Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Suprise, suprise, suprise!

Robert Kagan says the surge is working. Considering his brother Fred was the author of it, and convinced the President and every one else to disregard any recommendations to the contrary, what else was he going to say?

He's got some reliable sources. Bloggers:

Some observers are reporting the shift. Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and Omar Fadhil, widely respected for their straight talk, say that "early signs are encouraging." The first impact of the "surge," they write, was psychological. Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no small part by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pull out. When the opposite occurred, this alone shifted the dynamic.

As the Fadhils report, "Commanders and lieutenants of various militant groups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled the country." The most prominent leader to go into hiding has been Moqtada al-Sadr. His Mahdi Army has been instructed to avoid clashes with American and Iraqi forces, even as coalition forces begin to establish themselves in the once off-limits Sadr City.

Where is my Louisville Slugger? I need to go back to my home town and put it to good use.

First, its not surprising that increased numbers of American troops are having some effect. However the real issue is , when can the Iraqi troops have an effect and we can go home? The answer increasingly seems to be never.

If the surge was such a good idea why was it not done 5 years ago? And if it works now, then what that means is that the management up to this point failed miserably-criminally failed and should be held to account for their mismanagement. Paul Bremer still gets to have a cushy paycheck, as does Messrs Wolfwitz and Feith-not to mention their erstwhile boss-Donald Rumsfeld. The families of over 3000 brave Americans should file a lawsuit against all three of them for criminal negligence-and demand payment of damages.

Because the real issues that I think most Americans agree on is: getting this job done and going home. The disagreement is about how-not the what. Nowhere in Mr. Kagan's article does he talk about that. Rather he seems to imply that we will have to stay there for a long time to come.

Which of course is true. Because the real reason for the surge is to stabilize Baghdad and also keep Malaki from doing what he has been advertising for a long time-turning the Iraqi forces loose to execute an anti-Sunni, pro Shiite agenda. Which I find interesting, since the important Muslims in the Arab world are the Sunni's. They inhabit the countries that are really of value to the United States. Like Saudi Arabia.

Kagan and all his neocon buddies crow over and over again that Al Sadr has fled. That does not mean he is out of the picture. They never think that maybe, the fat bearded one is thinking for the long term. Pull back and wait out the American process. Time, after all, is on his side. And at least for now so is the government. No point being a martyr in a country that still has plenty of places to raise hell besides Baghdad. The Al Sadr folks have had over 8 weeks of warning that the troops were coming and Baghdad was the place.

And even with the this "new attitude" the violence is still not diminishing that much. Robert Kagan should explain a few of these events that happened the same day he put out his article:

NEAR MOSUL - Gunmen shot dead the director-general of water projects in Iraq's Mosul, Abdullah Mohammad, just outside the northern city, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A total of 20 bodies were found shot dead on Sunday in different districts of Baghdad, police said.

* RAMADI - A suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into an Iraqi police checkpoint in the western city of Ramadi, wounding 11 people, including four policemen, police said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb that hit their patrol during a mission supporting an air assault southwest of Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said late on Sunday.

MAHAWEEL - The body of a man, shot dead and tortured, was found in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

MUSSAYAB - The body of a man, shot dead and bound, was found on Sunday in the town of Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

The analogy that works for Iraq is the one of the used car that you keep having to put a lot of maintenance into. Just to keep it running. It drains you, the owner, of resources and time, but the car keeps running. Your freeloading buddy still gets a ride when the car is working. However he is not the one whose over all financial health is being hurt. In the case of the US, it is the ability to respond elsewhere where American interests are and because of the failure to save for the rainy day (build up the Armed Forces to an acceptable level starting on 12 September 2001), the ability to keep going back to Pep Boys for more parts is getting harder.

It also does not solve the basic structural issue, the car's motor and chassy are shot-and will never get better. As Juan Cole points out:

Last summer, Bush explained of Iraq that "victory means
a free government that is able to sustain itself, defend itself; it's a government that will be an ally in the war on terror. It's a government that will be able to fight off al-Qaida and its desires to have a safe haven."

There is still no good evidence that the Iraqi government can achieve "freedom" or that it can sustain or defend itself anytime soon. On Tuesday, the Iraqi parliament failed to convene because it could not garner the requisite quorum. The stony-faced prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is speaking darkly of having parliamentarians arrested for involvement in death squad activity, and of dismissing from his cabinet members of the Shiite bloc of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that helped elect him in the first place. As a parliamentary democracy, Iraq is broken.

Contrary to what the president says, there is so far no reason to believe that the new security plan has made a big difference in the lives of Iraqis. The massacre of the Shiite pilgrims this week is among the more ominous developments. Protecting the pilgrims was the most important thing the government could have done. That so many were killed is no harbinger of progress. Three weeks into the surge, the Sunni Arab guerrillas are running rings around both al-Maliki's forces and those of the U.S. How some extra troops for half a year will change that remains about as clear as Baghdad's sky during in a spring sandstorm.

Herman Wouk once wrote that victory is meaningless, except in its impact on future events. E.G Iraq actually gives us something, the troops get out, and we get to move on to a more broad based look at the Middle East. THAT takes an Iraqi government that actually can do something-and it requires neo-cons to think from a narrow American perspective, about what is good for Americans. You remember those guys don't you Bob? The real people who matter in this equation? I tend to doubt that you do.

However then again, why should he? Its not like he has the specter of being shipped off to Iraq in his future-he never served and will never serve. However, it does give him a way to keep writing and making money. The people who actually have to make his ideas work-well like the pig and breakfast-they are totally committed. Would that Mr Kagan recognized the efforts they have had to expend.


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