Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TACTICS vs. STRATEGY....Ryan Crocker's job in Iraq is to create political stability at the national level. David Petraeus's job is to reduce violence enough to create some breathing space for that to happen. However, he's chosen to do this mostly with local initiatives, and Marc Lynch makes the interesting argument that this is probably subverting Crocker, not helping him:

Petraeus, Bush, and their defenders argue that the local initiatives might provide the foundations for a national reconciliation down the road. Perhaps. But for now it looks more like the local initiatives, which are providing the temporary 'successes' which will justify continuing the administration's course of action, aren't just not being matched by political progress but are actually undermining the national political process. They are organizing the Sunnis outside of the state rather than fostering integration. And by heightening Sunni military weight and political expectations, these policies likely encouraged the political trainwreck we saw over the last few weeks: Sunni leaders felt emboldened to demand more, while Shia leaders worried about making concessions to a group accumulating military and political power outside their control.

I understand why Petraeus has chosen this route. Iraqi political institutions and the Iraqi state are so far gone, and so implicated in one side of the sectarian conflict, that avoiding them and starting over at the local level probably made good pragmatic sense....But this is what I meant few weeks ago when I wrote about tactics working against the strategy.

As usual, there's more at the link. It's worth reading.

Kevin Drum 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Ryan Crocker's job in Iraq is to create political stability at the national level. David Petraeus's job is to reduce violence enough to create some breathing space for that to happen.

Some might believe that. But if Crocker & Petraeus are working together to increase instability and violence, the plan is working perfectly.

Posted by: Petrified Forest Gump on August 10, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

More federalism and less centralism. Fine, if it works.

Posted by: Matt on August 10, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

However, he's chosen to do this mostly with local initiatives, and Marc Lynch makes the interesting argument that this is probably subverting Crocker, not helping him

Patrick Cockburn agrees, and has this to say on the matter:

It is a measure of the desperation of the White House to show that the surge is having some success that it is now looking to these Sunni fighters for succour. Often they are former members of anti-American resistance groups such as the 1920 Revolution Brigade and the Army of Islam – Bush has spent four years denouncing these groups as murderous enemies of the Iraqi people. To many Iraqi Shia and Kurds, who make up 80 per cent of all Iraqis, the US appears to be building up its own Sunni militia. So, far from preventing civil war (a main justification for continued occupation), the US is arming sectarian killers engaged in a murder campaign that is tearing Iraq apart.

As an occupier you can't keep switching sides in an intersectarian conflict, arming one and then the other, and then expect to make political progress with both . I believe the technical term regarding this principle is "duh."

Cockburn's article is well worth a read, as he was, you know, actually IN Iraq, and not just in the Green Zone.

Posted by: trex on August 10, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase RJD:

Crocker and Petraeus are not in Iraq to create disorder; they are there to preserve disorder.

Posted by: Disputo on August 10, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

They are organizing the Sunnis outside of the state rather than fostering integration.

Hah? How does organizing the Sunnis at the city level mean they are organizing outside the state? Since cities are part of the state, it actually means the exact opposite. If liberals were to organize and set up a local pro-abortion planned parenthood clinic, would this mean the state planned parenthood is weaker? Of course not. Same thing is happening here.
What Bush (with the help of Petraeus) is teaching the Iraqis is federalism. Sunnis can have local autonomy at the local level while the majority shiites will have autonomy at the federal level. Pretty simple really.

Posted by: Al on August 10, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

As an occupier you can't keep switching sides in an intersectarian conflict, arming one and then the other, and then expect to make political progress with both . I believe the technical term regarding this principle is "duh."

No - the technical term for this principle is: $$$$$!!

Market blues got you down?
DFI is up!
DFX is up!
RTN is up!
LMT is up!
ATK is up!
GD is up!
RTN is up!
NOC is up!

That's because we're arming both sides.

