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Tilting at Windmills

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April 10, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE LESSON OF TAL AFAR....George Packer's latest New Yorker article on Iraq is now online, and as usual, it's both lengthy and worthwhile. It's called "The Lesson of Tal Afar," and it's about a subject that regular readers know I touch on frequently: counterinsurgency.

Packer's focus is on the successful counterinsurgency tactics used by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar over the past year, but ironically, it's that very success that makes this article such discouraging reading. Tal Afar demonstrates that counterinsurgency can work in Iraq, but it also demonstrates clearly just how hard it is and how little of it we're really committed to doing. Instead, too many soldiers are being pulled back to "enduring FOBs," gigantic bases completely cut off from daily life in Iraq:

A field-grade officer in the 101st Airborne said, The algorithm of success is to get a good-enough solution. There were, he said, three categories of assessment for every aspect of the mission: optimal, acceptable, and unacceptable. He made it clear that optimal wasnt in the running.

....But a good-enough counterinsurgency is really none at all. There is no substitute for the investment of time, effort, and risk that was so evident in Tal Afar. The retreat to the enduring FOBs seems like an acknowledgment that counterinsurgency is just too hard.

....[Lt. General David] Petraeus is overseeing a group of active-duty and former officers in the writing of a new joint Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual....In February, I attended a two-day workshop at Fort Leavenworth, where the authors of the draft heard suggestions from an assembly of critics....The question hanging unasked over the workshop at Fort Leavenworth was whether it was already too late to change the militarys approach in Iraq. When Kalev Sepp discussed the field manual with students in his class on insurgency at the Naval Postgraduate School, a Special Forces captain said, If this manual isnt written soon, youll have it ready just in time to give one to each soldier leaving Iraq.

After three years, we're still working on the field manual. In the meantime, we have too few officers who understand counterinsurgency and too few battalions to make it work: after all, even in Tal Afar the only result was probably to force the city's insurgents to melt away to other areas. Long-term success in Iraq would require, at a minimum, (a) twice the number of troops we have now, (b) long deployments, and (c) an absolute commitment to counterinsurgency tactics from top to bottom. But even today that simply doesn't exist.

And it's probably too late anyway. Counterinsurgency is the right tactic if you're fighting an insurgency, but not if you're fighting a sectarian civil war. And more and more, that's what we're fighting.

But read the whole thing and make up your own mind. It's worth a few minutes of your time.

Kevin Drum 7:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (106)

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Comments

Every time Matthews types and Repubs etc. complain about Democrats "not having a plan", remind them that the Administration doesn't seem to either.

As for those "enduring" bases - who can find previous statements and promises about whether we'd have long-term bases in Iraq. The media aren't saying much about it.

Posted by: Neil' on April 10, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the President doesn't know the legal status of private military contractors in Iraq, isn't it kind of pointless for us to debate the need for proper counterinsurgency measures? If it can't be summed up on a single sheet of paper, with little gold stars next to the portions he might want to selectively disclose, he's probably not going to read it.

Ok, Ok, I'll go read it. But it's really long Kevin.

Posted by: enozinho on April 10, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

After three years, we're still working on the field manual. In the meantime, we have too few officers who understand counterinsurgency and too few battalions to make it work: after all, even in Tal Afar the only result was probably to force the city's insurgents to melt away to other areas. Long-term success in Iraq would require, at a minimum, (a) twice the number of troops we have now, (b) long deployments, and (c) an absolute commitment to counterinsurgency tactics from top to bottom.

What do you mean "we" Kemosabe? Arm-chair generals need not apply.

Posted by: Don P. on April 10, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

How many insurgencies have been fought by foreign powers since WWII?

How many times have the foreign powers prevailed?

Well, the Brits kept Malaya from going Communist, but they granted independence.

One can look at individual bright spots form the Vietnam War or from the Iraq War. But if it was as simple as mass producing your best results, winning wars wouldn't be much of a trick, eh?

If the Iraqis were able to mass produce their best results against us, they'd win big too, right?

So chasing after the winning counter-insurgency formula is a fool's errand.

Here's the lowdown on warfare: populations don't like to fight elective wars for more than about four years.

The irony of democracies at war is that democracies have a hard time walking away from lost causes. The elected officials are worried about their masculinity being questioned. Dictators don't have to worry about their masculinity being questioned, so they can stop fighting easier.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 10, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Don: "We" = Americans. OK?

Posted by: Kevin Drum on April 10, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

What Carl Nyberg said.

Look up on what Churchill used to say about Gandhi. Of course, the Iraqi insurgents are no Gandhis, but that makes our mission more unattainable.

Posted by: lib on April 10, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

This just shows the brilliance of Bush's plan to nuke Iran, because since there won't be US troops in-country we won't care if there is an insurgency.

Posted by: grytpype on April 10, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

so, the insurgency that was going to be the doom of iraq is no longer a problem?

Posted by: Brian on April 10, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Run that by me again.

You mean, we went through the whole Vietnam thing, and didn't even end up with an Owner's Manual?

I guess it would just kill them to read what Hackworth said about it. Sure, he was one of their experts, but then he went sour on the war. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Well, there will alway be armies that fight better when they are in fortifications, and it might not be such a bad idea if we admitted our army is one of them. Going around invading people hasn't been as much fun as we thought it would be.

Posted by: serial catowner on April 10, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Kevin, don't respond to that crap from Don. He knows full well what you meant, and he's just doing it for attention.

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Brian,

if you don't understand what the grownups are talking about, then maybe you shouldn't participate in the converstation. Go play with Don and the other kids.

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

The article makes many of the same points as Kaplan's Imperial Grunts, although Kaplan's conlusion, insofar as it touches on the type of military you (I'm a Brit, so it's allowed) is that a light and swift military would be useful as a sort of global firefighter, although Packer, in applying the points to Iraq, wants more soldiers on the ground.

Posted by: Gari N. Corp on April 10, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

What happens if we defeat the insurgency?

Why do we have an insurgency in the first place?

I am too dense to understand this focus on fixing an edifice built on a pile of shit.

Posted by: nut on April 10, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

"...and make up your own mind."

About what?

Posted by: dick tuck on April 10, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

here's news for most all of you: the insurgency is not defeated in Tal Afar. Once again, someone has "cherry-picked" the intelligence and made what they will of it.

Tal Afar is relatively quieter than it was, but that will change, probably sooner rather than later.

stop drinking the kool-aid

Posted by: Susan on April 10, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

What happens if we defeat the insurgency?

Don't worry, we won't defeat the insurgency, ever. It might be stronger or weaker as time rolls on, but it will never ever go away. Not as long as we have US troops in Iraq.

You cannot occupy a country and expect them to bow to your whims, especially since they know that you lied to invade in the first place.

Posted by: Bam on April 10, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

1. Tal Afar is not the succes they try to bill it as--had to destroy the city like Fallujah.
2. It's the exception that proves the rule--U.S. doesn't have enough troops to do this anywhere else.

Posted by: anonymous on April 10, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

If you stopped dancing happily in partisan circles everytime a bodybag came home maybe the civilian leadership would have the cajones to deploy the troops effectively instead of hide them in FOB's.

Posted by: Al on April 10, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's the stabilizing effect imparted by the proximity of Syria.

Posted by: toast on April 10, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

Are you suggesting that President Bush (who is, ultimately, the civillian leader of the military) is actually to cowardly to properly fight the war in Iraq because liberals rejoice at the sight of body bags with US soldiers inside? You're actually suggesting that President Codpiece is a weak willed, fearful man?

