Iraq

Iraq: A Quick Review

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Think the surge has been a success? Here's a reality check from the conservative historian Andrew Bacevich.

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  1. Where can I cash a reality check?

  2. The thing with Iraq is that when it’s (allegedly) getting better there they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so well. When it’s very obviously going badly there, they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so poorly.

    So, what do we need? Maybe if the performance is mediocre the troops can come home? Not too hot, not too cold, just right.

    Wars aren’t a goddamn Goldilocks story.

  3. The last time deaths were at this level, John McCain judged the situation to be so bad that he took to the Senate floor demanding an increase in trooop levels and a new strategy.

    Now that they are at the same level, he calls it success.

  4. The thing with Iraq is that when it’s (allegedly) getting better there they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so well. When it’s very obviously going badly there, they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so poorly.

    aleast the message is consistant. All war…all the time.

  5. The war will continue so long as there are volunteers to keep it going.

  6. truly pathetic spin

  7. Just accept the next 100 years of occupation.

  8. We won the war in Iraq? Maybe GWB, Dick, Condi and company can now tell us what we’ve won. I won’t be holding my breath.

  9. Iraq? I thought we already rubblized it. Who’s up for best actress?

  10. J sub D,

    We did win in Iraq. The Baathists are out of power. The military is good at winning wars, they are bad at nation building.

  11. It is hard to take this op-ed seriously when it begins with “the fabulists”, “pithy formulation”, “facile assurances”…

  12. robc,

    Since “we” – meaning the United States – had both military and political objectives, it is inaccurate to say that “we” won.

    Even saying “the military won” would be inaccurate, since their mission was to defeat the Iraqi army in the field, overthrow the government, and secure the country.

    Two out of three ain’t bad, but it ain’t victory, either.

  13. What a terrible article. It wasn’t any better than neocons cherry picking facts to prove whatever they want. The only thing that convinced me of was the writer is against the war.

  14. Criticisms of the article so far:

    1. It is, for reasons left unstated, “pathetic spin.” (Or was that directed at the people the author was criticizing? Not a very clear comment.)

    2. It uses words that Kevin P. doesn’t like, and therefore we need not “take” it “seriously.”

    3. It is, for reasons again left unstated, no better than another group of articles that a commenter dislikes.

  15. They are unable to see that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound.

    Ayup.

    Interesting piece in RCP last week. I won’t post the Iraq debacle section (3 – basically, the military gains are temporary, politically all is lost, and that will “become increasingly evident in 2008”), but among all the bad news, he did have this to say:

    The last several years have seen a spike in negative international sentiment toward the United States coupled with American surprise that efforts at exporting democracy haven’t always gone over well, or proven successful. The main geopolitical risk in 2008 comes more from a change in domestic U.S. politics that will create greater policy uncertainty, skepticism over the United States’ role as the world’s policeman and – more troubling for world markets – doubts over the benefits from present trends in the global system.

    Some of that change is an election-year phenomenon, including constituency-serving statements from moderate Republicans and Democrats on the stump and, more significantly, the sudden emergence of previously fringe “America first” Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. and libertarian Ron Paul, R-Texas. A deterioration in consumer confidence in coming months will benefit their campaigns most, pulling the rest of the field in their direction politically.

    Hopefully, they’ll go the way of Paul rather than the “Aesop of Arkansas.”

    If they don’t, and the idiots continue to run on “the success of the surge,” they will lose. Just ask joe!

    Frankly, I think the Rs should focus on maintaining what they have in Congress (as futile as that might be.) The WH is already lost (thanks, George!), and Congress is the only hope to halt the Dems’ swift march toward socialism. (Yesterday’s Dem debate gave me night terrors.)

  16. Jesse,

    I don’t think its a very strong article either. It makes alot of general statements about how fraud is widespread and the government is non fucntional without getting into the meat of why these statements are true. It reads like an angry oped, not a realistic review of the situation.

  17. “Going to war is like fishing with a golden hook.” ~Augustus Caesar after losing his 3 greatest legions to Herman the German in 9 AD.

    In terms of a win, I too consider overthrowing Saddam as ‘The Victory’. The whole lets rebuild your country and be friends thing is risible. As for the failure to rebuild the country, that’s not the military’s end of the bargain. That has been controlled by the Civilian Led Occupation of Iraq. Also, The Military wanted to invade and occupy Iraq with 500,000 troops. Rumsfeld- an indictment on the assumption there is intelligent life- felt that 160,000 will suffice.

