July 29, 2008

From Counterinsurgents to Peacekeepers

Associated Press Baghdad Bureau Chief Robert Reid and his chief military reporter Robert Burns published a dispatch from Iraq over the weekend that should have made banner headlines. “It's not the end of fighting,” they wrote. “It looks like the beginning of a perilous peace.” This is exactly right, but millions of Americans still have no idea. Coverage from Iraq has diminished as much as the casualty rates since General David Petraeus implemented an effective counterinsurgency strategy in early 2007. At least we’re finally seeing a media consensus emerge after a year and a half of looking at the data as though it were inkblots on a Rorschach. It’s nearly impossible to work in Iraq anymore and deny what has happened.

Even so, this is no time to get recklessly drunk on victory and declare “mission accomplished.” Nor is this the time to bolt for the exits from an unpopular war. The peace, as Burns and Reid say, is perilous and only just now beginning. The war is still not actually even over, though the fighting has been greatly reduced. Every single last inch of progress can be reversed. Keeping the relative peace will be just as difficult, though less dangerous, than making it in the first place. “[J]udging from the security gains that have been sustained over the first half of this year,” they wrote, “as the Pentagon withdrew five Army brigades sent as reinforcements in 2007 — the remaining troops could be used as peacekeepers more than combatants.”

That’s basically already happening. The transformation of American soldiers and Marines from counterinsurgent combatants to peacekeepers has taken place all over Iraq. In fact, the most radical of General Petraeus’s strategic overhaul was the positioning of troops as peacekeepers and the defenders of Iraqi civilians before the fighting even abated. That is what brought so many Iraqis over to the American side. Some places in Iraq were so horrifically violent that nothing resembling a normal life was even possible until someone stepped in to provide basic security. Al Qaeda in Iraq and Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia weren’t going to do it. They were the groups that threatened Iraqi security. And the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police were too under trained, under equipped, understaffed, and corrupt to do it themselves.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 29, 2008 10:48 PM
Comments

Michael, you're correct in that the MSM has not been trumping the new reality of Iraq. The comment about having a "perilous peace" is on the money. The so-called average person's perception probably is not great, yet there seems to be a general feeling that maybe a good end is getting nearer.

Keep up the great work. I hope the trip to Azerbaijan will provide you with another perspective on the view of Iraq. Safe journey, eh!

Posted by: BHRC Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 11:38 PM

Great comparison between still-there US troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the need for US troops in Iraq.

Iraq needs the US to avoid war -- Congo doesn't have US troops. And has big war.

But I wouldn't say the sex-for-food UN peacekeepers requiring sex from girls are exactly "impotent". They're just happier with warm guns that fire something other than bullets.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 4:58 AM

That sounds like a solid endorsement for the McCain approach on Iraq. I agree, we can't abandon the mission or the precious victories will be turned to bitter losses by a hasty withdrawal.

I have no emotional investment with the Iraq nation or her people. I neither love or hate them. My concern is for my home, my family and what it takes to protect our own way of life. I am convinced that there was overwhelming evidence presented in arguments presented before the leaders of the world or there would never have been the consensus to invade. Even now, with the Democratic party controlling the legislative branch, there has not been enough support of withdrawal to effectively override the Commander in Chief's war strategy.

An Obama strategy based solely on timelines is shortsighted and ill-advised. In his recent responses to questioning by reporters he still holds onto this "bolt for the doors", 16-month approach. Clearly his idea of establishing objectives has nothing to do with victory; rather, it smells distinctly of self-centered political ambition.

Personally, I think it's good that we are not getting the constant press frenzy from Iraq anymore. Let our troops continue their transition missions unmolested and we will be able to witness the same affect in Iraq as you witnessed in Kosovo (great articles, by the way).

Posted by: Kevin China Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 6:05 AM

If withdrawing from Kosovo is a bad idea – and I do believe that would be – yanking peacekeeping troops out of Iraq all of a sudden would... all but guarantee a catastrophic result.

You know it's true: your magic 8-ball said so. You should show it to the Prime Minister of Iraq, huh?

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 11:26 PM

Sarcasm is the recourse of a weak mind.

