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Tilting at Windmills

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November 21, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BOTTOM'S UP....Last week in the Washington Post, John Podesta, Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis wrote an op-ed critical of the surge:

Proponents of the current path claim that, after four years of failed strategies, the surge was needed to get Iraq on track. They point to recent declines in the overall level of violence and cooperation at the local level between some Sunni insurgents and U.S. forces. But the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq.

Mickey Kaus complains that when you write a sentence like the last one, it sort of demands an explanation. How exactly does progress at the local level hurt the chances of national reconciliation?

He's right. It demands an explanation. But the answer is fairly straightforward. First, the more power that local sheikhs and local militias have, the less likely it is that they'll be willing to give up authority to a central government. Organizing the Sunnis outside of the state fosters confrontation, not integration. Second, Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite allies are increasingly unhappy about our cooperation with Sunni sheikhs and are using it as a convenient excuse to avoid making any compromises at a national level. Shia leaders worry more about making concessions to a group that's increasingly well armed and well organized, not less. Third, for all practical purposes we're arming and organizing both sides in a future civil war. Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, until recently a senior advisor to Gen. David Petraeus, admitted as much here.

Put it all together, and the fear is that we're essentially creating the conditions for a warlord state, not a centrally controlled nation state or even a loose federation. It's worth keeping in mind that our current "bottoms up" approach wasn't a strategy that we consciously chose, it was something we stumbled on and accepted out of necessity. It's a strategy full of contradictions, and making it work is a tightrope walk that requires literally everything to break our way. In a place like Iraq, those are bad odds.

Kevin Drum 1:28 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (71)

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Bottom's up; black is white; peace is war.

Posted by: idlemind on November 21, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

Podesta, Korb and Katulis appropriately use the term "strategic drift" (as others have) to describe the situation... tactics without consideration of whether they align with strategic objectives. Which is simply a short way of saying that we don't appear to have a Iraq strategy; or that if we do, it has been subsumed by tactics.

That's not entirely bad. The previous lack of security and the level of violence in Iraq have been show-stoppers, whether facts on the ground (e.g., reconstruction) or political progress. That said, the tactics and strategy on both those fronts are in serious need of alignment.

As to the assertion that this "wasn't a strategy that we consciously chose", I'd disagree. It has most emphatically been a conscious choice by Petraeus et. al. It may not have been the first choice, and it may not be an optimal choice, but it was a choice. We've done, and continue to do, and end-run around the central government in Baghdad.

Of course, whether the likely conflicting end states can be reconciled is still TBD. A cynical view is that US actions are intended to do more than provide a "decent interval", after which the blame can be laid on Iraqi's (specifically Baghdad), or handed off to the next POTUS. A more gracious view is that somewhere in all this is a grand strategy where all the pieces fit, and where the end states all come together. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: has407 on November 21, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

It's worth keeping in mind that our current "bottoms up" approach wasn't a strategy that we consciously chose, it was something we stumbled on and accepted out of necessity. It's a strategy full of contradictions, and making it work is a tightrope walk that requires literally everything to break our way.

You forget the most salient aspect of the "surge" strategy -- it was designed primarily for domestic US consumption.

Posted by: Disputo on November 21, 2007 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

has407: OK, it was a choice. I'll grant you that. I just meant that it wasn't part of any kind of considered plan. This stuff was happening already when the surge started and Petraeus decided, willy nilly, that riding the tiger was his best bet.

And it might have been. But it's still not a strategy he would have chosen if he'd any other options. It's just chock full of dangers and contradictions. I hope he (and we and the Iraqis) get lucky, but luck is what it's going to take. And plenty of it.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on November 21, 2007 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Or not. Remember de Nile is a river in Egypt.
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB207/index.htm still looks good as a description of events. Cheney certainly knew what would happen. So.What more would it take to make this a valid assessment ?http://empireburlesquenow.blogspot.com/2005/03/dark-passage-pnacs-blueprint-for.html

Posted by: opit on November 21, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: I just meant that it wasn't part of any kind of considered plan. This stuff was happening already when the surge started and Petraeus decided, willy nilly, that riding the tiger was his best bet.

Agree that we took what we could get and that it was less a plan than a reaction; "riding the tiger" sums it up nicely and is a more appropriate description than the other euphemisms various pundits have thrown out, although we clearly have more than one tiger. Petreaus appears to be riding one, but no one (at least on the US side) seems to be minding the other.

Posted by: has407 on November 21, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

John Podesta, Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis might well owe an explanation, but Slate's resident hack Mickey Kaus certainly doesn't deserve one, until he offers a few of his own.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 21, 2007 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

In the US 60 years ago, there was much more separation of the black and white races than there is today. Forward-looking people looked for ways that the races could learn to live together at the local level. It would have been absurd to think that cooperation at the local level would somehow undermine cooperation on the national level.

Kevin makes a game attempt to justify a similar allegation about Sunnis and Shias by Podesta, Korb and Katulis. But, much more than a hypothetical explanation would be necessary to convince people of such a counter-intuitive proposition. I suspect Kevin doesn't fully buy his own explanation.

Incidentally, today we're accustomed to a strong national government, but in Iraq a weaker national government and a stronger local government might work better. It's a lot easier to manage democracy at the local level. Voters there know the people they're voting for and better understand the actions of their local government.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 21, 2007 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK

Mickey always deserves an explanation.

First, the more power that local sheikhs and local militias have, the less likely it is that they'll be willing to give up authority to a central government. (ICG)

And that just the Sunni/Shia side of the conflict, the Shia/Shia side suffers from the same tactics over strategy problem.