    As for the article, I thought it engaged a few talking points while being easy to read. Remember you don’t wanna put the public to sleep. Sure it was full of emotional rhetoric and puns. Of course it was anti-war. To look for facts in politics, for in which war is an extension of, goodluck. I do happen to like the part about the 1st SGT from the 3rd I.D. telling it like it

  18. Haven’t read the article yet, but:

    Wars aren’t a goddamn Goldilocks story.

    I must disagree. To win a war, especially modern war, you must use a certain amount of applied violence, but not one bit more. The hard (or you could say impossible) task is figuring out where this line is.

  19. “The recent agreement to rehabilitate some former Baathists notwithstand ing, signs of lasting Sunni-Shiite reconciliation are scant.”

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? I would say that the agreement to rehabilitate former Bathists is a big deal and a big sign of reconciliation. If it is not, then this genius ought to say way. Instead, he basically says, “if you ignore anything good, things look bad.” No kidding.

    “Even today, Iraqi electrical generation meets barely half the daily national requirements. Baghdad households now receive power an average of 12 hours each day — six hours fewer than when Saddam Hussein ruled”

    Overall electricity production is about 4100 MW, which is below prewar levels of 4500 MW at peak production. Now, what this guy doesn’t mention is that demand has risen. Further, Saddam screwed the rest of the country to keep Bagdad operating. Before the war, outside of Baghdad, the country averaged 4-8 hours of electricity a day compared to 16-24 in Baghdad. See Page 40 of the Brookings Institute Iraq Index at http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf. They don’t screw the rest of the country anymore, so yes, things have gone down for Baghdad but the overall picture is better now than it was before the war. This guy is either ignorant or lying or both to throw out such a misleading statistic.

    “Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the United States is tacitly abandoning its efforts to create a truly functional government in Baghdad. By offering arms and bribes to Sunni insurgents — an initiative that has been far more important to the temporary reduction in the level of violence than the influx of additional American troops — U.S. forces have affirmed the fundamental irrelevance of the political apparatus bunkered inside the Green Zone. ”
    What recent evidence? Iraq is a tribal country. Further, Iraq post Saddam is going to be a lot more decentralized. Where is this guy’s evidence that the tribes, who are in the minority and wouldn’t stand a chance against the Shias or the Shia dominated government, didn’t take the best deal they could get to get rid of Al Quada? Where is the evidence that they are going to turn on the government other than this guy’s wishful thinking? Maybe they will. Hell I don’t know, but neither does this clown.
    “Rather than fostering political reconciliation, accommodating Sunni tribal leaders ratifies the ethnic cleansing that resulted from the civil war touched off by the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a Shiite shrine.”
    That is generally how you stop ethnic conflicts. You separate the parties and give them a reason to stop killing each other. That is exactly what NATO did first in Bosnia and later Kosovo. This guy throws around the whole “we have fostered ethnic cleansing” card but never really explains what that means and why in some cases separating warring parties can be a good thing. Maybe the dislocations of people have doomed Iraq, even though worse dislocations haven’t doomed places like Bosnia. It would be nice if he would bother to explain how Iraq is different and why he thinks the dislocations mean there can never be a stable Iraqi government in the future.
    “In reality, the war’s effects are precisely the inverse of those that Bush and his lieutenants expected. Baghdad has become a strategic cul-de-sac. Only the truly blinkered will imagine at this late date that Iraq has shown the United States to be the “stronger horse.” In fact, the war has revealed the very real limits of U.S. power. And for good measure, it has boosted anti-Americanism to record levels, recruited untold numbers of new jihadists, enhanced the standing of adversaries such as Iran and diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan, a theater of war far more directly relevant to the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Instead of draining the jihadist swamp, the Iraq war is continuously replenishing it. ”

    Where is the evidence of that? Last I looked, Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003. The US has not been the victim of a serious terrorist attack since 9-11. What concrete facts point to the governments of Syria or Iran or any of the other governments of the middle east being any more or less anti-American than they were 10 years ago? People throw those assertions out, but what concrete facts beyond a few public opinion polls show that? Everyone hates us. Really? Last I checked they had always hated us. If the jihadist swamp has been so replenished where are they? If the governments of the middle east are appreciably more anti-American than they ever were, what actions have they taken to show that and if they haven’t done anything different what the hell difference does it make.
    Note this article entirely ignores the state of the actual enemy in Iraq. If the violence is down, doesn’t that mean that the enemy’s capabilities are down? If the enemy is losing his capability to do harm, then how can that be a bad thing? Regardless it would be nice if this guy would give some hard facts to back up his assertions. This article is a steaming pile of crap.

