Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MODERN WARFARE....Both sides in Iraq's Shiite civil war have accepted a truce in Sadr City. The Sadrists agreed to stop displaying arms in public and to allow the government to arrest specific individuals suspected of attacks, though only if they get a warrant first. The government ended its offensive and gave up on its demand that the Mahdi Army disband. It also apparently agreed that only government forces could stage raids in Sadr City, not the U.S. military. The Iranians were said to have been instrumental in brokering the deal.

So who won? As near as I can tell, opinion ranges from "murky" to "seems like the Maliki government backed down," but really, nobody knows. Welcome to modern warfare.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon last week, Hezbollah managed to shock everyone by taking control of a big chunk of West Beirut with practically no resistance. Then, just as suddenly, they pulled out yesterday, turning control back over to government forces. But things are still tense and sporadic fighting has broken out elsewhere.

So who won? Hezbollah, probably, though it's not clear whether they backed off because they got what they wanted or because they couldn't have consolidated their control even if they'd wanted to. It's murky. Welcome to modern warfare.

Kevin Drum 12:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

There are, I think, no winners.

Posted by: Jet on May 11, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Perfect. With this kind of fighting, McCain will be able to do what no President has ever done before: keep his promise even before he sets his foot in the White House, the promise in this case being the Hundred Year War of Mesopotamia.

Excellent. Obama/Hillary don't stand a chance.

Posted by: gregor on May 11, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Muslims cannot compute intermediate solutions, so they always threaten big things but end up being lousy dancers. Puts a lie to the fable that they invented multiplication.

The net result for Lebanon will be poverty and humiliation.

Posted by: Matt on May 11, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

"So who won?"

That would be Iran. And that's the answer to botgh times you asked the question.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on May 11, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent. Obama/Hillary don't stand a chance.

gregor, gregor, you're starting to jump from point to point. It's a sign of panic, son.

Posted by: Bob M on May 11, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Obama wins. The Iraqi and Hezbollah situations reinforce the popular notion that a U.S. occupation can never bring democracy and peace to a hopeless region of the world. So we might as well pull out.

Posted by: Elliott on May 11, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

... which brings up another thought. Why don't the Democrats stop calling Iraq a "war" and start calling it an "occupation"? The war ended with the defeat of Saddam's forces. This is an occupation with insurgent resistance and competing factions.

Why frame Iraq as an occupation? If you withdraw from a war, it's a "surrender." I expect the GOP to beat up on Obama using "surrender" as a club. Ending an occupation doesn't necessarily signify a defeat.

Posted by: Elliott on May 11, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the age of nuclear weapons. There will be only one more total war.

How inspiring is this for the soldiers involved?

Posted by: Boronx on May 11, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

So who won?

That would be Iran. And that's the answer to botgh times you asked the question.
Posted by: Jose Padilla on May 11, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. Jose is exactly right. And since this is a zero sum game, Iran's victories = the Bush administration's losses. Regarding Iraq , the ineffectiveness of the Surge is now plain to see. (Just in case anybody was still wondering about this.) The complete absence of any political agreement or power-sharing in the wake of the influx of US troops means that, for now, the best that we can hope for is this type of ratcheting up, then backing away from, civil war. It's also become clear that Iran, without blowing its defense budget or putting a single boot on the ground in Iraq, wields greater influence than the country that's spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars and, for the foreseeable future, has parked the bulk of its military force in the middle of a quagmire.

In the case of Lebanon, it's clear that US support of the government is viewed as a weakening factor, and hindsight makes equally clear that the previous attack of our ally, Israel, on Hezbollah has strengthened the organization, thereby strengthening the positions of not only Iran, but that upstart, axis-wannabe Syria.

Heckuva job.

Posted by: junebug on May 11, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

junebug wrote:

"It's also become clear that Iran, without blowing its defense budget or putting a single boot on the ground in Iraq, wields greater influence than the country that's spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars and, for the foreseeable future, has parked the bulk of its military force in the middle of a quagmire."

That was so insightful and trenchant I thought it bore repeating.

Posted by: trex on May 11, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I have no comment on Lebanon, but the agreement in Baghdad will be a break for the American forces if it holds.

What that mostly means is a cessation of rocket and mortar attacks on the Green Zone. If these resume they will have to be responded to; neither the Americans nor the Iraqi government have any choice about that. If they don't, though, the Americans can revert to a defensive posture. There are no attainable objectives in or around Sadr City; on the other hand no amount of bloodshed there is likely to do much to enhance Sadr's popularity elsewhere in Iraq.

Once again, it should be remembered that violence around Sadr City spiked in the wake of the Iraqi government's offensive last month against forces loyal (or at least nominally loyal) to Sadr around Basra, an offensive about which the American command in Iraq appears not to have been extensively consulted, at least with respect to its timing. American forces in Baghdad were put in the position of battling Sadr's loyalists there because of a decision American commanders did not make. To call an agreement that reduces the level of violence around Sadr City at this point a success for the Americans would be to abuse the meaning of the word, but an agreement that held would be a fortunate thing under the circumstances.

Posted by: Zathras on May 11, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

if, and i said if, the ceasefire holds, then i think the poor folks no longer getting killed in sadr city come out ok. if it makes the green zone safer too then good.

