June 28, 2007

The “Surge” Can Not Yet Have Failed

By Michael J. Totten

You can be forgiven if you thought the United States military’s “surge” in Iraq has failed. At least you’ll be forgiven by me. I quietly assumed some time ago, before I had ever even heard of the surge, that the U.S. is going to lose this war in Iraq because the American public doesn’t have the will to stick out a grinding insurgency that might not ever be winnable. I’m not saying it isn’t winnable. I really don’t know. How could I possibly know? But we live in a democracy with civilian control of the military. If Americans want to give up – it’s over.

But the surge is only just now beginning.

Two weeks ago Dave Kilcullen, Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General Petraeus, said the following to Austin Bay:
I know some people in the media are already starting to sort of write off the “surge” and say ‘Hey, hang on: we’ve been going since January, we haven’t seen a massive turnaround; it mustn’t be working’. What we’ve been doing to date is putting forces into position. We haven’t actually started what I would call the “surge” yet. All we’ve been doing is building up forces and trying to secure the population. And what I would say to people who say that it’s already failed is “watch this space”. Because you’re going to see, in fairly short order, some changes in the way we’re operating that will make what’s been happening over the past few months look like what it is—just a preliminary build up.

That was two weeks ago. Between then and now, the surge finally started. Only just now has it finally started. It can’t yet have failed.

Go over to the Small Wars Journal where Kilcullen describes what the surge strategy is.

And be sure to read Michael Yon’s dispatch from Baqubah, if you haven’t already, where he describes Arrowhead Ripper in person, which is the opening shot in this campaign.

This is our last chance to avert a total catastrophe. American public opinion is not at all likely to tolerate any further adventures if this doesn’t work. But the war isn’t over until it is over, and it’s probably best not to say the surge failed when it only just started a week ago.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 02:06 AM
Comments

Typically democracies only unite when faced with a total catastrophe.

In that respect I would consider "a total catastrophe" a step in the right direction.

BTW don't you ever sleep? LOL

Posted by: M. Simon at June 28, 2007 03:21 AM

Thanks for your insight, Michael. I gotta admit, though -- as fascinating as your reporting in the ME is, I do miss your insight on the domestic politics too. Any chance you might comment on that occasionally anymore? Or do you hear too little of it while you're in the ME?

Posted by: JC at June 28, 2007 04:57 AM

Michael:

The American public lost confidence in this war as they saw that the goal wasn't worth the sacrifice. Because the goal, ostensibly to create a functioning democracy in Iraq, was an illusion. The only thing that the US has accomplished was to facilitate the creation of a Muslim theocracy. How ironic.

Posted by: diana at June 28, 2007 05:29 AM

I’m not saying it isn’t winnable. I really don’t know. How could I possibly know?

Knowing whether we're going to win the war isn't the same as knowing it's winnable. Of course it's winnable. Like you said, it's about having the will to win it (unlike a conventional war where winning also depends on who has the most/better resources). This war requires only our will. That's it. Nothing more. We can choose to win it, or not. It's that simple. But it is winnable.

Those that have already judged the surge a failure are folks who either don't want us to win it (microraptor, DPU, et al), or who have chosen to lose it because they've lost heart. They are enemies at worst, defeatists at best, and should be disregarded.

Hard pounding, gentlemen. Let's see who pounds the longest.

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 05:31 AM

No, Diana. You actually have to understand words before you use them. A "theocracy" is what Iraq has next door, in Iran. Which is imploding as we speak (write). What Iraq has is a somewhat-sectarian first pass at democracy, being bootstrapped out of a couple of generations of brutal autocracy.

Get a grip, or STFU until you comprehend at least a little of what's going on.

Posted by: Brian H at June 28, 2007 05:51 AM

Diana, you would benefit from reading Michael Kagan's "MyRaq" piece from the Weekly Standard several weeks ago. I wouldn't fault you for using the term "Muslim Theocracy" to describe Iraq, a lot of the American media uses it as well, but it's not because it is a Muslim Theocracy, it's because they want it to be for various points and purposes.

Posted by: MichaelBrazell at June 28, 2007 06:14 AM

Carlos, abstractions like "will" and "defeatism" sound nice but don't really mean much. I'd like to hear you define "victory". What conditions in Iraq/the Middle East would have to be met such that you think it would be acceptable to draw down the US troop presence in Iraq?

Posted by: vanya at June 28, 2007 06:30 AM

No, Vanya, your "conditions" are abstractions. The criteria for a victory in Iraq have been repeated ad nauseum. Google it.

DPU, microraptor, now you can add Vanya to the list.

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 06:39 AM

I thought as much Carlos. You have no idea what "victory" really means, do you? Why should anyone take you seriously, if you can nothing but talk about "will" like some comic book fan? It's people like you who give the "pro-war" cause a bad name.

Posted by: vanya at June 28, 2007 07:13 AM

It's not really surprising that a lot of politicians, reporters, and the general public think that the "surge" has been going on for months. Unfortunate, but not surprising. Because the simple fact is that very few people have any appreciation for logistics -- the process of getting the tools in place to actually do something. You could reasonably say that getting things in place is (and needs to be) part of the "surge," but it's not the part that will actually show up on the evening news.

In the first Gulf War, the US had the enormous good fortune to have a general in charge who was a student of logistics. We spent what seemed like ages moving men and material into position. Meanwhile, to the untrained eye, nothing happened. But then, when we finally moved, we had what we needed to do the job -- and quickly and with relatively low casualties.

This time, in Iraq, we've taken years to get around to trying to organizing our supply lines. I'm not sure that we have actually gotten it done right yet -- although the time being taken to get the surge started suggests that we might have.

It is worth remembering an old adage: "Good generals study strategy. Great generals study logistics." Almost all politicians (and, even more so, reporters) are all about tactics. Even strategy rarely shows its face. And logistics? Forget it.

Posted by: wj at June 28, 2007 07:21 AM

Great link. Let's just hope he's right. All of us saps can only rely on the internet and the MSM for our facts, and for a while nothing coming from there has given any reason for optimism. At some point, you have to set aside the triumphalism and pay a little attention to the growing number of boys (and girls) from Ohio and Tennessee and Alaska who are coming back in boxes. I'll be happy for a reason to once again feel optimism about Iraq, and that there's good cause to go on sacrificing young lives for what we're trying to do over there. I haven't felt that in a while.

Posted by: MarkC at June 28, 2007 07:56 AM

I thought as much Carlos. You have no idea what "victory" really means,

No, it just means I don't waste my time with intentionally obtuse people who already know the answers to their own questions (if you don't, then you've been living under a rock). Incidentally, what you think of me is of no consequence to me. That's because you fall into the category of people I believe should be disregarded. You're a cheerleader for the insurgency, Hamas, Hesbollah, and just about anybody who is anti-American (and anti-Israel).

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 08:06 AM

Michael,

STFU yourself, you dimwit. Iraq is imploding, not Iran. As for theocracy, two ayatollahs, one Iran-born, call the shots in Iraq - as far as anyone does. If that's not theocracy, I don't know what is.

Whoever,

I don't waste my time reading any garbage from The Weekly Standard. Life's too short. They've been wrong about everything so far.

Posted by: diana at June 28, 2007 08:12 AM

That was two weeks ago. Between then and now, the surge finally started. Only just now has it finally started. It can’t yet have failed.

Does that same logic apply to all the commentators who have been holding forth on how succesful the surge has been?

I hope this works out, I really do. But you do understand why Americans are skeptical about yet another milestone that's going to completely turn things around, right?

Posted by: JSinger at June 28, 2007 08:14 AM

diana: STFU yourself, you dimwit

I didn't say one word to you, so you can calm down now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 08:34 AM

JSinger: But you do understand why Americans are skeptical about yet another milestone that's going to completely turn things around, right?

Of course. Like I said, I wrote Iraq off some time ago, even though I also think withdrawing now would be a bad idea.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 08:36 AM

Here's a brief, true story about how tough it is to create a democracy.

http://northshorejournal.org/index.php/democracy-is-hard/

Posted by: Chuck Simmins at June 28, 2007 08:45 AM

I am sorry there is so much vitriol here. I do want to say simply thank you-first-Michael, your writing and insight is a real blessing and I love reading it. It's my "go to" place for Middle East news. And yes, that's worth something to me. Secondly, I think Michael has it about right: The surge may yet work--and if it does, you'll see American public opinion turn around rather rapidly. If the Bush Administration doesn't implode first...

Posted by: Mark Storer at June 28, 2007 09:09 AM

You anti-war nuts are all wrong!!!

Just give the surge another six months and the US will have victory! The Iraqis will once again shower us with candy and flowers.