  20. 3. It is, for reasons again left unstated, no better than another group of articles that a commenter dislikes.

    To be fair, Jesse, the reason given was that the article uses cherry picked its information.

    Which raises the question in my mind of how someone can ever answer such a charge. Obviously there are limits to how much information can ever be presented in support of an argument, but I guess the question is whether the information presented spans the scope of relevant information (with the subtext of whether the author comes across as being open to nonsupporting information or whether he comes across as agendized).

    Articles in newspapers have stated in the past few days that areas in Baghdad that can be fully secured by Iraqi forces have been increasing, which on the surface certainly seems to be a good thing and wasn’t mentioned specifically in the article. But if, as the article charges, the gains are merely or even primarily due to money paid to would-be insurgents, then whether this security will last once the money (inevitably) dries up is certainly a valid and disturbing question. And whether Iraq can ever function as a cohesive whole without low level or overt civil war without our direct involvement may never be answerable until our direct involvement ceases. We ostensibly achieved a secure settlement for South Viet Nam by way of treaty, but then we pulled out and lookie what happened.

  21. The military is good at winning wars, they are bad at nation building.

    I think it largely depends on the nation. Are you going to tell me that General Douglas MacArthur didn’t do a good job of rebuilding Japan? I’ll bet not too many people in 1945 thought Japan would be one of our staunchest allies in the 21st century. We also did a pretty decent job in the long run of rebuilding Germany, despite the fact that the Commies split the country in half. I consider the Marshall Plan to be one of the great achievements and proudest moments of American history.

    But there’s no doubt that building a nation takes a long time, and because we succeeded in those places doesn’t mean we can do it anywhere. Heck, it took us 11 years to finally build our own successful government after attaining independence!

  22. I think a couple of different concepts are being conflated under the terms “rebuilding their country” or “nation-building.”

    Securing the country – meaning, establishing physical control over its territory, denying hostile forces the ability to operate, and providing for the physical security of the public – is part of winning a military operation. That is the military’s side of things.

    Establishing a government, creating or rebuilding the institutions of society, and providing physical infrastructure, on the other hand, are political rather than military tasks. Sure, the Army Corps might be used to do so, but they are still fundamentally civilian tasks.

  23. “But if, as the article charges, the gains are merely or even primarily due to money paid to would-be insurgents, then whether this security will last once the money (inevitably) dries up is certainly a valid and disturbing question.”

    That would be a disturbing question, but where is his evidence that that is true other than one quote by some first sergeant? Who knows, maybe the guy is right. The problem is that the article is so full of assertions and so short of facts and evidence, I don’t see how anyone could take it seriously.

  24. For his assertion about the tribes to be right, you have to believe that the Suni tribes are suicidal and are taking our money waiting for us to leave so they can go kill themselves in an all out war agaisnt the Sunis. Again, maybe that is true, but I would like to see some evidence of that. The surge backers can point to real drops in violence. What can this guy point to beyond, “it is all a mirage and they will get you in the end!” kind of stuff?

  25. You should know by know that Jesse Walker is out of his mind, unless he’s talking Johnny Cash or music in general.

  26. Not an all-out war, John. Just a quasi-secessionist movement/insurgency against national forces attempting to impose the central government’s will.

  27. Oops: Know by now.

  28. To me the lying about the electrical situation puts the whole aricle in doubt. Anyone who knows anything about the country knows the nuances of the electrical situation; Saddam screwing the rest of the country for Baghdad, the increase in demand and so forth. He has to know the figure about hours of electrical service in Baghdad is misleading and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t know anything about the country. So he is either dilberately lying to make a point or doesn’t know one of the most basic facts about the country. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the article.

  29. What can this guy point to beyond, “it is all a mirage and they will get you in the end!” kind of stuff?

    The uptick in violence since last Fall.

    The failure of the surge to produce the political settlement that everyone, not least the surge’s proponents, declared was its purpose, and the only solution to the ongoing violence.

  30. “Not an all-out war, John. Just a quasi-secessionist movement/insurgency against national forces attempting to impose the central government’s will.”

    Maybe. But the problem is that if the Suni’s succeed, they get a pile of sand in the middle of the country. All of the oil and the ports belong to the Shia and the Kurds. The Suni would have to outfight the Kurds for Kurkuk to get any oil. That is a pretty big long shot. I think it is more likly they make some kind of a deal where they join the central government in return for oil.