The US has been using SCIRI (now ISCI) in its fight with Sadr`s militia... which results in a more violent and less liked ISCI thats deeper inside the government/police/army. But its badr brigades will never destroy politically significant amounts of Sadr`s movement. This may make Sadr and his Mahdi militia even more popular because he isn`t in bed with the US. Meanwhile Iran *is* hedging it bets between the Shia players (and keeping them out of each others hairs?)

To quote crisisgroup: "This struggle, more than the sectarian conflict or confrontation between Anbari sheikhs and al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters, is likely to shape the country’s future."

And if Rudy gets eight years then at some point he is gonna arm someone to "counter" Iranian influence. Why hasn`t anyone confronted Rudy on camera about the obvious complete contradictions in his strategy paper?

Posted by: asdf on November 21, 2007 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

neverwasa-liberal: It's a lot easier to manage democracy at the local level. Voters there know the people they're voting for and better understand the actions of their local government.

And that's the problem. Different communities will distance themselves from the other communities and build more local cohesion. That will only work if there is a balance of power and shared interests between the communities. This is unlikely to occur in a society where vendettas between communities are long-lasting. It is also exactly the opposite of the integration of ethnic groups that occurred in the USA.

Posted by: natural cynic on November 21, 2007 at 5:46 AM | PERMALINK

It's not just strategic drift . . . the Administration can't make up its mind about whose side it is on. We supported the Shiites against the Sunnis during the first several years of the war, but suddenly realized that we'd installed a pro-Iranian government, and now we seem to be embracing the government's Sunni opposition, at the urging of our Saudi masters . . .

Posted by: rea on November 21, 2007 at 6:04 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know how you can say it wasn't consciously chosen. Certainly one aspect of the anti-insurgency tactics that Petraeus is famous for discussing is dividing the insurgents into rival factions as a way of disuniting them.

The label "bottom-up" may have been improvisation after it became impossible to pretend that there is a central government functioning. But to say that Petraeus didn't have the idea, from the beginning, of getting more power to the Baathists is not something you can really say you know for sure.

Moreover, I think that you have to consider the possibility that this IS the strategy--to prevent the formation of an effective government. An effective government, one that is even moderately representative, will be a shiite government with good relations with Iran. Such a government is not one that would be willing to permit US military bases in Iraq.

Since those bases were the goal of the invasion, that means that preventing the formation of an effective central government may well be what the administration is actually trying to achieve.

Posted by: jayackroyd on November 21, 2007 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

" . . . but in Iraq a weaker national government and a stronger local government might work better. It's a lot easier to manage democracy at the local level."

Perhaps, but in the context of this thread, this statement is utterly irrelevant.

What is happening with the surge is not the management of "democracy at the local level," it is the creation of local military dictatorships. There is nothing "democratic" about the creation of warlords and local "government" at the point of militia guns is certainly not what this administration used to justify the surge.

Posted by: Joel on November 21, 2007 at 7:05 AM | PERMALINK

I think the "bottoms up" process is fundamentally immoral -- arming both sides in a civil war. It gives them every incentive not to compromise, to wait until we are gone, or until they judge the time ripe for political reasons, or until they must to something to keep the Kurdish oil, etc., to have at each other (and us if we're there) again.

It's nuts, and it will inevitably cause significantly more bloodshed, and produce no better results, than if we just got the hell out of there with our guns and our money.

Posted by: David in NY on November 21, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Kaus makes a living writing sentences that need explanations without providing the explanations.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on November 21, 2007 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever's going on in Iraq, the Iraqis seem to approve. They are returning from exile in large numbers.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article2910230.ece

The Iraqis don't see a civil war on the horizon.

Posted by: Everett on November 21, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Put it all together, and the fear is that we're essentially creating the conditions for a warlord state, not a centrally controlled nation state or even a loose federation.

Somalia 2: Iraqi Boogaloo. Perfect for dropping in the laps of incoming Democratic administrations.

Posted by: Doug H. on November 21, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

"The Iraqis don't see a civil war on the horizon."

Great! So the surge worked. Guess its time to bring the troops home, right, Everett?

Posted by: Joel on November 21, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

The Iraqis don't see a civil war on the horizon.

Cool! We're done then, lets get the fuck out.

Posted by: elmo on November 21, 2007 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

You remember that scene from the service comedies in the USO?
Army and Navy on different sides of the dance floor, sorting out sides, throwing members of the other service over to their own side just before the REALLY big brawl?
That's it. And we're the USO host in the middle, calling for order and amity, about to be one with the parquet floor.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 21, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever's going on in Iraq, the Iraqis seem to approve. They are returning from exile in large numbers.

Depends on what you define as "large numbers."

An AP story on MSNBC from October:

