Iraq

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

Making sense of John McCain's confusion on Iraq

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If there is any fixed position in John McCain's policy agenda, it's that we must never, ever, set a timetable for leaving Iraq. He regularly flogs Barack Obama for proposing to withdraw by the summer of 2010. So it was a surprise to hear him say Monday, when asked if our troops might depart in the next two years, "Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I've said."

I guess that makes it unanimous. This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he's amenable to bidding the U.S. goodbye on Obama's schedule. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown indicated his forces will also be heading home soon.

Even President Bush has now come around to establishing a "time horizon" for "the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq." In other words: "We're going to leave, but it's none of your business when."

Despite creeping toward withdrawal himself, McCain continues to lambaste Obama for setting a timetable. But if the current policy is the stunning success depicted by McCain, it should be eminently practical to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis by the middle of 2010. If it is impossible to do that, more than seven years after the occupation began, how can McCain say the existing strategy is working?

The Arizona senator sounded frustrated this week, insisting that Obama was "completely wrong" in opposing the Bush administration's escalation of the war in January 2007. "The fact is, if we had done what Sen. Obama wanted to do, we would have lost," he declared. "And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region."

What McCain omits is that if he himself had been right all the times before 2007 that he said things were going fine, no surge would have been needed. He's like a weatherman who forecasts clear skies every day and, when the rain finally lets up after a week, expects a standing ovation for his accuracy.

If we had done what Obama wanted to do back in 2002, we would not have lost—because we would not have invaded Iraq to start with. We would not have suffered 4,100 dead and 30,000 wounded or burned through hundreds of billions of dollars.

We also would not have diverted ourselves from the correct focus of the war on terrorism. "Greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region"? Apparently McCain hasn't noticed that we got those in spite of the surge, or more likely because of it.

The troop escalation has not been the complete failure Obama suggested it would be, but it has fallen far short of the triumph claimed by Republicans. The level of violence, though down from the very worst months of the war, remains at levels comparable to 2005—which were considered awful at the time.

Iraqi civilians died at a higher rate in the first four months of this year than in the same period of 2005. The number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces is about the same. Here is McCain's definition of success: returning to a pace of bloodshed that was once regarded as intolerable.

Even the progress made in the last 18 months is only partly attributable to the additional American forces. Equally important was the decision of Sunni militias to turn against Al Qaida in Iraq. McCain insists this shift was only made possible by the surge—when, in fact, it happened several months before. Does he not know what really happened? Or does he not care?

Also contributing to the decline in sectarian violence was that by 2007, the sectarian violence had already achieved its main goal: driving Sunnis out of Shiite neighborhoods and vice versa. Of the 5 million Iraqis who fled their homes in the last five years, only 30,000 have returned.

The refugee crisis is just one of the results of a war that McCain has supported all along. The surge didn't provide a remedy to that or the many other afflictions that plague Iraq. For good or ill, though, we have probably achieved about all we can achieve with the means available.

That's obvious to most Americans and most Iraqis. Once in a while, the realization even dawns on John McCain. But he lies down until it passes.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Excellent article by Chapman, I too was shocked when I read today that McCain said that the US could be out of Iraq by 2010 after all he’s said before.

    “Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I’ve said.” Is McCain going senile? The weatherman simile was great.

    I think that a strong Barr vote is the only response to all this, to get the GOP to really change it’s platform. I doubt that it’ll happen, but one can dream.

  2. McCain and Obama seem to be getting closer and closer to each other.

  3. Oh, come on. His position is hardly “confusing.” His position is simply that American troops won’t be withdrawn until it can be done and called a victory (and if it takes forever to achieve that, so be it.) It’s entirely unsurprising that as the situation inches towards something that could be called a victory, he inches towards saying that withdrawal looks like it could be possible.

