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Iraq Report, 27 Nov/06

| 44 Comments

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

  • The insurgency in Iraq is financially self-sufficient now, thanks to criminal activities throughout Iraq that ensure that, even should Iraq manage to gain the support of all its neighbors in calming the situation, the insurgency will be able to continue operations.

Other Topics Today Include: Anbar tribe counts coup; British look to turn over Basra; Iraq-Singapore trade agreement plans; Iraq seeks to help the poor; Polish loans; EU debt writeoff; Sheik asks Arab nations to abandon Iraqi government; Carnival of the Liberated; Iraq summit planned; Talabani to Iran; Syria and Iran may help Iraq; Iraq in civil war; 3BCT comes home.

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD

  • British forces may hand over security responsibilities in Basra to Iraqi forces by the spring.

RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY

  • The Minister of Trade, Dr. Abd-ul-Flalah Hassan Assudani, began negotiations with Singapore to study the proposed convention for the development of economic relations between the two countries.
  • Iraqi government is currently engaged in actions to correct a sharp rise of the prices of many services and goods which burden those with limited income.
  • Iraq obtained a loan of 250 MM euros from Poland to build housing units, then pay it back after five years from the date of completing their implementation.
  • In recent high level discussions there was agreement to write off 80 percent of the debts due for payment by Iraq to the EU.

IRAQI POLITICS

THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE

  • The foreign ministers for all nations bordering Iraq will meet on December 5 to discuss the situation there in hopes of calming the violence and reducing the threat to their own nations.
  • President Jalal Talabani will soon visit Tehran to meet his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  • Syria may be willing to help the U.S. calm Iraq, but their assistance will come with a price tag. This should come as no surprise to any observers of international politics, of course, but the question remains, will the Bush administration be willing to pay Syria's price. Iran is also willing to work with the U.S. on Iraq, but in their case they want the U.S. to cease its 'bullying and invading' tactics and improve relations with Iran.

ETCETERA

  • In what will come as a shock to, well, pretty much no one, a group of experts has proclaimed that the situation in Iraq is a civil war despite the denials of the Bush administration.
  • Do you have your GI Bracelet? Many military families fall into financial hardship when the breadwinner is injured or killed. The entire purchase price of the GI Bracelet is donated to support our troops and their families! Please join us to give back to these brave people in their time of need.
  • The troops are still there. So is the Winds of Change.NET consolidated directory of ways you can support the troops: American, Australian, British, Canadian & Polish. Anyone out there with more information, contact us!
  • Many American troops have taken it upon themselves to reconstruct schools and gather learning tools for the children of Iraq. Their efforts have been met with immense gratitude from the local Iraqis and their children. You can help too! Visit Operation Iraqi Children and get involved.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. And if you have a tip for a future Iraq Report, email us at MondayIraqReport(at)windsofchange.net.

44 Comments

The obvious failure of the variations on a theme American policy in the middle east begs the question, why would more of the same applied with greater determination, and recast verbiage, succeed? There is an old saw that hindsight is 20 20. That is simply not so: our mideastern foreign policy, a good example. Our mideastern foreign policy reminds me of the story of the man who carves a wheel from solid stone; then spends the rest of his life trying to fill it with air. He can have all the will and determination possible, he can deride his naysayers as enemies and unbelievers, but he'll never get any air into a stone.

Tom, there simply isn't any detail in that sniping. Generalities aren't convincing IMO.

Ah, so how much farther down the pit have we slid in the last week or so? Huge multiple car bombing in Sadr City, followed buy Sadr's goons taking over a TV station to incite Shiia to go on a rampage that ended with several Sunni burned alive in the streets and Mosques burned to the ground. US base lit on fire. Oh, and we found out the insurgents make enough money smuggling oil to be self-sufficient, as Guevera would say they have moved from survival to flourishing.

But the good news is the idiots in Washington are still having high level talks and analysis of the situation. Its probably gotten to the point where every day of talk leads to some other horrific turn of events that needs to be talked about. A nasty sort of circular policy making. Of course its going to take a good long time to figure out a suffiently bullshit excuse for why we cant or shouldnt or wont introduce enough troops into Iraq to keep a half dozen vehicles from being filled with high explosives and detonated simultaneously in a major population center.

We have gone from tragedy to farce.