And after we leave, we'll still be arming both sides!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 10, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Shut the fuck up AL.Are you completely bereft of all awareness? Tactics and strategy that are at odds with each other can only be used as a short term measure to effect a long term goal. The balance that's required to pull that off are way beyond the lightweights running the show in Iraq and Washington.

Posted by: Gandalf on August 10, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Biden's interview on Charlie Rose a few days ago was very interesting. He thinks pulling around the edges and supervising might work, but even so Maliki has just got to be less horrendous. Maliki - the George Bush of Iraq! (Hmmm - who is the Dick Cheney ... Look around for a "man-sized safe.")

Posted by: Neil B. on August 10, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

This has all been done before innumerable times throughout history - and a great number of times in recent history. It's generally called a 'warlord system.' Arm the local strongman to provide local security. It can work to provide temporary solutions to local problems.

BUT IT CANNOT BUILD A NATION! Until, of course, one of the warlords wins a long, drawn out conflict - leaving a totalitarian state, armed with weapons we have provided.

Wait, isn't that how Saddam got there in the first place?

Posted by: Patrick Malone on August 10, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Fuehrer speaks!:

"My message ... is, you can do better than this current government," he said. "You don't have to be isolated. You don't have to be in a position where you can't realize your full economic potential."

Well, you heard the man, fellow citizens -- let's get cracking!

Of course, the ellipsis conceals the fact that Dubya was actually directing his "advice" to the Iranian people.

But he could just as easily have been addressing you and me, self-effacingly prpmpting a second American revolution.

Funny how often our "Unitary Executive's" words bounce off their intended target, only to ricochet homewards, eh?

[The link points to a fine article quite relevant to this topic -- "Cheney Urging Strikes On Iran" -- by McClatchy Washington Bureau's Warren Strobel, John Walcott & Nancy Youssef, who refreshingly label the BUllSHit being spewed by various administration stooges exactly what it is.]
.

Posted by: Poilu on August 10, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

And "further afield":

US Hegemony Spawns Russian-Chinese Military Alliance
By Paul Craig Roberts
Americans need to understand what the neocon Bush regime cannot: a nuclear exchange between the US, Russia, and China would establish the hegemony of the cockroach.

Posted by: Poilu on August 10, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Don't make it sound so noble, Kevin.

Here is the truth - The U.S. military is slaughtering Iraqi civilians by the thousands. Every single day. These civilians do not want us in their country and are willing to die to drive us out. The few foreign fighters who are there don't amount to a popcorn fart and have about as much connection to Osama bin Laden or the original al-Qaeda as I do to Santa Claus. At least a million Iraqis have fled the country. Another million are internally displaced - living in caves, date groves, in the mountains, etc. There is virtually no electricity in Baghdad, a city of 6 million people and little or no fresh water. Most of the water is drawn from the Tigris River and is full of human feces and pieces of decomposed corpses. People live in fear constantly. We have turned Iraq into a Hell on Earth.

There is nothing fucking noble about this occupation and I am sick to death of Americans, even so-called liberals, asserting that there is.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on August 10, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Conservative Deflator,

Agreed with your comment. Thanks for saying it like it is.

Posted by: nepeta on August 10, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

But this is what I meant few weeks ago when I wrote about tactics working against the strategy.

Maybe wishful thinking, but the tactics don't necessarily have to be working against the strategy. If Iraqi nationalists in the central government are serious about a unified state, and if the US cannot otherwise exert pressure to ensure that outcome, then it could make sense in weird way...

Petraeus (bad cop): We will stabilize the country by any means necessary to ensure security (and allow us to disengage), even if that requires that we circumvent the central government.

Crocker (good cop): If the central government dooes not take action to ensure the viability of an Iraqi state which can ensure security (and allow us to disengage), you'll be marginalized and your life won't be worth spit.

Of course, that assumes the Iraqi players think they couldn't win in a showdown, are unwilling to pay the price, or would just as soon take their piece of the pie and say fuck-all to a unified Iraqi state.