And, six months after that, in time for the November 2008 elections, the Commander in Chief will finally be able to reduce our troops to only 160,000 in Iraq.

So, take that you surrender-crats.

Posted by: Continuum at June 28, 2007 09:30 AM

MJT-

In defense of Diana, she was referring to MichaelBrazell, not you.

Posted by: Geoff at June 28, 2007 09:46 AM

In defense of Diana, she was referring to MichaelBrazell, not you

or maybe she was referring to Brian H., who brought up the whole STFU/theocracy thing?

Posted by: mary at June 28, 2007 10:08 AM

MJT: To defend Diana, I believe she was yelling at Brian and/or MichaelB above her.

As for the surge: hope it works, fear it won't. I assume it is a legitamate effort, so it's certainaly worth trying. As far as winning Iraq in the long run, that seems to depend on how we difine our goal. If our goal was to depose Sadam, make really sure there was no WMD stuff going on, and keep the country from going into genocidal levels of violence with a minimum of troops, we have done fairly well. If our goal it to stabilize the country and set up a functioning democracy, we're a bit behind.

Posted by: drlemaster at June 28, 2007 10:09 AM

I don't waste my time reading any garbage from The Weekly Standard.

My, how open minded.

Posted by: mishu at June 28, 2007 10:16 AM

Mishu,

Care to point out a single thing that anyone with the last name of Kagen has gotten right in the past 4 years?

I think there's a weather dude in Des Moines named Alex Kagen. Maybe one of his forcasts turned out to be accurate?

Posted by: Davebo at June 28, 2007 10:30 AM

What would victory in Iraq look like? A constitutional democracy that preserves human and civil rights, political participation, and economic benefits and opportunities equally for all Iraqi groups and individuals, with a police and military that are accountable to and under the control of that government, that are able to defend the country's territorial integrity from both internal and external threats, and that are able to maintain safety and security for both the government and the citizens of the country.

Posted by: Salamantis at June 28, 2007 10:49 AM

In defense of Diana, she was referring to MichaelBrazell, not you.

Ah yes, okay, sorry Diana.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 10:52 AM

Michael,

I'm not really in favor of banning anyone, but how is it you let Carlos get away with throwing out crap like:
"You're a cheerleader for the insurgency, Hamas, Hesbollah, and just about anybody who is anti-American (and anti-Israel). ?

That's just asshole behavior and it's not improving the quality of the discussions here to put it mildly. Yeah, me, William F. Buckley, Phil Larison, Gen. William Odom, Greg Cochran, John Derbyshire, Rich Lowry, Greg Djerejian, etc. etc, we're all Hizbullah "defeatists", believe that if it makes you feel better.

Seriously, accusing the American people of "losing their will", and I've said this before, is a slur against the American people. I guess it's clear enough to Carlos what we're doing in Iraq, but it's not to most Americans and the fact that war supporters don't feel the need to even justify spending American lives and billions of dollars doesn't make most of us feel more confident. The first thing most Americans get, and people like Carlos don't, is that Iraq is not the whole war, it's one battle in the global war. A lot of us have concluded a long time ago that a tactical retreat on one front does not equal "defeat" except in the most fevered imaginations. If Carlos had been running the British Empire, one imagines the whole BEA going down in flames as brave Carlos decimates the armies in France in order to send yet more troops into the breach at Gallipoli. If only the Aussies had had the "will" to overcome those Turkish machine gun positions... Sometimes it's better to be smart than reckless, and whenever possible make the enemy fight you on your terms, don't play his game. As long we stay in Iraq we will always be playing the enemy's game, no matter how much "will" or "national spirit" we try to muster.

But more concretely, I'm not facetious at all when I want to know what "victory" means. It seems to be in the eye of the beholder. I think to most Americans "victory" means the creation of a democratic Iraqi government stable enough to maintain security for all its citizens at least on the level of, say, Jordan. That probably is achieveable given enough resources and time. Whether the benefits to the US of that "victory" are worth the costs and distraction is a separate issue. What I think will be very difficult to achieve is a democratic Iraqi government that allows US troops to operate bases on its territory in perpetuity, and what we will never achieve is a truly democratic Iraqi government that is actively friendly to Israel and a force for democratic change in the region - that's la-la land.

Posted by: vanya at June 28, 2007 10:53 AM

"I don't waste my time reading any garbage from The Weekly Standard."

As a citizen, I read all sides of an issue and then decide the best I can. This government, and this war, is yours, Diana, and the depression or negativism of the opposition is a luxury we can ill afford at this time.

Posted by: Patricia at June 28, 2007 11:00 AM

A constitutional democracy that preserves human and civil rights, political participation, and economic benefits and opportunities equally for all Iraqi groups and individuals, with a police and military that are accountable to and under the control of that government, that are able to defend the country's territorial integrity from both internal and external threats, and that are able to maintain safety and security for both the government and the citizens of the country.

This is an example of setting your sights to an impossibly high standard. None of the following close US trade partners meet that standard - Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China, or Great Britain (Ok, that's a trick answer - Great Britain has no written constitution). I'd be satisfied with "not much worse than Jordan."

Posted by: vanya at June 28, 2007 11:05 AM
FYI - regarding Arrowhead Ripper:
On 22 June the US military announced that its attack helicopters, armed with missiles, engaged and killed 17 al-Qaeda gunmen who had been trying to infiltrate the village of al-Khalis, north of Baquba, where operation "Arrowhead Ripper" had been under way for the previous three days.

The item was duly carried by international news agencies and received widespread coverage, including on the BBC News website.

But villagers in largely-Shia al-Khalis say that those who died had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They say they were local village guards trying to protect the township from exactly the kind of attack by insurgents the US military says it foiled.

They say that of 16 guards, 11 were killed and five others injured - two of them seriously - when US helicopters fired rockets at them and then strafed them with heavy machinegun fire.

Minutes before the attack, they had been co-operating with an Iraqi police unit raiding a suspected insurgent hideout, the villagers said.
This goes to what I was saying yesterday regarding the murkiness of the situation. These things happen in war, and these people may be even lying. But it's as likely that these al Qaeda insurgents were anti-insurgent guards killed in error. But the impression most will take from the media coverage was that they were al Qaeda, and the the surge is being effective.

It'll take months to tell, and our attention spans are short.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 11:08 AM

Does that same logic apply to all the commentators who have been holding forth on how succesful the surge has been?

Good point, honestly the naive cheerleading "pro-war" pundits in general have done more to destroy the credibility of the war effort in the eys of most Americans over the last 4 years than all the Moores, Chomskys and Sheehans could ever hope to do (Totten and Yon excepted).

I'll shut up now.

Posted by: vanya at June 28, 2007 11:11 AM

> As long we stay in Iraq we will always be
> playing the enemy's game,

actually, being in Iraq forces the enemy to play ours.

> I think to most Americans "victory" means
> the creation of a democratic Iraqi
> government stable enough to maintain security
> for all its citizens at least on the level
> of, say, Jordan. ...

you're showing in this paragraph both that you know the answer and that you only posed the question in an effort, that failed, to set a rhetorical trap.

You expect people to answer that victory is getting an Israel friendly Iraqi government? Nobody thinks that. What we're gunning for, ultimately, is a government that can create a space in which its people can grow up politically and join the real world. And yes, hoping such a thing will spread to the rest of the Arabs as well.

Posted by: Adam D. at June 28, 2007 11:15 AM

Sometimes it's better to be smart than reckless, and whenever possible make the enemy fight you on your terms, don't play his game.

Vanya,

giving Irap up to the insurgency and AQ, and the chaos that would ensue, is what you call "smart"? LOL. You say we shouldn't play their game, but withdrawing prematurely IS their game. That's exactly what they want for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is to create of haven for more of them, who aren't going to sit playing tiddlywinks. You don't get virgins in heaven for playing tiddlywinks.

And when you compare the war in Iraq to "Gallipoli" you make peaceniks look somewhat ridiculous, you know that?

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 11:23 AM

Vanya and Carlos, I think you both make some worthwhile points, so see if you can keep from tearing each other's throats out, k?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 11:27 AM

Dear Vanya,
Just because you don't believe the terrorists are counting on America to defeat itself doesn't it's not true. Meaning that they can't win military victory, but because of a previous war that they've learned from (Vietnam) America will become the "paper tiger" that Osama claims that we are. While I probably agree with 98% of what Mr. Buckley believes in; just because he thinks we should pull out of Iraq doesn't mean crap to me. I might be the only American that remembers what happened to our allies in Southeast Asia after we pulled out, but I'm not going to let others forget either.
First and most important key to victory:
When the enemy can't even come close to beating you militarily don't abandon your allies to the enemy.