    The Shia are the majority so they have no reason to leave the country and the Kurds pretty much have their own autonomous zone anyway. It really comes down to the Suni finally taking what they can get.

  31. Re: Germany, Japan, and Iraq
    I think there is credible but not dispositive evidence to the hypothesis:

    “A necessary condition for sucessful nation building is the death of no less than 10% of 18-35 year old males in the old nation.”

  32. For all those citing the recent Baathist “reconciliation” law as a sign of political progress — you just may want to ponder the fact that, for some reason, said law was strongly opposed by the Baathists and backed by the Sadrists. That should make one think that maybe the law isn’t exactly what supporters of the “surge” claim it is.

    Check out Juan Cole for more on the matter: http://www.juancole.com/2008/01/so-big-political-news-today-is-that.html

  33. “The failure of the surge to produce the political settlement that everyone, not least the surge’s proponents, declared was its purpose, and the only solution to the ongoing violence.”

    1. Debathification legislation, which apparently is so good that even this clown can’t discount it only ignore it, is a big step towards that.

    2. You get the political settlement after you end the violence. The violence is ending, perhaps we should give the political settlement some time?

    3. The Iraqi police and Army keep taking over more and more of the country. As long as the Iraqis are able to fight more and more on their own and violence is going down, the importance of some all consuming political settlement, something that won’t happen for years that is not the way democracies work (when is the US going to come to a political settlement on the pending bankruptcy of Social Security?), becomes less and less important.

  34. Charlie,

    The Sunis didn’t get exactly what they wanted, it is called being a majority. The issue is what are they going to do about it? Keep fighting a neverending losing war against the US and Shia or take what they can get and move on? I would say that continued decline in violence indicates the later, despite Juan Cole and others’ hopes otherwise.

  35. when it’s (allegedly) getting better there they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so well. When it’s very obviously going badly there, they tell us that we have to stay because things are going so poorly

    Yes, that’s exactly how they teach it at West Point.
    Most wars end right in the middle.
    Both sides say, “Good. We’re done,” and they lay down their arms.

  36. John,

    But the problem is that if the Suni’s succeed, they get a pile of sand in the middle of the country.

    Like you, I was talking about the Sunni tribes, who seem quite fond of their pile of sand.

    1. See charlie’s post. Both Sunnis and Shiites are saying that this law may well end up with FEWER Sunnis being rehabilitated.

    2. The violence is not ending. It went down to 2004-2005 levels, which were bad enough to cause John McCain to start talking about a new strategy and more troops, and has since ceased dropping and perhaps risen.

    3. I could have sworn that goalpost was around here somewhere!

  37. 1. Debathification legislation, which apparently is so good that even this clown can’t discount it only ignore it, is a big step towards that.

    After years of war supporters erroneously claiming that “we’ve turned the corner”, you’d think they’d actually want to wait and see before preemptively declaring victory. The fact that the very Baathists that are supposed to benefit from this law oppose it I think is a pretty big fucking red flag.

    2. You get the political settlement after you end the violence. The violence is ending, perhaps we should give the political settlement some time?

    Oh man. “The violence is ending”, eh? I guess that’s why Iraq is still the single greatest humanitarian crisis in the world, right? That’s why there are still upwards of three million refugees? If by “ending” you mean “returning to 2005 levels” than maybe you’re on to something.

    3. The Iraqi police and Army keep taking over more and more of the country.

    We’ve heard this before. I’ll believe it when these police and Army units show that they’re actually loyal to the central government, and not their sectarian militias — and when 180,000+ American troops aren’t needed to provide “backup”.

  38. Wake the fuck up…I mean we haven’t stopped the construction of these permanent bases in Iraq…because none of what we heard about WMD or democracy ever meant a damn thing to these people, they have wanted hegemeny over Iraq’s resources and bases to launch more bs wars and intimidate nations in the Middle East…for God’s sake an economic crash is the best thing to happen to America, make us realize how foolish this foriegn policy is…

  39. Iraqi electrical generation meets barely half the daily national requirements. Baghdad households now receive power an average of 12 hours each day — six hours fewer than when Saddam Hussein ruled. Oil production still has not returned to pre-invasion levels. Reports of widespread fraud, waste and sheer ineptitude in the administration of U.S. aid have become so commonplace that they barely last a news cycle. (Recall, for example, the 110,000 AK-47s, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi security forces that, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon cannot account for.) U.S. officials repeatedly complain, to little avail, about the paralyzing squabbling inside the Iraqi parliament and the rampant corruption within Iraqi ministries. If a primary function of government is to provide services, then the government of Iraq can hardly be said to exist.