Posted by: has407 on August 10, 2007 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Here is the truth - The U.S. military is slaughtering Iraqi civilians by the thousands. Every single day."
__________________________

Eh? If we are killing thousands by the day, it hasn't been noticed by our military or anyone reporting from the field.

Crocker is asking a legitimate question - are the gains being made by Petraeus undermining the larger political goal? He doesn't have anymore actual proof about it than CD has about his fever dreams of slaughter, but at least he poses a good question.

Posted by: trashhauler on August 11, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

If liberals were to organize and set up a local pro-abortion planned parenthood clinic, would this mean the state planned parenthood is weaker?

It would if the liberals were arming and training the local PP.

Posted by: tomeck on August 11, 2007 at 5:49 AM | PERMALINK

trashhauler: "Crocker is asking a legitimate question ..."

... within the context of an illegitimate enterprise that's become a major fiasco, and is presently winding its way toward total catastrophe.

So what if we are finally wrestling control of various Baghdad neighborhoods from the local militias? Those militants will just move on to create mayhem in other provinces, and will eventually return to those same Baghdad neighborhoods upon our inevitable departure. Many of our troops are now on their third to fifth deployments, and are overextended and exhausted. This so-called "surge" is logistically unsustainable over the long term.

That statement bears repeating: This so-called "surge" is logistically unsustainable over the long term.

Our presence as an occupying foreign power is the primary catalyst for the current ongoing violence in Iraq -- not Iran, not al Qa'eda, not Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.

Our troops will continue to serve the ever-growing factions of Iraqi malcontents as the wartime equivalent of piñatas at children's birthday parties, until Congress musters the collective gumption to seize the political initiative from Fearless Leader and Boris Badanoff, and see to our forces' redeployment out of that godforsaken country.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 11, 2007 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

tomeck: "It would if the liberals were arming and training the local PP."

Go blow it out your ass, clown.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on August 11, 2007 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

My grammatical construction was poor but the point remains the same - Iraqi civilians have died by the thousands at our hands and more are dying every day. I do not blame the men and women of the military - they have been put into a war that has no purpose and given a mission that has no meaning and an enemy that is not defined (Shia?, Sunni?, al-Qaeda? it changes daily). Bush and Cheney are war criminals - having initiated a war of aggression. Many of the Germans sentenced to the gallows at Nuremberg were convicted of exactly that charge.

End this war today, Mr. President!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on August 11, 2007 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

One million Iraqis have died, thanks to the U.S. invasion.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on August 11, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

I've been laughing for a day or so now.
I saw one of the bright minds of the usual inside group write that figuring out the Iraq situation was like "playing three dimensional chess in the dark while you are being shot at."
The actuality of how to deal with and accommodate or not accommodate the various parties goals and motives is logically simple.
A. America can neither stay in Iraq nor leave Iraq and have easy, cordial, aligned interests with any eventually arising central dominant force/government.
B. If America semi 'stands down' behind a multinational force the chances for a settlement and a hopeful future for Iraq (and the region) brighten.
C. Alternatively, if America insists on a continuing presence they should henceforth implement a tri-part Iraq. Post establishment of same, the U.S. could implement massive aid to each faction and a return to the time honored bribe-the -dictator policy.
The metaphor I prefer for the Iraqi quagmire is that America forcefully shoved its arm into a deeply murky toilet to retrieve a bright shiny object. To extricate itself it simply needs to unclasp its rigid grasp and begin the cleaning up process.
Craig Johnson

Posted by: cognitorex on August 11, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

They hope to spin it like a top with some kind of self serving, myopic theoretical framework
of propaganda --blatantly related to the presidential approval rating-- but all of us can see
the acute misery, frequency and severity of violence, the insecurity and instability,
economic malaise, poverty...

More myths and inaccuracies are heading our way.

Posted by: consider wisely always on August 11, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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