DAMASCUS, Syria - Their money gone, Iman Faleh and her family packed their belongings to reluctantly return to Baghdad — a journey they said was like going to "death row."
The religiously mixed family — Iman is a Sunni Muslim, the others are Shiite Muslims _ fled their home in a mostly Shiite part of east Baghdad in July and took refuge in Syria, joining an estimated 1.5 million other Iraqis here.
But in early fall, they became part of a growing wave of Iraqis leaving Syria for home, not because they are confident of Iraq's future, but because they ran out of money.
CNN, from Nov. 7:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Some 46,000 Iraqi refugees returned to their war-torn country last month [in October], a sign of hope that the massive population flight since the 2003 U.S. invasion could be reversed, an Iraqi commander said Wednesday....
... About 10,000 internally displaced families have gone back to their homes in the Iraqi capital, said Sattar Nawruz, spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration, also pointing to better security.
The Iraqi officials' assessments contrast with gloomy findings from the U.N. refugee agency and Iraqi Red Crescent Organization documenting an increase in displaced populations in recent months. The latter counted nearly 2.3 million internally displaced people in Iraq during September, a figure that has grown steadily this year.
In addition to the thousands of internally displaced people, more than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries, mostly to Syria and Jordan, the U.N. refugee agency said. Those countries' social service agencies have been stretched by the presence of the refugees, and they have adopted tougher rules on the refugee flow.
Nawruz, who cited statistics that don't include the Kurdish region, said the number of Iraqi families internally displaced since February 2006 stands at 140,000, which amounts to at least 700,000 people since Iraqi families often average five to six people.
He said "accurate data" indicates that forcible displacement in Baghdad has stopped in the past three months and ministry data indicates that 10,000 families have returned to their homes in the city since the start of the security plan in February.
A U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees official said the agency is checking the ministry's figures.
Nawruz said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a grant of 1 million Iraqi dinars, about $700, to families returning to their homes. He said 3,231 families have received the money and more than 6,000 have applied for the funds....
...Nawruz attributes the differences in numbers between the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization and his ministry to dissimilar methods of data collection.
Iraqi Red Crescent President Said Ismail Hakki agreed the organizations' methods of data collection are different but stood by his group's figures.
In a report issued Sunday [on Nov. 4], Hakki's organization said that nearly 2.3 million people had been displaced by the end of September, a sharp increase from the August figure of 1.93 million and part of a steady rise this year.
"Children less than 12 years [old] comprised more than 65 percent of the total number. The majority of the displaced people [63.6 percent] were in Baghdad governorate," the report said.
The percentage of displaced people who are children has risen from 51.3 percent in August, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization said.
Hakki attributed the increase to a "lack of services, lack of jobs and despair among the Iraqi people of the whole overall what's happening in Iraq." He said the displacement problem has persisted over the years but spiked with the February 2006 bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra.
Baghdad and the Kurdish region were among the worst-hit areas, Hakki said, citing the deterioration of families and suffering of children, whose mothers have abandoned them in some cases "because they're becoming a liability."
He said he believes the "security situation in Iraq is improving at a very good speed" but adds that the lack of social services and jobs are factors in the displacement of people.
He said the increase in the number of displaced children presents new challenges for his organization, including problems of education and the trafficking of girls and boys alike.
"It's a social-economic problem. People are in despair now," Hakki said, adding that he hopes the Iraqi government will make improvements in jobs and social services to reverse the instability.
Reuters from Nov. 20:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Encouraged by the lull in the bloodletting in their homeland, Iraqis are beginning to trickle home, desperate to escape the financial hardships that exile has imposed, but most are still too fearful to return.
"There is nothing sweeter than being in Iraq. I will not leave again," says 70-year-old grandmother Saadiya Tawfik, whose family struggled to make ends meet after fleeing to neighboring Syria with more than a million other Iraqis.
International aid agencies say the number of people being displaced in Iraq still exceeds the number of returnees. Displacement and Migration Minister Abdul Samad Sultan told Reuters about 1,600 people were returning to Iraq every day.
The government has been keen to highlight the number of families coming back to show that a nine-month-old U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to quell sectarian violence is working.
Uh-huh, I bet putting lipstick on a pig will make it look purdy. So don't forget...
Iraqis are certainly coming home because of improved security, but equally they are being pushed out of the countries that have taken them in....
...Many of the 2 million Iraqi refugees abroad, who are mainly in Syria and Jordan, are waiting to make sure that the downturn in violence is not simply a lull but a "long-term phenomenon", says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The Iraqis don't see a civil war on the horizon.

How many Iraqis did you survey to make such a bold conclusion? A sample of 500? A sample of 1,000? How many did you poll? BTW, how were conditions in Iraq while you were conducting your poll?

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: It's a lot easier to manage democracy at the local level. Voters there know the people they're voting for and better understand the actions of their local government

This might be a good approach in some post-colonial states with widely diverse local communities, Sudan for example, but seems utterly untrue in the case of Iraq. In the former you have several different groups mashed together in the same artificial state with really no competing allegiances outside their national boudaries. In Iraq, not so much. To be overly focused on local organization in Iraq is not only to take focus away from creating any national identity, but inviting constant foreign influence, or at least an unhealthy interest, in the Iraqi state from its neighbors. Nevermind any non-state actor who simply has an interest in destabilizing the region.

If we're going to break up the state of Iraq, we should work towards that goal. It would be bloody as hell and probably a failure, but best to get at it sooner rather than later. But if we want to keep Iraq together, the paradox we face now is that the element we are using to create stability at a local level, the US military and the tactical alliances it has formed with local groups, cannot give legitimacy to the national government. Without a legitimate and effective national government, Iraq will never become a cohesive democracy. The most we can hope for is an efficiently-run neo-colonial operation at a manageable cost to the US taxpayer. Bush can't admit this obviously, but the next president will really have to decide if this is a worthy goal of the US military.

Posted by: sweaty guy on November 21, 2007 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

jackackroyd is on to something up there. The success of the Surge and all the rest of it (strong locals, weak central government, meddling by the neighbors), guarantee an ongoing Coalition presence (80K? 100K?) for another coupla dozen FUs.

Posted by: Model 62 on November 21, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it ironic that right after Mickey demands an explanation he says "Attempting to achieve some sort of stable balance of local power, on the other hand, has worked before in this sort of situation, no?" Your statement requires an example Mickey, no?

Posted by: Lee on November 21, 2007 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

On substance, I think Kevin has the right take on this issue. I'd like to point out, though, that "bottom up" usually means "starting from the bottom" whereas "bottoms up" usually means "here's mud in yer eye!" or "I'll drink to that!"

Posted by: Barry on November 21, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

In the November 2005 National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, President Bush defined victory in Iraq as an Iraq that "is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism."

Posted by: croatoan on November 21, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Making Iraq a warlord state was the objective all along. Warlordism has a lot in common with American monopolistic capitalism, but I suppose most CEO's are envious they cannot enforce their will with in-house deadly force.