    I don’t see anyone lying. The first sentence states Iraqi Electrical Generation meets half the national requirements. The statement has nothing to do with the fact that cities like Basra only had electricity and running a few hours a day so that Baghdad could have infrastructure.

    The next sentence states where the infrastructure was- Baghdad- the electricity is produced 6 hours fewer than during Saddam’s reign. You’re telling me that the government can’t build a few electrical plants with 5 years and a trillion dollars? Well they are the government, so that’s no surprise.

    The Surge is working, the Iraqi’s are taking over more and more security details. Except the insurgents are overwhelmingly Iraqis. By making negotiations with these armed groups, sure we are bringing the violence down. We are also giving them a form of legitimacy. Do you think they’ll disarm and become political groups? Just ask Hamas what they think about that.

    If we left tomorrow, those people would kill each other like they always have. From 1959-1969 there were 16 coups and counter coups alone. I say, let em split into 3 different countries and lets undo a wrong created by the end of world war 1: The Nation of Iraq.

  40. John: While I think, for reasons other commenters have already laid out admirably, that you’re dead wrong here, I’d like to thank you for offering more than the drive-by comments we saw earlier in the thread.

    Fyodor: That is probably what he meant. Though it’s not very useful to tell someone he’s cherry-picking his facts without gesturing toward the information the author is allegedly ignoring.

  41. How did we “nation build” in Germany and Japan after World War II? We essentially left them alone to get back on their feet. And it worked. Their recovery from the destruction of war was miraculous. Yes, we stayed there, but we treated them as adults and let them live their own lives. We let them have their own government and own economy.

    We can do the same in Iraq. We defeated Saddam, now it’s time to treat the Iraqi people as adults and let them live their own lives.

  42. How did we “nation build” in Germany and Japan after World War II? We essentially left them alone to get back on their feet.

    I’m not sure where you got this idea from, but it isn’t even remotely true.

  43. So what would be the problem with having a referendum to decide whether or not the Iraqi people want the U.S. to stay or leave? Why hasn’t this been proposed already?

  44. The war will continue so long as there are volunteers to keep it going.

    Like your shitty band.

  45. One huge difference is that Germany and Japan had previously been democratic nations as late as the early 1930s. At least there was some pre-existing democratic tradition in those countries to resurrect. Iraq has never had democratic rule in its history.

  46. Mike M,

    I submit to you that the Marshall Plan delayed the recovery. A great author to follow up on this is Thomas E Woods Jr. Just for you to entertain some of his perceptions. Oh you know what, go here:

    http://www.mises.org/media.aspx?action=category&ID=93

    Select: The History of Foreign Aid Programs

    Enjoy!

  47. Les,

    I think it’s the same reason the feds don’t respect California’s right to have a referendum about medical marijuana. ie, we might not get the answer we want.

  48. One huge difference is that Germany and Japan had previously been democratic nations as late as the early 1930s. At least there was some pre-existing democratic tradition in those countries to resurrect. Iraq has never had democratic rule in its history.

    An even bigger difference is that Germany and Japan were, in fact, nations. Iraq is nothing more than an artificial construct of the British at the end of World War I. Without any internal “logic”, such as ethnic, geographical or historical, I’d say it has scant chance of surviving intact over the long term. Hammurabi’s Babylonia was about the last time a state existed that approximated modern Iraq’s borders, and just a few things have changed in the intervening 3,500 years or so.

  49. Jesse,

    Sorry but I don’t have time to write a 30 page dissertation every time someone posts a bad article. I assumed “cherry picked facts” would be obvious as to what I was refering too. Basically citing facts with little or no context to ground them in just to make a predetermined point. Which this article does in droves.

    To be fair anything less than a 30 page dissertation isn’t going to even come close to explaining the situation in Iraq with any clarity. So I apologize if I came off a bit nasty.

  50. Select: The History of Foreign Aid Programs

    Enjoy!

    Thank you, I will most definitely have a look at that for reading later on today.

    Regarding the artificial nature of modern Iraq and the lack of preexisting democratic institutions, there were indeed smart people who were issuing warnings about this even back in the early days of the war, and their warnings to this point have proven all too accurate. How prophetic Colin Powell was in his invocation of the “Pottery Barn” rule!

