April 17, 2008

Now They Have Turned to the Tribes

Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, leader of the Iraq’s Anbar Salvation Council before he was murdered by a car bomb in front of his house in late 2007, summed up the Anbar Awakening movement in a few concise sentences to Johns Hopkins University Professor Fouad Ajami. “Our American friends had not understood us when they came,” he said. “They were proud, stubborn people and so were we. They worked with the opportunists, now they have turned to the tribes, and this is as it should be. The tribes hate religious parties and religious fakers.” The tribal system in Anbar Province is ancient. Attempts to overthrow it are not wise. Both Americans and Al Qaeda learned that the hard way.

Marine Captain Quintin Jones, commanding officer at Outpost Delta in the city of Karmah, told me he works with tribal authorities as well as the mayor every day and can’t get much done if he doesn’t.

Captain Jones and Mayor of Karmah.jpg
Captain Quintin Jones and Mayor Abu Abdullah

MJT: So what kinds of things do you do with Sheikh Mishan and the mayor?

Captain Jones: I do everything with them. My battlespace is pretty big. We deal with the security issues. We get out to the surrounding areas. Karmah is Jamaeli-centric. The whole Jamaeli tribe covers Karmah, but we've got these others smaller tribes around. So we try to get the mayor out to see these other smaller villages around Karmah. That way people don't think everything in Karmah is all about the Jamaeli tribe. So we go out there. They need contracts in their areas to fix things like schools, businesses, stuff like that. That's generally what we do. We eat dinner together. We eat lunch together. And pretty much the same thing with Sheikh Mishan, but on the tribal level. Everything has to run through the head sheikh, and he's the head sheikh over all this area.

MJT: So who has more power? The sheikh or the mayor?

Captain Jones: The sheikh. Al Anbar is really tribal in everything that it does. Although they've had a city council in the past, a mayor in the past, a lot of the people in the city want to go to the rule of law through tribal law. Making that transition is really tough. It's a delicate line that we have to walk.

MJT: How compatible is tribal law with a democratic system? Are they merging the two systems, or basically still using the old-world authoritarian model?

Captain Jones: The way to approach it is, there is still a need for the tribal way of life, but we're trying to make it more democratic at the same time. They're parallel. The true part is run by the democratic process. If you look at countries like Bahrain or Dubai – the UAE – they still have a strong tribal base, but they’re somewhat democratic in their governance and the way they approach things. You can't move forward or progress as a country if you're stuck in the tribal way of life.

MJT: Right. But how do they merge them? I mean, nobody elected Sheikh Mishan.

Captain Jones: No. It's just passed down through generations.

MJT: So are some of the people below him elected democratically? Like the mayor. Was he elected, or was he appointed?

Captain Jones: A little bit of both. [Laughs.] They're going to hold elections. Once they hold elections, they will vote in an actual mayor and an actual city council. But because the sheikh is the biggest guy in the area, it defaults back to him if there's a dispute. They'll go to him and he'll try to resolve the issue.

MJT: Do you get the sense that this is the way the average person here wants it to be? Or is that just the way it is?

Captain Jones: It's just the way it is. They don't know what they don't know. If you've never been introduced to a democratic way of life, then you don't know it exists. You don't know that there is another way. So it's an education process.

MJT: Did this tribal system exist when Saddam Hussein was in charge?

Captain Jones: Yes. The sheikhs existed. They were just really suppressed by Saddam. They relegated themselves to tribal disputes and marriages.

MJT: So they were not a part of the state?

Captain Jones: That I can't answer.

MJT: How well do you get along with these guys?

Captain Jones: Pretty good. At this stage, if you want to succeed, it's all about personality. You have to have the personality to be able to go out and immerse yourself in this culture every day and understand, try to understand, what's going on. You'll never fully understand what's going on. For me it's a little easier. I've traveled a lot in my lifetime. My wife is European. She's from Italy. English is her second language. I helped her learn to speak English. So understanding a culture without a language, I've done it.

Last year I was on a military training team where I lived with Iraqis. This is basically my third shot at dealing with different cultures.

MJT: This training with Iraqis was in the States?