Oh, and the bonus is we get to see Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft reliving the past by slapping together another Munich Compact with Syria and Iran. And just like in 91, Jim Baker is going to sell out the Lebanese by cutting a deal with Syria, letting them operate freely in Lebanon in exchange for token support in Iraq. An even worse deal than 91, because the Lebanese are actually starting to sort things out for themselves and perhaps confron Hezbollah, and Syria is going to be continue actively undermining our interests in Iraq because why the hell not?

If Bush goes this route the last shreds of respect i have for him will be gone. I cant excuse his ineptitude and failure to execute in Iraq, but to date I could at least credit his moral courage in taking on the project and holding to a course. Not the perfect course certainly, but at least one that doesnt screw over the people in the region most reasonable and Westernized in exchange for a false truce with the fascists in the region. But it looks like Bush's daddy's guys are in his ear now and they were never ones not to sell out anybody and everybody for a short term, transparant, ploy.

Tom, there simply isn't any detail in that sniping.

If you can't see the details on your own at this point there's really no use trying to explain them you.

Our government has gone into vapor lock in Iraq. At least before they made pains to push some papers around and maybe play wackimole with some troops when events indicated it. Now there is just no reaction.

We arent even staunching the bleeding anymore. We've talked a lot about tipping points, and i'm afraid we finally have reached one. Just tipping the wrong way. Things are going to start happening faster and faster now and we simply are not equipped to react, not with this administration.

I just hope the Kurds have been smart enough not to count on us. And it breaks my heart to say that.

All I want to know is: where is the magic button you push to get the Pentagon to staff up to levels that the nation needs? Is it impossible to do that with the volunteer army? If so, can somebody please be honest about this?

And for those of you who would rather buy the new WhizBang version 3.0 instead of a batallion of marines, can somebody explain to me what a stealth bomber has to do with directly fighting terrorists all over the world? Do terrorists have early warning radar systems now?

McCain was right to call for more troops. At the time I disagreed. Now I see the error of my ways.

McCain was right to call for more troops.

McCain has one concern, and one concern only, getting elected president.

Which is why he will make ludicrous calls for more troops even though he knows more troops aren't available and that even if they were the administration wouldn't commit them. (And it most likely wouldn't help either at this point)

The man is an insult to anyone who's ever worn the uniform including himself.

"All I want to know is: where is the magic button you push to get the Pentagon to staff up to levels that the nation needs? Is it impossible to do that with the volunteer army? "

This article is a nice primer. Note it was written in 1999, long before our Iraq and Agfhanistan committments. Our troop levels have not increased since then, and even at that time we were considered stretched thin.

An additional division is said to cost about 2 billion dollars in pay, training, and equipment (takes several years to get it up and running of course). Thats about 15 V-22 Ospreys, a year's worth of production and deployment.

So essentially instead of fielding the dangerous Ospreys we could have another full division of troops. Anybody think thats a good deal?

As far as manpower availability: there are now 38 active duty combat brigades. During the height of the Cold War there were 56 active, 3 reserve, and 52 NG combat brigades (111). There is some restructuring going on, but at the end of the day the military is scheduled to have a total of 80 active duty, reserve, and NG brigades available. In other words we are about 25% off our all max volunteer Cold War force levels, even though our population has grown by about 60 million. The manpower pool is there, we just havent tried to tap it.

I hate to keep picking on the Air Force, especially since I love aviation and aerospace so much, but doesn't a B-2 bomber cost $2 billion+?

So trade one bomber for a division? I'm willing to do that (But leave my Ospreys alone! LOL)

That was a good article, Mark, and it brings up the fact that a lot of this argument we're having about Iraq is more properly framed in a 10-20 year timeframe. If we were undermanned 7 years ago when the article was written, and we were undermanned 3 years ago when McCain called for more troops, and we're undermanned today, then just what exactly does it require to fix this? An act of God?

The cynic in me would like to ask if the military budget is allocated based on strategic need or is it apportioned to various favorite programs on a running basis. In other words, is it not an open secret that while Iraq burns, we're busy spending money on things that are nowhere near as immediately relevant as resources to fix the problem? If so, I would like to know when we lost control over the Department of Defense, because it is not doing the job we are paying it to do.

The man is an insult to anyone who's ever worn the uniform including himself.

Frankly, davebo, you're an insult to anyone who's ever worn the uniform when you denigrate someone else's career just because you disagree with their politics.

PD,

It's not his politics I disagree with, it's his insincerity.

He offers up a solution that he knows damn well can't be done, and he does it solely to be able to claim that he's not a "stay the course" guy or a "cut and run" guy.

