Prague Twin

Monday, October 23, 2006

Iraq: The more things change...

Almost a year ago I set out blogging because I thought I had something to say about important matters (I got over it). My first post of any substance was about Iraq. In that post I argued that the complexion of the conflict might change and that people would disagree if we were losing or winning. I argued that these eventualities were irrelevant because in the end the result would be the same: continued instability in much of the country and the death of about 2 United States soliders per day.

I think it was a pretty slam dunk call. In trading it is called the the double no-touch option: the trader bets there will be no major change in either direction.

The complextion of the hostilities is definately changing. Sectarian murder has become the main killer for Iraqis, and it is has proven to be just as deadly as the car bombings, the carpet bombings, or the regime of Saddam Hussein (all on a per day basis of course) that preceded this wave of killing. The military has made a major shift in sending the Stryker brigades such as the 172nd into Baghdad on what has so far been a largely futile effort. As neighborhoods are cleared and left behind, the tend to raplidly decend into violence. Meanwhile places like Ramadi and Mosul are experiencing major upsuges in violence.
Military deaths are up this month, but no more so than they have been at the past during times of relatively high activity.

Yet as the location of the conflict changes, and the players change form, the end result for the viewers back home is roughly the same:

A lack of stability for much of the population, and about 2 military deaths per day suffered by U.S. forces.

America's attention span patience must be running thin.


  • 172nd is heading back in May. At least that is what I hear. They get to leave Baghdad by Thanksgiving. That means something like a 16 month tour. But, that information is a few weeks old.

    Now, Michael Gordon in the NY Times is talking about holding the 4 ID in Baghdad when the First Cav comes to the capital.

    By Blogger copy editor, at 12:05 AM  

  • They get to leave Baghdad by Thanksgiving.
    So I guess that means they (the 172nd) are not going into Sadr city.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:31 AM  

  • I thought is was going to be a tougher fight than advertised as well

    By Blogger GraemeAnfinson, at 4:11 PM  

  • This is "early voting" on the part of the insurgents.

    They would love to see Nancy Pelosi cut funding for the war.

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:09 PM  

  • Who? What?

    Explain yourself Arch.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 3:38 PM  

  • I think you were right with "attention span," PT. Most of America has all but forgotten about Afghanistan. If Iraq weren't in the news quite so much, that war would be far from most people's minds, too.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 12:59 AM  

  • PT

    Don’t you think the insurgents follow American politics?

    Don’t you think the insurgents would like to see Democrats take bake the Congress?

    With the media so willing to make comparisons of the current violence to the Tet offensive in Vietnam (an actual American victory but you would never know that the way the media reported it or how it is taught in school) why wouldn’t the insurgents step up operations to try and sway an election?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:15 PM  

  • Okay, Arch, I'll bite. So how was Vietnam a victory?

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 9:05 PM  

  • Stephanie

    Not the Vietnam conflict itself, but specifically the outcome of the Tet offensive.

    Wikipedia gets this one right:

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 2:33 AM  

  • the insurgents want the US troops out of Iraq. The terrorists want to blow people up. The terrorists love Republicans. They are doing all their recruiting.

    The insurgents have a right to defend their country against an invading force.

    By Blogger GraemeAnfinson, at 6:03 PM  

  • graemeanfinson

    So you believe that it is the insurgents that represent the people of Iraq and not the government that the citizens of Iraq elected?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:43 AM  

  • graemeanfinson,

    "The insurgents have a right to defend their country against an invading force."

    When the cops come into the ghetto neighbors hoods to interfer with a gang war, are the cops invading forces that the gangs are defending themselves from? Are the law abiding citizens legally under the jurisdiction of the rival gangs?

    The insurgents do not represent Iraq, they are looking to control Iraq and put it back under the control of a dictatorship. If they win, who will determine which group is persecuted, not whether or not a group is persecuted. And by group, I mean group of Iraqi citizens. You know, those pesky civilians that the insurgents are slaughtering daily. You know, those pesky women, children and workers who are the subject of ethnic cleansing. Oh, but, I forgot; they don't matter!