You are basically saying that Iraq isn't worth the fight. What I'd like to know from you Vanya; what is an acceptable and realistic casualty rate in a WAR???????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pete Dawg

Posted by: pete dawg at June 28, 2007 11:58 AM

So vanya, how much are iraqi lives worth in dollars? Is that all you see, $$$$?

Posted by: Favre at June 28, 2007 12:15 PM

Lay off of Vanya, pudknockers! It's perfectly reasonable to ask these kinds of questions about the war. In fact, since you're asking someone else to do the fighting for you, you have a duty to ask them. Not just mindlessly repeat how our "will" will carry the day, and who can pound longest, like those asshole French generals in WWI who talked about "elan" as they sent human waves into the machine guns. That's what you sound like.

You know, you are in a distinct minority, 75% of the country is opposed in some way to the Iraq War, so a little humility, PLEASE. You may control the debate on this website, but nowhere else that matters.

I honestly hope that this latest surge shows results, and that things will start to turn around. Defeat in Iraq would be a disaster, but it is a very real possibility, and you are in denial about it.

Posted by: MarkC at June 28, 2007 12:58 PM

Dear MarkC,
Are you Vanya's boyfriend, or girlfriend??? If Vanya can't defend his own thoughts he shouldn't leave comments. Plus, I didn't attack him personally like you did to me, but I did challange what he was saying.
What business is it of yours whether the Army would ACCEPT me or not? Or that my son is going
to boot camp next summer and that I have a nephew about to be shipped out to Iraq. This is still America, correct???? Just because I and 97% of the population didn't serve doesn't mean I can't speak for or against the war. I'm not telling anybody to shut up. So don't make a$$umptions like I would approve of the battle tactics in WorldWarI, it makes you look like an A$$.
So now that I have your attention; what is an acceptable and realistic casualty rate in a WAR????
Here's another one MarkC:
If 75% of the country is against the Iraq War; why are we still there after the Democrats great victory in 2006? I mean can anyone please explain to me why the Democrats got their skirts pulled down to their ankles by a politcally weak lame duck President? Hell, cutting off funding should've been easy with Bush at a 23% approval rating and 75% against the Iraq War. Right?????

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 28, 2007 01:31 PM

I basically agree with Mark here. Vanya isn't exactly Noam Chomsky's number one fan. If you can't have a civil debate about this with him/her, you're not going to be able to do it with anyone else either.

There's a point when pretty much everyone would give up on Iraq. Some people get there sooner than others.

What if it really is a hopeless quagmire, like the Israeli Palestinian conflict that has dragged on for more than half a century? How do you know it isn't? I don't think it is, but I don't know that it's not.

That doesn't mean I would ever want to "redeploy" to Okinawa or Kansas, but Kurdistan is a viable option that even Nancy Pelosi might be persuaded to sign onto.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 28, 2007 01:36 PM

May be it will be just the feeling that the "Arabs" and other muslim states betrayed the Iraqis so much wishing them to fail (actively)and the need for strong cooperation with someone with real experience of some normalcy (yes, the foreign troops) that will bring some new quality...not just a western donation of freedom in its ilusive way, it could be more under given circumstances. Under extreme circumstances the attitudes may start changing fast.
Check the reality on the ground every week. It is our reality which feels same for years or even decades.

And do not forget the Iranians, really hungry for freedom. Unlike the West: freedom shopping every day...just checking the nuanced prices.

Posted by: Czechmade at June 28, 2007 01:40 PM

Some people get there sooner than others.

Indeed. Some people (Democrats) are practically stumbling over themselves to surrender.

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 03:00 PM

Was I sheltered as a kid or is debating someone now considered an uncivilized personal attack?

Or is being lumped in with some General's suicidal strategy par for the course?

I don't know of anybody advocating stay the course in a quagmire. I certainly don't advocate such a stupid policy. What I advocate is "victory" in Iraq; military, political or both. Hell, I don't care if it's a Republican or Democrat that gets the credit. I have certain problems with Bush. I don't just blindly follow him, but he's the only leader out their willing to confront the terrorists. Other than initiating the first "Killing Fields" in the 21st century, I'm waiting for the Democrats plan for victory.

Is the Iraq War truly a quagmire? I'd say far from it.
First- The fact that the terrorists haven't even won a battle tells me we aren't in a quagmire.
Second- Why is "Mookie Al Sadr" still vertical?
Third- Are the "Rules of Engagement" still ludicris and asinine to the point we are taking unneccassary casualties?
Fourth- How come Damascus and Tehran aren't smoldering for their assistance in killing our soldiers in Iraq?

Questions like these and some others need to be anwered before I'd say that Iraq is an unwinnable quagmire. It's more like a self-imposed ban on victory.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 28, 2007 03:28 PM

Second- Why is "Mookie Al Sadr" still vertical?

Because he is very popular, for various reasons, with a large proportion of the Iraqi Shia, and killing him would probably inflame a lot of passion, making the situation worse. On top of that, he's reputedly not too bright, and whichever Islamist firebrand replaced him might be smarter.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 03:33 PM

Michael:

I wasn't "yelling" at anybody, I was defending myself against someone who introduced the "STFU" word into the discussion.

You still haven't defined what the word "goal" even means in this context.

The only thing I would change in my comment is that Iraq doesn't even rise to the level of a theocracy, as that implies some order. It's a horrific mess.

As far as the Weekly Standard is concerned, the shite they publish is no better than alien-abduction stories in tabloids, so I don't bother. These are the people who cheered us into Iraq and who denied the facts for so long. If there were any justice in the world they would slink away in disgrace, but there isn't, so they don't.

Posted by: diana at June 28, 2007 03:35 PM

The problem as I see it is that people are not asking the right question. It shouldn't be 'what is the price of staying', rather it is 'what is the price of withdrawing'. And when we ask this question we must listen to those currently on the periphery of the conflict.

It is fairly clear that absent us, Iran would intervene on the behalf of the Sunni. This would prompt an intervention by the Saudi's on behalf of the Sunni. Finally, we have even odds that Turkey would 'intervene' in Kurdistan if it goes all to hell.

So, by withdrawing, we potentially create an implosive vacuum which would draw in a NATO ally which would.... draw us right back in. Except under significantly worse circumstances.

Alternatively, we could withdraw and everything gets magically better, in spite of overwhelming regional commentary to the contrary.

Look. Forget how much you hate Bush. Forget whither or not you were in favor or opposed to the 2003 invasion. Those factors Are. Not. Relevant.

All that matters is the question; what can we do to keep Iraq from coming completely off the rails? How do we avoid 'boat people' and Pol Pot? Because that was the price last time we said 'fuck it'.

Can we win in Iraq? Certainly. Is it worth the cost? Wrong question. Is it worth the cost of NOT succeeding? That is the basis on which to form the debate. And quite frankly, everything I read, every way I game the scenario; the price of failing is far, far worse than what we – and more importantly the people of the Middle East - can afford.

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 28, 2007 03:35 PM

Erm. Iran would intervene on behalf of the Shia, obviously. Not the Sunni.

Posted by: Michael In Seattle at June 28, 2007 03:39 PM

All that matters is the question; what can we do to keep Iraq from coming completely off the rails?

The reason for opposing the invasion was that it was likely that there was no way to prevent it coming off the rails, and some had the foresight to see that. It had nothing to do with Bush-hatred.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 03:46 PM

Can we win in Iraq? Certainly.

Unlikely. The terms of victory are still undefined after four years, so not only is there no way to measure victory, there's no way to measure progress.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 03:48 PM

The reason for opposing the invasion was that it was likely that there was no way to prevent it coming off the rails, and some had the foresight to see that.

You must be confusing foresight with hindsight. I would love to see a pre-invasion dated article, column, post, anything, with the foresight you speak of. I'm pretty sure I remember what the naysayers were saying at the time, and nothing struck me as foresight then; not then nor now. Plenty of hindsight though. In fact, the reasons they opposed the invasion never materialized at all. Can anyone remember the "seige of Baghdad" that would cost 500,000 American and Iraqi lives? Baghad fell in a day.

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 03:57 PM

The terms of victory are still undefined after four years,

You'd like to think so.