Captain Jones: No, it was here in Iraq. I was in an embedded training team with the Iraqi Army last year. But now I'm dealing more with governance than with tactics.

MJT: Have you been anywhere else in Iraq aside from that training?

Captain Jones: I was in Baghdad in '03.

MJT: How was that?

Captain Jones: In '03 it was totally different. I didn't deal with any Iraqis. I did site security assessments. Then I did security at the CPA building for Ambassador Bremer with a team of Marines I had. Last year I was in Haditha.

MJT: How is Karmah now compared with Haditha then?

Captain Jones: Every day Marines were getting hurt and sometimes killed.

MJT: By local insurgents?

Captain Jones: Locals insurgents. Al Qaeda in Iraq. Whoever.

MJT: The locals here and in Fallujah talk about the insurgents as though the insurgents are...not them. Like they are all from somewhere else. I know some of them are from somewhere else. Some aren't from Iraq at all. But a lot of them had to be local, right? At least they were protected by some of the local people.

Captain Jones: You have to understand that everything is tribal. So when the sheikhs came on board with the coalition, whatever the sheikh says to do, that's what they are going to do. The sheikhs said hey, we're not fighting the coalition anymore. They're helping us push out Al Qaeda. Some of these Al Qaeda guys were from here. And they have families that are still here. We work with them. Your brother, for example, might be Al Qaeda but you could be with the coalition. You may not want that way of life. I can't detain just someone because his brother is Al Qaeda.

MJT: When you get a situation like this where one brother is with you and the other is against you, will the one who is with you inform on his brother?

Captain Jones: It just depends. It is truly a case by case basis. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes he'll inform on his brother, but when you detain the brother he'll come back and say hey, he's a really good guy. Why did you detain him? That's his way of denying that he had anything to do with it. So you have those cases as well.

MJT: Did Sheikh Mishan switch sides?

Captain Jones: No. He has been pro-coalition from the beginning. He lost a couple of his sons. He lost one of his daughters back in September.

MJT: What happened?

Captain Jones: She was killed in a mortar attack.

MJT: A mortar attack on his house?

Captain Jones: Yeah. When we first came in, in late August, there was an area out to the east that was all bad guy country. We hadn't cleared it out yet. So in this area there were pockets where they would launch mortars. They hit Sheikh Mishan's house because they knew he was pro-coalition. So they shot mortars at his house and killed one of his daughters. Prior to that, a couple of his sons got killed and he fled to Syria. He stayed there until General Allen convinced him to come back and lead his tribe.

MJT: And when was this?

Captain Jones: I think it was in July of this year. I think it was July 5.

MJT: So what happened to his sons, exactly?

Captain Jones: Al Qaeda stormed the house. Or in gun battles outside the house. More of the usual.

MJT: Have you ever met anyone who you know has switched sides? I'm sure we have both met some of these people, but have you met anyone who has admitted it?

Captain Jones: Yep. There are some guys that were bad who we work with now. They say they got tired of that life, that they didn't have the right ideals. They were really all about power and money rather than pushing us out. They want safety and security now. There was also some reconciliation with some of the insurgents who decided to put down their guns. They didn't want to fight the coalition any more. We walked them back to the other side. The sheikhs had to vouch for these guys. They said these are not going to pick up arms against you again.

MJT: Do you believe that?

Captain Jones: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. [Laughs.] It's a case by case basis again. Some of these guys have done a lot of good things. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Some of them do revert back to their old ways. I don't mean they've started fighting us again. I mean...if they tortured people before and have switched sides now we have to say Hey, we don't torture people. You detain them and turn them in and let the professionals question them. It has been an ongoing process with some of these guys. We're training them in the laws of war, rules of engagement, and so forth. Sometimes it's a hard concept for them to grasp, and other times they get it, they understand it.

MJT: How's the Baath Party doing these days?

Captain Jones: That I don't know. That I'm trying to figure out myself.

MJT: This is Baath country. Or at least it was. I don't know if it is anymore.

Captain Jones: Right. I'm still trying to figure some of this out. A lot of the guys in this area say they are nationalists and want a greater Iraq. They don't necessarily support this ideal or that ideal. They just want the unification of Iraq. That's it.

