Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BENCHMARK WATCH....The following version of the story has disappeared from the Washington Post website, but here's what Gen. Peter Pace and SecDef Robert Gates told Congress about the surge on Friday:

[Pace] and Gates suggested that their deployment could be curtailed if the Iraqis fail to meet their commitments.

....In response to skeptical questioning by the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), Gates said the United States would "know fairly early in this process whether the Iraqis are in fact prepared to fulfill the commitments that they've made to us," such as sending more Iraqi brigades into Baghdad, permitting them to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents and refraining from political interference in military operations. This would be known "probably within a couple of months," Gates said.

"If at that time we conclude that at a government level and on a broad level they have not fulfilled their commitments, then I think we have to reevaluate our strategy," the Pentagon chief said.

So one day after Bush's big speech, what was the Iraqi government's very first action toward "fulfilling their commitments"? Here's the LA Times:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has filled the top military job in Baghdad with a virtually unknown officer chosen over the objections of U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, officials from both governments said.

....Maliki's decision to push through his own choice for one of the country's most sensitive military posts -- and to reject another officer who was considered more qualified by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey -- has renewed questions about the prime minister's intentions.

I'll bet it has. Apparently no one knows a thing about this guy, including, most crucially, whether he has any ties to Shiite military or political parties. I think we can all guess what that means.

So what does this say about the benchmarks Bush talked about on Thursday? As the Post admits, "Gates and Pace said that they think they have assurances from the Iraqi government, but that there is no specific deadline for success or clear benchmarks for progress." Needless to say, this makes no sense. As a way of bringing pressure to bear in a situation like this, benchmarks are nearly meaningless unless they're clear and public, and the fact that ours are neither is an umistakable sign that no one is taking them very seriously. Obviously Maliki knows this.

Kevin Drum 1:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Surge = matching previous troop levels. I guess things were so great back in 2005, eh?

McCain Doctrine = Kill More Americans Doctrine.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 13, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Those benchmarks were never meant for Maliki, they are purely for domestic consumption. Bush and Maliki share the goal of dragging out the U.S. presence for a while longer, but he will never agree to go after the Medhi Army. When this becomes apparent, Bush will be in a tight spot.

Posted by: DP on January 13, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that Maliki is granting his last political favors before he's gone and shoring up defenses for the Mahdi army. The US plan could be read as a set up for his fall by creating unattainable goals for Maliki and forcing him to make promises he can't keep, in addition to the fact that he stated publicly he doesn't even want his job anymore.


This new appointment likely has everything to do with protecting al-Sadr

Posted by: Stefan Markey on January 13, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Geez, I thought the McCain Doctrine was to win, at any cost, the hearts and minds of the Bush base.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 13, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

There's a couple of questions that I would like to ask Pace, Casey, Gates and his pentagon staff, the state department staff, all of our experts: What percentage of the Iraqi military has no association with any militia? Which specific Iraqi military units do we think are reliably independent of the various militias?

If we can’t answer those questions, I don’t think we have any kind of handle on the situation. We don’t know what to do. The same is true if the answer to the first question is a low percentage and/or the answer to the second question is a low number.

My guess is that:
a) the answers are not what we want
b) for the most part, we are taking sides with Maliki’s military/militias
c) Maliki simply wants to keep using our money and military to favor his side for as long as possible.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 13, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Whose country is Iraq? W. Bush and the members of his cabinet (and the CEO's of the big oil companies) seem to think Iraq belongs to them. I have no idea what Malichi is doing, but he is the prime minister. I think Bush, Gates, and the traitorous generals who serve them should shut up about the decisions the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq makes.

If Gen. Casey had any balls, he would criticize Bush not Malichi. If Gen. Casey were a patriot, he would accuse Bush of malfeasance and recommend impeachment.

Posted by: Brojo on January 13, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Benchmarks.

The marks on a workbench usually stay in place as
reference points.

I might have my workbench marked with decimeter intervals.

I might have it marked with one inch lines.

Other bench marks might be dings from hammers (known as elephant tracks to us carpenters), or holes from drills that slipped through the wood
projects from above.

Benchmarks. Nice term but not really useful when it comes to Iraq. Especially when not every thing
is clearly defined.

I still say we have to look at what happened to Vietnam, the rampant corruption that flourished, the new wealthy who barely knew how to spend money spending it in as frivolous ways possible, partying, etc.

The same thing is going on in Iraq. Corruption is rampant. My model? The former USSR!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 13, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has filled the top military job in Baghdad with a virtually unknown officer chosen over the objections of U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, officials from both governments said.

Maliki is clearly following the Bush model of governance. A couple of months from now you'll hear him say, "Heck of a job, Qanbar-ie!"

Posted by: RSA on January 13, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

according to gates, if they don't meet their benchmarks, we'll remind them of their obligations, we'll re-evaluate our strategy. then what? will we act like real men and inveigh or go full-tilt rambo on their asses and cajole them? maybe we can hold our breath till we turn blue.

Posted by: benjoya on January 13, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Spewed coffee on the monitor, benjoya.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 13, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan Markey: My guess is that Maliki is granting his last political favors before he's gone and shoring up defenses for the Mahdi army.

That's my guess too. My impression from earlier actions by Maliki was that he had given up hope of the democracy succeeding. This appointment is in line with that idea. It's a bad sign.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 13, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Paul, speaking of Hearts and Minds...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 13, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

What it means is that Maliki anticipates our pulling out and is putting his own guys in place. From where he sits, there's no point wasting time pretending to placate Dubya for another few months.