    Personally, I believe it is still too early to give up completely on Iraq, especially considering that we were the ones who “broke” it, so to speak. But we should definitely prepare for the possibility that the Sunnis and Shiites might never be able to peacefully coexist and govern together, and give serious thought to what our plan B is going to be.

  51. “Just accept the next 100 years of occupation.”

    McCain says he doesn’t care if we’re there for 10,000 years.

  52. Yeah, this article’s arguments are so weak that it works far better as an argument that the surge is working. He carefully lays out that the trends of change are positive and yet declares failure by some arbitrary static negative measures.

  53. “We won the war in Iraq? Maybe GWB, Dick, Condi and company can now tell us what we’ve won. I won’t be holding my breath.”

    They’ll say the world is a better place since Saddam Hussein is gone.

  54. “especially considering that we were the ones who ‘broke’ it.”
    I don’t go in for all this “we” stuff. I was against the war before we got in, I was against it when it started, I’m against it now, and I’ll probably have many more years to be against it. Almost half of our country is the same way. Why should “we” pay for a decision we didn’t make? Oh, wait, it’s because democracy binds EVERYONE, even if the majority’s wrong.

  55. crimethink,

    Yeah, I figured as much. It’s just a shame, I tells ya.

  56. The Suni would have to outfight the Kurds for Kurkuk to get any oil.

    The Sunnis would only have to make a deal with the Turks and the two could steamroll the Kurds easily. For all the talk of a highly vaunted Kurdish security force, it depends as much today as it did in the days following the First Gulf War on American military power protecting it.

  57. To be fair anything less than a 30 page dissertation isn’t going to even come close to explaining the situation in Iraq with any clarity.

    Change “any” to “enough” and I’ll agree with you. Indeed, that’s why I’m willing to give Bacevich a pass for summarizing his case rather than documenting everything in detail. It’s an op-ed, not a book.

    But I don’t think you can establish a charge of cherry-picking without giving at least a sense of what Bacevich is supposedly leaving out. And in the context of recent pro-surge arguments, I’d say he’s restoring context, by reminding readers what the surge was supposed to accomplish.

  58. “Last I checked they had always hated us.”

    They didn’t before we started meddling over there.

  59. But I don’t think you can establish a charge of cherry-picking without giving at least a sense of what Bacevich is supposedly leaving out

    From the article:
    Oil production still has not returned to pre-invasion levels

    Hmm. That fact is, I think, in some dispute. The IEA disagrees, according to the BBC. The IEA claimed in December 2007 that oil production had finally climbed to above pre-invasion levels, up to 2.3 million barrels per day from 1.9 million per day at the start of 2007. I don’t know if that completely changes the argument, because it depends on how key a piece of the argument one makes it. Of course, his unit of measurement could easily be the entire year rather than a single day’s production. (One can then dispute that the difference between the beginning of 2007 and the end is itself an argument about the surge’s effectiveness.)

    I also note that in the case of electricity, hours of electricity supplied to Baghdad has certainly fallen. I’d prefer if he also gave statements for kilowatt hours of production for the entire country. My understanding is that Iraq subsidizes electricity consumption fairly heavily, and that combined with an increase in demand with the lifting of sanctions has exacerbated the problems of electricity shortages.

    Another question comes to mind: Did falling production among formerly Communist states in the immediate years afterwards prove that the end of Communism was also a mistake? Exploring that would, I think, also require quite a large thesis as well.

  60. Regarding electricity, this source gives a strongly falling energy production during 2004, but an impressive increase during 2006. (The numbers appear to be given for a year after collected– they could be estimates and I could be misinterpreting them.) I’m confused because the DOE numbers seem to be different, as does the CIA World Factbook for 2007, even though the first site claims the CIA World Factbook as a source for the earlier years. (I have a hard time believing that energy production more than doubled in one year.) The CBO report here gives some pre-war data on energy consumption that claims 1436 Kwh per capita. Extrapolating from the population figures, some 38 billion Kwh perhaps were produced then? That is more than currently produced (outside of the 2007 CIA World Factbook results of which I’m skeptical.)

    In any case, it’s clear both that indeed total energy production declined post-invasion, but at the same time that the total energy production is not less than two-thirds of what it was pre-invasion, which is what an overly simple explanation of the cut from 18 hours of supply to 12 might imply to some observers. So there seems to be a lot more at work here than just a decrease in supply; demand seems to have increased. I would expect a libertarian to believe that government price caps on electricity could be part of the problem, both in encouraging more use and in discouraging new production. (Though most new production is probably state-owned as well, I suspect.) As well, the removal of various sanctions had an effect. It is also possible that, as sometimes claimed, electricity previously brought to Baghdad from the provinces is now staying in the provinces.