MJT: Do you have any Shias here?

Captain Jones: No. They're all Sunnis.

MJT: And all Arabs. No Kurds.

Captain Jones: No Kurds. Not in my area.

MJT: What's the most important thing you still need to do while you're here, before you can leave, if you can only pick one?

Captain Jones: [Long pause.]

MJT: Or how about the top three things, if coming up with only one is hard.

Captain Jones: We'd like to kick start the government and the economy. That has been the big focus for me outside of security, which is obvious. Of course I need to make sure they have security, and that their security isn't porous. We can't have people infiltrating back in.

Now, there are always going to be some insurgents around because we don't know who they are. Only the Iraqis know who they are. So we need to keep the security maintained and set up a system where the government and economy are starting to push back in. I only have a few months left. There is no way I can achieve that in the seven month period we're given, let alone a three month period. So we're trying to set the stage where we have a no-kidding city council with a one- or two-year plan of things they need to achieve. We need to make sure it's running properly so it can be sustained after the Marines have left. That's really what I'm trying to work on here.

We need to give people hope in Karmah. The re-opening of the town square, that gave people hope. They saw that the very worst part of Karmah, the part that was constantly getting car bombs and IEDs, where the police station was constantly attacked because the insurgents see the government as a threat, was able to have so many people outside in that one area. Six months ago that never would have happened.

MJT: The Iraqi Army isn't here, are they?

Captain Jones: They're north of us. We do have meetings once a week where we coordinate with the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army. They're our neighbors, if you will, and we need to make sure we're all going in the right direction for the greater area. We do, on occasion, do joint operations. We did a clearing operation out to the east, and the Iraqi Army providing some blocking positions for us as the Iraqi Police pushed up and cleared the area. So we do work with them quite a bit.

MJT: How is the Iraqi Army in this part of the country?

Captain Jones: They're pretty professional. They have a good battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ali. He's a pretty good guy by Iraqi standards, compared to the Iraqi battalion I was working with last year. He's pretty articulate. He understands and can talk tactics. He has basic common sense. And he looks...he's very professional.

MJT: Are they mostly Shias?

Captain Jones: No, these guys are Sunnis.

MJT: Arabs also?

Captain Jones: Yep. And no Kurds, but that will probably change in a couple of years when they start deploying all over Iraq. Last year in Haditha, the Iraqi Army I worked with was Shia.

MJT: Did they have problems with the [Sunni] locals?

Captain Jones: Sometimes. But down south, in Baghdadi, the Iraqi Army also worked with the Baghdadi Police which is all Sunni. Initially there were some problems because people were saying these guys are thieves, and the others said, no, you're thieves. Blah blah blah blah blah. We had to squelch a lot of that crap. We said, look, we're here to get rid of insurgents, not fight each other. So I had to have them take a step back and look at all the things that the other culture had given to the other guys.

The Shia Iraqi Army, when they first went to Baghdadi, they didn't have anything. But the Sunni Iraqi Police went out and bought them flour, vegetables, and fruit, brought it to them, and gave it to them for free. Here. You're here to help us. Here you go. So I had to remind them what these guys were doing for them. And in the end we'd always go out on joint patrols. So we had Sunni and Shia going out on joint patrols. That's a good thing because when you're going into Sunni neighborhoods with Shias, you have some of their own people working with them. That definitely helped out a lot.

But we don't have any of that here.

MJT: What's the relationship like between the local government in Karmah and Baghdad? Or do they even have one?

Captain Jones: Well, they have the government of Al Anbar. They're the guys who are in contact with Baghdad. What that relationship is like, I have no idea. It doesn't affect me on my level. My local government ties into Fallujah, and Fallujah ties them into Ramadi.

MJT: Right.

Captain Jones: And that's what we're working with.

MJT: Do they have a good relationship with Fallujah?

Captain Jones: They're starting to have a good relationship with Fallujah. A lot of those lines were severed because of the insurgency, but now they're opening those lines back up. It's starting to work a lot better.