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 11, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

There definitely seems to be a pattern here with Hezbollah, Sadr, and the Iranians. The Iranians are sending us a lot of indirect messages that generally follow the form of an "outbreak" of violence and instability that shows the weakness of the US and the governments that we are propping up (Lebanon's and Iraq's), and then they quickly "broker peace agreements" and everything settles down making Iran appear to be indispensable to the stability of the region. The point of all of this IMO, is to deter us from attacking them (the Iranians), while also scoring PR points from others in the region. If (when?) we attack them the goal is to make us look as ugly as possible, and their theatrics of late reflect their deep understanding of our idiocy.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 11, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Won? How does a country "win" an occupation. Kevin? The real bad news is that the Iraq war is spreading terrorism to other countries. I would say that Bush's "war on terror", whatever that means, is an abject failure.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 11, 2008 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

So who won?

Iran (per Joe and junebug's posts), Sadr/Mehdi (held), Hezbollah (held) and the Lebanese Army (increased influence).

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2008 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with everyone who said Iran won. They, not we, brokered this deal.

We definitely were the losers. Big surprise.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 11, 2008 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

The Iranians brokered a peaceful solution to the Sadr City situation - so the Bush Administration rattles swords at them and threatens airstrikes. Pop quiz: If the US conducts airstrikes in Iran, how long before Iran uses its influence with the various Shiite militias (inside and outside the Iraqi government) to cut the supply lines for the US troops currently split up into small detachments for counter-insurgency work?

Interesting side note: If I recall correctly, General Custer thought that a successful campaign against the "Indians" would help him in a planned run for the presidency - so he attacked the Sioux camp at The Little Bighorn. Didn't work out quite as Custer planned...

Posted by: RepubAnon on May 11, 2008 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

I concur with Doc that Iran is sending a variety of messages. Hezbollah attacked just after the latest spurt of Iran-as-deadly-meddler PR, which was in turn predictably followed by another round of Kristol & Co. slavering for an attack on those perfidious Persians. The fact that Hezbollah seems to have withdrawn as suddenly as they launched their attack makes me wonder if all this was largely a message from Teheran: "We can make life miserable for you and your allies very easily. Be forewarned."

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 11, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not get carried away... What happened in Lebanon was not precipitated by a "message from Teheran".

Hezbollah's action was a response to an attempt by the Lebanese government to shut down the Hezbollah telecoms network and remove the Beriut airport head of security.

The Lebanese Army refused, and proposed a return to the status quo before the fighting began. Hezbollah then withdrew.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

trex on May 11, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, trex, but I'm just piggybacking on Jose Padilla, who said it first -- and much more succinctly. Economy's a beautiful thing.

Posted by: junebug on May 11, 2008 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hezbollah is smart. They came, they showed off their strength, and they didn't waste everything they had in a pointless occupation of people who hate them. If only America could dream of having a government so smart

Posted by: skyler on May 11, 2008 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kev,

It's not like you to post a piece that's not about cats that without citing a source or two. U.S. forces are continuing to construct the barrier on al Qud Street and are conducting air, armor and SF ops against IED planters and guys carrying rockets, launch tubes or RPGs.
Also, I haven't been able to find who said the Iranians (Which Iranians?) were instrumental in brokering the deal.
IA forces have been attacked with IEDs during patrols.
Al Sadr has been silent on the cease fire agreement and rogue or Special Group segments of the Mahdi Army have vowed to continue fighting unless Muqtada personally orders them to cease fire.

Posted by: majarosh on May 12, 2008 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Welcome to modern warfare."

Warefare in the 21st century so far: The US or its allies/surrogates lose. Then the MSM try to find a way to bring you the news without saying who lost. This makes modern warfare confusing.

Posted by: swio on May 12, 2008 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

Whenever one is discussing any resolution of anything in Iraq, it's useful to start from the proposition that Iran has gotten what it wants. And then back out what Iran didn't get and/or didn't want from there. It really shortens the process considerably.

Example: The 2005 elections.

Posted by: CharleyCarp on May 12, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Whenever one is discussing any resolution of anything in Iraq, it's useful to start from the proposition that Iran has gotten what it wants. And then back out what Iran didn't get and/or didn't want from there. It really shortens the process considerably.

Example: The 2005 elections.

Posted by: CharleyCarp on May 12, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

This is not modern warfare. It is tribal warfare, fought for objectives we don't fully understand, based on shifting alliances we don't fully understand, and with victories and defeats counted in a way we don't fully understand.

One of the biggest problems for the US in Iraq is that we are condemned to testing every event by the question "Is is good for America?" Much of what is happening is simply beyond that question. The motives for some of these conflicts have little to do with the US (other than our role as either initiating or catalyzing agent). Most of them, however, are "bad for America" in that we can achieve some circumstance on the ground we can call victory only if all of the ancient and modern conflicts occurring among the Iraqis and the region slow to a slow simmer all at once. It just isn't going to happen.

Posted by: anoregonreader on May 12, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Hi guys. Very interesting & professional site. You done great work. Help me! There is an urgent need for sites: Ashley furniture phone. I found only this - ashley home furniture bagby waco. When you pay in you endorse trial, melt it also and destroy the ", ashley. Ashley, about the authortom parks broadcasts for microsoft. With best wishes :-(, Mark from Gabon.

Posted by: Mark on March 9, 2010 at 5:43 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly