Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How About That Surge, Huh?

So much for political solutions in Iraq.

The New York Times reports that six Iraqi cabinet members loyal Moqtada al-Sadr resigned on Monday at the behest of the Shiite cleric.

The resignations were in protest of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's refusal to impose a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. As you've probably noticed, we're having a political showdown over withdrawal timelines over here, too. But nobody's threatening to resign over it, and at the end of the day, whatever the emergency war appropriation turns out to look like, it will finance Mr. Bush's so called "surge" plan. But Mr. Bush's surge is supposed to create conditions that will make a political solution possible, which with each passing day seems less and less likely.

Stand Up! Stand Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!

The recent suicide bombing in the Green Zone doesn't prove that the surge plan isn't working, but that little shopping that John McCain, Lindsey Graham and a hundred of their best heavily armed friends threw in a Baghdad market last week certainly doesn't prove that it is working either. It may be that U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus bring relative stability to Baghdad. I'm skeptical about the chances he can pull off a miracle of that magnitude, but even if he can, he won't have achieved "victory."

Keep in mind that a secure Baghdad is merely an enabling objective in the surge strategy. The strategic aim--in theory at least--is to provide enough breathing room for the Iraqi government and institutions to stabilize and train up a security force that's loyal to the government. That I don't think Petraeus or Napoleon or the Supreme Being could make happen, at least not any time in the next 1,400 years. Invading Iraq was colossal idiocy. We would have been much better off to contain Saddam Hussein from the periphery and wait for him to die of old age.

In a recent op-ed piece, veteran military correspondent Joseph L. Galloway wrote that the surge plan is a "…search for a fig leaf to cover the emperor’s nakedness--a way for Bush to go home to Texas with a ringing but hollow declaration that 'Iraq wasn't lost on my watch.'"

Galloway is exactly right. Even George W. Bush has to know by now that there's no such thing as a "victory" to be had in Iraq. He wants to hang on long enough to let someone else take credit for his "defeat."

Waiting for Godot

Mr. Bush promises to veto any war-spending bill that contains benchmark or timeline constraints. His "common wisdom" argument says that if we announce a departure date, the enemy will lie low and wait for us to. Like so much that passes for common wisdom, this argument is all too common and none too wise. I'm not entirely convinced that the bad guys will decide to wait us out, and even if they do, that might be a good thing.

They might wait us out, but it's equally likely they would gather to do as much damage to us as they can before we go and to make sure we don't change our minds about leaving. If, on the other hand, they decide to lie low, that will buy us the kind of security we say we need to train up Iraqi security forces and let the various factions in the government settle their differences. At the end of the day, announcing a departure timeline would accomplish the same kinds of things the surge is supposedly designed to achieve and a timeline would provide the additional benefit of lighting a fire under the Iraqi Parliament to get its act together.

Keep in mind that the fighting among the militias and the infighting among the members of Iraq's government are part and parcel of the same thing. The Sunni and Shiite militias doing the fighting are loyal to individual members of Parliament who are doing the infighting. So there's no real separating the security situation from the political situation, and the longer we let Iraq's politicians use us to deal with their security situation, the longer they'll put off coming up with political solutions and the more the disparate parties will manipulate us into doing their dirty work for them. At present al-Sadr's Mahdi Army seems to have gone underground, and why not? Why go toe to toe with the U.S. surge force when they can lie low and let American troops mop up on the Sunni militias for them?

The Bush administration and its supporters are manipulating us into allowing Iraq's politicians to manipulate our troops. That, perhaps more than anything, is the true tragedy of this fiasco.


  1. ozebloke9:25 AM

    Spot on as always Jeff.

    I read recently where Winston Churchill said that the creation of Iraq had been one of Britain's greatest war & foreign policy blunders.

    Given doozies like the Balfour Declaration, the Gallipoli campaign and the Fall of 'impenetrable' Singapore that's saying a mouthful.

    Obviously Bush Jr missed this little tidbit in his extensive reading of Churchill after 9-11 !

  2. So this is no longer a military problem, but a political problem, which can only be solved with political means. While Iraqis are pretty much dying like flies, our president will not admit that he made mistakes, much less seek a viable if unpleasant political solution? I have little doubt that if he sat down with Sistani, the Sunnis and Kurds, they could reach an enforceable agreement within weeks, but oil companies from the coalition of the willing would hardly be asked for tenders by the Shi'a or Sunnis.

    What does this tell us about the president, and how much he cares about Iraq, and for that matter humanity in general?

    What happens if 10 or 20 years from now, American soldiers are told that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and not applicable, because, as in the Vietnam war, the United States hadn't formally declared war?

    As an American whose ancestors fought in the war between the states but lives overseas, I'm finding that telling people about my American citizenship is about as a good a way to make friends as alluding to having a communicable disease. America is so much better than its president. George Bush II had his shot at greatness, and thoroughly fouled it up; the sooner we jettison him, the less we will be held to account for his madness.

  3. Jeff,

    Did you get the newest SCN (Strategy Change Notice)?

    Training Iraqi troops no longer driving force in U.S. policy

    "WASHINGTON - Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

    Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said."


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