Thursday, August 7, 2008

Strategic Change in Iraq

The week of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, I wrote some e-mails (didn't have a blog in those days) forecasting that it would take a decade before it would be clear if the invasion had succeeded or not. By success, I defined a mostly functioning democratic Iraq, somewhat resembling Bulgaria or Slovakia (Slovakia has gotten better since 2003). I admit I didn't foresee the ghastly violence of 2006; nor did I foresee the massive use of suicide bombers by Arabs on Arabs: I sort of thought that kind of insane brutality was reserved for Westerners and of course for Israelis. However, now that we're in the sixth year of that decade, you've got to admit that things are looking cautiously optimistic.

Well: "you've got to admit", if you're into weighing facts. If you're into ideologies ueber alles, you don't have to admit anything, and the Web is full of those sort.

Here are two interesting articles. The first appeared in the NYT on Sunday, and tells about how the Americans are learning from experience and getting ever better at their job; there are all sorts of Iraqis who are stepping up to the challenge, but there is an internal-Shiite dynamic which is beginning to muddy the waters, but this is a challenge, not a knell of doom. My favorite part of the article:
The goals of the surge against Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia were political as well as military. The old strategy assumed that elections and the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis would take the steam out of the insurgency and help the United States to manage with fewer and fewer troops. Iraqi politics, it assumed, would enable the military strategy.

This was the result of the Weltanschauung whereby foreign intervention is imperialism is Always Very Bad.

Petraeus’s new approach turned that formula on its head. It postulated that a troop increase — and a strategy that put a premium on protecting civilians — would win over hesitant Iraqis, generate intelligence about the insurgents and give Iraqi leaders the confidence to turn away from their militias and private armies and work together. More than half of the American reinforcements were allocated to the regions surrounding Baghdad that Al Qaeda militants used to mount their car-bomb attacks, while the rest were distributed throughout the city. The theory was that once Al Qaeda was weakened, that would eliminate the rationale that Shiite militias like Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq were needed to protect the Shiite population. Breathing space would be created for political reconciliation. Military action would enable Iraqi politics.

Which proves, that foreign intervention (with bayonets) can sometimes be better than all the other alternatives.

The second article, by Biddle O'Hanlon and Pollack in Foreign Affairs, describes at great length how the American intervention goes about supporting the Iraqi attempts to build a reasonable state. It takes awhile to read, but if you feel you have a stake in the subject, and many of us do, it's worth the time.

The fundamental truth underlying the entire story, to my mind, is that the Americans have basic values that are good for people in general. Rule of law, human dignity, and also the willingness to think rationally and try to figure out better ways to do things when needed; the steel to shoulder the burden doesn't hurt, either. Since these are guiding principles for the Americans, sooner or later they'll bring results.

I'll stop here now and leave room for people to rant about the CIA, Oil Companies, Imperialism, Occupations, and all that stuff.


Anonymous said...


Excuse me, I´m off sick today. Is that a problem? Yes, if you consider me entertaining.

Being sick can´t keep crazy people from writing on the net.

But I´m not crazy. You are.

Anonymous said...



Let's start at the top. Bush lost his legacy in Iraq. Because he never leveled with the American People. No one knew his agenda! (Except? Perhaps in Riyadh.)

Going into Iraq, the saud's as well as the Bush's WANTED SADDAM's HEAD ON A PLATTER.

Meanwhile, from history, you'd learn the borders that make up Irak, were drawn by the British; after WW1. And, did not include ethnic diversity.

Ethnic diversity is a killer among arab players.

You can tell that Bush made a recent error, with the Kurds. When he allowed 100,000 troops from TURKEY, to go over the Iraqi border, to attack Kurdish positions.

He also allowed Turkey to have "over-flights" ... telling our American air force not to intervene.

What was the outcome? I have no idea. It's possible the Kurds fought back well; and some of the Turkish military returned home in body bags.

The press fell down on its job.

So, basically, you've never gotten any sort of reporting at all. Unless it involved American troops "going home" in body bags.

Meanwhile, every single arab country has a different set of dice that they throw ... when they come to the table to "play."

While Maliki's response to arab-on-arab terror was to unleash ethnic cleansing against the sunnis.

Meaning that palestinians brought in by Saddam flew to Jordan. And, Syria. Until the borders locked, and they couldn't get in.

Are there lessons still to be learned? Sure. Arab states by definition are weak. And, are run despotically. Either with thugs in control; or "religous leaders" putting themselves on top of government resources; where they clean up the pot.

Terrorism is not the same as the strategy you get in wars. And, with terrorists, civilians are fair game.

America has had a lot to learn.

As Bush failed to address key issues. But the outcome won't be in doubt. Saddam's off the map. And, the sauds aren't getting the goodies they wanted. They wanted a piece of Israel; where Israel went back to her UN mandated 1948 borders. They wanted all of Lebanon; which is in Assad's pocket. But Assad still has his head.

Assad knows he has his head ON his shoulders, because Olmert opted not to send the IDF into syria, to take it off.

Sometimes, where it's quiet is where you'd find the most information. But you'd have to look between the lines.

Just as you get to see, here, some idiot trying to steal my by-line. Isn't it nice, when you read, where you learn to tell differences?

Anonymous said...


Unlike Israeli politics; American politics sets elections in stone. That's why some presidents get assassinated while in office. While others trounce the Ken Starr's that collect to "legally" knock a president down.

But why not go back to FDR, and this WONDERFUL STORY. You might learn something, ya know?

Anyway, one morning FDR awoke. It was during his 3rd term; which covers WW2. When he got his breakfast served upstairs in the residence, he was surprised to find that Mrs. Roosevelt wasn't around. He was unaware that she had left the White House at 6:00 AM. To go with Maruy Maverick of Texas, to inspect a prison in Baltimore, Maryland.

This guy, Maverick, was the head of an organization supervising work performed by convicts.

NOT KNOWING THIS, FDR called his wife's secretary to inquire of her whereabouts. "Mr. President, your wife is in prison."

"You don't say. But tell me, what crime did they finally nail her on?"