Posted by: Carlos at June 28, 2007 03:58 PM

Because he is very popular, for various reasons, with a large proportion of the Iraqi Shia, and killing him would probably inflame a lot of passion, making the situation worse. On top of that, he's reputedly not too bright, and whichever Islamist firebrand replaced him might be smarter.-double-plus-ungood

Is this a war or what????? Mookie is still alive because we don't want to inflame people. That is why "political correctness" doesn't belong anywhere we are fighting a war. I say "kill him" and the next a-hole after him that would oppose us. Along with the rest of his militia. Send them to their reward with the 72 virgins.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 28, 2007 04:18 PM

Actually Carlos, the significant naysayers were busy bemoaning the horrid squalor caused by the sanction regime, urging us to end it forthwith 'for the Children'.

finally, Terms of victory have been defined repeatedly. Even in this thread. You simply do not feel it is worth the 'cost'.

Best case victory condition: an end to the inter-sect warfare, tossing out of the provocateurs, we actually utilize counter-insurgency doctrine by eliminating the mind-space allowing popular support of the insurgency. All of which would hopefully result in a stable, prosperous, multi-denominational Iraq.

Mid case would be an 'Attaturk' strongman in Al-Anbar and the south, with Kurdistan becoming an American dependency as we help contain the PKK and develop a peace treaty with Turkey.

Best worse case: Partition, with a general war 'only' erupting between Saudi Arabia, Iran and related dependencies.

Best worse case 2: Mubarak in Al-anbar and the south.

Worst case: General three way middle eastern conflict. With us intervening on the side of Turkey / Israel.

Like I said, the price of not winning is not acceptable. Therefore asking what 'victory' looks like is absurd.

In short, I disagree with the way you formulate the debate DPU, simply because the price of your 'inevitable' conclusion is horrific.

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 28, 2007 04:27 PM

Terms of victory have been defined repeatedly. Even in this thread.

What are Bush's conditions in Iraq that he would feel comfortable withdrawing all US military forces?

You simply do not feel it is worth the 'cost'.

Really? Where do I say that? Or are you mind-reading?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 04:48 PM

double-plus-ungood,

I think maybe you should start looking past Bush, because we aren't leaving Iraq any time soon. You might look to the potential presidential candidates in both parties. But none of them seem to have "political suicidal tendencies"; so I don't think were leaving Iraq whoever gets elected.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 28, 2007 05:03 PM

...so I don't think were leaving Iraq whoever gets elected.

Personally, I do not favor a US withdrawal from Iraq, but I fear that you're wrong. Beyond Hussein and WMDs, the majority of the public has little interest in this war, and polls bear that out. One way or another, there will be a withdrawal.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2007 05:07 PM

double-plus-ungood,

I can appreciate your pessimism or lack of faith in the American public, but there is the question of funding this war. The Democrats had the perfect opportunity to stop this war, but they didn't. WHY????? Bush is at 23% approval and 75% are against the war. It should have been a slam dunk.
America isn't ready to let the terrorists win in Iraq. Plus, the Anti-war people and the Democrats haven't been totally successful into making Iraq into Vietnam War 2. I mean the last thing they need to do is turn the public against the soldiers. They need to paint these guys as wild-eyed, out of control, nutcases like they did to soldiers serving in Vietnam. Until that happens; I don't think we are going to leave Iraq under the terrorists terms.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 28, 2007 05:36 PM

What are Bush's conditions in Iraq that he would feel comfortable withdrawing all US military forces?
I don't have the link to the speech given at the National Endowment for Democracy in 2002, but the general idea was we could disengage when Iraq has undergone a change away from post-colonial autocrats to a something resembling a pluralistic, western looking, democratic nation-state. IE ending our unending involvement the 10 year quagmire caused by the cease-fire of GW1.

A sea change in attitude as it were, since the current dynamic of short-term realpolitik and Autocrat is condemning the people of the Middle East to oblivion.

You simply do not feel it is worth the 'cost'.
Really? Where do I say that? Or are you mind-reading?

All right. That was admittedly projection based on the published record of the 'Peace at any Price' crowd. Do you have anything to say about the rest of it or did you stop there because I stepped on your toe?

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 28, 2007 06:50 PM

"What are Bush's conditions in Iraq that he would feel comfortable withdrawing all US military forces?"

That's a very good question, though you should replace Bush with America. And you will not get to withdraw all military forces even if the rosiest scenarios happen...

I would guess that there has been some thinking on this, but we would really not want to release a list of minimum and up conditions...mainly because it would contain some brutal knocks on the Iraqi government, possibly inspire more insurgency, and really, you shoot for your best result unless pressed for time, no? Do we have some specific deadline for Iraq? I know the Democrats want it to be over by Nov. 08 so they can ignore foreign affairs for a while (we'd all like a break) but that's not really serious.

Just for example, one result where we could withdraw troops would be a divided, but peaceful Iraq. But you can't exactly aim for that when the central government of Iraq is not been knocked out, and Anbar is looking up, right?

We didn't want Yugoslavia to break up, but when it finally did, even then we took a while to find our new "minimum conditions" there - and those were not ideal at all.

Assuming the current situation, I'd say we could withdraw most of our combat troops when the Iraqi army was large enough and effective enough to defeat the insurgency by itself and not fear any non-state organized militia. In fact, our withdrawl could even accelerate a political solution to some of the insurgency as nationalist groups gave up, but much like a baby bird, we need to make sure Iraq can at least glide before we push it out of the nest.

Posted by: Aaron at June 28, 2007 07:34 PM

I know some people in the media are already starting to sort of write off the “surge” and say ‘Hey, hang on: we’ve been going since January, we haven’t seen a massive turnaround; it mustn’t be working’. What we’ve been doing to date is putting forces into position. We haven’t actually started what I would call the “surge” yet. All we’ve been doing is building up forces and trying to secure the population.

Most journalists, and a depressing number of our elected officials, seemed to have learned what they know of military matters from Hollywood, and it shows.

This is one of the reasons I use military service as a tiebreaker when deciding who to vote for.

[...] STFU yourself, you dimwit. Iraq is imploding, not Iran. [...]
-Diana

Iran is imploding. Iran's economy is in the tank, and the whacko-in-chief's economic policies (basically, welfare, patronage, and giving money to Hizbullah) are not delivering a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Iranians are generally not happy with the guy.

The Iranian government has been compelled to ration (subsidized, imported) gasoline, which is an extremely unpopular action by a very unpopular administration, and the protests (mostly vandalizing gas stations) are resulting in yet another crackdown.

While I would very much like to hear firsthand reports about what is going on, a part of me is glad Michael isn't there, because it looks like a place where it would be very easy for someone with a US passport to get in deep trouble. Especially someone who reported on things the Iranian government didn't want the rest of the world to know about.

Iran imploding doesn't mean everything's peachy in Iraq... but the situation in Iran is part of the context you need to understand what is going on in Iraq (and Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan), not something that can be safely ignored.

[...]
A lot of us have concluded a long time ago that a tactical retreat on one front does not equal "defeat" except in the most fevered imaginations.
[...]
-Vanya

It would be a defeat. In Iraq, not necessarily the overall conflict, but a defeat just the same. It would be proof that the way to defeat the US's overwhelming advantage in conventional forces is to use insurgents and terrorist tactics, it would be abandoning an ally, it would be yielding the field to the enemy, and a great many other bad things that would have consequences in places far from Iraq.

After all...

The first thing most Americans get, and people like Carlos don't, is that Iraq is not the whole war, it's one battle in the global war.
-someone who's name I don't recall at the moment

A defeat in Iraq would mean winning the next round would be a great deal more difficult, more expensive, and bloodier. There will be a next round, and one after that, and one after that. Iraq isn't nearly the end of this conflict.

...oh, and because you asked: victory in Iraq is an Iraq with a representative government that can prevent it's territory from being used as a base to launch attacks on other countries. Essentially, a country that treats it's citizens decently and leaves the neighbors alone.

This is an achievable goal, and it is a goal worth achieving.

[...]
All that matters is the question; what can we do to keep Iraq from coming completely off the rails? How do we avoid 'boat people' and Pol Pot? Because that was the price last time we said 'fuck it'.

Can we win in Iraq? Certainly. Is it worth the cost? Wrong question. Is it worth the cost of NOT succeeding? That is the basis on which to form the debate. And quite frankly, everything I read, every way I game the scenario; the price of failing is far, far worse than what we – and more importantly the people of the Middle East - can afford.
-Michael in Seattle

This is someone who gets it....

What are Bush's conditions in Iraq that he would feel comfortable withdrawing all US military forces?
-DPU

...and this is someone who does not.

DPU, 'victory' does not mean 'withdrawal of all US forces'. The US has forces stationed in many of the countries the US has fought wars with, up to and including our war of independence. Do you intend to argue that was not a victory for our side?

No?

Okay, then. Stop trying to define "withdrawal of all US military forces" as victory, because it's not, and never has been.

