Wednesday, October 31, 2007

# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LET THEM EAT CROW: Fred Kagan played a critical role in designing the surge and arguing for its importance. Now he has a simple message for all of his critics: I told you so.

I admit that I sympathize with his message. Yet after all the failures in Iraq before 2007, I'm still afraid of letting myself get too confident. All of the clear indications of progress seem too good to be true. Kagan lists some of them:
In the past five months, terrorist operations in and around Baghdad have dropped by 59 percent. Car bomb deaths are down by 81 percent. Casualties from enemy attacks dropped 77 percent. And violence during the just-completed season of Ramadan--traditionally a peak of terrorist attacks--was the lowest in three years.
It would be useful if the Standard provided links or footnotes. I have plenty of confidence in Kagan as analyst, but every statistic is a controversy in this war, so I'd like to go back to the sources and make sure the numbers are right.

Anyhow, Kagan is crystal clear about the fact that we have won the battle but not the war. Not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan. And Iran looms on the horizon, still working against us in Iraq. We've got a long way to go.

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(16) opinions -- Add your opinion

Most of the downturn in violence is likely due to a variety of Iraqi factors not related to the surge.

1) Sunni civil war. The Anbar Awakening began months before the surge in Ramadi. The battles between Sunni insurgent groups began even before that, with the founding of the Islamic State in Iraq.

2) Shi'ite militia victory in Baghdad through mass sectarian cleansing. Note that the "surge" has not stopped ethnic cleansing in Baghdad or elsewhere.

3) Intra-Shi'ite civil war and fragmentation of the Mahdi Army leads to Sadr deactivating large segments of the Mahdi Army in attempt to regain control and isolate the swarms of criminals who joined in 2004-2005.

Also note that violence has fallen to around the level of early 2006 --- that is, to the level seen after the Samarra mosque was bombed. Last I heard, this was once viewed as an unacceptably high level of violence. An improvement over the utter slaughter of early 2007, but certainly not any foundation for rebuilding.

But being a neocon means not having to worry about objective realities. So feel free to ignore troubling data.
good post David, I agree, and also agree that we need to keep this kind of encouraging data in a sober context.

anonymous: of course, America sending in 30,000 more troops could have little to do with the reduction in instability. interesting how troop numbers are only acknowledged as factors relevant to violence in Iraq when America is accused of having too few.
Patrick - I'd be more convinced if not for the fact that 30k troops is not a very large number. About 5k went to Anbar and the rest to Baghdad. Baquba eruptions forced a brigade north as well, so they were not even focused in a concentrated locale but rather spread througout.

Given that most of them will be heading home in the coming rotation, which will have a significant (>40%) ARNG and Reserve component as in 2005, I suppose we will see how much of an impact those extra 30k had. Remember of course that in '05 we had roughly similar numbers, about 9k less than the current 165k, and saw violence ramping upwards.

Again, internal Iraqi dynamics matter more than a comparatively niggling U.S. presence. Swinging 10-30k either way does not matter much in the greater scheme of things.
''And Iran looms on the horizon, still working against us in Iraq. We've got a long way to go.''

Can you just say stuff like that?
Is David the new Karen Hughes?
How, logically, in your through-the-looking-glass world, can the war in Iraq be "won" if it has already been defined as lost by all the right people?

As for me, I'm looking forward to the definitive Oxford Union debate on "Has the US lost the war in Iraq"" with the For side represented by MoveOn Org and the Oppose side represented by, oh, say George Galloway.
Hi guys, is there any way to access the archives for this site? thanks
What was telling to me was even after the 2006 elections which were supposedly a referendum on the war the Democrats faced tremendous oppostion to a cut and run strategy, to the point that it could not be sustained. The investment in defeat has become so high that war opponents refuse to accept that any strategy we adopt could possibly work (witness Senator Reid saying the surge had failed before it even began), and if it works they must immediately explain the success away to protect their ideological investment. (It's kind of like the grasping explanations for the drop in crime in NYC offered by Guiliani's most dedicated critics). What is more interesting to me is how much this investment in defeat was a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, wasn't the Sunni insurgency fueled by and large by the perception that just a little bit of violence was enough to get back in power?
A simple question, David: If things are improving so much, why did the DOS just require that all foreign service personnel be willing to accept an assignment in Iraq or face termination of their employment?
Accordingly, the vast majority of the electorate based their choices on sectarian and ethnic affiliations, not on genuine political platforms. Because many electoral lists weren’t made public until just before the voting, the competing candidates were simply unknown to ordinary Iraqis. This gave rise to our sectarian Parliament, controlled by party leaders rather than by the genuine representatives of the people. They have assembled a government unaccountable and unanswerable to its people.

How to fix this mess and bring Iraqis together as a true nation? We must begin with a fundamental re-examination of the electoral laws and the Constitution. This is not simply my opinion — it is shared by many of my colleagues in the Parliament’s Council of Representatives.
The surge might have swayed a number Iraqis that the US`was not going to leave them to the rat bags, or in defference to anonymous - the patriotic fighters against the oppressive capitalistic baby killers.
Davod's post shows why most people can't stand neocons. For them, disagreement = treason.

I wonder if he understands just how closely his temperament parallels that of the Leninists or the takfiris he supposedly hates.
The surge was just more than 40k more American troops, it was taking the troops out of the fortified bases and back into the street. The new name of the game was take, clear, and hold. Due to political concerns (IE trying keep casualty rates lower), most troops in Iraq where assigned to force protection before the surge.

The Anbar awaking could not have happened without larger numbers of American troops on the streets. Its one thing to decided you want to get rid of the crazy terrorists wreaking havoc on your town and quite another to try to get rid of them yourself. Sunni’s were able to turn to the now proactive American troops with tips and intelligence on where the terrorists were and then the Americans did the hard work of killing them.

Despite what you here the Shiites turned to the militia for help due of the sheer numbers of Shiites that where being killed by Sunni terrorists (Due to America’s inability to protect them). Once Sunni’s terrorism largely came to an end, it suddenly seemed much less useful to keep the overbearing Shiite thugs in control (Very few people enjoy letting religious nuts telling you how to live). Again the American's have been doing the heavy lifting and many of the militias have lost so much support that they have pulled out of the fight.

A simple question, David: If things are improving so much, why did the DOS just require that all foreign service personnel be willing to accept an assignment in Iraq or face termination of their employment?

From what I remember the DOS has been chroniclly understaffed in Iraq for a very long time. The army has been picking up the slack for years now. It sounds like the Bush (in it's typicly slow and stupid fashion) finally got around to trying to fix that.
anonymous 2:20 am.

Conceivably, the Bush admin didn't want any more dipplemats in country until things were straightened out and, hopefully, beyond State's ability to eff them up again.

If I were in the DOS,I'd be annoyed at being away from the ATM in the lobby. The one whose other end is in Riyadh. So I can see their point.
This may be to late for anyone to read but I have to respond to Anonymous 11:16 AM:

I was deadly serious when I indicated that Iraqis may be more comfortable supporting the US now that we are serious about killing off the Rat Bags.

Maybe you have no understanding of satire if you take umbrage when I suggest that may prefer to see the Rat Bags referred as patriotic fighters against the oppressive capitalistic baby killers.

Either way, I suggest you read up on some of the finer points of 20th Century Marxist/Lenninist/Stalinist/Maoist propaganda.
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