Pure political show, while roughly 2 or 3 kids a day get killed in Iraq.

This isn't a political issue to me, it is to McCain, and obviously you too.

Now you can go back to figuring out how you can blame the mess on others.

McCain has been arguing for more troops in Iraq since he visited there in August of 2003. McCain also supported sending more troops to Kosovo when it was easier to rally the Republican base with the notion that everthing Clinton supported was fundamentally wrong.

Insincerity would involve someone changing their views when the war in Iraq dropped below a 50% approval rating.

"He offers up a solution that he knows damn well can't be done"

Why not?

McCain has been arguing for more troops in Iraq since he visited there in August of 2003.

Arguing with who? Some legislation increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps would have been nice. Since that's how Senators are normally supposed to enact change. As opposed to platitudes offered on Sunday morning talk shows.

Or perhaps he could have mentioned the problem while campaigning around the country for George W. Bush in 2004. But no, I don't recall that. Do you?

No, I recall stay the course

Why not?
Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week he believes troop levels should remain steady for now.

He said it was possible to add 20,000 troops for a short time, but it would be unrealistic to raise troop levels as proposed by McCain and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Abizaid said the American military in Iraq is stretched too thin already, and sending over a bigger, more permanent presence would undercut efforts to force Iraqis to take on more responsibility.

Abazaid is speaking in the context of his military responsibilities. He doesnt have the authority nor would it be proper for him to speak to the political decisions that are doing the spreading.

For instance there are still 25,000 troops in South Korea doing essentially nothing (the SK conventional army is more than capable of defending itself again NK aggression, particularly with US air and naval assistance).

There are about 1600 troops in Kosovo- which is odd considering the Europeans have given us the finger in Iraq for the most part, one would think they could hence muster up the manpower to deal with their own backyard.

And for that matter we have tens of thousands of 'support personnel' at useless bases around the world (particularly in Europe) that could be reminded how to hold a rifle and direct traffic through a roadblock.

I would be more sympathic to the 'not a single troop to spare' argument had there been the slightest evidence of our government moving heaven and earth organizationally to find every available rifleman. Simply hasnt happened.

I recognize this wouldnt be a long term solution- but since we havent spent the last 5 years adding combat brigades we have to deal with where we are today. So we should either immediately launch a crash effort to increase the size of our military and in the meantime flood Iraq with everybody wearing a uniform we can dig up, or we should leave as quickly as possible. Its this idiotic inertia of failure that is intolerable. Our troops will stay and try to win, or leave with their honor intact, but it is unconsciounable to leave them there fighting a losing battle that gets worse every day and provide them with no plan, no hope, no prospect for victory.

Our troops will stay and try to win, or leave with their honor intact, but it is unconsciounable to leave them there fighting a losing battle that gets worse every day and provide them with no plan, no hope, no prospect for victory.

What's changed so dramatically to lead you to this conclusion?

What is different in Iraq today as opposed to a year ago?

_"What's changed so dramatically to lead you to this conclusion?

What is different in Iraq today as opposed to a year ago?"_

A lot of little things. I'll be honest, i drank the Rumsfeldian Koolaid for too long. I believed the man knew what he was doing for the most part and even when things didnt happened that i felt were intolerable (not making it a critical US priority to repair Iraq energy infastructure for instance, sealing the borders), i felt it important that a commander (and Rumsfeld was the Iraqi commander all the way from Washington, another mistake) be able to have his head and run his program his way. He failed, and we waited way to long to mend that.

Secondly, it could be argued that up until about a year ago we were slowly making progress in bringing a genuinely Iraq force up to snuff. We had hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the training pipeline, and it seemed only a matter of time before they hit the streets in numbers we werent politically willing to employ. Somewhere along the line a number of things happened (and i still havent gotten to the bottom of this) to poison this well. One was handing the reigns to the Iraqi government in a manner that seeped its corruption and incompetance back into the military, which we had worked so hard to stamp out. Another was our failure to properly equip the Iraqis with modern vehicles etc.