US forces in Iraq will leave when either the Iraqi government asks them to leave, or the US government decides they don't need to be there. I don't expect the Iraqi government to make such a request this side of 2020, if ever.

Posted by: rosignol at June 28, 2007 08:14 PM

Most journalists, and a depressing number of our elected officials, seemed to have learned what they know of military matters from Hollywood, and it shows....Iran is imploding....The Iranian government has been compelled to ration (subsidized, imported) gasoline... protests (mostly vandalizing gas stations)...

A depressing number of people seem to have learned what they know of military matters from Instapundit, and it shows.

When the Iranian government doesn't collapse from -- what's this week's talking point? -- gasoline rationing, then can we rethink the wisdom of basing a war on what a bunch of bloggers keep telling each other? Honestly, I hope the surge works out as much as any of you people do (more, actually, since I don't have a state of denial to console me if it doesn't) but this combination of delusion and name-calling is what's really depressing.

Posted by: CC at June 28, 2007 09:08 PM

Iran's rulers have two problems:
- they are proving not very good at the economic part of running a country. Witness the gasoline shortages and the unemployment rate. Ah well, a theocracy has other priorities.
- way too many people have been born since the Shah was overthrown. Which means they don't remember his replacements in the fond comparison that some of those who had to live under him feel. (Not saying he was good or bad as a ruler. Just that some of those who lived under him were happy to see him gone.)

The combination means that they have only three legs to stand on:
- they control the guns. Which can work for a long time, of course. But having to gun down a significant part of the population rather strikes at the self-image of the Iranian government.
- the fundamentalist belief in Islamic rule. Of course, Iran has a huge secular tradition. And growing up under an enforce religious rule, while knowing that other people use other systems, is a good way to develop a generational conflict.
- foreign threats. Saddam was very helpful there, for a while. (Sure, he killed a lot of people. But from the perspective of the Iranian government, he engendered a lot of "rally 'round the flag" reaction.) Now he's gone. But if they can just manage to get the US (or the Saudis, it doesn't really matter which) to attack, there will be a new cause to rally the population. And Iran, unlike Iraq, actually is a nation as well as a country - they will rally 'round if attacked.

Time is not unlimited, however. Not only is the population getting restive, but Bush (or Cheney, if you look at things that way) won't be along more than another 18 months or so. And the next US administration is unlikely to strike under as mild a provocation as the current one.

Posted by: wj at June 28, 2007 09:55 PM

"The reason for opposing the invasion was that it was likely that there was no way to prevent it coming off the rails, and some had the foresight to see that."

Depends whether you consider rule by a proven genocidal tyrant, with two vigorous sons reputedly even more brutal than he waiting in the wings, to be "on the rails".

Posted by: Gary Rosen at June 29, 2007 12:11 AM

Sorry to burst some bubbles, but the Iranian economy is growing. The rationing of gas has long been debated and is a result of heavy subsidization.

Posted by: tg at June 29, 2007 01:01 AM

"All that matters is the question; what can we do to keep Iraq from coming completely off the rails? How do we avoid 'boat people' and Pol Pot? Because that was the price last time we said 'fuck it'."

A question I always wanted to ask a "pacifist":

Do you think that the Vietnam war protesters bear the moral responsibility for what happened after the US troops withdrew?

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at June 29, 2007 01:32 AM

tg wrote: "Sorry to burst some bubbles, but the Iranian economy is growing. The rationing of gas has long been debated and is a result of heavy subsidization"

I am not so sure the Iranian economy really IS growing. Look at this link from the Iran based site Baztab (which is close to elements in the regime like Larijani)

http://en.baztab.com/content/?cid=3254

...in which the author complains that sychophantic bureaucrats have been systematically hyping the Iranian economy because they think that's what their higher-ups will want to hear.

Imam Khomeini once famously said that the 1979 revolution was "...not about the price of watermelons," but if there is "regime-change" (or maybe regime-transformation) in Iran, the price of gasoline could well turn out to be a key factor.

Posted by: Microraptor at June 29, 2007 03:28 AM

Andrew,
you should use us - the communism survivors - to debate Vietnam war protestors and similar peacenicks. Eternal narcissuses are these people, blissfully stripped of any kind of responsability.
Devout supporters of any kind of despot. Ready for an act of treason. Totalitarian in their relaxed hearts. Smiling in their open complicity at the tyrants. Never punished. What did they deliver for us? Maybe some sentence like: "Oh, you know, our government is evil as well. Do not complain."

"I am against the war in Iraq". OK, then you are part of the Syrian and Iranian war calculation. Congratulations. Check your own "war machines", peacenicks (as they like to say). Why not to use the terms properly: The Syrian war against Iraqis, the Iranian war against Iraqis, the jihadi war against Iraqis, the panArab war against them etc. Much like the "civil"/international war in Spain in thirties, no? With Mussolini, Hitler intervening from the safety of their own dictatorships.

Posted by: Czechmade at June 29, 2007 04:09 AM

Hezbollah documentary on Youtube....

Whaddya'all think? Come on all you Hezzie-haters and Hezzie-huggers.... and all those in between...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBZczJw3u6w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jtsJgFePB8&mode=related&search=

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KvQHMiUyCM&mode=related&search=

IMHO The new defensive lines north of the Litani (Part 3) are interesting... that is, the "nectarine" plantations where these guys get arrested.... and the bunker footage... and the arms dealing moonlighting Hezbollah/Amal dudes...

;)

Posted by: Microraptor at June 29, 2007 05:34 AM

How do we avoid 'boat people' and Pol Pot? Because that was the price last time we said 'fuck it'."

We? Why are 'we' the world's policeman? Why should it always be American troopers dying because other people have screwed up their countries?

Posted by: I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 06:50 AM

"Andrew,
you should use us - the communism survivors - to debate Vietnam war protestors and similar peacenicks."

I grew up next to communism myself. :-)

"We? Why are 'we' the world's policeman? Why should it always be American troopers dying because other people have screwed up their countries?"

Because, my logical friend, America is a part of the world and will be involved, sooner or later.

You can only use the "they came after the X, but I am not X" line so many times. At some point they come after you.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at June 29, 2007 07:27 AM

Do you think that the Vietnam war protesters bear the moral responsibility for what happened after the US troops withdrew?

Posted by Andrew Brehm at June 29, 2007 01:32 AM

Hell, yeah the Vietnam war protesters are responsible. According to them America was the interloper. In fact to paraphrase John Kerry he said "that it would be highly unlikely that the communist would treat their fellow countrymen bad." Talk about being wrong. Southeast Asia descended into HELL. What makes our betrayel even worse was that the ARVN had a very good chance of holding off the communist if they had the promised funds for Vietnamization of the war. The Ford Administration asked for the promised funds and the Democrats said "Pound Salt". Millions were dislocated and millions more died.

And the Democrats want to do the samething to our Allies again.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 29, 2007 07:49 AM

MJT: Thank you for steering us to the "Small Wars Journal" for such authentic tactical info. It's illuminating to get an insight into the day-to-day workings of terrorists within a typical Iraqi neighborhood. The terrorists' drive to intimidate and manipulate the population--creating a negative spiral--has been clearly identified and defined here. Another article from the blog "Iraq the Model" (Aug 30, A Tale of Two Tribes) makes the same point. I experienced this polarizing effect firsthand in the days following the LA riots.

Posted by: Annette at June 29, 2007 07:54 AM

Because, my logical friend, America is a part of the world and will be involved, sooner or later.

There are some 40 or so conflicts in the world right now. Do you think we should be stepping in all of them because we are part of the world and they are 'going to come after us sooner or later'?

It's a rather cheap way of looking at the lives of American troops.

Most Americans have no regrets about staying out of the Rwanda conflict. Or Cambodia, for that matter. As harsh as it sounds, a lot of times it's better to let these wars burn themselves out and force foreigners to solve their own problems.

Posted by: I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 08:16 AM

Do you have anything to say about the rest of it or did you stop there because I stepped on your toe?

I stopped because you were making shit up. Want to try again?

The Democrats had the perfect opportunity to stop this war, but they didn't. WHY?????

Because it's fairly obvious that they want to go into a presidential election with an enormously unpopular war hanging around the neck of the Republicans. Duh.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 29, 2007 08:30 AM

"There are some 40 or so conflicts in the world right now. Do you think we should be stepping in all of them because we are part of the world and they are 'going to come after us sooner or later'?"

I think the US should definitely step in those conflicts that are certain to involve the US or its immediate allies soon.

You must have noticed that conflicts involving radical "Muslims" tend to spread into America and Europe.

"It's a rather cheap way of looking at the lives of American troops."