Posted by: Brojo on November 21, 2007 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

You want to know why this administration is moving toward a local model of government that will increase division, warlordism, and even civil war?

Look to the eastern Congo..."one of the most essential components of the technologies you enjoy today -- your cell phone, your computer, even the wireless connection over which you may be reading this post -- depends on coltan. And 80 percent of the world's coltan reserves are found in Congo. There it is mined by Congolese -- often Congolese children -- for paltry amounts of money that eventually turn into big profits for someone else..."

All in the middle of a 20 year civil war.

The read about the oil industry in Africa-through coups, civil wars, massacres, atrocities, repression, etc., the oil has been pumped with damn few interuptions for all of the civil chaos.

Who says civil war and social breakdown cannot provide a workable model for business? As long as the right wheels are greased, it is more economically favorable for the business to work out revenue deals with relatively weak local warlords.

Look for it coming to the newest destabilized govenment in your region.

Posted by: Neal on November 21, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you misread Mickey.

He's actually demanding not just an answer but "they answer" -- the answer he can use to show how Democrats are wrong, and then spin into a column about neo-neoism.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 21, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

How is it that Americans with no Arabic, no particular area knowlege, no understanding of Islam, and a cartoon perception of the complexities of far away places should be taken seriously. By anyone. At all. Ever.

Cartoon perceptions: 'The Sunni,' 'the Shia' ? The categories are empty, as empty as 'the Protestants' and 'the Catholics.'

Consider the record of success. A country in ruins. 4 million driven from their homes. Civil society destroyed. A million dead.

We spent five years doing this, and yet presume to suggest that we have _any_ credibility when we discuss the Iraqi's future???

What do the Iranians call us, "The international arrogance."?

That's about right. We have exhausted our credibility, our moral authority, our right to be taken seriously in any forum, on any level, anywhere. Period.

The hollow core of the academic culture that got us here is beginning to show itself in other ways. Looked at from the outside our impending economic collapse may appear well deserved.

War costs that for a *single day* could pay for health care for 400,000 children. Years of work on global warming lost.

All with the complicity of 'defense intellectuals' and academia in general. Willful blindness, cowardice, or intent.

As the British have discovered in Basra, we simply need to get out. There is a generation's work to do at home to save us from the destruction we have wreaked on ourselves.

The Iraqis will take care of themselves.


Posted by: G Hazeltine on November 21, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

G Hazeltine brings up my point. Let's imagine, just for discussion, that Bushco do achieve their victory in Iraq, which is (thanks, Croatoan!) "... an Iraq that "is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism." How very rosy that would be!

But did Bush's invasion of Iraq really accomplish anything that was important for the security of the US?? And at what cost??? Everything in the US is worse because of GWB's little war, we have lost friends, time, opportunities, and regardless of how Iraq turns out, the invasion was pointless. It didn't solve any problems that we needed to address, and it created some problems that we didn't have before. Regardless of how it turns out, Bush, Cheney, etc are war criminals.

Laying down ones life for ones friends, assuming the Iraqis are our special friends, may be a core tenet of Christian theology, but it is a terrible way to run foreign policy.

..off-topic grammatical inquiry: "BOTTOM'S UP" is odd, isn't it? If *'s indicates a possessive, I wonder what Bottom is going to do with his Up. If it indicates a contraction, "bottom is up" doesn't make any sense either, unless it is a variation of the whole "black is white" and "up is down" reality under which Bushco operate.

Posted by: PTate in MN on November 21, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

First, the more power that local sheikhs and local militias have, the less likely it is that they'll be willing to give up authority to a central government.

This is such a silly argument to make, not least because it's like arguing towns shouldn't have mayors or states governors, but also because they're giving up power NOW. Where do you think the money to pay these Concerned Citizen groups is going to come from? Hint: the tribes aren't pumping oil.

This is how power works in the Mideast: money buys loyalty.

Third, for all practical purposes we're arming and organizing both sides in a future civil war.

Oh, now the civil war is in the future? I thought the meme was Iraq was already in a civil war -- which this strategy is very successfully tamping down. Also, we're generally NOT arming them; everyone in Iraq is already armed. We're just paying them to work for the ISF instead of the insurgents, who increasingly are just criminal gangs that the civilians resent.

Posted by: TallDave on November 21, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

It may be devolving into a nation (oops region) of warlords, but they are our warlords. I don't think this was an original plan, but it represents an apparent opportunity. Use the divisions among the local fiefs to maintain controlled chaos. The real objective was to obtain access to (and profits from) the oil. Now that peak-oil is upon us (or almost here), the NASCAR dads will be grateful to the imperialists that they can continue their lifestyle for another few years. All this supposes that we can maintain the imperial possesions. I suspect that may work for a few years, but long-term the Iraqis will revolt if our extraction of their wealth becomes too obvious.

One mini-opportunity presents itself. The Iraqis might have been (might still be) willing to play along for a while if they see life improving, and expect that trend to continue for a while. With the security situation improved it might be possible to make progress rebuilding the infrastructure. After the past few years even minor progress is going to feel good to the residents.

Posted by: bigTom on November 21, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Some of you may be familiar with Riverbend. She doesn't have much to say to us anymore. Reading her from her first posts to her last ought to be a prerequisite for those presuming to judge Arabs in general or Iraqis in particular.

In terms of our rebuilding Iraq, this post of hers is instructive:

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_riverbendblog_archive.html

She is now a refugee in Syria. Regarding reconciliation, or at least what it was we destroyed, there are many, but this, from her last post, gives an idea:

"We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.”

I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003."

Posted by: G Hazeltine on November 21, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -

Thanks for taking the Mickster through that step-by-step. Sometimes the differently enabled can help us to slow down and think things through in greater detail than we normally do. In doing so we clarify our own thinking and broaden our understanding of the thought process of others.