Posted by: helmling on January 13, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Bush is having a hard time selling his BS to even Republicans, who must be getting complaints from voters.

It just isn't going to work, little Bushie is trying the old "Dems need an idea" without having to have an idea of his own.

Gates says two-months, but everyone knows, if two-months, two-years, its still a stay the course loser. Its just bodies after the cold hard fact, Bush lost Iraq a long time ago, because he never listens to anyone, except tickey Dick, real Preznut behind the hapless, cluesless little Bushie.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 13, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

[Pace] and Gates suggested that their deployment could be curtailed if the Iraqis fail to meet their commitments.

....In response to skeptical questioning by the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.)

Sen. Levin, why don't you just let Bush have his little surge?

Jeebus. How about NO Mr. Gates.

We've been there, done that and we already know it won't work.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 13, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom line:

Iraq is a patchwork of tribal and sectarian divisions in which local allegiances greatly transcend any notions of a national Iraq.

Since 1958 Baathism (pan-Arab nationalism) tried to overlay tribalism by forcing a national identity over the top of a tribal/sectarian population.

This effort centered around a development of a totalatarian state/military structure. This approach might be best described as 'natonalism at the point of a gun'.

This is what Saddam tried.
This is what the Soviet Union tried.
This is what every empire in history has tried.

As long as the state can keep the lid on underlying divisions, all seems ok... but under the surface, the pressure is always there.

Like a pressure cooker, take the lid off... and it all blows up. Welcome to Iraq today.

Bush believes he can magically undo 3,000 years of tribal history and overlay the same society using 'democracy at the point of a gun'. Let's just call this approach 'Bushism'.

Bushism will succeed only as long as a huge and long-running military presense is maintained to supress the underlying allegiances of the different populations.

Like shoveling sand against the tide, Bushism will eventually fail, but not before spending thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of American lives, hundreds of thousand Iraqi lives and a trillion dollars in the process.

A measure of stability will only be achieved when the Iraqi people eventually sort out their own political divisions for themselves and not with an occupying Army standing over them.

It won't be pretty, it won't be what the Bush regime wants, but it is inevitable.

Posted by: Buford on January 13, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone been watching Senator Webb in those hearings? He is very quickly becoming my 2nd favorite Senator after Feingold.

Posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad on January 13, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Gates said the United States would "know fairly early in this process whether the Iraqis are in fact prepared to fulfill the commitments that they've made to us,"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say we don't have to wait at all to know what the outcome will be.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on January 13, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

So what's you're great plan for Iraq? Timetables?

Bush has stated CLEARLY what the benchmarks are. What he cannot do at this time is state what the penalties are for not meeting the benchmarks. But that's all too the good, because it maximizes our future flexibility.

Word is Makili has already agreed with the President to crack down on the Sadr and Badr forces. There was an article in the Post this morning about how the Shi'ite Iraqi officer corps are becoming more likely to fire on their own kind.

Posted by: egbert on January 13, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

The petulant Little Idiot finally blurted out "Well, if you're going to criticize me, you have to come up with a better idea."

Well, several Democrats have come up with better ideas already, LI. And so has Chuck Hagel (R-Neb). And so has the Iraq Study Group. And so has the bunch at my local bar.

You just refuse to try them. They are not "better" to you, because they all have some component of "stop what you've been doing."

LI doesn't like to be told to "stop."

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 13, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Gates said the United States would 'know fairly early in this process whether the Iraqis are in fact prepared to fulfill the commitments that they've made to us.'"

Looks like with the appointment of this new Iraqi military honcho (straight from Al-Sadr?) fairly early has already arrived.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 13, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

egbert reflects the many faces of macaroni and cheese. He posted something similar, at about the same time, above. Ever notice he has nothing to say except to offer loosely hung bait from the resevoir of false information

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 13, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo wrote: "W. Bush and the members of his cabinet (and the CEO's of the big oil companies) seem to think Iraq belongs to them."

And they will send any number of young Americans to their deaths, murder any number of innocent Iraqi civilians, spend any amount of the US taxpayers' money, indebt America ever further to China and Saudi Arabia, risk a regional nuclear war, and wreck the US military to make sure that it does belong to them.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 13, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Word is Makili has already agreed with the President to crack down on the Sadr and Badr forces.

right. Iraqi leader goes own way to fill top post

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has filled the top military job in Baghdad with a virtually unknown officer chosen over the objections of U.S. and Iraqi military commanders, officials from both governments said.

he better watch it, or else we'll tell him he better watch it again. btw, where's maliki's statement supporting the escalation -- i mean, it was his idea, right?

Posted by: benjoya on January 13, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Despite my increasing disappointment with Bush over the past 4 years, I've tried -- really tried -- to respect the office and hope for the best with the Iraq War (notwithstanding my personal feeling that it would be nice to see the arrogant people running the show be exposed for what they are). But this "surge," for all the reasons mentioned in the post and comments, does not appear even to be a serious attempt to market the idea that Bush has things under control. My, oh my, things are not looking good.

Posted by: Tillman Fan on January 13, 2007 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Given that the "surge" is to deploy to Kuwait and the navy is approaching the general vicinity of Iran, anyone expecting the troops to be actually used in Iraq might have to change one letter in the name of their supposed destination.

Posted by: opit on January 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

I definitely googled this new Shiite Baghdad military chief's name and literally came up with nothing. I'd made the prediction that this guy was going to be a Shiite Saddam if this escalation doesn't work...but now I'm not so sure.

Posted by: reader on January 15, 2007 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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