If I thought American lives were cheap I would recommend waiting for the enemy to become strong enough to kill many or all Americans, not just those prepared to fight.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at June 29, 2007 08:30 AM

This is just Vietnam all over again and again and again. The surge; progress in Anbar; something happening in Diyalia (or whereever); a new government (American installed), etc. You don't even need to write new copy, but replace a few names and dates from any newspaper in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And yes, when we withdraw, it will be a bloodbath, but it will whenever we withdraw, so might as well be sooner rather than later.

As for America being a paper tiger: Well, are we? Look at history: We won WWI and WWII. What else? Fought to a draw in Korea; defeated in Vietnam; overran Saddam in '91 (big fucking deal); beat a few Cubans in Granada. Overran Saddam in 2003 (big fucking deal again). Everyone seems to believe we have the "most powerful army the world has ever seen," but is it? We can't even defeat a few disorganized Arabs in Iraq after four years. And Afghanistan? We can't do a thing against the Taliban. Maybe we are a paper tiger. But if we are, we can thank Bush for showing the world that we are, with his idiotic and criminal strategy (forgetting that the whole venture is based on a lie).

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 29, 2007 08:46 AM

There are some 40 or so conflicts in the world right now. Do you think we should be stepping in all of them because we are part of the world and they are 'going to come after us sooner or later'?
I BLAME THE PARENTS.

Of course the US shouldn't be involved with every conflict around the world. I'm asking you this out of ignorance of your point of view, but do you think a stablized Iraq is of strategic importance to America?

It's a rather cheap way of looking at the lives of American troops.
I BLAME THE PARENTS.

The real cheap way of looking at the lives of Americans troops is the "game" that the Democrats are playing. The majority of the intelligence that justified going into Iraq came from a Democrat Administration. The vote on invading Iraq was a bi-partisan vote. As Americans we should explore every avenue to defeat the terrorists in Iraq. Now there is no way in hell you can confuse todays Democrats with the Democrats of WorldWarII, but they do have the power now to defund this war. Its not like they haven't defunded a war before. If they truly believe withdrawal is the best way to protect our troops shouldn't we be out of Iraq by now?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 29, 2007 08:54 AM

As harsh as it sounds, a lot of times it's better to let these wars burn themselves out and force foreigners to solve their own problems.

The Sunni and Shia conflict in Iraq may be describable this way, but Al Qaeda in Iraq is definately our problem.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 29, 2007 08:57 AM

> Whaddya'all think?

I think it's the best kia sportage commercial I've ever seen, right down to the gratuitous steering wheel badge shots and in motion closeups.

Posted by: Adam D. at June 29, 2007 08:59 AM

Seymour Paine,

Your posted comment says so much about yourself that I don't know where to start. The main reason this it feels like Vietnam again is the terrorists have said that they've learned from the North Vietnamese strategic reliance on the anti-war people and the Democrats to do something for them that they couldn't do militarily. Defeat America. The only difference today is at least you are being honest about the bloodbath. The anti-war people weren't so honest about that back in the 70's.

Overran Saddam in 2003 (big fucking deal again). Seymour Paine.

Nice revision here. If I would have debated a typcical anti-war protestor pre-invasion and said taking Iraq we would have a death count after 4 years around 3500 with 2,800 attributed to combat I'd be called a nutcase. Taking over a country the size of Iraq in roughly 2 weeks would be no big deal to someone ignorant as you.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 29, 2007 09:17 AM

For those of you that wish to get their information, the truth from INDY reporters, EMBED's and soldiers in the field, just like Michael Yon ( http://www.michaelyon-online.com/ ) as this Writer mentions, go to http://billroggio.com/ or http://tank.nationalreview.com/ or even http://www.iraqslogger.com/ who brings all the links together in most cases.

Its a shame people have no idea that things are going well, bombings suck, but you have to put it all into context with what is happening, why the bombings happened, how many tribes are now with the US, recruits for police having 500% more then expected show up...amazing. Anbar is a complete success, now its Diyala. And people see that more soldiers are dying, but they don't know that there is one great big operation, or 4 big operations within that one, like Arrowhead ripper just one of them. All cornering Al Queda and killing them all, Iraqi's giving all the tips needed, fighting AQ themselves, everything.

Then its a shame for someone like Diane who calls Iraq a theocracy yet would say there is a civil war of different sects. Thats an oxymoron. A theocracy would be a full stable Theocratic government, which everyone follows and the vast majority follows religiously, yet the country is divided and killing each other too according to the left. Not the case, the country is finally uniting and we're at a tipping point. And the USA will lose this war only if we choose to lose it.

JUST READ SOME OF THOSE Links to get some real INDEPENDANT Information.

Posted by: Trevor at June 29, 2007 09:53 AM

Oh and we're involved in so many countries and conflicts so that others, like China getting involved in the Horn of Africa selling countries weapons who have UN Arms Embargos placed on them, so that they don't get the upper hand. This is all geopolitics. There is a global game going on, whether we like it or not. The US being the only Superpower is the only way it should be. Imagine the day when communist China is the only superpower and dictates to the world what they need to do? Letting everyone run lawless, not let the US get involved to settle disputes or help those who need it.

And on a side note, why is it so many regular civilians feel they know much more then Generals on the groud like Petreus? And do you think you know everything because you read 1 or 10 articles? You don't have all the info that these generals or leaders have.

Also, if you go to sites like Billroggio.com as I mentioned in my last post, read his comments, there is NO POLITICAL COMMENTING ALOUD!!! NONE its all for info purposes only, that is why you also know its unbiased. It is strict info, so dont ruin it if you're going to start going to his site! He'll delete ANY POLITICAL comments and even shut down the comments if it starts to go that way!

Trevor

Posted by: Trevor at June 29, 2007 10:07 AM

Seymour Paine;

We can't even defeat a few disorganized Arabs in Iraq after four years. And Afghanistan? We can't do a thing against the Taliban. Maybe we are a paper tiger

Yes, we can defeat them. But by using very hard means, of the type used during the World Wars to level the enemy totally and completely. This a different world today and harsh tactics are no longer considered acceptable by the civilized.

Dawg;
I'm asking you this out of ignorance of your point of view, but do you think a stablized Iraq is of strategic importance to America?

Yes, I do. But if the surge fails, there's not much else we can do. At that point we should get out of the Iraqi meat grinder and let the Sunni-Shiites and this-tribe-that-tribe duke it out until they get tired of smiting and being smitten. War and death are hell, but some societies have to learn the hard way. Perhaps then they'll purge their culture of the extremism they've blessed themselves with.

Posted by: I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 10:18 AM

How do we avoid 'boat people' and Pol Pot? Because that was the price last time we said 'fuck it'."
We? Why are 'we' the world's policeman? Why should it always be American troopers dying because other people have screwed up their countries?
Posted by I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 06:50 AM

I don’t know. Possibly because we invaded Iraq, and therefore it became our responsibility to avoid it producing ‘Boat People’ and another ‘Pol Pot’ as an end state to our intervention? Why are you bringing in the ’40 odd regional conflicts’ to a discussion about Iraq and surroundings?

P.S. to DPU: /plonk/

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 29, 2007 10:19 AM

And, as I think about it, that brings us nicely back to the initial question I tried to answer:

'Define victory in Iraq'

Answer: when we no longer have to be Iraq's policeman.

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 29, 2007 10:24 AM

Why are you bringing in the ’40 odd regional conflicts’ to a discussion about Iraq and surroundings?

FOr the same reason the previous poster brought up Pol Pot and Boat People

Posted by: I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 10:25 AM

Pete:

There are many reasons this is like Vietnam. In Vietnam, we supported an unpopular government; we fought proxies (Viet Cong, Viet Minh); our reasons for being there were wrong (unlike in Iraq where they were phony and concocted by the President). They were wrong in Vietnam (and I'm not arguing that the NV were nice) because we feared the march of Communism, specifically, Chinese communism. We didn't know that the Vietnamese hate the Chinese (due to a long, unpleasant history with them) and would never have been tools of the Chinese (and note that after we left, China and Vietnam fought a rather bad battle that the Chinese lost).

The reasons we are in Iraq are completely phony. That doesn't by itself mean we should leave, once we are there. But like Vietnam, we are fighting proxies (Iran, primarily). In the Vietnam war, things might have been different (thought I doubt it) had we actually fought the NVA from the get-go. Same in Iraq: If we want to win, we have to go after the Iranians, among other things. But the mess our military has made of Iraq is probably not fixable. We failed to secure the borders; we failed to disarm the populace. We failed to impose our control over the country. Do we have the stupidest generals in the world? What else than what we have would anyone expect to have occurred?

