The big offensive is on. Roughly 10,000 U.S. troops have commenced an operation to drive the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq from its new stronghold in Diyala province north of Baghdad. As best we can tell, al-Qaeda made Diyala its new stronghold because the operation to drive them out of Anbar province was so successful.
Some senior commanders describe the goal of Operation Arrowhead Ripper (yes, they're really calling it that) as breaking the cycle of sectarian violence and retribution that has swept Iraq. Brigadier General John M. "Mick" Bednarek (yes, that really is his name) put things in more earthy terms. "The end state is to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people," he said. "That is the number one, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose." (Yes, he really said that.)
Something tells me the most Arrow Head Ripper and other operations will accomplish is to chase al-Qaeda in Iraq from Diyala back to Anbar and guarantee the cycle of violence and retribution continues.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
U.S. forces are also stepping up the operational pace against Sunni militias in Baghdad's southern suburban belt. Further south, in Maysan province, U.S. and British troops are conducting offensive ops against Shiite militiamen.
Remember when the "surge" was all about establishing security in Baghdad? On Tuesday morning, shortly after the announcement that the troop buildup was complete, a truck bomb blasted a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing 75 and injuring more than 200.
Is this one of those things that U.S. commander in Iraq David Petraeus considers "astonishing signs of normalcy?"
They're Number Two, We're Number One
Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace now rank Iraq as the second most unstable country in the world. Sudan just eked out the number one rating, a remarkable accomplishment considering that it doesn't have the advantage of being occupied by 150,000 U.S. troops to help destabilize it. Somalia ranks right behind Iraq for instability, which makes a certain amount of sense. U.S. troops are in Somalia conducting combat operations, but not nearly as many U.S. troops as are fighting in Iraq, so you can't really fault Somalia for not being more unstable than
The two non-African countries in the top 10 unstable states are Iraq and Afghanistan, and we pretty much know what those two have in common, don't we?
Shoot, if a fellah didn't know any better, he might come to the conclusion that the number one cause of instability in the world is the United States of America.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
"Iraq is sinking fast," says Fund for Peace president Pauline Baker. "We believe it's reached the point of no return. We have recommended--based on studies done every six months since the US invasion--that the administration face up to the reality that the only choices for Iraq are how, and how violently, it will break up."
The Bush administration doesn't want to see Iraq break into three separate political entities because that would make it too difficult to control Iraq's oil, and Iraq's oil was always what the invasion of Iraq was always about.
That's why, with pressure from Congress to get political results in Iraq or get our troops out of it, the administration is rubbing Ben Gay into Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's to complete the law on division of his country's oil proceeds by July. Maliki says there are a lot of difficulties in getting the bill passed that are "not well understood from the outside."
Here is the crux of the difficulties. According to some Iraqi critics of the draft law under consideration, it hands the keys to Iraq's oil industry over to the U.S. and its energy partners. Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Southern Oil Company Union and the Iraqi Federation of Oil Workers Unions, says the proposed law amounts to "a raid by the international oil cartel" and that thousands of Iraqi oil workers will go on strike to oppose it if necessary.
A strike of oil workers in an oil rich country that's already the world's second most unstable nation? Hey, boy, that sounds like just the thing Iraq needs to put it over the top in the Foreign Policy charts. Eat your heart out, Sudan (you losers).
Mission Accomplished Again
Mr. Bush says that only history can judge his legacy. That's Rovewellian hogwash. Through his poppycock policies, Bush managed to squander in under a decade the international good will and political capital that America accumulated over the course of two centuries and change. We've lost the Midas touch. Now, every thing we lay our fingers on turns to dung.
I’m confident we can turn things around, but am uncertain how long that will take. We'll have to clean our own house first, though, and that may be harder than fixing foreign policy.
Our Iraq war is a bigger elephant in the middle of the room than Daddy's secret cocaine problem. We preemptively invaded a country on false premises for the actual purpose of controlling its oil, and oil is the main reason we continue to occupy the place. We allowed ourselves to be led by a ruthless cabal of neoconservative ideologues who thought America could demand its way throughout the world by virtue of its military might. It's entirely possible that if things in Iraq had gone well--greeted as liberators, Chalibi forms a stable government, cheap gas forever--we might have thanked the neoconservatives for kicking us off the couch and doing what we should have done years ago.
We need to recognize that the neoconservative philosophy was and is wrong, and that it is inconsistent with the very ideals under which this nation was founded. That does not mean that we completely disarm, or that we never again partake in armed conflict, or even that we never, ever, ever conduct a preemptive invasion. It means we gain (or at least seek to gain) the wisdom to use our power effectively and conservatively.
And we need to learn that even if we're the biggest kid on the block, we still need to get along with the other kids. Perhaps the more germane lesson is this: if you're the biggest kid on the block, what's to keep you from getting along with the other kids?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.