And in a post submitted at 9:11 PM, no less.

Traitor.

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

I commend this New Yorker article to all. It outlines the incomprehensible complexity of the Iraqi ground situation in both tactical, strategic and human terms. Some of the best journalistic work I've read in years. Well worth the time.

Posted by: Lyn on April 10, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

I taught counter-insurgency in the Army 35 years ago with a syllabus that is eerily similar to what they are re-inventing now and nobody listened to me then. Of course, very few of us young Army officers from that generation are still serving....

http://themandarin.blogspot.com/

Posted by: TheMandarin on April 10, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

"The question hanging unasked over the workshop at Fort Leavenworth was whether it was already too late to change the militarys approach in Iraq."

Maybe that's part of the problem, for there are probably a great many unasked questions in a variety of forums relating to our waging of these wars. We're sending Americans to die and pertinent issues are left unexplored. Wonderful.

Posted by: steve duncan on April 10, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Packer's piece is interesting, and good reporting, but not much new. Maybe if more people read it they'd start demanding that the administration provide answers to the hard questions, instead of using it as an example of "it's working", while ignoring the fact that "it" is the exception--and with available resources will remain the exception--rather than the rule.

Until we make it the rule, the probability of success in Iraq is extremely low--which of course the administration can not do because it no longer has (and maybe never had) the will or the ability to commit the country to doing what is necessary. Never mind that Rumsfeld's transformation wet-dream puts any such effort dead last for funding.


p.s. McMaster's book Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam is worth reading. It generated quite a bit of heat when it was published. The parallels with Iraq (as Packer noted) are disturbing.

Also, a version of McMaster's paper referenced by Packer, Crack in the Foundation: Defense Transformation and the Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War is available here. It is a good counterpoint to the transformation wonks (aka, Rumsfeld et. al.) based on recent experience.

Posted by: has407 on April 10, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

The real Al could never put together a sentence like that.

Posted by: Lucy on April 10, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

If you stopped dancing happily in partisan circles everytime a bodybag came home maybe the civilian leadership would have the cajones to deploy the troops effectively instead of hide them in FOB's.
Posted by: Al on April 10, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

That's what I just love about being in a minority, extremist, lefty-moonbat wing of an impotent Democratic party, with no majority in any of the three branches of government and no real influence in the corporate dominated mainstream press! I still get to call the shots! I rule man! America is MINE. You righties suck! You win the elections, I run the country! Right on man! Power to the people!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 10, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

The real Al is illiterate! That was not Al.

Posted by: Lucy on April 10, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, did you ever wonder why serious essayists can churn out pieces of several thousand words -- and your postings average under two hundred (and half of these are cribs from your "sources")?

I understand you have a short attention span. And, that you were "educated" as a journalist. And, that your only paying job was in marketing.

But still ... the only way to monetize what you're doing is to write a book. And the easiest way to a book is to collect your essays and bind them. Except you don't have any. Oh, well.

Anyway, let's take care of your current silliness:

From Myelectionanalysis.com, Numbers


81, 76, 50, 49, 43, 25

What are these numbers? This weeks Powerball winners? A safe deposit combo? New numbers to torment those poor b*stards stranded on the island in Lost?

No, theyre the number of troops that have died in hostile actions in Iraq for each of the past six months. That last number represents the lowest level of troop deaths in a year, and second-lowest in two years.

But it must be that the insurgency is turning their assault on Iraqi military and police, who are increasingly taking up the slack, right?

215, 176, 193, 189, 158, 193 (and the three months before that were 304, 282, 233)

Okay, okay, so insurgents arent engaging us; theyre turning increasingly to car bombs then, right?

70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30

Civilians then. Theyre just garroting poor civilians.

527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).

My point here is not that everything is peachy in Iraq. It isnt. My point isnt that the insurgency is in its last throes. It isnt. My point here isnt even to argue that were winning. Im at best cautiously-pessimistic-to-neutral about how things are going there.

My only point is that, at the very least, people who complain that good news coming out of Iraq gets shuttered by the press arent crazy. Im a regular denizen of the right-leaning blogosphere (though I spend about half my daily routine with left-leaning sites), and I was unequivicolly shocked when I saw this. Completely the opposite of what Id expected. My non-scientific sample of three friends, all of whom are considerably more bullish about the prospects in Iraq than I am, revealed three people similarly surprised by these numbers. Im guessing if I polled people on this site regarding the direction those numbers were going, and people didnt answer strategically (eg figure I was up to something from the question words), no one would predict any of those numbers were on a downward trend, or were even flat.

Again, my point isnt that were winning. My only point is that if the data youve received left you completely surprised by these numbers, what does that really say about the completeness of the data youve received?

Incidentally, these statistics are compiled by the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 10, 2006 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

The real Al died from cancer a while back. All that's left is a series of lousy, post-modernist knockoffs. Al@circularstrawman.com? What the hell is that?

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Im a regular denizen of the right-leaning blogosphere

That's probably the first honest thing Norman Rogers has ever said in these forums.

Posted by: Gregory on April 10, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Doom! Gloom!

If they are writing a manual, they don't know what they are doing.

If they aren't writing a manual, they don't know they don't know what they are doing.

Its the New Yorker, whether things are good or bad, Iraq will be bad. After all, they want to sell magazines to a loser liberal client base who
want their preconceptions reinforced.

Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, there are counter-insurgency manuals. Just not as good as one that incorporates recent lessons.

And successful organizations are always learning.

Do you see medical research stop because life expectancy goes up?

Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

"How many insurgencies have been fought by foreign powers since WWII?

How many times have the foreign powers prevailed?"

British in Malaya
British in Kenya
Chinese in Tibet
Soviets in Ukraine (does that count as foreign?)
Iraqis in Kurdistan (ditto above)
Turks in Kurdistan (ditto above)
Indonesia in Aceh
Vietnamese in Cambodia

Posted by: Campesino on April 10, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, norman, it's a little dishonest to quote the current month's statistics, seeing as how we're only 1/3 of the way into it. But we'll over look that.

Yes, the trend on deaths of US soldiers has been downward for the past 6 months, as were the numbers of deaths of Iraqi soldiers and police.

But how exactly do you see that the number of civillian deaths are on the decline?

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is McA on about? That's incoherent even for him.

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

I know comparisons to Vietnam are officially verbotten, but I was totally struck by how similar Packer's article was to David Halberstam's "The Making of a Quagmire."

Not to make too fine a point, but Halberstam wrote that book in 1964.

Posted by: curious on April 10, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory wrote: "That's probably the first honest thing Norman Rogers has ever said in these forums."

Nope, his record is intact. It was a direct quote from the site he linked. He simply plagiarized the entire essay from that site, which it wasn't as rabid as dear little Normy's screeds often are.

Posted by: PaulB on April 10, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

"which is why it wasn't as rabid..."

Fingers got a little ahead....

Posted by: PaulB on April 10, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Whoa. RIP Al and see you in Hell.

Posted by: Lucy on April 10, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

A picture is worth a thousand words. I read the paper copy of the article and it has a picture of group of Iraqi soldiers. They look tired, uninterested, and totally lost. To add insult to injury, the caption says these Iraqi soldiers are fully dependent on the US soldiers for their supplies, sometimes even food. Training and standing up an Iraqi army is supposedly the highest priority. And this is the result?

Posted by: bt on April 10, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the trend on deaths of US soldiers has been downward for the past 6 months, as were the numbers of deaths of Iraqi soldiers and police.