MJT: What's the biggest problem here?

Captain Jones: Probably the connection to Fallujah and Ramadi so they can get Iraqi dinars, rather than American dollars, into the army. That's their biggest issue. Once they can do that, we can take them off the coalition aid. So our focus is the transition from dollars to dinars.

MJT: Anything you'd like to add that I didn't ask you about? Anything you wish Americans knew about this place and don't know?

Captain Jones: I wish more Americans knew about the good things Marines are doing at the lower levels. They see a lot of things we're doing at the general level, but they don't see what the privates and lance corporals are doing to further this relationship with the Iraqis and help the Iraqi people. We came here in part to liberate the Iraqi people and help the Iraqi people. And truly we have, at the lowest level. As we move away from kinetic warfare, we have those diplomats if you will, the strategic corporals, who is out there every day, helping Iraqis paint their businesses, helping Iraqis open their businesses, helping disabled people out of their own pockets, starting the Adopt a School programs because they can't get school supplies through the Iraqi chain.

Schools back in the States, through family members, adopt some of these schools and they send school supplies out. Those kinds of things I wish the Americans could see. The actual good things. The progress. I wish Americans could see the number of kids who attached to you today. They were happy, they weren't throwing rocks at you. They were happy to see you and talk to you. They probably asked you for chocolate, but you know, still, they talk to you. That's the message. That's what I want them to know about.

Not all Iraqi people are bad. There are some really truly good people. The fact that they would not let you leave their house today until you ate their food, until you were full, things like that. A lot of people open up their homes when they see that Americans are actually here to help them.

Post-script: I don’t get paid for these reports by anyone but readers of this Web site, and I can't afford to do this for free. If these dispatches are worth something to you, please consider a contribution and help make true independent journalism economically viable.

You can make a one-time donation through Pay Pal:

Alternately, you can now make recurring monthly payments through Pal Pal. Please consider choosing this option and help me stabilize my expense account.

$10 monthly subscription:
$25 monthly subscription:
$50 monthly subscription:
$100 monthly subscription:

If you would like to donate for travel and equipment expenses and you don't want to send money over the Internet, please consider sending a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 17, 2008 2:34 AM
Comments
MJT: How compatible is tribal law with a democratic system? Are they merging the two systems, or basically still using the old-world authoritarian model? Captain Jones: The way to approach it is, there is still a need for the tribal way of life, but we're trying to make it more democratic at the same time. They're parallel. The true part is run by the democratic process. If you look at countries like Bahrain or Dubai – the UAE – they still have a strong tribal base, but they’re somewhat democratic in their governance and the way they approach things.

See Botswana for another country where tribal-to-democratic rule was instituted under the aegis of an "occupying" power.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 6:54 AM

These tribal elements are fair weather friends. They fought against us before, they have the blood of Americans on their hands. They will fight against us again if we stop paying them and or they feel it is in the best interest of their own respective tribes.

Abu Risha was a well known black marketeer who sold anything and everything to those who had enough money, from gas to explosives and weapons. His involvement with the US, I think, was little more than a business move.

They might have realised that the AQ in Iraq types were not their friends, and that Americans pay better, but do not think for a minute it is anything other than expidiency driving this.

They are taking American money, arms and training knowing that this will all help them in the coming conflict with the Shi'a and Baghdad when the Americans pull out. This is EXACTLY why many Shi'a lawmakers have not been keen on the idea of supporting, arming and funding them.

Many of these tribes were actively involved with Saddam Hussein. Hussein himself came from a tribal background and used some of these same tribes to support his rule.

Once again we are doing things that are good in the short term but most certainly will come back to bit us again. I guess if nothing else we have given these people's a fighting chance to survive when our troops leave in the next couple of years.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 7:47 AM

There is on question in my mind that the deep involvement of Americans with the Iraqi culture; at such a basic level, for this long, is going to be revolutionary.

Posted by: Hugh Beaumont Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 9:42 AM

Marc "when our troops leave in a couple of years" -- you mean like we left Germany? Or Japan? or S. Korea?

