Nobody Expects the Iraqi Insurgency

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Donald Rumsfeld, no Fonzie, again admits on a CNN documentary airing this weekend that he was rur-ruh-ruh-wrong about the cakewalk in Iraq–but seems to think it would have taken a Nostradamus who could actually speak in clear, sharp sentences, not just ambiguous quatrains, to have guessed what we might face post-invasion of Iraq. Not exactly the case, but at least he's learning.

Jeff Taylor way back in April 2004 on one of Rumsfeld's earlier comings-clean. Unfortunately, his being wrong keeps being news over and over again because the results of his being wrong keep being news over and over (and over and over and over…..) again.

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  1. Rumsfeld and Bush were both cracked on this. They had this idea that if you cut off the head of a government no one would have a problem with it because the government is so bad. Well, that is like saying you could have wiped out Hitler and none of the Germans would have cared or wiped out Stalin and none of the Russians would have cared. That is just not true.

    It goes back to this do gooder idea that Bush has that people are not really bad they just are victims of evil leaders. As if Saddam were the only person responsible for the Anfala or Stalin the only person responsible for the gulags. No how bad a government there is going to be a certain percentage of the population who do quite well and think things are great. Yeah, I can oppress and murder 90% of the population but I have to have someone to help me do it and the 10% who do help me and live on top are going to kind of like things the way they are. The idea that you could just kill me and the other 10% would fall in line is nuts.

  2. That’s part of it, John.

    But the Shiite militiamen in the south, the Islamists who were hiding out in the north, and a good part of the nationalists in the Sunni triangles WERE part of the 90%, and we’ve had no end of trouble with them, either.

    By perpetuating the “Baathist dead-enders” line to describe the insurgency, you’re committing the same mistake you attribute to Bush, except instead of focusing on one leader, you expand your focus all the way to the people on his Christmas card list.

    The fact is, nationalism and anti-Americanism are genuine popular movements and military forces in Iraq, probably bigger ones than Baathism. In Afghanistan, there was a countervailing popular movement/military force we could align ourselves with, the Northern Alliance. We supported their military goals (the defeat of the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces and the toppling of the government), and they supported our political goals (the installation of a pro-American democratic republic.

    We didn’t have such an ally in Iraq. The Great Crusaders for Democracy didn’t seem to think that having the people on your side was terribly important in an effort to replace a tyranny with a democratic republic. They thought that the Iraqi people would en masse endorse the installation of Ahmed Chalabi as President, simply because their liberators (who were not themselves in any way, shape, or form) told them to do so.

    The insurgency is the fruit of having people who neither understand nor care what democracy really is, waging regime change in the name of democray.

  3. That’s part of it, John.

    But the Shiite militiamen in the south, the Islamists who were hiding out in the north, and a good part of the nationalists in the Sunni triangles WERE part of the 90%, and we’ve had no end of trouble with them, either.

    By perpetuating the “Baathist dead-enders” line to describe the insurgency, you’re committing the same mistake you attribute to Bush, except instead of focusing on one leader, you expand your focus all the way to the people on his Christmas card list.

    The fact is, nationalism and anti-Americanism are genuine popular movements and military forces in Iraq, probably bigger ones than Baathism. In Afghanistan, there was a countervailing popular movement/military force we could align ourselves with, the Northern Alliance. We supported their military goals (the defeat of the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces and the toppling of the government), and they supported our political goals (the installation of a pro-American democratic republic.

    We didn’t have such an ally in Iraq. The Great Crusaders for Democracy didn’t seem to think that having the people on your side was terribly important in an effort to replace a tyranny with a democratic republic. They thought that the Iraqi people would en masse endorse the installation of Ahmed Chalabi as President, simply because their liberators (who were not themselves in any way, shape, or form) told them to do so.

    The insurgency is the fruit of having people who neither understand nor care what democracy really is, waging regime change in the name of democracy.