But how exactly do you see that the number of civillian deaths are on the decline?

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, when you begin to look at the good trends you are at least beginning to open your mind.

Read up on the Malaysian race riots and Singapore's independence - that was a side effect of Malaysian democracy.

On issue with the end of repression is that long-awaited ethnic scores get settled. Russia, India vs Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Black on white crime in South Africa. Indonesian riots targeting Chinese in the Asian currency crisis.

I still think supporting dictatorship is a failed policy. Dictators settle ethnic scores by brutal repression. They either exterminate an ethnicity or build more hatred when they eventually fall.

Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

>On [sic] issue with the end of repression is that long-awaited ethnic scores get settled.

You are a marvel of insight on the insurgency McA. George Packer's got nothing on you.

Posted by: Lucy on April 10, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

'Susan' posted:

"the insurgency is not defeated in Tal Afar."

That's what I was going to write.

A while back the Bushies were crowing about what a success Tal Afar was, and one of the news channels did an expose claiming it was such a success that the American military could walk around with their guard down. They showed them buying fruit at the open market. They said that they planned on repeating it all over Iraq.

Then quite a number of American soldiers were killed in Tal Afar.

Whack A Mole.
.

Posted by: VJ on April 10, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

McA,

Thanks for taking the time to not answer my question. How can you look at the numbers and see a downward trend in the civillian casualty rates?

That, and, you sound like you're having a manic episode or something. Seriously.

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, what you don't seem to be aware of is that we are not FIGHTING a civil war but rather, through divide and conquer, FOMENTING a civil war. Which has so far been unsuccessful. Iraq is a tribal and for the most part secular society. No matter what the administration trumpets and its apoligists like yourself echo, there is NOT a civil war. What there is, is widespread strife caused by a lack of security, exacerbated by US brutality. The answer is not more troops and more dead resistance, but getting out now. The presence of our occupation army is gasoline on the fire we started.

Posted by: joe O on April 10, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Nagl's book "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife" is a study of Malaya and Vietnam. He is a serving officer. His book confirms all the suspicions about the Army and its refusal to learn counterinsurgency or appreciate special forces. The Vietnam troops had to relearn the Nicaragua lessons (In Small Wars Manual) and we are relearning what we should have learned in Vietnam but didn't, except a few like Hackworth. The answer is not to cut and run from Iraq (Kerry has gone from "threaten to leave" to leave in four days) but to learn because this is what our military will be doing for the next 30 years.

Orwell said that there is a way to have short wars, surrender.

Posted by: Mike K on April 10, 2006 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

And it's probably too late anyway. Counterinsurgency is the right tactic if you're fighting an insurgency, but not if you're fighting a sectarian civil war. And more and more, that's what we're fighting.

I don't think that's really true without equivocation; the sense in which the conflict in Iraq is a civil war is not the sense in which the first sentence is true: when you have separate warring groups stably governing large swaths of the government, then it will be a civil war in the sense in which counterinsurgency will no longer be the appropriate framework. But I'm not sure that will ever happen unless the US wants it to: the US is more than capable of intervening on the side of whichever faction it supports&emdash;presumably that of the present regime&emdash;once that situation starts to be shaping up, destroying the powerbase of the opposing faction, and converting the fight back into a counterinsurgency.

OTOH, the US leadership might actually want that kind of civil war to shape up: its the kind in which you end up with a well defined enemy with a visible leadership structure which can be negotiated with, and with whom a settlement can be reached, which may in some respects may be amenable to the military and diplomatic tools the US is more skilled at using than the present civil war as widespread, amorphous insurgency is.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 10, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

How can you look at the numbers and see a downward trend in the civillian casualty rates?

Posted by: phleabo on April 10, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

No offence, but who cares about the civilian casualty rates? Would you believe that the murder rate in Iraq is still lower per capita than South Africa and Columbia?

-Pakistan and Indian independence triggered a blood bath. Neither of those two countries would want to be part of the British Raj.

-Your civil war was a blood bath and didn't do anything about Black lifestyle until 100 years later.

Facts are:

1. The previous regime killed people in industrial numbers.

2. There would have had a blood bath on Saddam's deathbed anyway. The Shiite's would test the new leader until he demonstrated his ruthlessness.

The current wave of violence is a way of communities learning the lesson that in ethnic warfare, lose-lose is lose-lose.

Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Tal Afar's success has been news for a long time on the military blogs and elsewhere. The letter from the mayor got wide circulation. I wondered how long it would take to develop a negative spin on it. Not talking about the New Yorker article, which was quite good for the most part.

The methods used in Tal Afar have been used in various areas of Iraq for over a year. If not two. Not as widely as they could be, but this isn't as new as it's made out to be. It just doesn't make news.

As for some of you, listen to yourselves. People get wildly indignant when I say the worst thing that could happen for some people would be a success in Iraq. But you don't do much to convince me otherwise.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 10, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is not more troops and more dead resistance, but getting out now. The presence of our occupation army is gasoline on the fire we started.
Posted by: joe O on April 10, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

No.

That is absolutely the WRONG answer.

If we "got out now" - the Shiite militias would be slaughtering Sunnis in the streets by the tens of thousands. And then Liberals would be blamed.

However, we could pull out now, but under the Murtha plan, continue remote operations, and just bomb troop concentrations where they develop, which will prevent a more "classical" civil war. It might not stop the mass slaughter. But it will give the Kurds the independence they deserve (from the Shiite fundamentalist radicals that de facto run the rest of the country now).

Or, we could recruit an additional 400k US troops. (cha-ching!) and march them across the country, and sweep up all the combatants, and enforce a real security. Unfortunately, we should have started that shit 3 years ago. . .

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 10, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

No offence, but who cares about the civilian casualty rates?
Posted by: McA on April 10, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Um, offense taken, you sick disgusting immoral piece of shit.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 11, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: But I'm not sure that will ever happen unless the US wants it to: the US is more than capable of intervening...

That we have the resource to intervene is not in question. That we have the capability to intevene--the will to apply those resources--is far from clear. I would argue not.

...you end up with a well defined enemy with a visible leadership structure which can be negotiated with, and with whom a settlement can be reached, which may in some respects may be amenable to the military and diplomatic tools the US is more skilled at using...

Agree with the first half of that statement. The second half seems extremely optimistic... I don't believe our military tools--or at least the manner in which those tools are applied--are up to the task (c.f., The Lessons of Tal Afar). And if our diplomatic tools were up to the task, one might expect a little more progress with, e.g., Palestine.

Posted by: has407 on April 11, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

the US is more than capable of intervening on the side of whichever faction it supports - presumably that of the present regime - once that situation starts to be shaping up, destroying the powerbase of the opposing faction, and converting the fight back into a counterinsurgency.

I don't think this is true. The transition from insurgency to civil war involves increasing levels of sectarian Shiite-Sunni violence. The "factions" are the Sunnis and the Shiites. The current regime isn't one of the "factions" to the extent that it cracks down on both Sunni and Shiite militias. But the willingness of Sunnis and Shiites to participate in the current regime if its job is cracking down on both sides' militias will gradually disappear as the violence ramps up, and as both sides come to see their main mission as protecting their own from the other side. The US will eventually prove unable to keep seducing either side to stay in the government.