  61. crimethink writes,

    One huge difference is that Germany and Japan had previously been democratic nations as late as the early 1930s. At least there was some pre-existing democratic tradition in those countries to resurrect. Iraq has never had democratic rule in its history.

    That is a reason why we can’t “nation-build” it as a democracy – you know, the jusification for why all of these deaths have supposedly been worth it.

    It appears to me that we are no longer trying to do that. Arming tribal sheiks who are hostile towards the central government – this is about killin’ “bad guys,” a task just as well carried out by tyrants and military dictators.

    They’ve lowered their sites to something achievable – something just north of “ongoing disaster.” Which is probably for the best at this point, but is a tacit admission that this war was a mistake.

  62. It appears to me that we are no longer trying to do that. Arming tribal sheiks who are hostile towards the central government – this is about killin’ “bad guys,” a task just as well carried out by tyrants and military dictators.

    They’ve lowered their sites to something achievable – something just north of “ongoing disaster.”

    Not clear to me how much the target has been lowered. Still haven’t actually put the ‘ole friendly dictator in charge. Haven’t even gone so far as to simply support African-style democracy, where the ethnic group with the largest percentage wins the vote and oppresses the other. This is in contrast to the colonial style, where the colonial power supports the 20-25% minority oppressing the majority in a symbiotic relationship, since the minority needs the colonial power’s help to stay in the driver’s seat.

    Instead, still pushing for reconciliation, and still refusing to just say “screw ’em” about the Sunnis. Still trying to play mediator. So I’d say that there’s still quite a lot that they’re doing that isn’t the “easy way.”

  63. “””To me the lying about the electrical situation puts the whole aricle in doubt.”””

    Did lying about the intelligence going into the war place in doubt the whole reason for the war? It’s easy to nitpick non-truths for a reason not to believe.

    “”””1. Debathification legislation, which apparently is so good that even this clown can’t discount it only ignore it, is a big step towards that.””””

    You have to do more than just pass a law, so the jury is still out. John, how many Bathist have returned to their job?

    “””2. You get the political settlement after you end the violence. The violence is ending, perhaps we should give the political settlement some time?”””

    It’s a bold and uneducated statement to say the violence is ending. It is down, but to claim it’s on its way out???? Give me a break. They do need time for political settlement, granted. How much do you want to spend?

    “””3. The Iraqi police and Army keep taking over more and more of the country. As long as the Iraqis are able to fight more and more on their own and violence is going down, “””

    In Anbar the gains are a result of Sunni militias, not the Iraqi police. Their police can not handle it on their own, our assistance is required. Anytime someting big flairs up, we reinforce them.

    The bottom line is that “war” was over a while ago. It’s morphed into a policing action, in which we rarely succeed. That’s not to say Iraq won’t turn around, it has to a big degree but it’s a long, long way to go. Can we afford it?

    If your pride to win is stronger than you bank account, you’re destined to lose. This is how AQ has planned to defeat us all along, by us defeating ourselves.

  64. The effectiveness of the surge can not be determined while the surge troops are in place. Only when we start leaving will we really know if it worked.

  65. Fair enough, John Thacker. Perhaps a transitional state is a better way to think about it.

  66. Did falling production among formerly Communist states in the immediate years afterwards prove that the end of Communism was also a mistake?

    The methods used were certainly wrong, at least in Russia. Letting the economy go to criminals was an awful thing to do, just as letting Iraq be run by tribal sheiks is a bad idea. The mere fact that something is good doesn’t make it right.

  67. The fighting will start back up again for real after rama-dama ding-dong!

    Combined with a tanking economy, it might even be fierce enough to hand a brokered convention to Ron Paul.

  68. To me the lying about the electrical situation puts the whole aricle in doubt. Anyone who knows anything about the country knows the nuances of the electrical situation; Saddam screwing the rest of the country for Baghdad, the increase in demand and so forth.

    If you’re looking for the nuances, I find it helpful to listen to the electrical engineers. Good article in Spectrum, their magazine, here.

  69. The fighting will start back up again for real after rama-dama ding-dong!

    I see. It is true that some postulated the the 2007 decline in violence was associated with Ramadan (despite in previous years there not being a clear trend with violence and Ramadan), but I suspect that your argument needs to be updated since it’s been a full three months since Ramadan ended.