  4. That’s part of it, John.

    But the Shiite militiamen in the south, the Islamists who were hiding out in the north, and a good part of the nationalists in the Sunni triangles WERE part of the 90%, and we’ve had no end of trouble with them, either.

    By perpetuating the “Baathist dead-enders” line to describe the insurgency, you’re committing the same mistake you attribute to Bush, except instead of focusing on one leader, you expand your focus all the way to the people on his Christmas card list.

    The fact is, nationalism and anti-Americanism are genuine popular movements and military forces in Iraq, probably bigger ones than Baathism. In Afghanistan, there was a countervailing popular movement/military force we could align ourselves with, the Northern Alliance. We supported their military goals (the defeat of the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces and the toppling of the government), and they supported our political goals (the installation of a pro-American democratic republic.

    We didn’t have such an ally in Iraq. The Great Crusaders for Democracy didn’t seem to think that having the people on your side was terribly important in an effort to replace a tyranny with a democratic republic. They thought that the Iraqi people would en masse endorse the installation of Ahmed Chalabi as President, simply because their liberators (who were not themselves in any way, shape, or form) told them to do so.

    The insurgency is the fruit of having people who neither understand nor care what democracy really is, waging regime change in the name of democracy.

  5. It was wishful thinking. Time to admit to the world that we overestimated the character of the Iraqi people and our own ability to impose Western philosophy and morality on the barbarous East. But we won’t.

  6. Joe,

    I think the people of Iraq do care about democracy and a lot of them have died pretty couragous deaths and made a lot of sacrifices in the pursuit of it in the last three years. It is wrong to say that none of them care about democracy. That commitment doesn’t change the fact that Iraqi society was incredibly damaged by 40 years of Bathist rule. There were a lot of scores to be settled and a lot of bad blood. Anyone could on the ground could see that it was just a matter of time before the Shia and the Suni started killing one another. If anything, they have been restrained. It could have been Rowanda and instead is more like Northern Ireland. I think you have to divide the sectarian violence from the foreign Al Quada presence. The sectarian violence will some day end. People will get tired of killing each other. But that will not happen for a while and it is up to the Iraqis to do it. The Americans may help but they are not going to stop it. The Al Quada presence will not end until Al Quada is run out of the country and that is something the Americans need to do.

  7. John, “I think the people of Iraq do care about democracy…” Me too. It’s too bad we put them on the sidelines of their own liberation, because in doing so, we doomed those people’s aspirations for another decade or more.

    You can keep pretending that your side is the only one that supports democracy and liberalism, but the objective facts of how you handled Iraq demonstrates that you don’t have the foggiest idea what they really are.

    Here’s a hint – if you think the government should be able to torture people, you don’t really support democracy. If you think the government should be able to disappear people without proving charges against them, you don’t really value human rights. You’re just using pretty words.

    “That commitment doesn’t change the fact that Iraqi society was incredibly damaged by 40 years of Bathist rule.” As opposed to, say, Poland or the Czech Republic, who spent the fifty hears prior to their own liberation living in the splendor of democratic freedom. Stop blaming the Iraqi people/society/culture for the failure of the neoconservative gambit there.

    Iraqis can, and will, liberate themselves and create a democracy. It’s going to take a lot longer because of our screw-up, but it will happen. And it won’t take American soldiers herding them about to happen.

    “The sectarian violence will some day end. People will get tired of killing each other.” Ah, we’re back to the racist “those people have been killing each other for centuries” excuse. Iraqis, Rwandans, and Slavs don’t butcher each other because it’s in their blood, but because of political conditions. You people told us you – not they, not the Iraqis themselves, but YOU – would create political conditions that would have them living in peace and democracy. And when it failed, you decide that it isn’t the political conditions you created that caused the bloodshed, but the fact that Arabs are savages who just like to kill each other.

    Screw that. Bring our troops home, and the Iraqis will be able to work out their own differences. It is the height of racism to insist that they cannot do so without us sticking guns in their faces.