If i had to pick the time it became clear that a drastic change of course was required, it would probably be when we stopped hearing about how many Iraqi units were in what phase of development and how many were deployed where. Obviously that was no longer something to be proud of, and that was the alarm bell. The IA and IP degeneration has has a snowball effect- the more corrupt and useless they become the more corrupt and useless they become. The momentum turned on its ear and suddenly we again had far less bodies on the streets than were minimally necessary. For this reason i believe we are worse off today than we have ever been before in Iraq. So long as Baghdad is an open city, Iraq will never be a success. Since Iraqis cant be brought to bear to do it, Americans have to. If we cant or arent willing, Iraq is doomed. So we either add more troops and come up with a comprehensive plan, or we give up as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Since Iraqis cant be brought to bear to do it, Americans have to. If we cant or arent willing, Iraq is doomed. So we either add more troops and come up with a comprehensive plan, or we give up as quickly and painlessly as possible.

It's too late to come up with a new plan now for several reasons but two are the most important, and similar.

The Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to secure their country. And Americans have done the same.

Either of those two situations would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to over come. The two together spell then end.

Just as a trial balloon, how about if the strategic goal is to secure Baghdad and the oil facilities?

Pull everything out of everywhere else. Lock Baghdad down tight, even if it means a permanent ban on vehicular traffic. Hold and clear the city, and defend the oil wells. Let the rest of the country be protected by the Iraqi government. This means, of course, if cities give us a hard time like Fallujah again, we simply level the city. Not sure anybody has the cohones for that, but it makes a certain amount of sense.

I would also suggest a scorched earth policy, destroying the entire oil infrastucture on the way out. Once again, not politically feasible, but imminently practical.

You are spot-on that attitude is the number one impediment right now. But attitudes can be changed. Unfortunately that requires leadership, and none is to be found in this administration. Theoretically, I think things could be turned around to provide at least a stable (if hardly ideal) Iraq, but it would require a level of course shifting and leveling with the American and Iraqi people Bush has never come close to. If anything he is running the other way, listening to his old mans croneys on how to sell out our friends in the region to cut a deal with our enemies and head for the exits. In other words back to the mentality that created the Middle East we have in the first place.

Its blinding clear to me by now why Bush is a C student. He isnt stupid. Not at all. He is lazy and he is stubborn. He doesnt care about detail work. He leaves things up to subordinates and assumes they will makes them right to a fault.
Lazy and stubborn is a deadly combination. Manic and stubborn you might expect someone to eventually get to a solution. Lazy and laid back you might expect some flexibility, if only to make for less work in the long run. But lazy and stubborn is dreadful, because its impossible to force change or even critical examination.

Great, now even i am playing Bush psycho-analyst.

I would also suggest a scorched earth policy, destroying the entire oil infrastucture on the way out. Once again, not politically feasible, but imminently practical.

Well, it worked for a while for Saddam in Kuwait. And since we are either doing ourselves, or allowing Iraqis to do, so many of the things we complained about Saddam doing for years it would be hilariously ironic!

In what universe does "stay the course" mean that you can't send more troops?

And McCain has supported legislation that would increase end troop strength. I can go look for more links, but I doubt that there has ever been a moment since 9/11 that there has not been a bill to increase end troop strength in the Senate, nor a moment that McCain wasn't advocating it. (Nor a moment when Rumsfeld wasn't trying to sidetrack it)

And davebo must have gratefully blacked-out the point in the 2004 campaign that McCain's criticisms of the civilian oversight of the war led Kerry to seek McCain as his running mate.

How much of the “carnage” in Iraq bogus?

Two well researched blogs on Iraq reporting by the L.A. Times and the AP.

Is the L.A. Times reporting unconfirmed enemy propaganda from an Iraqi stringer with ties to the insurgency? Or is the paper simply misreporting the facts, and failing to seek out and report the military’s side of the story?

http://tinyurl.com/yfzf2l

Centcom is waiting to hear back from the AP before issuing a press release about this. They’ve requested a retraction of the “burned alive” story or “a correction at a minimum.”

http://floppingaces2.blogspot.com/

So who are the sources for all theses stories out of Iraq. Is this what we must depend on in making an analysis of the war in Iraq?

The AP has been using the same “source” for months. Now we know that this “source” and another appear to be completely bogus. I cannot put into words here what I think of the L.A. Times story. Truly, a sad situation

"Sources" helped get us into Iraq, and it appears "sources" are trying to get us out.

In the meantime, other "sources," many of whom now also happen to be "running" – and I do use the term loosely – the Iraqi government, are telling anyone who'll listen that the insurgency is no longer the problem.

As the famous possum once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

It took a tyrannical megalomaniac to hold that disparate nation together, and it's now in the process, which I fear is inevitable, of flying painfully apart.