Perhaps the only place in Iraq we should secure is Kurdistan; fuck the rest of them. Hopefully, the Christians will move north or away, as no one in their right mind would willingly live amongst Moslems.

And, the troop death toll we have suffered comes not from defeating Saddam but leaving intact other armed power centers. Iraq is lost because our generals lost it (and of course, much blame goes to the idiot decider, as well).

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 29, 2007 10:25 AM

Iraq is lost because our generals lost it (and of course, much blame goes to the idiot decider, as well).

Iraqis being mindless sheep with no free will of their own ...

Posted by: ZZZ at June 29, 2007 10:30 AM

Seymour: Perhaps the only place in Iraq we should secure is Kurdistan; fuck the rest of them. Hopefully, the Christians will move north or away, as no one in their right mind would willingly live amongst Moslems.

Geez, Seymour. While I agree that Kurdistan ought to be secured, the Kurds are Muslims too. And I lived among Muslims in Lebanon.

You may think I'm out of my mind, but I think you're a bigot.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 29, 2007 10:32 AM

Why are you bringing in the ’40 odd regional conflicts’ to a discussion about Iraq and surroundings?

FOr the same reason the previous poster brought up Pol Pot and Boat People
Posted by I Blame the Parents at June 29, 2007 10:25 AM

I am that previous poster, and I brought them up as concrete examples of what failure in Iraq would look like - based on our previous experience in these sorts of affairs - and therefore what we must avoid.

Again. What are you talking about in context with Iraq?

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at June 29, 2007 10:50 AM

Seymour,

I want to say to "Thank you" for at the very least understanding we shouldn't abandon Iraq because you think the intelligence was cooked. You are the first person that I've debated to admit that. We probably disagree on many things, but we can agree on that one point. And maybe one other thing Iran should be severely dealt with.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at June 29, 2007 11:05 AM

If you have 'withdrawing all troops from Iraq' as a necessary condition for victory there, then by your own definition, we never won over Germany and Japan in World War II, 60+ years ago. How many troops do we still have stationed in Germany to this day? More than we have in Iraq now, I believe.

I fully expect we'll have a military presence in Iraq for a long time to come, not the least of which being that we've withdrawn our troops from Saudi Arabia; Iraq makes a much better place to have military bases anyways.

Posted by: Finrod at June 29, 2007 11:11 AM

Iraq makes a much better place to have military bases anyways.

What makes you say that, Finrod? Iraqis are lobbing rockets at those bases everyday, not to mention killing our guys all the time.

Posted by: ZZZ at June 29, 2007 12:03 PM

Answer: when we no longer have to be Iraq's policeman.

That's pretty vague. You could choose to not be Iraq's policeman right now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 29, 2007 12:45 PM

Michael: Can you name any Muslim majority country where the religious minorities live in peace and happiness? Malaysia and Indonesia (both oddly called moderate Muslim countries) impose penalties against Christians; in both it is illegal (as it is in many other Muslim countries) for a Muslim to leave Islam and it is a severe crime (even a capital crime) to proselytize to Muslims. Pakistan is a hell hole for religious minorities; ditto Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Egypt, and so on. I think that speaks for itself. Their mindless hatred for Jews aside, they seem to hate everyone else as well. Perhaps Lebanon, in some places; maybe even Syria for odd reasons (I don't know).

It's on that basis, their seething hatred for everyone else (and note, not all of them seethe, but quite enough do) makes living among them a risky proposition.

Do you think I, wearing a yarmulke and a Star of David, could take a stroll through most Muslim countries? Would I live through this? Doubtful.

If drawing conclusions from amply observed behavior makes me a bigot, then I wear that title proudly.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 29, 2007 01:00 PM

Pete: I'm not so sure we agree all that much.

But it's true that I'm not sure what we should do in Iraq.

The problems are the generals have very poorly prosecuted the war there (ditto Afghanistan). Granted I'm not from the military and not a military analyst or historian, just someone who reads and thinks about things. I have no confidence in their work. No confidence in the Iraqi government; or in their army. I'm not sure what can be gained by staying there, apart from more American deaths. No one has made a persuasive case that prolonging our presence will yield any good results for us. But I'm open to hearing such a case. Can you make one?

Why we went in there with so few troops is beyond me, but as things are now, with the huge expense of it and nothing to show for it, I doubt we will be there another year. (But I have every confidence that, as in Vietnam, the generals will report on astounding success when they are called to do so.)

As for Iran: We should have bombed the fuck out of them quite a while ago, and should do so as soon as possible, and make sure it is painful. And, of course, greatly tighten the economic noose (which seems to be working). I wouldn't count on economics and general unhappiness alone as sufficient to overthrow the government. Vicious dictatorships can stay in power quite a while with no popular support.

I'm generally opposed to our presence in the Middle East. I have no problem with us projecting power overseas; I'm not a pacifist. I just think that our presence there embroils us in their sordid and repulsive politics. They are not our allies. We are polar opposites.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 29, 2007 01:13 PM

Seymour,

I certainly wouldn't recommend you wear a yalmulke and a Star of David in a place like Egypt, Gaza, or Saudi Arabia. And, believe me, I sympathize with what you're saying here.

But you could do it in Kurdistan, Turkey, the Central Asian "Stans," and Bosnia and not have any trouble.

The Israeli flag flies in Istanbul's main square downtown along with ten or so other national flags. And you will definately be more welcome among Kurds as a Jew than as an Arab.

I had a Jewish roommate in (Sunni) West Beirut. He didn't advertise his Jewishness with his clothing, but he didn't hide it either. People knew he was Jewish, he didn't have any trouble at all. He also spent two years in the West Bank and had only a few problems, believe it or not. (He does have some chilling stories from there, though. Palestine isn't Beirut, and vice versa.)

The Muslim world is definitely more hostile to Jews and Christians than anywhere else, but it is not monolithically so.

Only the worst sort of politically correct buffoon could believe virulent anti-Semitism isn't a huge problem in the Muslim world today, but the problem is sometimes exagerrated by people on the other side of the political spectrum and even by some on the political left. (That said, denial is a much bigger problem on the left than exaggeration.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 29, 2007 01:23 PM

The Muslim world is definitely more hostile to Jews and Christians than anywhere else

How they with Hindus, Buddhists, or other followers of non-Abrahamic religions?

Posted by: ZZZ at June 29, 2007 01:47 PM

I certainly wouldn't recommend you wear a yalmulke and a Star of David in a place like Egypt, Gaza, or Saudi Arabia...But you could do it in Kurdistan, Turkey, the Central Asian "Stans," and Bosnia and not have any trouble.

Turkey is a delightful country that's well worth visiting; my Jewish relatives are comfortable there and my Israeli relatives generally find themselves welcome. But I'd stop short of saying what you did. Of course the same would be true of Rome or Amsterdam.

Posted by: JSinger at June 29, 2007 02:05 PM

Leaving today means our soldiers will be forced into returning tomorrow to fight an even more devasting war.

But hey, most Americans are too busy getting ready for bloated Al Gore's great global warming worldwide celebrity pop star/rock star/rap star concert, or lining up to buy the newest Ipod crap, or entertaining themselves on modern art created by useful idiot artists who can believe that their own noxious shit thrown on a blank canvas refects profound greatness, or ohming themselves into a blank trance of divine inner blind holier-than-everyone arrogance or endlessly whinning about having to pay $3 for a gallon of gas to operate their pious Prius, or sobbing endlessly like petulant little children of how they are the perpetual victims of some mean and cruel world.

For once in your miserable crappy lives get over yourselves and stop thinking the war is about you. Our soldier don't re-up to save your whinning American egos, they willingly re-up tour after tour in quiet determination while working in 120 degree head and enduring day after day the obnoxious noise of American defeatist for the benefit of the Iraqi children.

Now get back to silly illuison that just 'ohming for peace' has any effect whatsoever in the real world.

Posted by: syn at June 29, 2007 04:33 PM

Michael:

So, in a few brief minutes I go from being a bigot to someone you can sympathize with. Good for both of us.

But it's interesting that the countries you mention are, with the exception of Turkey, all rather tiny and on the periphery of the Islamic world. The 'stans' are former Soviet states; Bosnia in Europe; Turkey would like to be. Your Jewish friend in Lebanon had to be careful. What an indictment!