If the government becomes purely an instrument of one faction, the Shiites, then the US could back it, and, in effect, it would be backing one side in the civil war. But this would change the character of the insurgency: there would no longer be even a fig leaf of Sunni participation in the so-called "national" government, so the US would basically be supporting Shiite persecution of a Sunni minority defended only by its own militias. There is no hope of stamping out such an insurgency by any means acceptable to Americans; the only way to do it is through pure terror. Or by holding out the olive branch in exchange for a Sunni agreement to lay down their arms and return to the government. This could only happen after a long period of warfare, in which the side we supported would be engaging in ethnic cleansing and all kinds of horrible stuff, and the justification for such a war would be hard to envision. I don't think it's realistic to imagine that the US could back a purely Shiite Iraqi government for long.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

However, we could pull out now, but under the Murtha plan, continue remote operations, and just bomb troop concentrations where they develop...

The problem with this particular plan is that, since about three weeks after the start of the war, there has been no such thing as a "troop concentration" to bomb. Heck, there aren't even any "troops" on the other side. If we get a dozen insurgents in one house at a time, it's a good operation.

This is not a war that can be fought from stealth bombers and attack helicopters. That's what makes it hard, and what makes counter-insurgency techniques important.

You cannot fight a counter-insurgency from "over the horizon" bases. The article says as much.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 11, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Actually the only people who will be pissed off if Iraq becomes a demoratic sovereign state will be conservatives, whose dreams of an empire and a colony rich in oil would be shattered by such an outcome. If such is not the case they should pettition their dear leader to declare that the US does not have any intention of maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq. So far he has not yet made any such an explicit declaration.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 11, 2006 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

People get wildly indignant when I say the worst thing that could happen for some people would be a success in Iraq.

If you can't understand why that is so, when you write such a ridiculously stupid statement, you are one worthless human being.

Posted by: Nemo on April 11, 2006 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Uh...fake tbrosz, it kind of loses the point of the joke when you argue with the real one.

Nemo: Look around you. When you listen to the fans at a football game, it isn't hard to tell which side they're on, even when their side is behind.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 11, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

The military has studied the number of troops required for conflict resolution, and, no surprise, the United States is woefully understaffed with boots on the ground.
James Dobbins and James Quinlivan, military analysts at the RAND Corporation, have analyzed historical data on the numbers of foreign troops in various occupations after a war. They found that all the successful missions involved troop levels totaling at least 2 percent of the occupied country's population.
Taking that figure as a rough rule of thumb, securing Iraq, which has 25 million people, would require 500,000 foreign troops. American and coalition forces now total about 180,000.
[...]
A force that large probably could have been mobilized to Iraq for some period, maybe for a year. In 2003-2004, before the insurgency got seriously under way, that may have been enough to impose order. But now, it is generally recognized that it's not possible to send any more troops from the Army as it stands.
When Representative John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq in November, he said he did so in part because senior military officers had told him the Army could not sustain even the existing troop levels.

With current troop levels, that percentage can be placed in some areas temporarily, thereby giving the illusion of stability but that causes shortages in other theaters.

. The previous regime killed people in industrial numbers.
2. There would have had a blood bath on Saddam's deathbed anyway...McA 11:52 PM

Point 2 is an assertion with zero evidence. Point 1 merely claims that Bush is no worse than Saddam, which is true given Bush's torture and rape rooms in Abu Ghraib and other of Bush's gulags. The current levels of civilian deaths which are, by international law, the responsibility of the occupying power to prevent, are occurring at a higher rate than under Saddam
Um, offense taken, you sick disgusting immoral piece of shit. osama_been_forgotten 12:01 AM |

McA has, on other treads bragged about his Christian faith and how holy he is. That's typical.

Posted by: Mike on April 11, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

I don't think you read what I wrote closely; nothing you've said disagrees with what I've said except for your vague "I don't think this statement is true", which then goes on to lead into a bunch of stuff which doesn't contradict that statement or anything else I wrote.

Yes, if the US converted a civil war of the type I describe back into an insurgency, it would have even less prospect of actually defeating it than the miniscule chance it has with the present insurgency; that in no way reduces its capacity to return the war from "civil war" (as I described it) to "insurgency" at will.

Of course, the US doesn't have a good reason to do so, and would probably be forced to do all kinds of nasty things if it did. But then the same could have been said before 2003 about invading and occupying Iraq, but that didn't stop it from happening.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 11, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is not a war that can be fought from stealth bombers and attack helicopters. That's what makes it hard, and what makes counter-insurgency techniques important.

That is why we are so lucky that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have planned so carefully for all of this, and why "stay the course until victory is achieved" is a plan we all should get behind.

Posted by: Charlie on April 11, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

m guessing if I polled people on this site regarding the direction those numbers were going, and people didnt answer strategically (eg figure I was up to something from the question words), no one would predict any of those numbers were on a downward trend, or were even flat. Posted by: Norman Rogers

Regardless of which organization is compiling the numbers, those for the U.S. do not actually reflect a decrease in casualties per se. What they actually reflect is that the U.S. military has given up on mixing it up with the insurgency. You don't take casualties if you do fewer patrols, don't go "looking for trouble," or don't leave your bases all together. That's not an insurgency in decline; it's one that isn't being engaged. As with all guerillas, they aren't going to take the fight to you. They draw you in or hit you indirectly.

And the death tolls for Iraqi citizens and military/police are incorrect, or at least not up-to-date, as not less than three hundred Iraqis have been killed in just the last week throughout the country.

Posted by: JeffII on April 11, 2006 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Tal Afar's success has been news for a long time on the military blogs and elsewhere. The methods used in Tal Afar have been used in various areas of Iraq for over a year. If not two. Not as widely as they could be, but this isn't as new as it's made out to be. It just doesn't make news.

Wonderful. The "military blogs" have re-discovered what has been known among the professional military for decades--and what Rumsfeld et. al. had rejected. And that is suppose to engender confidence why?

By any and all accounts, we can succeed in isolated cases such as Tal Afar. However, we cannot reproduce that success given the available resources to make a difference in the outcome. (Largely owing to the brain-dead DoD leadership. But I digress...)

So convince me you can reproduce the Tal Afar's success across Iraq with the current resources. Or convince me that with the current resources that the success in Tal Afar can be reproduced faster than the turnoil rolling across the country. Or show me how you--or more precisely, this administration, after fucking up so badly--is going to muster the necessary resources.

Until and unless you can provide a credible plan for reproducing Tal Afar's success across the entirety of Iraq with the resources the administration and this country is willing and able to commit, faster than Iraq is imploding, it is irrelevant.

Posted by: has407 on April 11, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with this particular plan is that, since about three weeks after the start of the war, there has been no such thing as a "troop concentration" to bomb. Heck, there aren't even any "troops" on the other side...You cannot fight a counter-insurgency from "over the horizon" bases. The article says as much.

Right. This is true. Glad you liked the article, and I think Packer knows what he's talking about and has the right take on what's happened at Tal Afar, and on the extraordinary accomplishments of people like scholar-soldier H.R. McMaster.

What I don't understand is on what basis you reject Packer's point that what's been done at Tal Afar is completely different from what the US armed forces are doing in 90% of the rest of the country; that the US Army still lacks a field manual on counterinsurgency and has not actually prioritized it, as Rumsfeld's new defense budget reveals; and that most US troops are simply retreating to their massive FOB's. Packer's general take on American military involvement in Iraq is that a small minority of units, guided by very forward-thinking officers, are doing counterinsurgency the right way, learning the history and the power relations in their territory, sitting down for exhausting and frustrating meetings with tribal leaders on all sides, devoting 80% of their efforts to politics and 20% to military operations, using minimal force, and never breaking off relations, even with the enemy. The other 90% of US troops are sitting on gigantic, heavily defended bases, eating ice cream, watching movies and living as if they were in Arizona, and barely ever coming into any contact with Iraqis. Meanwhile, bombing missions are up 50% over last year.