Leave tomorrow or years from now, the U.S. will leave. Maybe there'll be choppers ferrying the last true believers to safety. Maybe we'll try and hang on to a "permanent" base or two.

We have helped bring about the winds of change in the Middle East, and we'll continue to experience the blow back in our faces, as long as we maintain our reliance of the black gold buried beneath their shifting sands.

Mark --

The Sunni being burned alive by the Shia seems to have been reported verbatim from one single Al Qaeda source that's an AP stringer. No other independent confirmation exists. Captain's Quarters, Patterico, Mudville Gazette, Adventures of Chester all have the run-down.

Make of that (along with the phony LAT story on 30 women and children killed by US air strikes ... never happened another Al Qaeda stringer lie) what you will. MOST of the Iraq reporting is flat out lies. God only knows WHAT is really going on.

But one thing is certain. The Press repeats verbatim flat out lies by Al Qaeda propagandists. IMHO, knowingly.

The solution to Iraq is spread the pain. Support Azeri and Baluchi insurgencies inside Iran, make our pain their pain. Iran loses 5-10 soldiers a day to insurgents in their oil fields, they'll come to Allah. Same with Syria. Fund insurgencies against the Alawites, backed up by Special forces and overt air strikes.

If we are taking a bite out of the S*** sandwich, make sure Iran and Syria get their bites too. THAT is a basis for a "deal."

[Note: we'd have to just dial-down the insurgencies, not throw them over. It gives us leverage and we'd expect the Iranians and Syrians to do the same.]

If we are speaking "realpolitik" ...

FWIW, I complained a couple of weeks ago that a Strategy Page analysis was based on the erroneous view that militias were "very popular" among the Shias. I linked to World Public Opinion polling that showed the opposite. Last week, WPO provided more detailed
breakdowns that reveal a more mixed story:

Outside of the capital, most Shias say they prefer a strong government capable of getting rid of such armed groups (77%). In Baghdad, however, Shias say they want militias to continue to protect their security (59%). When asked, “Could you rely on the government alone to ensure security in your area if all militias were to disarm now?” a majority of Shias in the capital say they could not (59%). Elsewhere about the same proportion says they could (60%).

. . .

Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, says the support for militias shown by Shias in Baghdad may reflect their role in providing not only security but also some social services to the poor in Sadr City, a vast Shia slum in eastern Baghdad dominated by the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Moqtada Sadr, a radical Shia cleric.

[The Mahdi Army] is not just a militia to Shias there,” he said. “It provides services that they need, it does things for them that the government is not doing.”

Jim, i've been a fan of promoting insurgencies in Iran and Syria for a while too. Another problem with not having a full time leader in charge of Iraq is that is has allowed our enemies to play a game of chicken with us. They go a certain amount but imply they could make things much worse. So we've been playing this double game when all along Iran and Syria are outright fighting a proxy war that we are too blind to accept. We should be making much more of our Kurdish connections in both cases, but of course the prevailing wisdom that Turkey is too damned important an ally (why? in case we have to invade Iraq again?) keep us from doing so.

There are a ton of things we should have done and should probably still do. But they arent going to happen under this administration- I accept that. We dont have a reliable intelligence agency, and we dont have anyone on the ground with authority to do anything without the SECDEFs giving them permission to go to the toilet, and now we've decided to combine those two great elements, so nothing clever will ever get done.

As far as the reporting goes- yeh, im sure it sucks. But its immaterial. The ship is sinking, i know because our ankles are wet. It doesnt particularly matter what details of the event the media is screwing up.

There's still the issue of how much of the information is of the dis- variety, but if you want to at least cut out one level of intermediary, Zayed is translating Iraqi online posts regarding current action inside Baghdad. (Check out 'Abdul Rahman' teaching tactical rifle in 7 points, and Ambush 101 in ten.)

It'd take some time with a crib of neighborhoods and affiliations to work out who's doing / threatening what to whom, but it sure doesn't seem like a situation under control. Someone with that level of knowledge might also try to correlate to the reports out of Centcom that FloppingAces has been analyzing.

Jonathon Chait in the LAT wants us to put back Saddam in power because "he kept order."

By killing about 2-3 million people. But that's a mere bagatelle. As were the 300-500K killed in the 1991 uprising. The blood toll of which we are seeing repaid.

Well, that's the Dem solution. Bring back Saddam. "He made the trains run on time."

Moral bankruptcy, meet the Dems.