Posted by: majestic Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 9:52 AM

There are a whole lot of people (You know who you are) who are very deeply invested in the notion that America is evil and Iraq is a failed war. They will not let any stubborn little facts interfere with their carefully nurtured opinions. Reminds me of Biblical Literalists: Facts and figures are just to test the faith and reveal the doubters.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 10:45 AM

Lindsey: There are a whole lot of people (You know who you are) who are very deeply invested in the notion that America is evil and Iraq is a failed war. They will not let any stubborn little facts interfere with their carefully nurtured opinions.

And there are those that think the Vietnam war was an American success.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 2:36 PM

glasnost: You know it's true: your magic 8-ball said so. You should show it to the Prime Minister of Iraq, huh?

Man, glasnost sounds pretty deranged these days. I think he's lost it completely.

I actually don't think it's his fault, though. I mean, I get the odd insult from knob-jockeys like Lassy, but he and DPU have been ruthlessly targeted by everyone on the blog every single day for years.

I guess you can always stifle debate by abusing the other side so much that they become completely insane.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 2:44 PM

Thank you Mr. Totten for your journalistic integrity. This is the first time I've ever started an account (free or otherwise) to comment on an article of any kind. I don't usually care enough to comment on someone's article, but after having read your column now for almost a year and a half, I feel compelled to thank you. So thank you for writing what you see, and attempting to awaken American readers to the success (no matter how small or reversible) that our armed forces are having in Iraq.

Posted by: sccforward Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 3:02 PM

"Sarcasm is the recourse of a weak mind.

Not always.

Sometimes it is merely the outward display of an internally felt disdain. However in the particular case you cite ---- Never mind.

"I guess you can always stifle debate by abusing the other side so much that they become completely insane. "

Or perhaps they were always insane but it took some prodding to break through the elaborate camouflage they constructed in order to conceal that factoid. But I do like the 'ruthlessly targetted' motif. Makes one feel --- powerful.

And I would NEVER put DPU in the same category as glasnost. While I have almost never found myself in agreement with DPU, I respect his reasoning ability and his erudition, and he almost never fails to present a cogent argument. Even if I don't care for it very much. Glasnost as this latest contribution evidences ---- not so much. He is a talking point in motion. A BAD talking point at that.

Posted by: dougf Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 5:45 PM

Lindsey,

Don't worry, he's just being an E-hole. He's discovered the borders of being banned at this site and delights in staying just side of them while abusing all and sundry. I wonder if he knows how many of Michael's good friends he's insulting. If he does know, does he relish the indirect sniping more?

You've got to wonder about somebody who derives joy from straining other's friendships. Makes a lot of sense from somebody who doesn't have a lot of friends, I suppose.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 6:26 PM

Hey, I didn't name names! And I have never picked on DPU.

I am sure there are people that think Vietnam was a success. But, I know very little about it. I will therefore make the almost unprecedented move of NOT bloviating on about it as though I do.

I fail to see how what I said is negated by the response. I am sure it wouldn't take much of a ponder to think up a few people in the media, politics, or blogoshpere who are pretty invested in the "Iraq=failure, USA=Satan" rhetoric. Whole careers have been built on it. I know people who would gargle acid before they would even allow themselves to read and consider the article MJT has written and the facts cited therein.

Posted by: Lindsey Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 8:56 PM

You've got to wonder about somebody who derives joy from straining other's friendships. Makes a lot of sense from somebody who doesn't have a lot of friends, I suppose.

Interesting. You have to "wonder" about something that "makes a lot of sense."

Usually when something makes sense I don't wonder about it. But sounds about right for you. Even when the truth is right in front of your eyes, you decide to look away.

And what better way to do so than by engaging in historical revisionism? Iraq seems to be working out, so let's go back and paint Vietnam as a success, too.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 10:52 PM

Edgar, stop being an E-hole. Seriously, we should all aspire to being P, to the S, to the L-holes. You know, cry babies who whine about others debating our ideas, run to MJT whenever people suggest affectioned names for us only to later call them slight variants of "asshole."

Ohhhhhhh Lassy, I see what you've done there with the whole E-hole thing! You took the first letter of Edgar's name, 'E', and swapped out the 'A' in A-hole! You clever, clever guy! If only we all could be as witty as you.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 6:05 AM

No one can deny that violence is WAY down in Iraq. The issue remains WHY it is way down.

In Baghdad the violence mostly centered around mixed communities, after those communities had been cleansed of the minority sect, mostly Sunnis, it was bound to quiet down a lot.