  8. “Screw that. Bring our troops home, and the Iraqis will be able to work out their own differences.”

    Joe you would have a point if it wasn’t for Iran and Al Quada. If it were strictly and Iraqi matter I would agree with you, but it is not. It is not in ours or Iraq’s best interest to leave Iraq when there are still thousands of foreign fanatics in the country raising havic. That is the problem. The fact is that this war has become about Al Quada. Al Quada certainly looks at it as important, why else are they sending in 1000s of foreign fighters? You can’t separate what is going on in Iraq from what is going on in Afghanistan. They are both fights against the same people. The difference is that there is a vail of sectariun violence in Iraq that is obscuring the war against Al Quada there.

  9. John,

    I think out continued occupation is hindering the Iraqis’ ability to defend themselves from both threats, by preventing the achievement of a peace deal between the government and (at least some of) the insurgency, and allowing the Shia/Sunni civil war (which both the Iranians and the jihadis desire) to grow.

    See, Iraq is just like Vietnam. Heh. No seriously. I don’t think the Iraqi army and police are cowards or incompetant, any more that ARVN troops were. Instead, they are understandably unenthusiastic about killing their countrymen in support of foreign invaders. At the same time, the nationalist insurgents are much more willing to kill their countrymen as things stand, than they would be if the government troops weren’t on the side of the foreign occupiers. We decided that a political deal with the Communists in Vietnam was unacceptable, and we were going to stay the course.

    A successful strategy would look more like what Blain pulled off in Northern Ireland. By initiating and negotiating an ongoing peace process, he split the IRA, while drying up the popular support for their violence even among Sinn Fein supporters. By convincing a large body of the IRA to abandon the fight, and denying the dead-enders the popular support they needed, it became possible to isolate and defeat the remaining holdouts.

    Something similar needs to happen in Iraq, but it cannot happen as long as ongoing violence and oppression by a foreign occupier is part of the political equation. If we announce and carry out a withdrawal in parallel with negotiations, it give the Iraqis a chance to pull off something similar. A large body of the insurgents could be convinced to change sides, strengthening the government’s position while shrinking the size of the insurgency. In particular, nationalist Iraqis (both fighters and civilians) would be split off from foreign jihadists, with whom they now have an alliance of sorts. As the war between the Sunnis and the government/Shiites winds down, and as the foreign jihadists are brought under control by the government forces, those Shiites will not need to look at Iran and its proxies to protect them.

    This pullout needs to be stages, in more ways than one. Stationing in the Kurdish areas, where we’re appreciated, will allow us to protect that longstanding sorta-democracy in case Arab Iraq fails to get its shit together, and threatens them. Pulling back to isolated bases, and to the border, will get us out of Iraqis’ hair, where we won’t be putting our filthy infidel hands under their grannies’ chadors, and also to keep out foreign influences, rather than having to fight them in Iraqis’ neighborhoods. And these deployments, as well as the eventual deployment out of the country entirely, still allows us to have the over-the-horizon presence necessary to suppor the Iraqi government when it needs discreet applications of our power, and will allow us to no longer be pinned down fighting in Iraq, in case other regional threats require our attention.

    I know this is a crapshoot, but it has a much better chance of working than more of the same.

  10. I posted some of this stuff on previous threads but I don’t know if anyone read it so I’ll try again.

    My suggeston for the Iraq war is:

    – Set a timetable or have some kind of concrete statement about when coalition will leave. Coordinate this with US allies and the Iraqi government. Disavow any plans to establish permanent bases in Iraq against the will of a majority of the population. (Although one could argue that the kurdish areas should be exempted from this statement and the establishment of military bases there should be between the US and the people in those provinces)

    – Attempt to open negotiations with non-terrorist elements of the insurgency and communities that support them and/or rely on them for security. Point out that the US has made a clear statement about when the occupation will end (and that fighting them will not make them leave any sooner), and that the interests of Iraq are best served if US forces can weaken Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the mean time.