Now if Virginia Postrel would just talk him through his biting criticism of BMW'w design team, we'd be making real progress.

Posted by: Adams on November 21, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Fact is, the attempt to keep Sunni's and Shiite's together might very well be a mistake.

Fact is, your speculation that the attempt to keep Sunni's and Shiite's together might very well be a mistake is not a fact.

There was some recognition of that on some of the "partition and withdraw" plans proposed by Democrats (Biden, was it?).

Yes, Biden. So are you advocating partitioning? If so, what's to keep the partitioned Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds from warring with each other? Or Turkey from invading Kurdistan? Shake your Eight Ball and try again.

In effect, the army is lifting some aspects of the previous "partition and withdraw" ideas or "empower a new strongman Sunni Saddam replacement and get the fuck out" and incorporating them into their strategy by empowering local strongman Sunni Sheiks.

So you say. I'd prefer to read such a stated policy from the Army (Is there one?) instead of pundit David Brooks. Contrary opinion from Jackson Diehl of WaPo in September reminds us that the Iraqi parliament passed legislation last October "that sets out the procedures for forming autonomous regions." Diehl goes on to say:

Formal steps to create the regions are prohibited until next April. But Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south are already racing ahead. The most powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, has been campaigning hard for the project. Last month a group of 45 tribal leaders met in Najaf to launch a separate movement for "the self-rule government of the Iraqi south," electing a president and announcing plans for a 130-member council...
...Iraqi sectarianism remains undiminished, and sentiment about partition is shifting. A national poll sponsored by Western news media showed that public support for either "regional states" or "independent states" as a political solution rose from 18 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in March. Meanwhile, the Iraqi population that most opposed separation -- in the mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad -- is rapidly if brutally diminishing, thanks to continuing ethnic cleansing by Shiite militias and the flight of tens of thousands of Sunni families to Jordan and Syria.
The biggest step toward federalism is the one President Bush sought to focus attention on last week: the "Sunni awakening," in which dozens of tribes and tens of thousands of men have effectively abandoned the insurgency against U.S. forces and joined the fight against al-Qaeda. This development wasn't directly caused by the surge, and administration officials have trouble explaining how it will contribute to the national political reconciliation they say they are still seeking.
Yet it's clear that the new Sunni coalition provides an alternative source of order in Sunni areas to either al-Qaeda or the Shiite government -- a crucial missing element during the past several years. Many of the tribes seem unwilling to accept the current national regime, but they could be the foundation for a regional administration in the majority-Sunni western provinces, and perhaps the western neighborhoods of Baghdad where Sunnis are still the majority. Their militia forces may deter Shiites, such as Moqtada al-Sadr, who have aspired to create a dominating national power.
...But the problem with Biden's strategy is that it calls for the United States to join with an international coalition in essentially forcing the scheme on Iraqis. The events of the past year have demonstrated, again, that Iraqis won't respond to guidelines and timetables drawn up in Washington or at the United Nations. Slowly and very painfully, they are moving toward a new political order. But they will do it -- they have to do it -- on their own time.
It's up to Iraq to determine its future. Not the U.S. military.

Furthermore, General Petraeus didn't mention what you wrote during his congressional testimony in September. He advised caution and stated:

In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months. Nor would anyone have predicted that volunteers in one-time Al Qaeda strongholds like Ghazaliyah in western Baghdad or in Adamiya in eastern Baghdad would seek to join the fight against Al Qaeda. Nor would we have anticipated that a Shia-led government would accept significant numbers of Sunni volunteers into the ranks of the local police force in Abu Ghraib...

Of course, the results validate Bush's decision to trust the commanders in the field.

Except when he didn't. The commanders in the field -- Casey and Abizaid -- opposed the surge. So Bush replaced them.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

[Bush] might actually extract the US and get a new regional ally out of the venture in the form of the pro-US provinces (Kurdistan)within the new arrangement.

The Kurds have historically been pro-U.S. But what makes you think Bush will withdraw troops from Iraq before he leaves office? He hasn't said so. Do tell. That would be big news.

Now, the Left has to fudge its old positions and try and raise the bar for success.

The Left, like the majority of Americans, wants to get our troops out of Iraq. No fudging on that position.

After all, bashing Bush is more important than honest consideration of its own country's interests, so its now starting to argue that "Iraq is a failure unless Bush leaves in place a single state with a tightly unified culture".

No, ridding us of the failed policies of Bush and his Repub clones are in our country's best interests.

When did Bush take in the honest consideration of our country's interests? Most Americans say Bush has led the U.S. down the wrong track, they disapprove of his handling of the war, and his long-standing disapproval ratings show it. If he took the honest considerations of his country's interests to heart, he would resign so he can't FUBAR anything else.

Hell, Bush didn't honor his promise to rid the WH of staffers who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the press, an action that would have been in U.S. national security interests. He commuted convicted felon Scooter Libby's sentence for his part in the CIA leak to boot.

Who is the source of your quote, Iraq is a failure unless Bush leaves in place a single state with a tightly unified culture? Being rhetorical or what?

It might work - I think not.

Thinking isn't your strong suit.

You guys should move on.

We already have. The country already has. But Bush... not so much.

Term limits will do what you losers failed to do.

What did the "losers" fail to do? Win the 2006 election?

Bush is leaving.

*Applause*

A smart party would be hedging - and positioning itself to absorb reflected glory if Iraq is a success.

The smart party will be saddled with the Iraq quagmire. The Democratic president will have to fix what Bush and Repubs have failed to do in five long years of war, bloodshed, and misspent tax dollars. Restoring trust in the U.S. foreign affairs, after the Repub clusterfuck, may take longer.