    The insurgents are just fighting for their homes (and for control of the homes of everyone they don't like) and it's the big bad American soldiers who are the bad guys, because they're getting in the way of the righteous mass-murder inflicted upon the Iraqi citizens by their oh-so-just superiors.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 4:47 PM  

  • Not to say that the insurgents wouldn't want to influence the election, I wouldn't suspect that the latest surge in violence can be largely viewed as such an effort.

    The inusgency continues unabated for years now. The Republo-spin is always the same: this is because of the election coming up, or beause of Ramadan, or because of Zarqawi, or because of Zarqawi's death, or a million other reasons that they come up with for why the recent deaths are occuring. But truth is no matter what has happened, the level of the insurgency has been steady. The are keeping a steady pressure on and it seems to be slowly building now. Very slowly.

    You can say this month is due to the election, and then when the Democrats win you can say that the new spike is to try to get the Democrats to "cut and run.' But after three years of this shit, sooner or later you gotta just admit that come hell or high water, these guys are not giving up.

    But the Americans, half a world away and watching their treasury drain and their sons and daughters come home in boxes and the rest of them come home forever changed are going to give up, and fairly soon I think.

    Anyone with half a brain could have predicted that would happen. I did, and some people think I might have nearly half a brain.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 11:44 PM  

  • If America gives up, then things are going to get a lot worse than steadily bad.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 12:50 AM  

  • If we leave now for the reasons you suggest there will be a blood bath in the wake of our departure and it will only serve to prove what many on the Left have said in the past. "America is self serving and selfish” The blood of many Iraqis will be on the hands on Nancy Pelosi (should she attain the position of house majority leader and work to cut funding for our troops and the Iraqis) and the ones who support her.

    So are you willing to go on record as saying its time to leave Iraq?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 6:05 AM  

  • Not at all. I am one who believes that we have to stay now. I like what Saudi Arabia said recently:

    "America came univited. Therefore, they can not leave univited."

    The blood is on the hands of George Bush and all the Congressmen and women who voted for his war.

    The reason I was against it from the beginning is that I foresaw this "lose/lose" situation coming. Now we are in a position where we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

    I have been consistent in saying that security is now the job of the U.S. forces since they created a power vaccuum. This is consistent with international law and common sense. U.S. forces have failed miserably in this task largely due to the incompetence of the civilian leadership, in my humble view.

    Having said that, I find dubious the claims that this can be solved with more troops or by just "staying the course." (which Bush never said, of course) So the efficacy of remaining on the same general course is now seriously in question.

    In a Democracy, you can't expect the populus to support a war that shows no signs of progress forever. Anyone who doesn't understand that has their head buried fully in the sand.

    Two more years, tops. Then the call to withdrawl will reach a fever pitch. Just wait and see. I've been pretty spot on so far.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:35 AM  

  • So if you beleive that we are going to loose anyway, then why stay?

    By Anonymous Arch Stanton, at 3:46 PM  

  • I didn't say we would lose, and never did. Like I have said from the beginning, all the insurgents need to do is create a stalemate. They probably have nearly the same numbers and I don't think they are taking anywhere near the losses that the Americans are now. But lets just say they are losing the same number.

    As long as they keep their recruitment up (which it appears is not a problem) they can force the U.S. into a war of attrition. Tit for tat. They can't hope to acheive any major military victories, so the inusrgency can not follow through. But they are resilitant. I figure Sinsheki had it right, it would take on the order of half a million troops to do the job properly. But then even if you did that, you would still have an internal power vacccum. You would have a disarmed populace ready to be oppressed by the first guy who can get 1,000 guns in one place.

    So in reality, this is really the best you can hope to do. You just take those losses and try to reduce the forces as much as possible, but you will take those losses for the foreseeable future, and as sad as it is, this is what we signed up for when we invaded.

    The security situation will worsen with a precipitous withdrawl, but that eventuality may be just that: unavoidable. I really don't know, but the U.S. is in a position where they are supposed to take care of the situation. I figure they are responsible for providing security as long as the Iraqi government asks them to.

    But as time goes on, this will be harder and harder to sell back home. They need to start showing some results, but as of late things have been deteriorating a bit.

    The insurgency looks to be strong and getting stronger. Huge numbers of very experienced troops are being rotated out soon. I doubt that when that happens, things are going to get better.

