces, but they also don't exhibit any of the March increase.
posted by rush at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2008


I am eligible for the More Cynical Than Thou prize of the week.

Pessimistic is not cynical, though I guess you could make an argument for either.

PS: thanks rush I missed that.
posted by rokusan at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2008


I'm no fan of the war or Bush, but didn't EVERYBODY except the administration and lapdog neocons predict that the surge would be a TOTAL failure?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:53 PM on June 24, 2008


Yeah, I don't think it's a matter of cynicism to be unsurprised - given how much time could be saved by just discussing parts of this occupation that have gone well.
posted by pompomtom at 6:23 PM on June 24, 2008


The surge wasn't a total failure. It was a failure at acheiving the reconstruction milestone goals that were largely unrealistic, but I don't know that there is a better strategy for that without a time machine.

How long would the US oil companies have to hold onto the oil fields without them being re-nationalized for us to recoup the pumping infrastructure, foreign aid, and military costs? Also, are there planned tax breaks for US oil companies Iraq operations?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2008


I still contend that the surge was really not much more than a way to artificially elevate troop levels so the administration could fill the newspapers with feel-good (but largely meaningless) reports of troop draw-downs roughly in time for the elections.

The real progress on-the-ground has been achieved through non-force related tactics, like making allies of former insurgents and militia leaders by offering them payoffs, weapons deals, and the occasional troop support when they need extra help to firm up their hold on local power.

And sure, there's been some progress through the use of these sophisticated "counter-insurgency tactics" (glorified bribes, illicit arms deals and mercenary work), but that still doesn't change the fundamental fact that the country is in ruins--and it's in ruins because our national policy goal from day one of this miserable adventure has been to secure strategic control over another sovereign nation's natural resources. We will never be able to pay off the moral costs of this war.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:07 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I concur with BrotherCaine and sauldgoodman, and I think the surge accomplished its main objective: running out the clock on President Bush's term so he can blame it on the next guy.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:44 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the no-bid contracts for the same four companies that lost them in the '72 nationalization of Iraq's oil industry.

How many times have we defeated al Qaeda in Iraq?
Despite the many brickbats of the media, al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can.

– Strategy Page, April 30, 2006

Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled

– Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2007

Military: "Surge" Has Defeated Al Qaeda In Iraq

– U.S. News, Oct. 15, 2007

"Al Qaeda is on the verge of a strategic defeat in Iraq"

– Fox News, May 30, 2008

posted by 445supermag at 8:49 PM on June 24, 2008


It's good to know that one of the forces that boosted the "success" of the surge was ethnic cleansing -- now that's what I call the Iraqis finally pitching in!
posted by digaman at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2008


I've got a new New Way Forward: just name one of the waterslides in the soon-to-be constructed Baghdad Amusement Park "The Surge". Then turn on the water and voila! "The Surge" is working!

(Until the water and electricity go out again.)
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:47 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Billion-Dollar Babies: Five Stealth Pentagon Contractors Reaping Billions of Tax Dollars
posted by homunculus at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Haditha victims' kin outraged as Marines go free

Interview with the author.
posted by homunculus at 9:10 AM on June 26, 2008


Anyone who can read any form of success in our invasion and occupation of this foreign nation that never attacked us ought to have a head examination.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:48 PM on June 26, 2008


Anyone who can read any form of success in our invasion and occupation of this foreign nation that never attacked us ought to have a head examination.

Agreed, but looking just at surge vs. no-surge is a slightly different proposition. I'm of the opinion that most of the obvious mistakes in Iraq predate the surge. Going in in the first place, having neither exit strategy nor rebuilding strategy when we did go in, de-Baathification, not having a plan for neutralizing Irani & Saudi support, etc... The surge may well be another huge mistake, but I don't see where it is obvious at this point that getting out of Iraq vs. increasing occupation is the best route to mitigating damage.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:55 PM on June 26, 2008


The real progress on-the-ground has been achieved through non-force related tactics, like making temporary allies of former insurgents and militia leaders by offering them payoffs, weapons deals, and the occasional troop support when they need extra help to firm up their hold on local power.

Sorry, had to nitpick a little. Other than that I agree with you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:57 PM on June 26, 2008


I don't see where it is obvious at this point that getting out of Iraq vs. increasing occupation is the best route to mitigating damage.

Well, I agree one can't be certain, but looking at the figure it's pretty clear we are the cause of and target for most of the violence since the invasion. I'm betting without our presence it would go down to lower levels. But the issue isn't whether our staying or going would lead to better lives or not. We are occupying a country against its will. We weren't invited in by any identifiable constituency and we remain at the consternation and anger of most of the population. Morally, we should get out and let the Iraqis manage their own affairs, without coercing them to pass this law or that law that benefits the USA. What we are doing is wrong from every angle and the pointy-headed speculation about the impact of this or that immoral action seems to be mere nattering.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:30 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I just feel like we screwed it up so bad by going in without a plan that we own a lot of the chaos and casualties after we leave. But not wanting to leave may be the kind of enabling behavior an alcoholic's spouse might demonstrate (no disrespect to the Iraqi gov't). I kind of feel like we are juggling eggs there and it is going to get a lot worse when we do leave, maybe short term, maybe long term. I hoped a strong leader would emerge in the mess before we got out, but there is definitely a limit to how long we should wait for that.

I also hope that when we leave, and the course of that country crystalizes; it will not be America hostile. The same elements in our government that brought us this fiasco would almost certainly be happy to go in for another round. Probably using the pretext that Iraq nationalizing oil operations by US companies was a threat to our strategic assets.

Still, moral decision or not, withdrawal will not happen under this administration, and probably not under McCain's first 2-3 years if he is elected.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:17 PM on June 27, 2008


Embedded in Iraq
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on June 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Crisis grows in Iraq over U.S. raid that killed Maliki relative
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The "Embedded in Iraq" is a good read. We still ain't gettin' the truth about how bad it is over there, so it's shocking how bad it seems given all the positive spin the gummint puts on it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:43 AM on June 29, 2008


After Denying ‘Involvement’ In Iraq’s No-Bid Oil Contracts, U.S. Revealed To Be ‘Integral’ To Deals
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


‘Oh Happy Day’
posted by homunculus at 9:23 AM on July 2, 2008


U.S. Arms Dealer Tests Legal Bounds in Middle East Arms Bazaar
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2008


All the Oil News That's Fit to Print (Attn: The New York Times)
posted by homunculus at 1:34 PM on July 7, 2008


Medic in famous photo dies after PTSD struggle

Shit.
posted by homunculus at 9:12 PM on July 7, 2008


Maliki and the Timetable: It's all about Blackwater
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


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