Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Still Herding Cats in Iraq

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.


  1. Anonymous1:03 PM

    Well written as usual, Jeff. I would like to know what, in your opinion, might be a just cause for a pre-emptive invasion.

    Best regards,

  2. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I don't actually believe GWB wanted to invade Iraq for the oil. That seems like too much of a realpolitk/"sensible" reason, and he is not any of those things. Now Cheney is a different story.

    Anyway, it's not just oil per se I think. From what I gather, the US gets 15-17% of its oil from the Middle East. Suppose we could wave a wand and make it 0%. What then would be the interest in the ME (Israel aside, and that's a BIG aside I know)? I can't really think of one from a national perspective, aside from maybe trying to deny our competitors the opportunity to get in there (China, Russia).

    Isn't it really development access to the oil fields by US companies that's at stake here? If they're shut out, then all the non-US companies will get first dibs ad the black gold and the ensuing mega-profits.

  3. I have thrown this opinion out there in my own blog before, maybe Jeff will indulge me here...

    After 9-11 I was all for going to Afghanistan, I believed that was exactly where we needed to go and were doing the right and proper thing, I still believe that Afghanistan was the right move at the right time, but we pulled out WAY too soon, that mission was nowhere near accomplished, and the insurgency that's active in Afghanistan is testament to that statement, we diverted our major efforts in Afghanistan so that we could traipse off to Iraq to engage in The QUEST of King George 43 in his attempt to vindicate the Bush legacy and placate King George 41...

    We had NO legitimate military or defensive mission in Iraq, the Iraqis were NO threat to us here in the USA, as Jeff pointed out so well recently, "How are they going to attack us in force?? They have no Navy or Air Force or a way to get them HERE to the USA in any great number if they did want to attack us...", and I loosely paraphrase...

    It is MY sincere belief that the only reason we went to Iraq was because George W. Bush had a childish temper tantrum and used the GWoT to legitimize his fit of anger and to satisfy his need to be a good child...

    Bush has had a 'hard-on' for Iraq ever since Bush 41 stopped 'Stormin' Norman' from doing the job and completing the mission when it should have been done, and Saddam exacerbated the situation when he made death threats against Bush 41, and Junior was none too happy about it...

    "I'll show em Daddy, that mean old Saddam isn't a gonna threaten you Daddy, I'll get him for you, watch me Daddy, Daddy?? Are you watching Daddy?? Daddy??"...

  4. W is now and has always been a front man for CheneyCorp.

    As Cmdr. Huber has pointed out many times, Iraq has been all about global energy dominance for the future. And some filthy lucre for the oil companies in the nearer term, as a bonus.

  5. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Major General Antonio Taguba told Seymour Hersh (“The General’s Report,” The New Yorker, 6/20/07, “I had been in the Army then for thirty-two years, and it was the first time I thought I was in the Mafia.”

    The "biggest kid on the block," having been taken over by a bully and a thug, is not going to get along with the other kids and Congress is too cowed to make them -- so America's black eye is going to get blacker.

  6. Well written article. The title is stellar.


  7. "We preemptively invaded a country on false premises..."

    Worse. We preventively invaded a country on false premises. Preemption at least has international law on its side (false premises notwithstanding). "Preventive war" is just plain ol' unprovoked aggression and can have no legitimate premise.

    On a slightly different topic: If we wanted to focus on al Qaeda in Iraq, we didn't need a surge. We didn't, in fact, need the Big Green Machine. Additionally, we can hound and hammer the Sunnis all day long, but when the smoke clears, we have nothing, no future, no hope, to offer them. And they despise us for it. Undoubtedly we've promised some that their cooperation in a campaign against al Qaeda will result in a renewed and enhanced status for them in Iraq (and that they will be the vanguard against a trumped-up Persian influence, natch) - something the happily Shiite government does not desire and will not countenance.

    But the 101st Fighting Keyboarders are back in their element, relaying and analyzing dispatches from the latest offensive, railing against the faithless em-ess-em, and anticipating wonderful things.

    In this way, the surge will be a success.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I probably don't need to add that the anti-al Qaeda campaign in Iraq (regardless of actual results and impact) WILL have special narrative significance come autumn and WILL benefit the case for indefinite extension of the present "heavy footprint."

    What should have been a "parting gesture," will instead be the rhetorical foundation for maintaining the present posture. Unless Petraeus says otherwise; I no longer expect him to say otherwise.

    And no one else on that team has sense enough to say that it's time to come in out of the rain.

  10. Anonymous12:50 AM

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    him daughter-the slut with LBT (low back tattoo) and son gay homosexual.

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    this teach how parasite nation using host nation for kill muslim, torture and cruel.

  11. semper fubar11:48 AM

    I sense you are become more shrill by the day, Jeff.
    Your posts show an increasing anger bubbling up inside.

    I wonder how much more this country is going to tolerate from this criminal band currently ruling over us.

  12. Great discussions again, Gang.

  13. I would die laughing if men and women were not dying every day for want of someone sensible at the helm.

    Is it just me, or is the Iraq/Afghanistan War now not just strategically bankrupt, but also operationally and tactically bankrupt.

    I'm in the very early stages of writing the memoirs of one of the surviving architects of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. When I compare the tactical methods of that program with those I see being executed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am appalled. Instead of a tactical offensive driven by human intelligence, I see (admittedly from a distance) "show the flag" operations with convoys of lightly-armored wheeled vehicles attempting to defensively (and passively) secure selected routes of communication while surrendering the initiative wholesale to the opponent. The only reason our casualties are as light as they are is because our opponent has chosen to conduct "very low tempo ambushes" instead of duplicating the ferocity of "A Street without Joy." Since our opponents have it completely within their control to change their tactics at anytime (we certainly don't appear to be dictating much of anything on the ground) our casualty rate could ramp up significantly at any time.

    It therefore appears to me that our opponents in the region have in some sense chosen to limit our casualties for their own purposes. Why do we let them do this to our service men and women?

  14. "The only reason our casualties are as light as they are is because..."

    ...I would argue, our force protection is good. Been our mainstay for, oh, almost two decades now.

    We take it in the pants on convoys, though. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

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