#2 Facts are not all that convincing either. I appreciate that at least you are concerned enough with the failures up to now, to grapple with the issue. That you chose to redefine parameters to protect your position makes me think you ar eless than comfortable with your view. One cannot reason another person out of a belief. For example #31's comments seem detached from reality. But he believes. There is not any evidence that will sway him.

#5 That is so true. You know before GWB unleashed this blunder I tried to point out that the reasoning behind it was defective, abd that there were no models of success one could point to regarding this type of adventure. I think I was drowned out by the foot stomping nationalistic singing. Heh.

#7 Daniel: Our force structure is largely determined by domestic politics and an internal military-industrial-congressional axis of self interest. We have no National Policy or Grand Strategy: I think it reasonably follows that there is no sense in procurement.

Sorry, to say, a surge effort to maximize troop levels in Iraq will serve only to display to the world at large our ultimate military impotence, and further undermine what political threat remains of our military power. I certainly agree in principle that there should be national service, but in the abscence of a national policy... it amounts to moving the deck chairs around on the titanic.

#21 Daniel: Disagree completely. The oil fields cannot be protected in a civil conflict, they ar too dispersed and indefensible. A point failure can be induced almost at will anywhere. What protects oil infrastructure is societal order.

Locking down Baghdad or leveling opposition run cities is energetic yet futile. Even supposing we could lock down Baghdad (which I do not concede) it would be only for the duration of our effort. The basic flaw in those ideas is that the problem is one of poltical order, that is not amenable to a conventionable military solution.

I reluctantly say, that here you come perilously close to advocating measures of population elimination and evacuation; without a corresponding proposal to populate, colonize, and settle newly annexed territory.

We should recognize that the administration's stated goals are contradictory and unattainable. See my blog for my solution. http://tinyurl.com/fnksv

Cheers

Tom,

Yes. I wasn't trying to be purposely obtuse, but I'm well aware of how the money gets allocated and spent. Spending is a part of patronage. I was being a little dense in order to underline the point.

I guess I could live with the politics side of budgeting if, when things go south, you throw that crap out the window and fix the mission, like Mark was saying. You screw it up, you fix it. Don't throw it back at the politicians. When is the last time a general got sacked? Now compare that to the commercial world: in organizations of similar size upper level management gets moved around all the time and let go.

When I was a mush-for-brains kid being trained as a USMC infantryman, they taught us that you did whatever it took to complete the mission. There have been stories of Marine units calling down arty on their own positions when things got tough.

Now I see the politics as a "way out" for the armed forces. They don't have to win in Iraq, because it doesn't matter. All that matters is keeping your political base happy. And with enough paperwork, meetings, and shuffling around, you can give the impression of movement even when nothing new is happening. It seems the motto is "hey as long as we make it to retirement, and keep those big programs churning along for the right Congressmen, things will always be good."

And these guys with all the stars on their collars are supposed to lead these troops? I'm telling you it's a low-down shame. We've spent how many trillions of dollars since Vietnam? It just seems that some folks need a cranial-rectal decoupling.

Now I am not saying that there are not good people in our armed forces. Far from it. I think 99% of them are outstanding men and women and I'm proud to have them serving us. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the system that is causing this problem. HOWEVER, it's pretty much the same difference -- if the system is making you look like a lifer paper-shuffler, and you're participating in it, then to the folks at home you're a lifer paper shuffler. Whether you are or not.

Tom (#36)

I believe the military folks will tell you that with enough troops you can hold and clear Baghdad.

The oil facilities may actually be the strategic tipping point -- if it is easier to prevent oil from flowing than protect it, perhaps that is where we go.

I would never, or almost never, advocate killing large civilian populations. My point in regards to cities is the buildings only, not the people.

Daniel: Sorry if I misinterpreted anything. I would guess that the bureaucratic culture is not temporarily changeable at all, and with only a low order probability of reform. If it were, then decisions would be made on evidence and not ideology or belief. The lesons learned are usually measured against ideology and belief instead of observable evidence. Example Vietnam: the government and administartions lesson learned is a/ don't use conscript troops, b/ control the press. The lesson I observe is that a/ nationalism trumps other considerations in defence of ones homeland b/ foreign troops strengthen the doemstic nationalists and become hated occupiers, forever unable to force a resolution. That is the very short version. There is no way to solve Iraq with outside force.