As an observation on the US operating style in foreign countries, this rings absolutely true to me: 10% of Americans inclined to work their asses off, sleep on the ground, absorb the local culture and do things right; the other 90% inclined to kick back inside their compound, turn on the airco, do their paperwork, and go out occasionally on nervous sorties in big vehicles where they meet a few friendly local talking heads, see a Potemkin Village project and then go back to the base. This is the US in Vietnam; this is US aid in Africa; this is America in the third world. It is hardly surprising that it's the way the US has operated in Iraq, too, and it's hardly surprising that the effort in Iraq has been the kind of failure that it has been: too few people doing it right, failing to change the bureaucratic culture at the top, failing to control the strategic policies, and ultimately leaving behind a few poignant, tragic spots that might have been successes, like Tal Afar.

Now that we know that this is the way America tends to do things, let's factor that into our calculations about whether we should try invading and restructuring any more countries on a whim. Shall we?

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Drum failed to mention that the prevailing attitude of US personnel at the nearby 25 sq. mile Base Speicher is one of planning for disengagement. The Tal Afar story was a bottom up endeavor that will end when the 3rd ACR leaves because the Army cannot absorb bottom up learning regarding non-combat experience and because the Army really does not want to deal with counterinsurgency.

Posted by: Hostile on April 11, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: even on April 11, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

If we "got out now" - the Shiite militias would be slaughtering Sunnis in the streets by the tens of thousands. And then Liberals would be blamed.
Posted by: osama_been_forgotten

That's what will happen anyway, once we leave.

Iraq is a fake country. The people inside the borders drawn by someone else would never choose to federate under any circumstances. It's exactly like N. Ireland in that respect, except with a third and, compared to the Shia and Sunni, an actually unique ethnic group thrown into the mix further complicating things. Kurdistan should be spun off as an independent state. Unfortunately, like Ukraine and the Baltic states with their ehtnic Russians, Saddam planted enough Sunnis to make a transition, shall we say, messy.

Posted by: JeffII on April 11, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK
tbrosz 11:57 PM: ...People get wildly indignant when I say the worst thing that could happen for some people would be a success in Iraq....
You should review all the Pollyannaish statements you have made over the past years and notice that none of the promised successes have occurred in three years. While you and your itty bitty buddy Bush make happy-talk, people are dying, emigrating, living in fear and misery, and suffering in a scale incomprehensible to the likes of both of you. There will be no success in Iraq. None. Humpty Dumpty is broken. It will take a strong man regime to put it back together, which is what Saddam was. It may be that the US and Israel decide that chaos in Iraq is an acceptable result, but that won't be very good for those dying in Iraq. As for convincing you, ideologues like you and Bush are impervious to empirical facts. Posted by: Mike on April 11, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

You cannot fight a counter-insurgency from "over the horizon" bases.

Fatuous drivel, as usual.

The Murtha plan was to withdraw and cease fighting an insurgency, you endlessly dishonest boob.

When you listen to the fans at a football game, it isn't hard to tell which side they're on, even when their side is behind.

If the football game was between a pro team and a junior varsity team where members of both sides were being violently slaughtered, but fifty times the JV kids were dying while their school was burned down, their houses were firebombed, their cheering families in the stands were arrested and tortured for supporting them --

-- would it be so clear which side to root for?

Personally, I would root for the insanity to stop.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 11, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Iraq is a fake country. The people inside the borders drawn by someone else would never choose to federate under any circumstances.

This is exaggerated and inaccurate. What's happening in Iraq isn't that the country's "natural" divisions are being revealed; it's that, under pressure of a failing or absent state and violent insurgency and occupation, the divisions that are there are being exacerbated. In the past 2 years they've reached the point where organized political groups have formed who establish their power by hardening and enforcing those divisions.

This kind of dynamic can occur in almost any state; all states came into being at some point, and are to some extent "artificial", and all include divisions which could potentially lead to civil war under the right circumstances. (Federated Germany is only 130 years old, and includes areas with mutually unintelligible dialects and religious divisions which caused epochal civil wars in the past. India has hundreds of languages and staggering religious fragmentation, including the massive Hindu-Muslim divide. No one would argue that either is an "artificial" country.) But some states are obviously more vulnerable than others.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

British in Malaya
I didn't know the British were still in Malaysia? I could have sworn that they quit the country more than fifty years ago.

British in Kenya
Ditto nearly forty years ago.

Chinese in Tibet
There are more Chinese in Shanghai than there are Tibetans in the whole country. I believe that is called an invasion. Oh, and the Tibetans had no military.

Soviets in Ukraine (does that count as foreign?)
No. It doesn't count as the Russians, until recently, controlled Ukraine for most of its recorded history. Furthermore, the Russians left because they chose to, not because they were driven out by military force.

Iraqis in Kurdistan (ditto above)
No, because there never has been an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds are oppressed by Syrians, Turks and Iranians as well.

Indonesia in Aceh
Who says that's over? The tsunami just put things on hold.

Vietnamese in Cambodia
Last time I checked (say about four-hundred years ago) Vietnam and Cambodia were separate countries. Vietnam invaded Cambodia to destroy the Khmer Rouge who had been launching border incursions into Vietnam.

Posted by: Campesino

Go read a book. No, no. The whole book. And then you can come back and post. And quit hanging out at freerepublic.

Posted by: JeffII on April 11, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

No one would argue that either is an "artificial" country.) But some states are obviously more vulnerable than others.Posted by: brooksfoe

Wrong. Your two examples, Germany and India, weren't created by foreign powers, as was Iraq.

There may have been competing groups, but in both cases (Germany and India) the overwhelming majority shared the same cultural foundations. And while that is somewhat true in Iraq, Sunnis and Shia really don't like each other throughout the ME. Why do you think most of the region sided with Iraq against Iran?

Posted by: JeffII on April 11, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

The real Al died from cancer a while back. All that's left is a series of lousy, post-modernist knockoffs.

More precisely, Al passed away after a courageous battle with Car Insurance mesothelioma.

Posted by: Alf on April 11, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Soviets in Ukraine (does that count as foreign?)

Interesting. I think you're referring to the Ukrainian anti-Soviet insurgency in 1944-48. It's unclear how widespread or successful this insurgency ever was (are we talking Viet Cong or more like ETA?), but I would venture to guess that the tactics the Soviets used to defeat it were not ones that the United States ought to consider using anywhere. And it's difficult to call it "foreign". We're talking ethnically related nations with a fluid and vague border, historically pretty much always ruled by the same sovereign (the Russian kings were originally in Kiev - "Kievan Rus"), and with a significant portion of the Ukraine being as strongly Soviet-Communist as Russia itself. It's nothing like Britain in faraway Malaysia or the US in faraway Iraq.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Your two examples, Germany and India, weren't created by foreign powers, as was Iraq. There may have been competing groups, but in both cases (Germany and India) the overwhelming majority shared the same cultural foundations.