The question remains what of the 2 million plus Iraqi refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria? What happens when hundreds of thousands of Sunnis in these countries want to come home and go back to the houses and areas where they were driven from by Shi'ite death squads? No one can deny that violence is WAY down in Iraq. The issue remains WHY it is way down.

In Baghdad the violence mostly centered around mixed communities, after those communities had been cleansed of the minority sect, mostly Sunnis, it was bound to quiet down a lot. When you have already murdered and cleansed your objective, there is no need for further violence.

The question remains what of the 2 million plus Iraqi refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria? What happens when hundreds of thousands of Sunnis in these countries want to come home and go back to the houses and areas where they were driven from by Shi'ite death squads?

Are they going to be allowed to go back to these areas? Are they going to become eternal refugees like the Palestinians of '48 and '67? The state of these refugees is appalling. Many are starving, daughters, mothers and sisters have turned to prostitution in their host countries. The government in Baghdad, although operating on a surplus budget the last couple of years, has offered ZERO money to help them out or get them back. Why? Because they are mostly Sunni and likely to not back the Shi'ite led government. It is not a situation that will end well for anyone in Iraq and it's neighboring countries unless it is dealt with.

The US is currently paying tens of thousands of former insurgents. We are giving a couple of hundred dollars a month to thousands of Sunni militia members who were killing our troops two years ago. The question then begs, what happens when the money dries up? What are these fighters going to do when we are no longer paying them off? Are they going to contentedly drift into poverty and starvation or are they going to go back to what they were doing before we started paying them, namely killing Americans?

Maybe they will satisfy themselves with a new campaign of violence against the inept Shi'a government in Baghdad? Or do we plan on paying these guys off for the next decade or two? Maybe if they get restless we can offer them a pay raise? How about a good 401k for they get too old to threaten to go back to fighting us?

My view on the surge is this: it worked not because we fought "the enemy" to a standstill. It worked because the major protagonist in Baghdad had already achieved it's goals and no longer needed to fight. It worked because we have paid off the other major enemy and gave them arms and cash for an agreement not to fight us. So the reality is the only enemy still fighting is the 4%-5% that is the foreign fighters.

We have bought off one of the remaining groups and arrived too late to stop the other remaining group from achieving their goals of ethnic/religious cleansing.

The situation is a LONG way from anything near a victory.

Are they going to be allowed to go back to these areas? Are they going to become permenate refugees like the Palestinians of '48 and '67?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 8:14 AM

Marc,

You're ignoring the option that's eventually going to become a reality: the partition of Iraq.

The Kurds are going to break off as soon as they can, which is fine as they already have a de facto state of their own that is doing pretty well.

The Sunni and Shia Arabs never really lived together anyway, so they'll find a way to separate themselves. If they can't agree on how to do that, the world will have to do it for them.

Baghdad is the biggest problem area, but I don't see why it couldn't be divided into sectors as well.

Maybe such a partition would be seen as a "defeat" for America, but in reality the country was forcibly united when it shouldn't have been in the first place.

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 9:48 AM

Man, looks like some just don't want to accept some things. I think MJT (as well as Yon) have painted a pretty clear picture of what is going on, and what occurred in the past to bring it to this point. Here's the word of a guy who was there:

http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/MarApr08/Smith_AnbarEngMarApr08.pdf

Probably just wasting more breath, but figured there may be some who find it educational.

Keep up the good work MJT. I think it's well past time for me to start leaving some donations in the tip jar.

Posted by: Joe Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 11:17 AM

Marc: The US is currently paying tens of thousands of former insurgents.

That is a ridiculous exaggeration. Only a very small number of former insurgents were allowed to join the Iraq Police, and only if they weren't known to have killed anybody.

It worked because the major protagonist in Baghdad had already achieved it's goals and no longer needed to fight.

You think the Mahdi Army achieved its goals? Are you kidding me?

It worked because we have paid off the other major enemy and gave them arms and cash for an agreement not to fight us.

e haven't paid anyone not to fight us in Iraq. No one. Who are you thinking of? The 1920s Brigades? They switched sides, sort of, but not because they were paid. I have covered this stuff from the ground, but apparently you missed it. And if you think we paid off Al Qaeda, you are truly delusional or aren't paying any attention at all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 12:03 PM

Michael-

As always, you are a step or two ahead of the MSM. The local paper had an AP story (on Page A13) about the drop in violence and how the American role was evolving into a peacekeping mission. I'm surprised that AP is only three days behind-do you think they are reading your blog?