    Cheney's "last throes" comment gets sounds stupider and stupider every year.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 9:34 PM  

  • PT,

    What you describe is consistent with what the media says, but it is not consistent with what the troops say. The troops consistently say they're making progress. And, while they can recruit from outside Iraq, as long as the insurgents continue to kill Iraqis in massive quantities and continue to practice ethnic cleansing, their recruiting efforts are going to cancel each other out.

    While the quantities of active "military" types as described by "us" and "them" may be similar, that's not the actual dynamics of the situation. There's us, there's the Iraqi government troops, and the there's at least two groups of insurgents who are fighting each other as well as us, because of ethnic differences. Some of the latter are unfortunately mixed in with the Iraqi government troops, and it's difficult to determine who's who until betrayals occur. It's a messy, messy situation, but it's not nearly as simplistic as "us" and "them," when the "them"s are fighting amongst themselves.

    This war is winnable. However, it's not winnable by staying the course. And, it's not winnable by withdrawing. We need another viable option, and we need follow-through. Soon would be nice.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:50 PM  

  • Stephanie,

    Don't take this the wrong way, but I've been following this pretty closely from the beginning.

    I read milblogs, blogs from Iraqis living there, and anything else I can get my hands on. I have a friend who is reporting from Baghdad who used to live in Prague.

    I'm pretty familiar with the dynamics of the situation. Progress has been made in many places: Mosul for example. But as the experienced troops move out of those places and into Baghdad, those places are starting to slip a bit.

    No one will tell you that progress is being made in Al Anbar province. And so far, the effort in Baghdad has not made a dent in the violence there.

    If anyone realizes that it is more than an "us vs. them" situation, it is me. I apologize if I implied that it was thus. That was certainly not my intention.

    The insurgency is multifaceted. There must be at least 50 distinct groups who oppose U.S. presence and many of them fight each other in their spare time.

    If you remove the U.S. troops, the in-fighting is likely to blow up into a full scale civil war.

    Also, as time goes on, the militias are gaining strenth, most notable the Mehdi army. Having said that, these militias are showing signs of splintering as well as the more radicle elements grown impatient with what they view as the conciliatory stance of the leadership.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:57 AM  

  • PT,

    "That was certainly not my intention."

    And that's all I wanted to clarify. Despite the large insurgency, there are still many Iraqis who want our troops to stay because they don't stand a chance if they don't.

    I agree that not enough is being done. I also agree it's the fault of those who are in charge, not our soldiers or most of the Iraqis. What I want most for Iraq and our part in it is for those in charge to stop the in-fighting and start fighting the insurgents.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 3:31 PM  

  • I think that is what we all want. The question is how do you resolve a conflict that is centuries old.

    Also, how do you fight an enemy that doesn't show itself.

    Like you a put the blame squarely on the civilian leadership. I know that our troops are the best in the world, but they do not have the support they need.

    Having said that, I doubt that a truly positive outcome was, is, or ever will be possible. Certainly, a lot of things could have been done better with better planning however.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:30 PM  

  • PT,

    "Having said that, I doubt that a truly positive outcome was, is, or ever will be possible."

    That is the nature of any war. A truly positive outcome is never possible with war. The question is "Is there more to gain by fighting or by not fighting?" That's something we battled with while we stayed out of WWII, and I do believe we did make the right decision to join.

    In regards to Iraq, we'll never know the answer. There's no way to know. However, I do think that we had an obligation to go in there again eventually. After the Gulf War, I believe going in was inevitable; the timing and the leadership is questionable, the messiness is inexcusable, but any amount of going in for real change would have been messy.

    If Iraq can come out of this with a stable, democratic (republic) government, then it will be worth it for them, if not for us. They may not be our friends or allies when this is all over, but they will be in charge of their own destiny, instead of having it dictated to them from a palace on high. Considering the human dignity in question, it'll be worth it. However, most of that is in the hands of the Iraqis now. We can help, but they have to want it bad enough to set aside their hate and pain. It can happen, and we have to try, but in the end it cannot be up to us.

    On the other hand, if we leave prematurely, and they fall, generations world-wide will blame us, and rightly so.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 4:25 AM  

  • Good points.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 1:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home