Germany was created by the incorporation of other German states into Prussia. India was created by the British in EXACTLY the same process that created Iraq, including an arbitrary ethnic-religious partition that created the equally "fake" states of Pakistan (whose name is just an acronym) and Bangladesh. The argument that the overwhelming majority in Germany and India shared "the same cultural foundations" is simply ex post facto reasoning: they didn't fall apart, therefore they must share the same cultural foundations. It is wildly inaccurate in the case of India, riven by divisions between vegetarians and meat eaters, Hindus and Muslims, Dravidians and Brahmins, and so on in great multitudes. And in Germany, I'm sure a few Catholic Schwabians and Platte-Deutsch (sp?)-speaking Lutherans would argue very differently.

National unification is a process. In Germany it went well, and in India it's going pretty well. In Iraq it had its ups and downs, and now one big down that may prove to be a killer.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'll say it again. South African murder rates applied to Iraq would result in 14,000 deaths per year. Well above Iraq's.

And Saddam's Iraq would be well above that in terms or per capita murder and execution.

So if the civilian death levels are better than it was before, and below annual rates for two functioning countries, who cares?

If countries are judged by murder rates, the American Civil War ain't over in inner-city LA or Washington?

At the end of the day, liberals are great at talking up the negatives, but you have to remember what they stand for when they are in power. Absolutely nothing.

How come liberals didn't get Bill into Sudan?

How come liberals didn't call for enough 'troops on the ground' to settle Yugoslavia properly? Its war criminals are still walking around.

Posted by: McA on April 11, 2006 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

I'll say it again.

That's because nobody is listening to you.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Well, first of all the Athenians nuked Melos: if there would be no person left that would not be dead or deported, no city undestroyed, we would have cleanly won. So, there goes your "counter insurgency" and all those fancy multisyllable words. Secondly, I wonder if the Dolchstuss tactic will work after the retreat - somehow I'm afraid that it will. The mindless chorus will be deafening: if it weren't for you the panzers would be in Moscow. Maybe the creationists are right and there is no evolution, certainly the humanity does not show many examples...

Posted by: jonathan on April 11, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

"You cannot fight a counter-insurgency from 'over the horizon' bases. The article says as much."

Right. This is true.

Tell Windhorse. He thinks it's fatuous drivel.

Some good comments on your part, here. Was looking at some old maps of Europe. I suspect if left to natural human tendencies, the world would devolve into ten thousand tiny kingdoms, mostly beating on each other for breaking their eggs on the wrong end. There are damn few, if any, large nations on Earth that weren't forced into their present shape by violence at one point or another. Fortunately, a lot of them eventually get over it.

Heck, how many people care where the Mason-Dixon line is any more?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 11, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't read Packer yet, but it appears broadly consistent with Robert D. Kaplan's report on Mosul in April's Atlantic Magazine.

Soldiers can't possibly stabilize such a country except by getting outside the base perimeter, but it is doubtful that more than one in ten ever venture out. Of the 135,000 or so American troops serving in Iraq today, only a very small fraction have dealt with Iraqis in any substantial way.

Back in Mosul, I had lunch in the massive chow hall with Captain Brad Velotta of Alexandria, Louisiana. We figured that with all the support troops and private contractors who kept this base running, its total population was roughly 3,000. Out of this group, on any given day, no more than about 200 troops and civilian operatives ventured into Mosul. The visible results of all this support were amenities like heating and the Internetplus crab, lobster, steak, and ice cream in the chow hall. Velotta, the commander of one of the battalion's three rifle companies, took no satisfaction from that. His whole purpose in Iraq was to be constantly away from his FOB, "outside the wire and among Iraqis.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200604/coming-normalcy/7
Kaplan and Packer: two fine, tough-minded analysts.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on April 11, 2006 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Another unfortunate aspect of the current occupation is noted here. The hard work of our soldiers isn't followed through with the sort of massive public works spending that keeps unemployed young men from becoming insurgents.

"Where is the investment money, now that our area has been safe for months? The American soldiers had no answer. They were as frustrated as the Iraqis. Even the safe areas showed no sign of civilian relief work or major rebuilding other than what I had seen en route. The soldiers admitted that while they had the money to lay gravel on a particular road, they lacked the funds to pave it, even though all agreed that graveled roads offered easy concealment for IEDs.

It was surreal. The stability of Iraq will likely determine history's judgment on President George W. Bush. And yet even in a newly secured area like this one, the administration has provided little money for the one factor essential to that stability: jobs. On a landscape flattened by anarchy in 2004, the American military has constructed a house of cards. Fortifying this fragile structure with wood and cement now will require more aidin massive amounts, and of a type that even America's increasingly civil affairsoriented military cannot provide. This house of cards, flimsy as it is, constitutes a substantial achievement. But because Washington's deeds do not match its rhetoric, even this fragile achievement might go for naught. ...

The Bush administration's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, released with great fanfare in November, was merely a document; the difficulty of finding ground-level money for necessary projects was, in contrast, quite real.

"We can race around the battlefield and fix little problems, one Army major complained to me, "but where is the State Department and USAID to solve the big problems? Whereas commentators in Washington tend to blame the machinations of Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon for keeping the State Department out of Iraq, all of the mid-level military officers I spoke witheach of whom desperately wanted to see civilian aid and reconstruction workers heresaid that if the State Department got the requisite funding, it could be as bureaucratically dynamic as their own battalions, and infrastructure-rebuilding would not be where it appeared to be: at the zero point.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200604/coming-normalcy/6

Posted by: Measure for Measure on April 11, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

. When you listen to the fans at a football game, it isn't hard to tell which side they're on, even when their side is behind.

As a long-suffering Jets fan, I can tell you at football games that we are not shy about jeering at the coaches, the owners, and sometimes even the players. Nevertheless, we are still Jets fans... just fans with a more perceptive understanding of the talents involved.

tbrosz, you and your ilk are merely cheerleaders. At least professional cheerleaders are paid for what they do.

Posted by: Constantine on April 11, 2006 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

got ass pretty well kicked in Korea, lost in VietNam and is well on the way to losing in Iraq. the usa refuses to learn and thinks ' firepower ' is the answer to everything. how is that working for y'all ? and oh yeah, since georgie and dick's little mideast adventure is going so well, let's nuke Iran - can the usa get any more insane ? jeebus.

Posted by: who wants a pony on April 11, 2006 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

"Its the New Yorker, whether things are good or bad, Iraq will be bad. After all, they want to sell magazines to a loser liberal client base who
want their preconceptions reinforced."

Childishness on an almost incomprehensible level. We all know the New Yorker is in it for the money, right? Of course, they do have copy editors there -- hint, hint.

Posted by: Kenji on April 11, 2006 at 5:19 AM | PERMALINK

And of course Packer and The New Yorker just pander to the wild-eyed, pessimistic, anti-American left.

Wait a minute. Both Packer and David Remnick SUPPORTED the war. And the Brookings Institution! Home of Kenneth Pollack and "The Gathering Storm". Is it any wonder that "The Persian Puzzle" is ranked #19,678 on amazon?

I'm about halfway through Packer's excellent New Yorker piece. He really is a great writer.

Posted by: Lucy on April 11, 2006 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

>Heck, how many people care where the Mason-Dixon line is any more?

You'd be surprised.

Posted by: Lucy on April 11, 2006 at 6:35 AM | PERMALINK

Both Packer and David Remnick SUPPORTED the war.

Lucy bringing us true facts again. I forgot Remnick had supported the war. You can hardly argue they supported the war, then wanted it to fail so as to prove themselves wrong. (Wait a few minutes; I'm sure one of the trolls will try.)