Posted by: MartyH Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 1:39 PM

Edgar,

Don't look now but Communism is collapsing in Vietnam. Communism just doesn't work. It never has and never will. So, Vietnam is evolving into a capitalist economy and from there it will either evolve into a democratic society or will collapse into a nightmare due to its internal contradictions as Burma has.

We are winning the war in Vietnam-only it’s 35 years after the invasion of South Vietnam by the massed tanks and infantry of North Vietnam.

It’s too bad that neither Kennedy nor Johnson were even half as smart as Ronald Reagan. Perhaps then they could have won the war without throwing away 50,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Vietnamese.

Posted by: Steamboat Jack Author Profile Page at August 2, 2008 8:00 PM

Truly pathetic how deeply invested in our defeat the Left is (see their comments on this thread). The IRA had Sinn Fein to do their public relations, Al-Qaida has these guys.

Posted by: carlos Author Profile Page at August 2, 2008 10:13 PM

Steamboat Jack,

heh.. you slay me. That was some seriously clever humour =P

But in all seriousness, you're not actually suggesting the US is now winning the Vietnam war, are you? You are aware that war has been over for over 30 years. You can't just sit back and wait for the failure of a government you lost to only to lay claim to victory decades down the road. By that yard stick no war is ever over.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 3, 2008 11:47 AM

By that yard stick no war is ever over.

Which yardstick are you using for Iraq, John? Was the war over when Saddam's regime fell? Was the war over when Saddam Hussein was captured/ Was the war over when Saddam Hussein was executed?

Will it ever be over?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 1:17 AM

Craig,

The 'yard stick' I was talking about is the idea that you can consider a war won at any undefined time in the future as long as the people you were fighting in a war eventually cease to exist, or their governments fail. That idea is rediculous to say the least.

For example, if at some point in the future Afghanistan becomes communist would you think it's because of USSR activities in the 1980s? Uhhh.. no... by the same extension Vietnam's communist government failing has nothing to do with US activities in the 60s and 70s.

Lastly, the words "yard stick" and "Iraq" does not in all cases suggest someone is talking about when you can declare "Mission Accomplushed." It helps if you ACTUALLY READ SOMEONE"S POST FULLY to find out what they're actually saying. Just a thought.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 7:46 AM

Sorry.. the last paragraph wasn't fully coherent.

It should read;

Lastly, when used together the words "yard stick" and "Iraq" do not always define when victory in Iraq has been achieved. It would help to fully read someone's post first to understand what they're trying to say. Just a thought.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 7:50 AM

Micahel,

That is a ridiculous exaggeration. Only a very small number of former insurgents were allowed to join the Iraq Police, and only if they weren't known to have killed anybody.

Huh? The people I am talking about are not in the Iraqi police. Do you think the only people we are paying for are the Iraqi Police? We are paying large amounts of money for the former insurgents in the various "Awakening" movments in Iraq. The VAST majority of them are not in the police or any other part of the official Iraqi state security apparatus. I thought you'd be aware of that?

So whereas you are right that only a small number of former Iraqi insurgents have joined the Iraqi Police, that in reality means nothing because tens of thousands of others who are outside of the formal Iraqi security forces certainly ARE on the US payroll. They are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US government, not to mention a lot of small arms.

The point you inadvertantly bring up actually furthers my original assertion. The fact is that the Shi'a led central government hasnt let many of the former insurgents join the state run security organisations, mainly because these men are Sunni and former insurgents whom the Shi'a led government would normally oppose. The fact that the Shi'a led government refuses to let them join and merge into the state security services means that it is even MORE likely that these men will start up the violence again when the money ceases to flow from the USA.

You think the Mahdi Army achieved its goals? Are you kidding me?

In regards to the sectarian cleansing that was fueling the violence in Bahgdad? I certainly do. Can you point me to any large sized mixed communities left in Baghdad? You are aware that what is left of most Sunni neighborhoods are ringed in concrete barriers and protected by US soldiers right? There is a reason for that. If not for those barriers and US troops the Shi'a militia men would send these few remaining Sunnis in Baghdad to join the couple of million Sunni former citizens of Baghdad living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

If we can agree that what fueled most of the sectarian violence in Baghdad was the fight of the Sunnis not to be expelled from their homes, we can also agree that the job is almost completely done. It makes sense that the violence would go down.

e [sic] haven't paid anyone not to fight us in Iraq. No one. Who are you thinking of? The 1920s Brigades? They switched sides, sort of, but not because they were paid. I have covered this stuff from the ground, but apparently you missed it. And if you think we paid off Al Qaeda, you are truly delusional or aren't paying any attention at all.