Nothing is impossible. Nothing stops Muslims from hating Jews, apart from their religion, but I believe your examples amply make my point.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 29, 2007 05:17 PM

For a gentrified Middle East Michael's got an urge to surge. "But the surge is only just now beginning," writes Mr. Totten. "It can’t yet have failed."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070630/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq&printer=1;_ylt=AkP3_t58Yw0EIJmHddgzq7EUewgF

Iraq ambush caps bloodiest months for US By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

"BAGHDAD - A huge bomb explosion followed by a hail of gunfire and grenades killed five U.S. soldiers, the military said Friday. The attack climaxed the deadliest three-month period for the Americans since the war began."

Posted by: The Other Alan at June 29, 2007 06:01 PM

I can certainly understand both sides of this important issue, because the MSM (mainstream media) forced me onto the fence.

Then I decided to turn off the television, quit reading the newspaper, and do some in-depth independent research to answer my own simple question, "should we leave Iraq?"

In case others were in the same position, I wrote a series of posts for our blog (some of Michael J. Totten's articles were refereneced).

Here's the link to the series, if you'd like to check it out:

http://thefightinggop.org/index.php/category/iraq-series-1/

From what I can gather (and this thread certainly bears this out), most of those against the Iraqi War (battle) believe that we are there fighting a war for the Iraqis' benefit, when in fact, we are really fighting terrorists. So I would like to leave you with some food for thought:

What if I told you that the Iraqis are turning against al-Quaeda, signing up for the Iraqi Army and Police, and joining forces with the US?

Do you truly think that the terrorists won't follow us home if we pull out before destroying their sophisticated organization?

What do you think will happen in Iraq as soon as the last American soldier leaves Iraq (in addition to the terrorists, think Iran and Syria who have/will have WMD)?

Posted by: thefightinggop.org at June 29, 2007 10:19 PM

Seymour says:

No one has made a persuasive case that prolonging our presence will yield any good results for us. But I'm open to hearing such a case. Can you make one?

I might agree that our presence will not produce good results for us.

I may also think that leaving will produce worse results. A general ME war has a high probability. Mass slaughter 100X worse than the current situation is a high probability. New bases for our enemies is a high probability. Increased funding for jihad is a high probability.

Of course like the Rhineland incident in 1936 the consequences of buying peace with surrender is highly discounted. We will never know what we have avoided if we avoid it. The costs of maintaining the current situation are known. What lies in the abyss is currently conjecture.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 29, 2007 10:21 PM

Pete Dawg:
Second- Why is "Mookie Al Sadr" still vertical?

double-plus-ungood:
Because he is very popular, for various reasons, with a large proportion of the Iraqi Shia, and killing him would probably inflame a lot of passion, making the situation worse.

If this is true why hasn't al-qaeda taken a shot at him taken a shot at him? They want to inflame things don't they?

Posted by: alan at June 30, 2007 12:49 AM

Nothing is impossible. Nothing stops Muslims from hating Jews, apart from their religion, but I believe your examples amply make my point.

Turkey is a mostly (nearly all) Muslim country, it is large and it is ruled by a fervently secular government.

Unlike countries that are ruled by some form of Islamic law

- it has a sophisticated urban population
- people aren't required, by law, to hate Jews, Christians, Hindus and atheists, so they don't..
- technology-wise, they can compete with Europe, America and Asia

Since Turkey is mostly Muslim, and since they aren't as backwards and hateful as Saudi Arabia or the Iranian government, the point is that the problem isn't the Islamic faith, it's Islamic law. The Turks know this better than we do, which is why most are still in favor of the separation of church and state.

Posted by: mary at June 30, 2007 05:39 AM

Turkey is ruled by a secular government? Isn't the ruling party opening Islamist (as much as it can be with the Army waiting and watching)? And if Turkey is so normal, why is the Army always keeping watch against Islam?

From what I've read, Turkey is moving slowly, but steadily, in the direction of a greater role for Islam. Oh, and haven't several Christian priests and laypeople been murdered in Turkey by Islamist Muslims? If Turkey is so open and normal, can you build a church if you want? Can you proselytize Muslims in Turkey?

Posted by: Seymour Paine at June 30, 2007 09:41 AM

Sorry to piss on your parade Mary, but using Turkey as an example may not be the wisest course of action. According to the latest polls, Turkey is among the most anti-US countries in the world:

http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=76984

Even the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories apparently like the USA more than the secular, modern Turks... but according to Pew and the article above, Turkish approval of the US stance in the world is just 9%. One would assume the Iraq debacle is in some way linked to this monumental collapse of America's image in Turkey.

Posted by: MIcroraptor at June 30, 2007 10:39 AM

>>>There are many reasons this is like Vietnam.

It's certainly like Vietnam as far as the useful idiot peaceniks doing the VC/insurgents bidding. Exactly the same. The tet offensive was a massive military victory that was painted as a defeat by our 5th column on the Left. I have no doubt they'll attempt to do the same with the surge.

Posted by: David at June 30, 2007 10:57 AM

Microraptor: One would assume the Iraq debacle is in some way linked to this monumental collapse of America's image in Turkey.

I like Turkey, but I have to take a swipe at the Turks on this one.

It's not because of the war in Iraq that they're pissed off at us. It's because of the liberation of Kurdistan -- and for that they can f*ck off.

Don't project, Microraptor. They don't necessarily share your opinions on this one. (I seriously doubt you're angry about the liberation of Kurdistan, which is a success, not a debacle.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 30, 2007 11:05 AM

Also, there are different kinds of anti-Americanism. Turkish anti-Americanism isn't threatening. It's more like French anti-Americanism than Al Qaeda's anti-Americanism. It's repairable, especially if we help them with their Kurdish problem (which is real).

Ironically, their so-called "Islamist" government is less harsh on the Kurds and more in favor of joining the EU than the secularists are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 30, 2007 11:10 AM

Well I'm not projecting... or angry, really. In the article it says:

"Actually, this nine percent figure is not that bad," said one Turkish analyst who wanted to remain unnamed. "I don't know even one single Turk who favors the United States' global policies."

He said Washington's Iraq policy, including its inability to act against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) presence in the war-torn country, and what many Turks perceive as "U.S. aggression on Muslims" were key factors contributing to the United States' low standing....."

So it's not so much the liberation of Kurdistan, as you put it, but the unwillingness - or inability - of US forces to act against the PKK when perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the ultimate arbiter of power in Iraq. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish military do invade as they are threatening.

Is another visit to Kurdish areas in Iraq on your itinerary this time round?

Posted by: Microraptor at June 30, 2007 01:09 PM

Is another visit to Kurdish areas in Iraq on your itinerary this time round?

Arab Iraq only this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 30, 2007 01:26 PM

Also, there are different kinds of anti-Americanism. Turkish anti-Americanism isn't threatening. It's more like French anti-Americanism than Al Qaeda's anti-Americanism. It's repairable, especially if we help them with their Kurdish problem (which is real)

I'll second that opinion. Like the French, they like to say that they don't hate Americans over there, they hate our government. I was just visiting Istanbul- Turks are about as friendly towards American tourists as the French are, for what that's worth.

The elected leaders may be in the "Islamist" government, but the rules that govern the country are still strongly pro-secular. And also, for what it's worth, while the urban Turks in Istanbul were not hostile towards me as an American tourist, I did notice more than a few instances of hostility towards Islamists.

While there are many reasons to criticize the Turkish government, I think the majority of Turks know the difference between religious Islam and political Islam. The majority of Westerners don't.

Posted by: mary at July 1, 2007 08:26 PM

diana,

I think you addressed that to the wrong person. You say that you don't have enough time to read pieces from Robert Kagan & TWS because he has "been wrong about everything" so far, but I'd appreciate it if you do read the posts that you respond to, especially when your posts amount to calling people names and making unqualified judgements.

That may be too much to ask though.

Posted by: MichaelBrazell at July 1, 2007 09:28 PM

Also -- MJT,

When Diana said "Michael, stfu nitwit," she didn't mean to say it to you, it was actually directed at me, although incorrectly.

You'd have thought my parents would have given me a name that would have made me decipherable, 23 or however many years later on internet blog sites.

BTW, best wishes & prayers in your time in Iraq.

Posted by: MichaelBrazell at July 1, 2007 09:36 PM

MJT,

What happened to your sane commenter base? I see why you try to stay away from this topic. Wow. I often wonder if Bin Laden realized that he could just let us tear each other apart and destroy our own nation? People like Carlos (who I often respect and occasionally agree with) seem to have lost any semblance of sense when discussing this war.

Better to stick to safer topics like the weather and Lebanon.

(Though, its times like this that I wonder if this new media will be any better than the old.)

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at July 2, 2007 09:51 AM

When I think of US involvement in trying to stabilise Iraq I am reminded of the story of Brere Rabbit and the Tar Baby...

Posted by: Microraptor at July 2, 2007 12:45 PM
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