Try arguing that if the Democrats hadn't taken congress, Rumsfeld would still be around and the change in strategy wouldn't have happened.

Have no desire to argue such. Who would?

Unfortunately, you can't do that...

Do what? Make a nonsensical argument? No thanks.

...and keep trying to defund the troops. Too bad, huh?

Too bad we have obstructionist Repub senators who thwart the will of the majority of Americans who want our troops out of Iraq. Too bad we have a president who vetoed a bill that set a timetable to get out. Bush and his rubber stamps aren't too keen on democracy, are they?

Its tough for the Republicans to keep the Presidency for 3 straight terms...

I can't imagine why!

...but I think foreign policy is going to be an issue well in the Republican candidates favor come election day.

We'll hold you to your prediction. All of the Repubs favor a stay the course policy in Iraq. Just how does that square with what most of Americans want?

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK


..the surge is a success?

deaths are down for a month ot two?

meanwhile,

2007 = record usa deaths in iraq

2007 = record usa deaths in afghanistan

and its not even thanksgiving..

surge doesn't mean what the bush cult thinks it means..

Posted by: mr. irony on November 21, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK
In the US 60 years ago, there was much more separation of the black and white races than there is today.... ex-lax at 3:46 AM
Before Bush invaded Iraq, there was more integration of Sunni and Shia in Iraq society. There was more freedom for women in matters of work, dress, and social opportunity. There was more security and safety. There were fewer refugees. There were fewer dead. There was more sanitation, water, electricity, employment and oil production.
... President Bush defined victory in Iraq as an Iraq .... croatoan at 10:23 AM
Two years later and he has still accomplished nothing.
.... fudge its old positions and try and raise the bar for success.... bashing Bush is more important than honest consideration of its own country's interests... McAristotle at 11:07 AM
None of Bush's actions as C-in-C have done anything to show any success whatsoever. It is not in America's interest to been seen as an invader and occupier of any nation, let alone one in the Middle East where such actions are rightly perceived as an imperialistic oil grab. Posted by: Mike on November 21, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

On mcaristotle:

Hard to know where to start with this, or if it is worth dignifying. Probably not, except to point out that this kind of unsupported assertion playing into gross ignorance and prejudice is precisely what has got us where we are.

"She spent most of her time calling for violent attacks on US troops trying to hold her country together and wishing some Sunni strongmen led by Al Qaeda would subjugate the Shiites/Kurds by brutal force and bring back the good old days of Saddam."

Garbage, to put it politely.

Posted by: G Hazeltine on November 21, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

mr. irony: 2007 = record usa deaths in iraq

mt. irony, if you're going to evaluate the surge based on a period that includes time when it wasn't in effect, why not go all the way? You could really denigrate the surge by pointing out how many more US deaths there were in Iraq in the period 2003 - 2007 than in 1998 - 2002.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 21, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Fact is, the attempt to keep Sunni's and Shiite's together might very well be a mistake."

You should talk to Bush, dear heart, since that is precisely the plan. In any case, I don't think you'd recognize a "fact" if it bit you in the butt.

"There was some recognition of that on some of the 'partition and withdraw' plans proposed by Democrats (Biden, was it?)."

There are also some very good reasons why this will not work. You can start with one word: oil.

"incorporating them into their strategy by empowering local strongman Sunni Sheiks."

Dear heart, all you're doing is proving Kevin's point.

"Of course, the results validate Bush's decision to trust the commanders in the field."

ROFL.... Dear heart, Bush has never "trust[ed] the commanders in the field," nor has he ever listened to them. And in this case, the results are far from clear, which is why you haven't even bothered to try to support your silly assertions.

"History may be very kind on Bush's legacy."

No, dear, it won't. Deal with it.

"Now, the Left has to fudge its old positions and try and raise the bar for success."

Dear heart, we're not the ones shifting the goalposts. They are what they have always been, as is the bar for success. You really should stop and think before posting such pointless mindless drivel.

"After all, bashing Bush is more important than honest consideration of its own country's interests"

LOL.... "After all, supporting Bush is more important than honest consideration of its [sic] own country's interests." I can play silly games, too, dear.

"You guys should move on."

We will, dear. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with the consequences of Bush's incompetence and will have to deal with it for years to come.

"A smart party would be hedging"

You should talk to the Republican Party, dear. They don't seem to have gotten your message.

"Its tough for the Republicans to keep the Presidency for 3 straight terms but I think foreign policy is going to be an issue well in the Republican candidates favor come election day."

LOL.... I don't even need to respond to this bit of drivel.

I see you've learned nothing in the months since I last say you post here, McA. Not too surprising, really.

Posted by: PaulB on November 21, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, today we're accustomed to a strong national government, but in Iraq a weaker national government and a stronger local government might work better. It's a lot easier to manage democracy at the local level. Voters there know the people they're voting for and better understand the actions of their local government.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Which is exactly the position the Iraqis are currently in. While I hate to admit it, ex lib has a point that comes directly from our own history as a nation.

Under The Articles of Confederation, we had no Executive Branch or standing national army. All financing & manpower needs came directly from the 13 states' citizen militias & legislatures. Gen. Washington was selected to lead as Commander in Chief by representitives of the states, was poorly funded by them, & came close to being fired by them while his troops were dying from disease, starvation, & exposure by the hundreds at Valley Forge. Thankfully, Congress & the state legislatures were informed of the precarious position they were all in. They realized it was in their own individual interests as states to support the central government & supply the necessary money & supplies for Washington, & the other generals, to eventually win our revolution. The lessons learned from that near fiasco led them to create a much stronger Federal government under the new Constitution, again seeing it as in their best interests. (However, IMO, if they could have foreseen how much power the Executive Branch has today, I am sure our Constitution would look very different.)