You are missing the point Michael. I never said we paid off Al-Qaeda, but even as US military leaders admitted, AQ formed only a small minority of those we were fighting in Iraq. We most certainly HAVE paid the various Awakening groups that used to fight us. Now you can argue that we are paying them for what ever you want. That does NOT diminish the fact that we ARE paying the salaries of thosuands of former Iraqi insurgents who used to fight us. Unlike your first statement, these forces are completely OUTSIDE the offical Iraqi security structure and we are paying them. What are our payments going for? Arms and payroll mostly. Each of these guys in the Iraqi awakening groups that are working for the US get paid a couple of hundred bucks a month.

Call that what you want........I call that the US paying our former enemies to work for us.

I suggest you read, the literally hundreds of articles like the one below, to be found on the net:

US buys 'concerned citizens' in Iraq, but at what price?</>

......US commanders are unashamedly buying the loyalty of Iraqi tribal leaders and junior officials, a strategy they trumpet as a major success but which critics fear will lead to hidden costs in terms of militia and sectarian strife......."Right now I've got 34 concerned citizen groups under contract and that is costing me 7.5 million dollars every 60-90 days," Lynch tells AFP, adding that 25 groups are Sunni, nine Shiite.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iMzKGlyT_ahqRjtyXrAUrKIQLncA

Yep, you read that right. The US general is saying he has 34 Iraqi groups "under contract" and it is costing 7.5 million every few months. We most certainly are paying these non governmental forces to do something. I call it buying them off. What would you call it?

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 8:55 AM

JD,

The 'yard stick' I was talking about is the idea that you can consider a war won at any undefined time in the future as long as the people you were fighting in a war eventually cease to exist, or their governments fail. That idea is rediculous to say the least.

Would it be equally ridiculous for people to consider that after a war is lost if at some point in the future an invader eventually leaves? That seems to be the position of the left, does it not? After having given up on seeing the US being driven out of Iraq in shame, they have pinned their hopes for US defeat on "timetables" at which point they can declare defeat in Iraq and switch their attention to Afghanistan.

At what point, in your opinion, is a war won or lost, JD?

For example, if at some point in the future Afghanistan becomes communist would you think it's because of USSR activities in the 1980s?

Don't throw up a straw man for me to tilt at.

Uhhh.. no... by the same extension Vietnam's communist government failing has nothing to do with US activities in the 60s and 70s.

Well, this is never a claim I made. You were talking about being intellectually honest enough to admit when a war has been won. or lost. Are you that intellectually honest guy, JD?

However, I think as a Cold War conflict the resolution of the Cold War and the failure of communism very much had an impact on Vietnam.

Lastly, the words "yard stick" and "Iraq" does not in all cases suggest someone is talking about when you can declare "Mission Accomplushed. It helps if you ACTUALLY READ SOMEONE"S POST FULLY to find out what they're actually saying. Just a thought.

And it's a GOOD thought. It's also an irrelevant attempt at distraction :)

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 10:12 AM

Marc: We most certainly are paying these non governmental forces to do something. I call it buying them off. What would you call it?

Some of those who switched allegiance are getting money. Some aren't. (They are in jail or dead.)

If you think the money came before their conversion, you're wrong. And if you think it would be better to keep them eternal enemies and hunt them all down and kill them on general principle, just say so.

Seriously, Marc. A minority of the Anbar sheikhs sided with Al Qaeda a few years ago. (Most never did.) Then they wisely reversed themselves. What do you think we should do with them? Kill them? Jail them? Or work with them? Pick one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 10:41 AM

Craig: blah blah blah.. nothing to do with what you said.. blah blah

You're a knob. I have never tried to establish the line where the US can claim victory or defeat in Iraq. Again, I'll say it one last time, when people use the words "yardstick" and "Iraq" together, it does not necessairly mean they're discussing when the war is won/lost.

All I was saying is that the "yardstick" used earlier to suggest the US is now winning the Vietnam war (30+ years after the fact) would be a yardstick where no war is ever officially over.

