Monday, January 08, 2007

WSJ stays with failure in Iraq

A study by the RAND Corporation's James Dobbins determined in the mid-nineties that to secure a nation having just been invaded requires one occupying soldier for every 50 civilians. By this calculation, Iraq requires no less than 500,000. That's more than one-third of America's total active duty personnel, and about one-fifth of the total force, active and reserve combined. The now-retired General Eric Shinseki believed several hundred thousand were needed. The Bush team has elected to send 20,000 more, bringing the total force on the ground to 165,000 or so.

The WSJ op/ed board opines:
If the stakes in Iraq are as great as Mr. Bush says -- and we believe they are -- then he should commit whatever forces are needed to achieve success.
What success is achievable? It's unclear what the optimal outcome even is. Shia militias, in concert with the mostly sympathetic/infiltrated Iraqi Security Forces, have the political power, the resources, and the tacit support of Iran. The fragmented Sunni fighters may have already peaked and are on the way down in terms of potency. How is strengthening Iraqi security and military personnel, most of whom are Shiites, going to 'bring security' to Iraq? Unless security comes from the submission of the Sunnis and their forced removal from all Shia areas, I don't see it. And it's an open question as to whether or not Saudi Arabia will allow for such an outcome.

For his part, Prime Minister al Maliki is pledging to stop the violence in Bagdad with what amounts to martial law. While the joint US-Iraqi operation Together Forward in Baghdad last year was clearly not a success, the Iraqi Security Forces don't play by the same rules as the Americans:
Any civilians carrying arms faced automatic detention, he said, and would be shot if they resisted, the general said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

Al-Suneid and al-Maliki insisted that this drive to contain militants, as opposed to a largely ineffective joint operation with the Americans in the second half of 2006, would succeed because it would be in the hands of Iraqi commanders who have been promised American backup and airpower if they call for it.
Those paragraphs are less favonian if the order they appear in is swapped. Saddam knew how to control a city. The Shiites he oppressed seemed to have picked up on it. The coalition remains oblivious.

Of course, the operation again raises the question of what victory is. While al Maliki claims to be squelching the violence caused by both Sunni and Shiite militias, the initial attacks are to focus on Sunni strongholds. Wonder how long that phase of the operation is going to last?

The op/ed piece argues that if we leave, the Shiites will have no choice but to call on Iran and Hezbollah to help. But with economic, political, and numerical superiority, that's probably incorrect. And those entities are helping to some extent already. But why would they want to do the heavy lifting when the US will do it for them?

What is so frustrating is that the WSJ and other neocon voices are apparently ignorant of the crucial differences between the modern Occidental and Arabic worlds. Most of the opinion piece linked to above celebrates the removal of various Iraq War players like Rumsfeld and General Casey, as if the poor performance of American strategic planners and executors is at the core of the problem. But IQs in the eighties (Iraq is estimated to be 87), widespread consanguinous marriage (over half of Iraqi men are married to a second cousin or closer), the feebleness of the idea of Arab nationalism, the aggressive winner-takes-all Middle Eastern culture, and Islam, are of absolute importance. They are are exponentially more important in assessing whether Iraq is either going to bloodily partition or be held together by a secular iron-fist like the one that was just hanged than who is heading CENTCOM.

In responding to a couple of fatal criticisms--that a US 'military victory' is a phrase that doesn't apply to the contemporary situation on the ground in Iraq (again, what is this military victory?) and that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is too sectarian to 'unify' Iraq--the master polemicists wield this slam-dunk:
...There are many serious people who believe success is still achievable in Iraq. They include retired four-star General Jack Keane and military historian Fred Kagan, who recently worked with some of the military's brightest officers to suggest a plan to secure Baghdad under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute. Among those officers is Colonel H.R. McMaster, the mastermind of the Tal Afar campaign. The President's two most important political allies on Iraq, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, also both believe more troops will make a difference.
Important people who haven't seriously addressed the underlying reasons for failure in Iraq say it is so and so it is so. Convincing.

It's long past time to cut our losses and pull out. As we're drawing down, we can facilitate the movement of Sunnis into western provinces and Shia from them to ease the clashes between the two, and we can lend support to an independent Kurdistan. The money we save can be spent on developing viable alternative energy solutions to get us out of the desert for good.

3 comments:

faq said...

The "refer to my website" or in this case to other voices of authority is empty. It shows just how desperate the sitatuion has become. When the argument is only to point to the shrouded arguments of others, what are we supposed to think?

JSBolton said...

They're trying to throw the blame for their unreasonable strategy onto someone further down the hierarchy.
All mankind, including the moslem as such, desires freedom from repressive government, and only racism says otherwise?
The strategy premise, that the moslem as such does not want to impose repressive theocratic rule in his own country, is contrary to the facts, and no revolving door of personnel or tactics can change that.
The unreason of the one-worlders' strategy premisses, causes an ever-wilder spinning of that revolving door.
The WSJ anarcholibertarian assumptions would not suffice to rule Puntland.
They don't even accept the basic facts of sovereignty, and the requirement to disallow competition
in the use of punitive violence.
Their strategy does not distinguish between freedom-for-aggression and freedom-from-aggression.
They make the American military look like a nihilistic enforcer of anarchy, of competing governments.
The worst is that the intention of officials could in many cases be to bring Iraqi-type war of religion, civil war, and competing governments and militias to America.
As little as I trust these people, though, if Iran gives them occasion to widen the war in that direction, it will probably be good, since these people's strategy is all-but-guaranteed to do huge damage to a country that they occupy.

crush41 said...

John,

We've been deeply suspicious of Iran for almost thirty years. Yet we withheld support for Massoud in Afghanistan for way too long (in part because the Persians were behind him). The Iraq debacle has become bad news for everyone in the region except for Iran, who is the clear and sole benefactor of the US invasion.

Persia keeps cursing us, but it hasn't been inevitable.