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

McA, no one listens to you because you are wrong.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187486,00.html

"At the Baghdad morgue, more than 10,000 corpses were delivered in 2005, up from more than 8,000 in 2004 and about 6,000 in 2003, said the morgue's director Dr. Faik Baker. All were corpses from either suspicious deaths or violent or war-related deaths things like car bombs and gunshot wounds, tribal reprisals or crime and not from natural causes.

By contrast, the morgue recorded fewer than 3,000 violent or suspicious deaths in 2002, before the war, Baker said. The tally at the Baghdad morgue alone one of several mortuaries in Iraq thus exceeds figures from Iraqi government ministries that say 7,429 Iraqis were killed across all of Iraq in 2005.

"The violence keeps getting worse," the morgue director said Feb. 28 by phone from Jordan, where he said he had fled recently for his own safety after he said he was under pressure to not report deaths."


Posted by: tequila on April 11, 2006 at 7:08 AM | PERMALINK

Iraq is even a greater fubar than Vietnam since there's no possible outcome that doesn't involve giving our enemies in Iran a stronger hand than they had before we arrived. In Iraq, we're acting as Iran's surrogates!!

Are neo-con politics inspired or what?!

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 11, 2006 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Anent tbrosz's comment about the necessity of violence, he should remember that and wonder why, if that were the case, that sufficient violence hasn't been brought to bear. It's almost as if the avowed end of the exercise in Iraq isn't the actual one.

George Bush told a friend back in 1999 that were he to be elected that he'd like a war to help along his domestic agenda. Here it is, two wars later, and supporters of the war have a frustrating history of howling for enough resources to get the job done. I wonder why the president was never more forthcoming with support. Do you think it might be because the object of the exercise wasn't to WIN a war but to HAVE a war?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 11, 2006 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Wrong. Your two examples, Germany and India, weren't created by foreign powers, as was Iraq. There may have been competing groups, but in both cases (Germany and India) the overwhelming majority shared the same cultural foundations.

Well yes, they were created by foreign powers. What is now "Germany" was largely created by Prussian conquest and assimilation in the mid-19th century. The German states at that time consisted of dozens of separate free cities, duchies, principalities, kingdoms, etc. While Germans shared (very roughly) the same language, there were and are large cultural divisions between the largely Protestant east and north and the Catholic south.

And India is purely a creation of the British. Again, until Britain left India it was a hodgepodge of hundreds of states with extremely pronounced cultural divisions, religions, and languages. Even while the British were in India it was not entirely unified, as the British left lots of local little principalties to rule themselves -- they were only absorbed into India proper after 1948. The fact that "India" is one country (or really four countries if you count Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India as those states which were the core of the British Empire in India) instead of several dozen is an accident of British colonial history.

Posted by: Stefan on April 11, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Look around you. When you listen to the fans at a football game, it isn't hard to tell which side they're on, even when their side is behind.

Speaking of fatuous drivel...

A better analogy would be a football game where some of the fans are saying that the field is too wet to play and people will get hurt, and then when sure enough a player does get hurt other fans accuse the worriers of wanting it to happen.

You dishonest creep.

Posted by: S Ra on April 11, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

From "Wargames":

"The winning move is not to play the game."

Posted by: NeoLotus on April 11, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

A picture is worth a thousand words. I read the paper copy of the article and it has a picture of group of Iraqi soldiers. They look tired, uninterested, and totally lost. To add insult to injury, the caption says these Iraqi soldiers are fully dependent on the US soldiers for their supplies, sometimes even food. Training and standing up an Iraqi army is supposedly the highest priority. And this is the result?

From "The Godfather II," when Michael Corleone is visiting Hyman Roth in Batista's Cuba:

MICHAEL: I saw an interesting thing happen today. A rebel was being arrested by the military police, and rather than be taken alive, he exploded a grenade he had hidden in his jacket. He killed himself, and took a captain of the command with him.

[ROTH looks concerned]

JOHNNY OLA: Those rebels, you know, they're lunatics.

MICHAEL: Maybe so -- but it occurred to me. The soldiers are paid to fight -- the rebels aren't.

ROTH: What does that tell you?

MICHAEL: They can win.

Posted by: Stefan on April 11, 2006 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter and clearer tbrosz: We have to kill the people to give them freedom.

Posted by: lib on April 11, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Back in Mosul, I had lunch in the massive chow hall with Captain Brad Velotta of Alexandria, Louisiana. We figured that with all the support troops and private contractors who kept this base running, its total population was roughly 3,000. Out of this group, on any given day, no more than about 200 troops and civilian operatives ventured into Mosul. The visible results of all this support were amenities like heating and the Internetplus crab, lobster, steak, and ice cream in the chow hall. Velotta, the commander of one of the battalion's three rifle companies, took no satisfaction from that. His whole purpose in Iraq was to be constantly away from his FOB, "outside the wire and among Iraqis.

Reminds me of what Heraclitus wrote in 500 B.C.:

Of every one-hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there,
Eighty are nothing but targets, nine are real fighters...
We are lucky to have them, they make the battle...
AH but ONE, one of them is a Warrior...
He will bring the others back

Posted by: Stefan on April 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

"tbrosz, you and your ilk are merely cheerleaders. At least professional cheerleaders are paid for what they do."

Tbores doesn't get paid- therefore he is not a whore, merely a slut.

Posted by: solar on April 11, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

British in Malaya
I didn't know the British were still in Malaysia? I could have sworn that they quit the country more than fifty years ago.

British in Kenya
Ditto nearly forty years ago.

Chinese in Tibet
There are more Chinese in Shanghai than there are Tibetans in the whole country. I believe that is called an invasion. Oh, and the Tibetans had no military.

Soviets in Ukraine (does that count as foreign?)
No. It doesn't count as the Russians, until recently, controlled Ukraine for most of its recorded history. Furthermore, the Russians left because they chose to, not because they were driven out by military force.

Iraqis in Kurdistan (ditto above)
No, because there never has been an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds are oppressed by Syrians, Turks and Iranians as well.

Indonesia in Aceh
Who says that's over? The tsunami just put things on hold.

Vietnamese in Cambodia
Last time I checked (say about four-hundred years ago) Vietnam and Cambodia were separate countries. Vietnam invaded Cambodia to destroy the Khmer Rouge who had been launching border incursions into Vietnam.

Posted by: Campesino

Go read a book. No, no. The whole book. And then you can come back and post. And quit hanging out at freerepublic.

Posted by: JeffII on April 11, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

Poor Jeffy, so ignorant.

British in Malaya
The British defeated a Marxist insurgency and gave Malaysia and Singapore their independence years later. They weren't driven out and neither country has a Marxist government.

British in Kenya
Ditto with the Mau Mau. The British left on their own terms in their own time.

Chinese in Tibet
Yes the Chinese invaded in 1950 and there was an insurgency against them (the CIA supported it) until the mid-1970s when it fell apart. So yes a foreign power defeated an insurgency.

Russians in Ukraine
There was an insurgency against the Soviets in the late 1940s that started in the chaos of the end of WWII. I think the CIA supported that too. And thanks for making my point - yes the Russians defeated it and left on their own terms. But I did point it out as a marginal example.

Kurds
Again sort of marginal examples, though I am sure the Kurds would consider Turks and Iraqi Arabs foreigners

Indonesia in Aceh
You must be behind on your reading. A peace accord was signed last year and the rebels gave up their arms
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4151980.stm
Indonesians are still there and the rebels stopped fighting after 29 years. Win for Indonesia after their loss in East Timor

Vietnamese in Cambodia
Vietnamese invaded and deposed the Khmer Rouge, then installed their own puppet government. The remnants of the KR fought on for another ten years or so until the wheels came off and Pol Pot died. Win for Vietnamese, loss for KR.