    You do know that Ramadan was from September 13 to October 12 in 2007, and that it’s not going on right now? It next starts September 1, 2008 and ends September 30. That’s after the convention, mind you. Since it’s on a purely lunar calendar, it moves up about 11 or 12 days a year compared to our solar calendar, and Ramadan moves throughout the seasons. This is unlike the lunisolar calendars like the Jewish calendar, which inserts special days in order to keep the months from changing season. While back in the 90s Ramadan was a winter festival, it comes in the fall currently.

    Of course, perhaps I’m wrong and “rama-dama ding-dong” was not some sort of remark about Ramadan.

    The Spectrum article, from early 2006, is interesting with this claim: “Most officials, Iraqis included, agree that there is more power available in Iraq now than there was before the 2003 war. However, that fact is less germane than most people realize, because the allocation of electric power has shifted seismically, and more or less in sync with the shift in political power.” And the situation with power does indeed seem better than in February 2006 when the article was written. At least, that article claims a mere 6 hours a day for Baghdad, while the originally linked Washington Post op-ed mentioned 12.

    The methods used were certainly wrong, at least in Russia. Letting the economy go to criminals was an awful thing to do, just as letting Iraq be run by tribal sheiks is a bad idea. The mere fact that something is good doesn’t make it right.

    “Letting” Iraq be run by tribal sheiks, eh? It seems that the Iraqis like the tribal sheiks, at least in certain areas; they have certainly more popularity than Saddam did. The US did not create the tribal sheiks, who existed and had local power under Saddam; the US did not particularly want to work with the tribal sheiks until the situation forced our hand. Preventing the tribal sheiks from having power would take a much more prolonged occupation and lots more fighting. Is that what you’re arguing for, a continued presence until we’re perfectly happy with the people in charge? Once you start talking about not “letting” bad people run a country, you’re halfway to supporting invasions in the first place (if well-run).

  70. John Thacker, you aren’t actually trying to be objective are you? I mean, you’re supposed to pick a side and then do your duty. You know, if you’re against the war then you don’t admit even small successes, or if you’re for it then you don’t admit any defeats.

    Jeesh, where did you go to school?

  71. The cat is out of the bag: Iraq is a great big fiasco. No WMDs in sight. No democracy in sight (though I have never understood why anybody ever thought it possible in Iraq).

    I will repeat my biggest reason for opposing, pre-invasion: Iraq will not settle down until somebody goes in there and knocks heads together for a decade or so. I mean serious kick-ass head knocking. Dead bodies and “human rights” violations and smoke and all. Something quite similar to what the Romans did when they were aquiring new territory.

    The fact that the US is not capable of doing the job, is the biggest reason not to take the job in the first place. For Iraq is one of those places that proves Machiavelli right: “Men are not willing to do all the evil that good requires.”

    The foundations of great and successful states are giant grave yards. Iraq’s grave yards are not big enough yet. Nor will they be, so long as we’re there standing in their way.

    Someday, perhaps right after hell freezes over, we’ll get out. Iran will take over, the Shias will kick everybody’s asses (including each other’s at times), and then the Iranian and Iraqi Shias will shoot each other up for a while after all that is over with.

    Meanwhile, to make sure Iran-Iraq doesn’t waltz down and aquire Saudi Arabia, the US will plant a great big base in Kuwait, with lots of armor and big bad airplanes. Ready to shoot up the big bad Iranians at a moment’s notice.

    But we aren’t pulling out of Iraq before hell freezes over. Because Ron Paul isn’t getting elected, and the US isn’t willing to do what’s required to pacify Iraq — but we got a really bad case of Pottery Barn Guilt Complex.

    So if you don’t like the war, get over it. We’re there, we’re not up to actually pacifying the place, and yet we can’t bring ourselves to leave……

    This is life. We can’t fix Iraq and we can’t fix our Guilt Complex. So we’re just gonna stand there and slowly bleed, for a long long time.

  72. it’s been a full three months since Ramadan ended.

    And sure as heck, the decline in violence ended, and it has started ticking back up. Not to Summer 07 levels, to be sure, but back to 2004-2005 levels, and with the trend line either going the wrong way or, in the most optimistic scenario, holding steady at an unacceptable level.

  73. I don’t mind putting the troops to work. I didn’t and don’t think Iraq was necessary. My problem is that someone did the dine and dash on us. We were told the war would paid for with Iraqi oil revenues, yet we are left holding the check. When are we sending them the bill?

  74. I also have a problem with using pre-emptive strikes on flawed or mis-stated intel.

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