I actually do think you're right: if we leave, the Iraqi people will suffer a horrible civil war. Not like Cambodia's Killing Fields or Rwanda's Tutsi massacre, but more Hamas vs Fatah on a massive Shia vs Sunni scale.

So we need to stay -- but unlikely to be longer than our staying in Germany.

They don't necessarily support this ideal or that ideal. They just want the unification of Iraq.

I wish Mike had asked about splitting the oil revenue. (Not setting up an Oil Trust, like Alaska, was a Bush-Bremer mistake in 2003.)

I also want to hear what Iraqis think about Iran's support for anti-Iraqi terrorism. My thesis, for which I'm looking for evidence pro & con, is that the unified Shia-Sunni Iraqi Army will become ...
the Liberation Army of Iran.
Bringing free speech democracy to Iran in an overthrow of the mullahs, to stop them getting nukes.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 10:06 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/17/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 10:18 AM

They are taking American money, arms and training knowing that this will all help them in the coming conflict with the Shi'a and Baghdad when the Americans pull out. This is EXACTLY why many Shi'a lawmakers have not been keen on the idea of supporting, arming and funding them.

And for months the Shi'a "lawmakers" didn't support Iraq's Sunnis, leaving them open to attacks by Shi'a militias thus driving many Sunnis out of the country - proof that, without the U.S. initiatives that began in 2006, matters could not be resolved on the political level.

For now, things are O.K. I do not see why the U.S. needs to leave Iraq any time soon, no more than the U.S. needed to leave Europe after WWII.

Remember, Marc, you've been blinkered before. I think many Shi'a leaders are keen to use democracy to attain power, but wish to dump it or at least its values at the first opportunity. By empowering the Sunnis as well as the Shi'a, the U.S. emphasizes that every Iraqi is a citizen and must be addressed on equal terms, thus sowing the seeds for future political compromise and productive development.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 10:48 AM

Thankyou Michael for doing the job the MSM won't do. PLease tell the good Captain Jones that there are plenty of us civilians out here who make an effort to find out what our Armed Forces are accomplishing in Iraq. We then take it upon ourselves to spread the good word since most of the media is not interested. Do these Marines need anything? If they do, I would suggest you write a post about it, they would quickly find out how deeply we care about them and their mission. God Bless them all, and I would include those Iraqis who put their lives on the line when they work with our troops.

Posted by: dianainsa Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 11:35 AM

I sometimes think we're developing a new generation of political leaders here... no, not Iraqi leaders, but American leaders!

Seriously, here you've got a junior Marine Corps officer who's become an expert in political science, and he's not alone.

If you can get things done in Karmah, or Ramadi, or Baghdad, would environments like the Muncie City Council, the Virginia House of Delegates, or U.S. House of Representatives look very daunting to you?

Posted by: David C Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 12:12 PM

Have you ever met anyone who you know has switched sides? I'm sure we have both met some of these people, but have you met anyone who has admitted it?

Captain Jones: Yep. There are some guys that were bad who we work with now.

So, Mike,

I recall several interviews where you were like "Were there any Baathists / non - AQI insurgents around here?" And the military folk in question were like, "No. It's all AQI. ( And/or "dissafected locals", who were presumably not acting in accord with other forms or groups ).

So, that raises the question then, assuming all of that, that means that the "bad guys" being worked with now are former AQI?

Never asked that explicitly, huh?

If they are, I have to wonder, if US soldiers are working with former AQI in Iraq, how does that contrast with our mental image of AQI as irredeemable, irreconcilable, must be killed to the last man?

Frankly, I don't really question that consensus much. I just find it interesting that soldiers are given free rein to work things out with the kinds of guys that have been repeatedly described here as the lowest form of human scum, while back in America, that suggestion remains instant political death.

Unless, of course, none of the people we're reconciling with are in fact ex-AQI.
But then, how could AQI have been the only major insurgent force in Sunni Iraq? Who are all these people that used to hate us and bomb us and now don't? Were they all AQI, or were they not?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 12:16 PM

Glasnost,

At the beginning of the insurgency, AQI was only one faction. Later they were the only faction.