Don't know Jeffy. Maybe you had the book and just looked at the pretty pictures.

Posted by: Campesino on April 11, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Iraq is even a greater fubar than Vietnam..."

Absolutely. Not only is the outcome worse, but you could actually understand the context in which the follies of McNamara etc. grew worse over time. In this scenario, it's just one gang of nutballs riding roughshod over the rest of us -- with a few noisy trolls, of course, clinging like parasite fish on an infected shark.

Posted by: Kenji on April 11, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Packer's article, and his recent book, both attempt to resurrect pro-invasion rationales about "the right way" to conduct an occupation, rather than to concede that the arguments against invading and occupying Iraq were made in 190-91 by the GHW Bush Administration; those arguments have stood the test of time and retrospective analysis. But perhaps the most egregious omission of Packer's NYer piece was to completely ignore the ferocity and savagery of the attacks launched against Tal Afar as part of the "clear" tactic before implementing "hold". The US military tried to attack the insurgency within the city back in August, 2004 with little success...just a lot of civilian casualties before the campaign was abandoned. However, the US returned in June then September, 2005, this time with no holds barred, as bombs, rockets, artillery, etc., forced most people out into the desert, into makeshift refugee camps. In fact, the Turkish government issued "warnings" to the US, saying that the ethnically related Turkoman population was placed at extreme risk due to indiscriminate attacks on the city proper. The upshot was that a near-total population displacement occurred, followed by the ringing of the city with huge earthen berms, checkpoints, armed fortifications, etc., in order to "hold" Tal Afar for the occupation forces. Whatever constitutes Packer's and his counter-insurgency heroes in the US military's view of "success", largely omits the definition and perception of "success" from the perspective of the locals, those who have suffered under both the insurgents and the occupation forces. Interestingly enough, a recent issue of Newsweek offers an entirely different appraisal than that served up by Packer, Bush, and CBS News. Read it here:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12016224/site/newsweek/
Some excerpts:
["U.S. troops were able to take a small group of American reporters on a foot patrol through several neighborhoodsrare these days in central and western Iraq, and unheard of in Baghdad. Iraqis along the way were full of praise for their liberators, many of whom they recognized by name. But just in case, two squads of heavily armed troops kept watch, front, rear and flanks, rifles at the ready, and wouldn't let the group linger more than a few minutes in any place; a helicopter gunship shadowed us overhead. In another part of town, police later reported that an insurgent mortar attack wounded six children. A second NEWSWEEK reporter, visiting Tall Afar independently, found other neighborhoods barricaded; Iraqi police warned that he might be killed by insurgents or their supporters if he went any farther."]
["What it is, though, like so many places in Iraq now, is a city increasingly divided along sectarian lines. The neighborhoods we patrolled were largely Shia; those our reporter found barricaded and dangerous were mostly Sunni. "I'd say that zero percent of Bush's talk about Tall Afar is true," said Ahmed Sami, 45, a Sunni laborer. "They turned Shiite neighborhoods into havens, and Sunni neighborhoods into hells." Even in the Shia neighborhoods, people were far from satisfied. "This is all just an outdoor prison for us," said school teacher Abu Muhammed. "We can't even go as far as the market street up there." He gestured to the top of his road, where the Ottoman fortress that dominates the town is located (and which we couldn't visit due to a security scare, even though it holds the mayor's office). "We know the American Army and the Iraqi Army are working and doing their best," said Bakr Muhammed Bakr, a dressmaker whose shop, like most others on the streets, was open for business. "But what are they going to do, put a soldier in front of each Sunni house?"]
[To Sunnis, that's often what it seems like. "After the battle, resistance became very low, because the city was turned into a military camp," said a Sunni doctor at the Tall Afar General Hospital. In fact, at all times at least 3,000 Iraqi Army, police and U.S. soldiers are on duty inside the city, stationed at a welter of police stations and camps and on checkpoints. Most are Iraqis. They patrol by foot and vehicle constantly. Thousands more are at bases outside the city. Tall Afar's population is only 150,000. (As many as 100,000 people, mostly Sunni, fled during last year's fighting and most have not returned.) That's at least one armed man for every 50 residents, more if reinforcements are used. "That's a pretty high ratio," acknowledged MacFarland, "which is why the enemy is having a hard time. It would be pretty hard to replicate that in a city like Baghdad or Mosul."]

A "success" story? More like "strategic hamlets" redux...it failed in Vietnam, and it's failing in Iraq. To attempt to shoehorn an American vision into a country violently resisting occupation is a mug's game, regardless of how many US Army manuals on counter-insurgency are brought to bear here.

Posted by: barrisj on April 11, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if the picture painted in barrisj's source is correct, but even the Packer piece awakened my cynical instincts. There was the mayor--an obvious bootlicker, the way Packer portrayed him, but Packer seemed to admire him. And then the mention in passing that there actually had been some brutal fighting in the center of town. Conveniently, most of the civilians had fled earlier. This didn't sound very different from Fallujah to me, and I wondered just what induced the civilians to flee. They knew fighting was coming--did they know because they were being bombed, as was the case in Fallujah?

It crossed my mind that Packer was writing this story in part with self-justification in mind--this is how his glorious Iraq war should have been fought. The article is worth reading, but I'd take it with a grain of salt.

Posted by: Donald Johnson on April 11, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Good companion reading for the Packer article is last Sunday's NYT article re: the assessment of Iraq done by the American embassy in Baghdad/State Dept. on a province - by - province basis.

Big Picture: The only region of Iraq that is "working" in any sense of the word is -- wait for it -- the Kurd provinces. What a surprise. Among other things, as the report describes it, the Brits have quietly pulled out of Basra, which is on its way to becoming a theocracy.

As for Tal Afar, the mayor recently called HR McMaster and asked him and the 3d ACR to please come back. The mayor is now doing his mayoring from a secret location outside the city, a move necessitated by the 3d ACR's leaving.

This. War. Is. Over.

Posted by: fbg46 on April 11, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone else notice the contrast between Packer's prescription for counterinsurgency ops and Kerry's recent speech calling for us, effectively, to pull back to FOBs?

Posted by: Jud on April 11, 2006 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

tequila:

"By contrast, the morgue recorded fewer than 3,000 violent or suspicious deaths in 2002, before the war, Baker said."

I suspect very few of Saddam's victims got processed through the morgue before they got to the mass graves or the river.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 11, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect very few of Saddam's victims got processed through the morgue before they got to the mass graves or the river.

tbrosz, take a look at what's happening here: the evidence is pushing you back into the land of hypotheticals. Trying to defend the argument that Iraq is better off postwar than prewar, you have to resort to the uncountable, invisible dead Saddam presumably murdered. (Of course he was murdering people, but we simply have no real idea how many, on a per-month basis, over, say, the past 5 years. 100? 1000? You can invent any number you want, they're all horrible.) It's the same dynamic as with WMD: as the negative evidence builds up, the pro-Bush argument has to keep chasing into the realm of the invisible. (Maybe they're in Syria! Maybe they're buried! Maybe...)

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 11, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect very few of Saddam's victims got processed through the morgue before they got to the mass graves or the river.

His suspicions, as always, are wrong. Most of Saddam's victims eventually ended up in the morgue. In fact one of the twisted refinements of his regime was charging the victim's family for the cost of the burial and the bullet that killed him.

Posted by: Stefan on April 12, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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