The original Bush strategy of building Iraqi politics from the central government downward flies against our own national experience. The new tactics of building Iraq from the bottom up is more in line with our own experience. The question remains whether this approach will result in building democratic process or result in a region of warlord rule. Again, it could have worked out either way in the 1780s here.

As Kevin said, we fell into the bottom up strategy though the accident of conditions in Iraq. While we don't know the eventual outcome of our current course, it is plain that our original strategy failed miserably. I'm willing to see what occurs in the next 6 to 8 months before making the irreversible decision to pull out unconditionally. I also agree with this sentence from Kaus "How exactly does progress at the local level hurt the chances of national reconciliation?" While it might mean the eventual removal of the current central govt., the current national govt seems more of a hindrance to eventual peace & unity for Iraq. It is also possible that a national Iraqi unity govt is an oxymoron.

Posted by: bob in fla on November 21, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

mt. irony, if you're going to evaluate the surge based on a period that includes time when it wasn't in effect, why not go all the way? You could really denigrate the surge by pointing out how many more US deaths there were in Iraq in the period 2003 - 2007 than in 1998 - 2002.

You seriously need to shut the fuck up. Your desperation is palpable, and your constant cheerleading is disgusting. First of all, the "surge" got underway in February. That is 10 months of increased troop presence, and six months at full-strength.

Your false equivalencies are just that, and frankly, as you have repeatedly stated you have no skin in this game,nobody wants to read a single fucking word you have to say. Especially those of us who have someone close to us who stepped up and served. Something you and yours are not the least bit concerned with. That my nephew is expendable to you for the sake of ideology makes me physically ill.

Just shut the fuck up, you offensive jackass. I would be very thankful for that this week.

Posted by: Airman Rowland's Aunt on November 21, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: Mickey Kaus complains that when you write a sentence like the last one, it sort of demands an explanation.

Of course in Mickey's case, the writing of that explanation requires the use of small, monosyllabic words and should eliminate the need for thoughtful consideration of its content.

Posted by: grape_crush on November 21, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

"While I hate to admit it, ex lib has a point that comes directly from our own history as a nation."

No. The situations are not comparable. The deep divisions, tribal, religious, and ethnic, did not exist in our own country, the long past history did not exist, and the money situation (oil) was entirely different. We were not engaged in a civil war and we had no real equivalent to the current Iraqi warlords that we're arming and bribing. There are literally no reasonable comparisons to make.

"I also agree with this sentence from Kaus 'How exactly does progress at the local level hurt the chances of national reconciliation?'"

You already have your answer. Come back when you're ready to deal with it.

Posted by: PaulB on November 21, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin did forget one other major factor....

Its not just that giving aid and comfort to Sunni's who are sworn to overthrow the elected government of Iraq makes it less likely that reconciliation will be achieved -- we're also likely to see a resurgence of al Qaeda because we're usurping the power of the local elected leaders who are Sunni Islamists.

Shiite Islamists were not the only group who wanted Iraq to be a sectarian state, but were suppressed by Saddam -- there were also Sunni Islamists -- and they began organizing as soon as we invaded. For all intents and purposes, the "neighborhood watches" that we are now helping to get organized are former Baathist terrorists.

Remember when Iraq had elections -- and ex-Baathists couldn't run, and decided to boycott. Well, you know who that meant won all the local and provincial elections in the Sunni dominated areas? Sunni Islamists who decided not to boycott the elections.

If Bushco had any sense, it would have realized that the Shiite Islamists who run the central government have a lot more in common with the Sunni Islamists than with the Sunni Baathists -- and that political reconciliation was much more likely if the Sunni Islamists are running things in the Sunni areas.

Its pretty obvious, however, that Petaeus went into this think knowing full well that a "surge" of a mere 30,000 troops wasn't going to create the kind of situation conducive to reconciliation in six-months time. So Petraeus decided to change the mission of the surge -- it wasn't "political reconciliation", but "war on al Qaeda in Iraq" suddenly.

Of course, in order to win the "war on al Qaeda in Iraq" in six months time, Petraeus had to take a few shortcuts -- like negotiating a separate peace with ex-Baathist terrorist. It didn't matter that this made political reconciliation impossible -- all that matter was a "victory" that could be used for PR that would allow Bush (and Petraeus--who by all reports is politically ambitious) to keep troops in Iraq and hand the problem off to the next administration.

Posted by: p_lukasiak on November 21, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hat tip to the moderators!

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

G Hazeltine, I just want to extend you a warm welcome to our little ecommunity. I am enjoying your contributions immensely and hope you stick around and become a regular.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hat tip to the moderators!

Second that! The unrepentant troll McA was not missed in his long absence, was he?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 21, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl: The unrepentant troll McA was not missed in his long absence, was he?

Hell fucking no.

The insanity that if Bush brings the troops home...yeah, like that's gonna happen...once again contradicted his assertion that the Imposter-in-Chief listens to his commanders in the field. Gen. Petraeus Petraeus said a stable Iraq would require another decade of occupation.

Contradictory dipshittery and McA go hand and hand.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

The surge is a tree, for those who can't see the forest for the tree.

No WMD, no grateful population greeting us with garlands of flowers. Conclusion: war was a fiasco, a mistake, and a quagmire with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by: Luther on November 21, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

For those who think that "building democracy" from the ground up via armed militias is a good start in Iraq and then try to use the U.S. as a historical example - read your history, please!
The U.S. already had over a 100 years of active, peaceful democratic practice prior to the Revolutionary War. When elections were held, we did not expect them to be challenged by guns. We did not have a social/religious system that encouraged violent vendettas. The legal system was generally seen as being non-partisan and as a protector of citizens. The courts were open to all (free) adults and were not noted for corruption.
Until Iraqis decide to separate religious requirements from politics they will be unable to establish the prerequisites for a democratic society.