For one who bitches about "straw men to tilt at", you threw up a few of your own. But worst of all you dismissed my actual initial argument as "irrevelent... distraction." Again, I STRONGLY suggest you actually read people's posts fully before you comment.

Posted by: JohnDakota Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 4:32 PM

Michael,

I think the money was part of the deal that got the guys to stop fighting in the first place. The question is, and remains, what will these guys do when they are unemployed and their families have no food?

I think they are fair weather friends, at best, and to tout them as a success story is disingenuous.

Again you are trying to push all of this to Al Qaeda, but that isn't right. Sure, a majority of the sheiks never did side with AQ, but that didn't stop them from fighting. I don't think the insurgents, at any one time, were ever more than 10% AQ. So it doesn't really matter whether they sided with AQ or not, the fact is that they still fought us. They stopped when it ceased to be in their best interest. Some of that was due to AQ. Now that the AQ is diminished, what happens when we stop paying them?

No one has answered this question. We are pouring tens of millions of dollars into these tribes. We are literally supporting many of them. It is only common sense that these same tribes are going to be VERY unhappy when the money stops.

Again, you are posing questions to me based on an assumption that I have never made. I say work with them, of course, but don't make the situation out to be something it isn't. We work with them, but they are not our friends. Our working with them isn't a sign of some great success, it just means that for the moment these tribes realise that they need our money and our help to defeat threats to their leadership. When the money stops and the help is no longer needed to insure their leadership, all bets are off.

That is not a success, that is a band-aid.

We will fight these guys again, or the Iraqi central government will. The difference is this time they will be better armed and better funded. The question we will ask ourselves then is what we got in the short term worth what it cost in the long term.

That remains to be seen.

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at August 5, 2008 6:18 AM

the Vietnam war was an American success.
I think the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the basis of the Kissinger Peace Prize, shows that the war was "over". In 1973-74, S. Vietnam was pretty much at peace, fairly boring, and most major news coverage had left, along with all the troops that Nixon pulled out. Pulled out as a N. Viet requirement to get the US POWs back, like McCain.

So yes, there was a temporary success in Vietnam. Before a) in 1974 the Dem dominated Congress passed a law restricting the ability of the President (Nixon then Ford) to send troops back into S. Vietnam, and b) in 1975 reducing the USD support to the S. Viet government.
And then, of course, © the anti-Peace blitz by the USSR supported N. Viet commies in 1975, which allowed the commies to win.

Those against the US war effort to win, and to stay and insure victory, were opposing the fight against commie evil.

So we won, militarily, before we lost, diplomatically, and then our S. Viet allies lost, militarily. And many US allies lost their lives, others their homes as they became boat people.

Sadly, many 60s hippies view the anti-war movement as a "success" because Nixon resigned before being impeached. Despite claiming to want the US out of Vietnam "for the sake of the Vietnamese", such hypocrites seemed to not care for those Vietnamese being murdered by N. Viet commies. They only wanted to use Viet deaths as a stick to beat on Johnson, first, then especially Nixon.

I see similar uses of Iraqi deaths as an excuse to blame Bush (and even hate Bush), but without much real care for Iraqis.

This is also seen in some criticism of McCain, that the Surge didn't start until after the Awakening, and therefore wasn't necessary. Critics of Republicans looking for an excuse to be critical, rather than looking for the truth, or for what helps the situation the most.

From the good usacac link:
"A group calling itself the Al Anbar People’s
Council formed from a coalition of local Sunni sheiks and nationalist groups. The council intended to conduct an organized resistance against both coalition forces and Al-Qaeda elements, but, undermanned and hamstrung by tribal vendettas, it lacked strength and cohesion. A series of tribal leader assassinations ultimately brought down the group, which ceased to exist by February 2006."

This is a reminder of how easy it is for ruthless murderers to take out potential leaders of any opposition -- and cow the rest of the people into obedience. Which becomes habitual, so it becomes easier for the oppressors to kill potential troublemakers sooner. 10% ruthless is plenty to keep up oppression. Which is why the Surge was so useful, and necessary for the amount of 2007 progress.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at August 5, 2008 6:30 AM

Marc,
"we will fight these guys again" will probably not be true if the US stays with any kind of reasonable 30 000 or more troops -- which should stay to make sure that if such Sunnis do start fighting, that they will lose.