Some of these guys fought with AQI for the ideology, some for the money, and some for the action. Some wanted to liberate Iraq, some wanted to oppress Iraq. Some were naive about AQI, some were not. They aren't a monolith. Some small faction of any group in the world is always flippable.

Any of these guys who were known to have actually killed people aren't allowed to switch sides. They get put in a cage. There are no known car-bombers on the Iraqi Police force.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 12:35 PM

I still don't personally believe that the insurgency is entirely AQI even now, but I'd be willing to believe they're the dominant faction. Everything else there sounds fairly agreeable to me.

There probably are at least a couple of car bombers in there, though. Not an accusation, just realism. If our knowledge of the internal structures was perfect, there would be no insurgency.

I'm just doing this to highlight what is, at least on some level, an arguably positive example of pragmatism. I'm not sure that means it will end well or was a good idea, but in the context of occupying Anbar province indefinitely, this is obviously a better way to do it than before. I just wonder if the American public really understands exactly the kind of deliberate fudging and overlooking of bright moral lines that this sort of pragmatism involves.

Anti-war folk in favor of fudging bright moral lines in the name of (an imagined) peace: pro-war folk in favor of fudging bright moral lines in the name of aggressive kinetic operations (in the name of peace).

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 1:54 PM

Glasnost: I still don't personally believe that the insurgency is entirely AQI even now

What are the other factions then? I can't get anyone, American or Iraqi, to name any faction other than that one in that place. There were other factions before, some of them nameless at the beginning before it cohered. Elsewhere in Iraq there are other factions right now, but none that I know of in Anbar.

There probably are at least a couple of car bombers in there, though.

Yeah, probably.

I'm just doing this to highlight what is, at least on some level, an arguably positive example of pragmatism.

Sure. We're talking about Marines here. They have no tolerance for ideology or bullshit. That kind of crap is a luxury for us Stateside, and dies a quick death when your life depends on getting things right.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 2:22 PM

Michael,

Have you read the essay titled, "The Price of the Surge" in the latest Foreign Affairs?

I have my opinions, but I'd be curious what yours are. It's Foreign Affairs, so the essay is worth considering regardless of its merits.

Posted by: Saint in Exile Author Profile Page at April 17, 2008 8:51 PM

glasnost "fudging bright moral lines" is kind of a laugh.
War is hell.

Innocent, and especially not-proven guilty folk get killed. Where are the pro-war / pro-justice / anti-terror folk denying that not-good things need to be done in order to win?

The problem is that the anti-war folk claim false moral superiority against these and all bad things, without accepting the often worse realities of other actual policy.

Few are calling Barack a "Saddam Hussein supporter" in 2002, for his vote in opposition of giving Bush the power to enforce the regime change policy (enacted in 98 under Clinton). But to me he was a Saddam supporter.

Just like the anti-war folk in Vietnam were N. Viet commie & Killing Fields supporters.

But I've also never read any pro-victory supporters claiming we need to kill "to the last man" every AQ supporter -- just as many as we can find, whenever we find them, as long as they keep killing & bombing people. If AQ were to stop killing today, very soon there would be no big search for them.

Those AQ willing to stop killing have stopped being the kind of AQ we need to kill.

Justice might still require some punishment.

The cost of justice, in resistance and uncertainty, are unlikely to be worth the enforcement of such justice.

It's good that the Marines are pragmatic. Much more so than the author of "The Price of the Surge", whose final suggestions require a fantasy of historical improbabilities to be believable, despite raising interesting points.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 5:33 AM

It is unbelievable the mind set that still exists. Comparing Iraq with Germany and Japan? Talk about holding onto old and outdated examples that don’t work.

It is comparing this conflict, one that is completely different, with previous unrelated conflicts that helped America get into this mess in the first place!

If anyone wants to compare conflicts, let’s take a look at the British experience in trying to conquer and occupy Iraq. That is about the only comparison that is valid here.

I have to laugh when I see someone like "Solomon2" talking about someone being blinkered. This from a guy, who has never traveled the region, doesn’t speak the language, and whose posts look like a poor rehash of Robert Spencer rubbish.