Posted by: Doug on November 21, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

I thought "bottoms up" had to do with drinking, "bottom-up" with strategy.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on November 21, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Until Iraqis decide to separate religious requirements from politics they will be unable to establish the prerequisites for a democratic society.

Doug, amen. The comparisons of Iraq with our own experience of forming a nation are usually inaccurate to the point of ridiculousness.

But they can at least be fun exercises in trying to look at the occupation through Iraqi eyes. For example, how much legitimacy do you think the American national government would have had if it had relied on the French army for years afterwards to reduce militia violence and protect its leaders? Or if the continental army was a French force led by Georges Washington.

See what I mean? Ludicrous but fun.

Posted by: sweaty guy on November 21, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is ridiculous on this one. A year ago, he and others were claiming there was a "civil war" which doomed reconciliation. Now, with peace and security breaking out all over, he argues that also dooms reconciliation.

Let's keep this simple. Peace and declining violence is obviously a good thing. "Reconciliation' is a political issue that will proceed at the pace of self serving politicians.

Posted by: brian on November 21, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

brian: Let's keep this simple.

Yes, let's keep this simple. Reconciliation will be dependent on those who have power and who are willing to bargain with it--who are increasingly those who control local militias, at the behest and support of the US.

Round two consists of trying to get those power-brokers to negotiate, both between themselves and with the central government (*cough*) in Baghdad. If it was only those "self serving politicians" in Baghdad we have to deal with, life would be considerably simpler.

Posted by: has407 on November 21, 2007 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

has407,

I did not limit the self serving politicians of Iraq to Baghdad, but I think otherwise you have it about right. And that process of reconciliation will be easier the more peace there is in Iraq. So let's not twish this, as Kevin tries to do, into peace being a bad thing.

Posted by: brian on November 21, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

So let's not twish [sic] this, as Kevin tries to do, into peace being a bad thing.

The level of wingnuttery in a mind that reads Kevin's post and concludes that he's asserting peace is a bad thing... now that's twisted.

Sheesh, you seriously need medication.

Run along now. We're not buying crazy here tonight.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on November 21, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

No brian, you complete fucking moron, your blatant distortion of Kevin's point into "peace is a bad thing" is so stupid I'm surprised even someone as ignorant of foreign policy as you would say it.

Having peace within a town may be a good thing, but if that peace comes because all of the differences have been sorted out by slaughtering everyone who isn't white and middle class then it isn't the kind of peace one can support.

Stop shifting the goal posts. Of course, in order to do that you would have to stop accepting the Republican spin for everything and look at the actual facts and you aren't that smart.

Posted by: heavy on November 21, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm surprised that people are wondering about Kevin's little joke. Bottom's up is just using the pun of the Bottom up "plan" to reminding us all the heavy drinking one needs to do to take the Republicans seriously on foreign policy.

Posted by: heavy on November 21, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

So you're admitting, Brian, that the goal all along was to occupy Iraq (with a media gloss of purple-finger democracy) and not to liberate it?

Posted by: objectivelypro on November 21, 2007 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Heh. Being called "ridiculous" by brian is like being called ugly by a horny-toad, innit?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 22, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

You guys are tough and it is hard to understand why.

I'm just making the point that peace is better for reconciliation that "civil war" and folks like Kevin are unreasonably searching for the dark cloud.

Posted by: brian on November 22, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Have you worked out a justification for this clusterfuck yet, bri-bri? Hmmm?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 22, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

No brian, you lying little maggot, you aren't trying to make any such point. You are re-casting Kevin's point into something that it is not and then arguing against that.

Do you know what that's called when you do that little boy? That's called a straw-man argument. Adults have learned not to do that (most of them don't engage in name-calling either. But my contempt for idiots like you, who after seven years of the most bumbling administration ever still pretend the Republicans have any credibility whatsoever on foreign policy, is boundless).

Please refrain from posting until you can make an argument that isn't based on your lying about the original post. See, we've read it and know better. If you could read as well as you lie, you would too.

Posted by: heavy on November 22, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

bwian the bwainless has no skin in the game, and hasn't the balls to put any there. But he will sure as hell make excuses for the deserter in chief, who didn't put his skin in the game when it was his turn. And he will cheerlead the death of Americans in this clusterfuck...while sitting on his flabby, soft ass.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on November 22, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Warlord state in Iraq? Like the one the US left in Afghanistan (twice), and, increasingly, in western Pakistan? No surprise.

Posted by: raj on November 22, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK
.... peace is better for reconciliation that "civil war" ... brian at 12:07 AM
That was the rationale for the surge, however, Iraqi leaders are not even trying.

...The acrimony among politicians has strained the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki close to the breaking point. Nearly half of the cabinet ministers have left their posts. The Shiite alliance in parliament, which once controlled 130 of the 275 seats, is disintegrating with the defection of two important parties.
Legislation to manage the oil sector, the country's most valuable natural resource, and to bring former Baath Party members back into the government have not made it through the divided parliament. The U.S. military's latest hope for grass-roots reconciliation, the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen into the Iraqi police force, was denounced last week in stark terms by Iraq's leading coalition of Shiite lawmakers.
"There has been no significant progress for months," said Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents and the most influential Sunni politician in the country....

What is Plan B?

Posted by: Mike on November 22, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

"You guys are tough and it is hard to understand why."

Dear heart, we don't like logical fallacies and stupidity, both of which you are guilty of. It's not so hard to understand: we simply don't suffer fools gladly.

Posted by: PaulB on November 22, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Arming the Sunni?
Making way for a warlord state?
Wandered into it by chance.
I guess it is the only workable solution for Iraq.
Gee guys we are making a Saddam Hussein

Posted by: aeolius on November 23, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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