The oil needs order to flow. That too does not have a miltary solution longterm. It requires a political solution. The oil will be secure when an indigenous government produces order. It does not matter what form of government. Democracy will take the longest due to its concommittment need for levelling and ethnic sorting.

As usual, Christopher Hitchens is right on the money with his analysis of what is occuring:

"You may have noticed the new habit in the media of referring to the government of Lebanon as "American-backed" or "Western-backed." This is as if to imply that it is not an expression of Lebanon's remaining autonomy. But it is also cruelly ironic: Where exactly is this "backing"? Once again, it is becoming more dangerous to be a friend of the United States than an enemy"
...
"The objectionable thing about the proposed Baker-Hamilton "talks" is not that they are talks but that they give the impression of looking for someone to whom to surrender. And they have, apparently, no preconditions."
...
"If we cannot even stand up for Lebanon in this crisis, even rhetorically, then we are close to admitting that these parties have won."

Looks like Khamenei has forwarded the surrender terms Baker et al are looking for.

"The first step to solve the security issue in Iraq is the exit of the occupiers from this country and leaving the security issues to the people-based Iraqi government," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television. "

Whereupon: "Iran will not refrain from any action to establish stability and security in this country."

For those keeping score this is exactly the devil's bargain made with the Syrians over Lebanon when we pulled out 1984. The playbook is identical- Syria and Iran stir the chaos until the Americans run away and the locals are forced to choose between street to street civil anarachy and accepting in the neighbors 'help'.

Tom,

You're exactly correct as to the key being what lessons were learned.

I believe in the past populations have been subdued even under the worst circumstances. So I wouldn't say it is impossible: better to say the price is higher than we wish to pay. As a side note, I continue to hear from military experts that Vietnam was lost back here, not over there. For instance, the Tet offensive is viewed as a severe loss for the NV, yet over here it is viewed exactly the opposite way by the general public.

I guess if we can't agree on what history is, it kind of makes it hard to come to any consensus regarding best steps going forward.

Option #17: secure Baghdad and turn off the oil flow. Make Baghdad legitimate. From there, spread out as you have troops.

But once again, this would require some severe measures to keep the barbarians at bay in the hinterlands. Nobody wants to go there. It seems we want everything, we want it right now, and we want to do it under assumptions that are not valid. We also do not want to honestly examine what our choices actually are.

What concerns me (and always had) is that the Dems in the US were always convinced that Iraq was a boondoggle. This means that there is no quarter: we must completely abandon Iraq for the Dems to delcare their victory over the inept Rs. This type of extreme thinking, whether by Rs or Ds, is not a good thing in a world of nuances.

#42 Daniel: Thank you.

Certainly in the past populations have been subdued. But if we are talking about more than a transitory control we have to go back prior to the War of American Independence. We have to go back to an to a pre-democratic, pre-liberal, pre-nationalistic mindset. One cannot at the same time advocate democracy, liberty and justice and actually work toward nationalistic advantage, cultural superiority, and resource aggrandizement. We are hoist on our own petard.

Re Tet, in short we won significant tactical victory's, but Tet revealed the deep split of government rhetoric from the actuality of circumstance. The homefront collapsed, not because it was a hard fight, but because of the shock of lies revealed. The Communist Party of North Vietnam, won a huge victory with Tet, one aspect of which was that they gained complete control over Vietnamese forces. Until Tet, the VC were problematic for the northern comm party. They used the VC to destroy itself and reveal to the American people foolish policy of their gov't.

I am not sure whethe rwe agree or disagree on history. But I will say that we both want what is best for the people of our country, though we may agree what that is. If we wish to take and hold territory by force, over time, we will need to accept that measures will ahve to be taken. We will need th eintermediary forces we lack, that fall between police and miltary. We will need a para-miltary constabulary akin to the NKVD Security Troops, and the cojones to blandly state our annexation of teritory, and elimination of population, like was done in East Prussia in 1945, now irrevocably Polish and Russian. We certainly do not want to examine our true ambitions and options, and our political system is not self reforming, and our craven press is worse than useless.

The Dems totally bought into the war, that is the party leaders. They were beaten with that stick and now have used it to do some beating. But neither side is principled, R or D.

That's why I subtitled my blog We Need A New Government

McCain has one concern, and one concern only, getting elected president.

President of what?

But seriously, the fellow hasn't a prayer. And if he were as jaded as you imply he'd be a shoo-in, so although I'm not crazy about him he's pretty genuine.

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