With this complete lack of understanding of regional history, politics and dynamics, it is no wonder the average person knows F/A about the situation. I guess this is why we keep electing the same sorts of people, who make the same stupid mistakes, and so continuously put our nation at risk. What is worse is that people seem to consider themselves experts and want to hand out information based on nothing more than their current reading list and magazine subscriptions.

Iraq is NOT Germany or Japan and we are not living in a post WW2 world. If these are the models that you and others are using for Iraq, we are BOUND to fail in a spectacular way.

It is truly amazing.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 6:01 AM

Tom: So we need to stay — but unlikely to be longer than our staying in Germany.

The staying has cost at least $450 billion so far, all on loan. What happens when you can no longer afford to stay?

Ten billion dollars a month adds up over time.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 8:52 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/18/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 12:06 PM

If all we can use from history are examples that match our current situation exactly, then we have problems.

I don't think most people that compare Iraq to post-WW2 Germany/Japan deny that there are differences, particularly when comparing the amount of political complexity and factionalism in society. I think most use the comparison to show the level of commitment that was required from the US to turn those places around from the post-war destruction into at least working societies.

Granted the economic situations were quite different at the time, but reconstruction still required massive amounts of money, time, and most of all perseverance to accomplish. With the wishy-washy "We want to win the war, but not if it's hard" mentality a lot of Americans have, it can serve as a good reminder of the difficulty of what we are trying to do, and what the price may be.

Being blinded to the similarities is just as bad as being blinded to the differences, and will lead to just as many failures.

Posted by: SeiginoRaikou Author Profile Page at April 18, 2008 1:47 PM

There is probably a modicum of similarity between Iraq and Korea (or Japan). Even under modernizing influence of the western "occupation", shedding their old world, backwards culture took some time.

Japan was hit harder by war than Iraq, but their people rebuilt it on economic ingenuity and resourcefulness. Reconstruction was a collective agenda prompted by nationalist sentiments to restore the nation to greatness again. It will take similar efforts by Iraqis to rebuild their nation. But when you look at their busted infrastructure / economy or how they still subscribe to certain dark age customs, it gives you pause.

I think the captain of this article has the right idea. Don't cram down "Democracy" down their throats by tearing down time honored traditions or strucuture. Ease them into it by creating some pseudo system that honors the old way and serve new ideas at the same time. Of course, eventually, the Iraqis have to reject antiquated customs incompatible with the modern world, and that's going to be PAINFUL. Random clerics shouldn't be allowed to form militias that kill 300 people on a whim, and tribal leaders should answer to elected central government.

Posted by: lee Author Profile Page at April 19, 2008 12:09 AM

Talk about holding onto old and outdated examples that don’t work.

Assertion is not enough, Marc. You must demonstrate why my examples are failures for me to change my mind.

take a look at the British experience in trying to conquer and occupy Iraq. That is about the only comparison that is valid here.

I have. Yet I hold that other analogies are applicable, too. Petraeus' counterinsurgency manual was not created out of thin air but through experiences demonstrated at least as far back as the Brits' successful counterinsurgency in 1950s Malaysia.

I have to laugh when I see someone like “Solomon2” talking about someone being blinkered. This from a guy, who has never traveled the region, doesn’t speak the language, and whose posts look like a poor rehash of Robert Spencer rubbish.

Laugh all you want, I consider your words compliments: no one ever compared me to Robert Spencer before.

That said, I do respect your reporting experience, Marc. However, interpretation and evaluation of what you reported on is subject to second-guessing by folks like me. You don't have to like it, any more than you might not like your story editor or the Opinion page of your newspaper.

With this complete lack of understanding -

I'm not any sort of official, I doubt I'm an average person or have any ability to shape common opinion, and I think the phrase "expert" is too abused to be useful. So while I am a fan of inductive logic, it is prone to failure when one tries to apply it from unrepresentative examples.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at April 29, 2008 2:18 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?




Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle



blogads-blog-button.png


Recommended Reading




Warning: include(): http:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_include=0 in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/04/now-they-have-t.php on line 680

Warning: include(http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/04/now-they-have-t.php on line 680

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/04/now-they-have-t.php on line 680