    – As for the terms of ceasing hostilities with non-terrorist insurgent groups, I am imagining something like this:

    “All high ranking officers in this militia must undergo house arrest in a NATO country not bordering Iraq. You can switch countries but you must be in the custody of authorities at all times during your travel. You agree not to return to Iraq unless the Iraqi congress votes to allow you, but in no event sooner than 2015 (or some year far enough away to give the government time to prepare for whatever). The rest of the militia can continue to provide security if the people in that area vote to allow it , but they must cooperate with international forces and be under the supervision of the Iraqi government.”

    I don’t know whether or not it is the policy of Sadr’s militia, or those of other aspiring Ayahtollahs(sp?), to target civilians. He is such a big fish however, that if we could strike that kind of deal with him it would seem like the pragmatic thing to do in any case. Of course the people holding him would probably have to screen/reword his press releases to ensure that no coded messages are sent ordering the resumption of hostilities.

    – Then hopefully coalition forces could use the remainder of there time in Iraq to really concentrate on doing damage to Al Qaeda (perhaps with the help of some who would otherwise have collaborated with or tolerated them), and training Iraqi security forces to take over.

    – The issue of a majority of kurds wanting independence would also need to be addressed.

    PS: I am not an expert on this stuff, just throwing some ideas out there. Someone might come along with a really glaring reason why these proposals won’t work.

  11. “””The Al Quada presence will not end until Al Quada is run out of the country and that is something the Americans need to do.””””

    John, We are not sure if we can run AQ out of our own country. That’s why domestic spying is important. Soooo, what makes you so sure we can run them out of Iraq? If you do run them out, what to say they won’t run back in?

    Ok, let’s say for arugments sake that it is possible. It is obvious we can’t do it with 140,000 US troops and 300,000 Iraqis. How much more troops will you need to do the job?

    “””The sectarian violence will some day end. People will get tired of killing each other.””””

    I respect your opinion and agree with much that you say. But don’t jerk yourself around with foolish statements such as these. Sectarian violence can last for thousands, at least hundreds of years. People have been killing each other since the dawn of man and we have yet to be tired of it.

    It is true that much of the violence can be stopped only if the Iraqi’s want to stop it and there are only two things we can do about it. 1. Nothing, get out of the way and let it take its course or 2. Supply enough manpower to get between them and force them to sit in their own corners until they decide to get along. Neither is good option, and number 2 will require alot more sacrifice of treasure and men.

    The truth is we are failing to the point we have to keep redefining our end goals. The goal of having a elected Iraqi government will be short lived if real civil war breaks out and that’s real close to happening.

    Well, my definiton of civil war is similiar to
    Condi’s. The government must split for it to be in a state of civil war. Civil war will be more likely if Iraq tries federalism. It will be more like our own civil war. One area trying to break away from the others.

    I don’t see any solutions that allow us to save face. Defeating the enemy was taken off the table awhile ago. Bush’s current plan puts American credibility in the hands of non-motivated Iraqis. Where is the wisdom in that?

  12. Here we have misunderstanding #1,276 about what happened in Vietnam.

    See, Iraq is just like Vietnam. Heh. No seriously. I don’t think the Iraqi army and police are cowards or incompetant, any more that ARVN troops were. Instead, they are understandably unenthusiastic about killing their countrymen in support of foreign invaders.

    See, the truth is that the biggest problem the south had — was that they never put together a government that was worth fighting for. The SVN people by and large had no problem killing communists, native or otherwise. By and large people in the south were never in favor of communism.

    Of course, there are a few idiot academics out there who have tried to pretend otherwise. But they are most definitely wrong.

    Islam makes Iraqi politics a whole order of magnitude more complex than what happened in Vietnam. And most Americans have yet to grasp what happened in Vietnam….