If we leave, they are indeed likely to fight the Shia Baghdad gov't for a Sunni partition of Iraq, to which I'm sure the Kurds would join for Kurdish partition (with Kirkuk) or which the Kurds would fight against the Sunnis (to get Kirkuk).

To me, asking for the US to leave is asking for Iraq vs Iraq bloodshed -- bloodshed that the anti-war folk don't really care about. Just as they don't care much about the 400 000 or so murdered in Darfur.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at August 5, 2008 6:48 AM

Man, glasnost sounds pretty deranged these days. I think he's lost it completely.

Actually, the lack of erudition around here from me these days is a symbol of my increasing rationality.
My comments are shorter and fewer, not because I've become more aware of how genuinely pointless these discussions are - I've known for a long time that they were nothing better or more meaningful than self-pleasure - but because I've been having a good streak at turning that knowledge into meaningful action elsewhere.

The only shimmer of purpose in any of this to influence M. Totten, and these days I often email him directly.

I've had my 75 childish taunters, my 15 empirical swordfights, and my five private, emailed compliments. And it all boils down to the same- wind in a hollow tree. Who the f*ck do you people, collectively, think you are, anyway? Or, to include myself, who do we think we are? You, or we, are statistical noise.

I've got better things to do than tilt at this windmill. That doesn't mean I'm cured, but you can tell I'm not really as invested in changing anyone's mind.

PS: there was a perfectly valid point behind the sarcasm - that Mike's predictions are opinions, no more empirically meaningful than mine or Prime Minister Maliki's. Knowing Iraq doesn't make you right - if we're going to score the validity of vapid predictions based on familiarity with Iraq, I think Maliki would win that particular thumb-wrestling match over Mike, and his opinions are entirely opposite of Mike's. Gee. Two people who know Iraq. Yet, different opinions? Wait, does that mean that neither of them should be taken seriously when simply thrown out into the ether, sans data? Or both? Or shall we - rather like this comment section - internalize one opinion as gospel and make a lot of nasty comments about anyone who brings up the other opinion?

I like Mike's work, but he tells a scripted version of reality. I know it, because I send him things he should be including on his blog often, if he wanted it to be a genuinely ideologically netural compendium of empirical data on things happening in Iraq - things that he does not (to his credit) invent wild theories as to their certain fakeness, but simply doesn't prefer to highlight.

He's no worse in this regard than many leftist websites, of course. Almost everyone is peddling a message, rather than a dataset. That's why who has been "right" about Iraq has swung wildly from one side of the ideological spectrum to the other.
I may not be any better, but I force myself read websites that disagree with me - I'm sure you folks all do the same. Right?

As for my deranged hold on socialist, sissy-relativist, america-hating vegetarianism - I'm happy to say, great job folks in fixing a solid two-thirds of your own mess and enjoying a year or two of maybe protecting more people than you endangered. But the data still shows that the Iraqi people don't want you here, like they haven't wanted you here since you arrived. Get ready for the next Iraqi election to put an exclamation mark on that. It smacks of the same elitism and arrogance it has always smacked of to blow that off, but I don't expect any better from you. And my vested interests are only in success - for America and the Middle East as a whole, which can only be done, first, by the repudiation of the triumphalism, supremacism and willful mythmaking responsible for the 500,000 Iraqi deaths it took to sober some of us up a little.

There's a case for staying in Iraq. Sometimes Mike makes it well. Other times, I call him on lazy thinking and amygdala-inspired selective perception. There's also a great case for leaving Iraq, starting with a large increase in the dead people for most of the years we've been there, the aforementioned Iraqi not wanting us there thing, the desperate situation in Afghan & Pakistan, the $600 billion and climbing defense budget amidst economic slow-mo collapse, the desire to avoid slow, hanging curveballs for Al-Queida hard and soft operations to knock out of the park.. the inevitable collapse of the whole improbable chandelier of semi-success under the weight of our overambitious goals and the ugly regional environment, if we continue to fool ourselves into thinking that losing to Zarqawi in an unpopularity contest means that we're on the way to the liberation of Paris.

Oh, and hey - dougf? Lectures on civility and open-mindedness from you make me want to puke. You've never made it through an entire comment on me without taking an asinine cheap shot at my personal character. Look in the Patrick Lasswell mirror.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at August 5, 2008 8:54 PM
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