    I for one have little hope that anything intelligent is going to happen over there for at least the next several decades. I also predict the most likely end game winners will be some flavor of Islamic extremists because, like the communists in Nam, these people know exactly what the hell they want and they’re entirely ready to kill to get it.

    Democracy, OTOH, requires that you have time for people to mull it over and chew the fat and disagree and hate each other, for a few decades anyway. A “coalition” of fat chewers, which the best that a democracy could hope to field today, has no chance against an enemy that knows exactly where it wants to go.

  13. I don’t see any solutions that allow us to save face. Defeating the enemy was taken off the table awhile ago.

    The problem is that the enemy keeps shifting. First it was Saddam, then it was the native Islamic fascists squaring off, now (and in between all the rest) it’s the outside influences.

    In Iraq we’re fighting no one and everyone. There will always be another Islamic terrorist group that can make a cause out of Iraq (and Lebanon, and Palestine, and Afghanistan, and any other Islamic leaning nation).

    Islam, whether anyone likes it or not, has never been a “religion of peace”. Most if not all of the “extremist” ideology doesn’t really run counter to the Koran. So until Islam goes through its very own Renessaince and Reformation (with all the accompanying bloodshed), Isalmic terrorism will live on.

    More than anyone else in this picture, I feel sorry for the multitudes of Iraqis who stand no chance of seeing anything rational happen over there in their lifetimes, no matter what the US does.

    In the long run, this discontented multitude is the only force that has any chance of driving Islam, and their government, back towards anything approaching sane.

    And that, I submit, should be what we exit the stage with.

  14. But this is at least as unsettling as Iraq.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/738ijawx.asp

    Somehow we’ve got to come up with a strategy to combat these people. A strategy that isn’t neo-con “we can remake the world”, isn’t Democrat “we don’t fight stupidity, and isn’t totally ignorant of the ideologies we’re up against.

  15. “””The problem is that the enemy keeps shifting. First it was Saddam, then it was the native Islamic fascists squaring off, now (and in between all the rest) it’s the outside influences.”””

    I don’t think this was the case. I think in trying to understand who the enemy was, we went through a few labels, I think we are still doing that.

    I have an idea on this. Saddam knew he could not fight us mano a mano, he learned that the first time. So I think he had a plan that would not be direct conflict, he would fake a defense and melt into the population right before our arrival. His guards would regroup into cells and fight a insurgency war, which favors the home team. That way we would lose much of our standard war advantages and saddam a better advantage. I believe the major part of the insurgency has been lead, and fought, by members from the Republican Guard and the Feedeyeen. I came up with that about 30 minutes after the reports that the Republican Guard faded into the population. The fade happened in mulitple places at about the same time. So I thought that seemed planned.

  16. Anyone could on the ground could see that it was just a matter of time before the Shia and the Suni started killing one another. If anything, they have been restrained. It could have been Rowanda and instead is more like Northern Ireland.

    The only reason Arabs don’t commit large scale genocide more often is because they lack the orginization, not due to lack of will.

    The sectarian violence will some day end. People will get tired of killing each other.

    Yeah, just like how the Palestinians decided to accept Israel’s existence and try to create a better future for their children. Its only been three generations. Any day now…

  17. I don’t think this was the case. I think in trying to understand who the enemy was, we went through a few labels

    Hmm. Maybe. But at minimum, I take the shifting labels as an indication that we didn’t understand who or what we were going to be up against.

    Saddam … I think he had a plan that would not be direct conflict, he would fake a defense and melt into the population right before our arrival.

    I think he figured we weren’t really going to invade. By the time it was clear to him we were, he didn’t have time to plan much of anything that wasn’t ad hoc.

    What’s happened is typical ME Islamic BS. These people could keep up this pint size pissing match for centuries.

    It used to seem like Palastine and Lebanon were anomolies. Now it’s clear they’re more like the norm. Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, aren’t too far away from being the same kind of hell whole.

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