    Of course, there are reasons to occasionally cut one’s losses rather than always pressing on; refusing to acknowledge that sunk costs are sunk is a bad position. OTOH, sunk costs work in both directions; opposing the best policy choice in 2007 because you didn’t like a choice in 2004 is equally oblivious to sunk costs.

    Even President Bush has now come around to establishing a “time horizon” for “the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.” In other words: “We’re going to leave, but it’s none of your business when.”

    Except that some combat forces have already been withdrawn. One might say, in other words, “We’re going to leave, but on the basis of events and the situation, not a timetable.” It’s obviously possible to forecast what the likely time will be, based on prediction of events, without wanting to make the decision based on a timetable. I can say that I’ll probably release software by a certain date, but I’d rather ship it when it’s done rather than stick to the timetable no matter what.

    “Greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region”? Apparently McCain hasn’t noticed that we got those in spite of the surge, or more likely because of it.

    Apparently Sen. McCain is making the argument that some of the terrorists in Iraq (particularly those who came to Iraq) would have gone to Afghanistan instead. Of course, perhaps we would have felt free to send more troops to Afghanistan if that happened.

    Equally important was the decision of Sunni militias to turn against Al Qaida in Iraq. McCain insists this shift was only made possible by the surge-when, in fact, it happened several months before. Does he not know what really happened? Or does he not care?

    Well, he certainly wouldn’t have known it by reading Reason, which was denying the significance or the extent of the decision of the Sunni militias to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq before the surge started, and even several months into the surge. Any such accounts were dismissed as yet another overly optimistic prediction.

  4. Greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region”? Apparently McCain hasn’t noticed that we got those in spite of the surge, or more likely because of it.

    Well, duh. The shift in terrorist resources is a direct result of the success of the surge – they are increasingly abandoning Iraq as a lost cause, and moving to Afghanistan because it is perceived as a softer target.

    The alternative, of course, is that the terrorists continue to go to Iraq because Iraq is in chaos.

    Which would you rather have? Terrorists driven out of Iraq and going elsewhere, or terrorists pouring into Iraq? I don’t see a third alternative, in the real world.

  5. “I’m going to make an appointment to have my tooth pulled. I need to solve this problem once and for all. I’ll see if the dentist has an opening next Wednesday or Thursday.”

    vs.

    “I sure hope my tooth gets better by next Thursday, and I don’t have any more problems with it.”

  6. Had the invasion not been so badly miscalculated (whether intentionally or not) from the outset, Obama wouldn’t be the nominee for his party. Had the “surge” taken place right after Saddam was captured, chances are things would’ve been relatively better sooner than now, and Republicans would’ve been seen as geniuses. Unfortunately there’s a group of total dumbasses running the party.

    So, McCain’s view that troops will stay until the job is done and it may be done sooner rather than later because of the surge sounds pretty legit. Of course, my friends, that’s not the way he is saying it.

  7. It’s always entertaining watching antiwar types pretend they can’t tell the difference between leaving based on the conditions surrendering the country to extremists on a fixed timetable.

    Iraqi civilians died at a higher rate in the first four months of this year than in the same period of 2005. The number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces is about the same. Here is McCain’s definition of success: returning to a pace of bloodshed that was once regarded as intolerable.

    That’s some nice cherrypicking and context-less handwaving. Here’s some more stats for you: 1,000 people a month died from violent causes in Venezuela last year, which has the same population as Iraq and isn’t generally considered in the throes of a bloodbath. And an average of 7,000 a month died under Saddam. The current rate of violent death in Iraq is around 500 a month. What’s intolerable, again? Oh, right, clueless anti-war sanctimony.

  8. “Which would you rather have? Terrorists driven out of Iraq and going elsewhere, or terrorists pouring into Iraq? I don’t see a third alternative, in the real world.”

    This ignores that terrorists came into Iraq in the first place because of our presense there and because of our destabilization of the country.

  9. “an average of 7,000 a month died under Saddam. The current rate of violent death in Iraq is around 500 a month. What’s intolerable, again? Oh, right, clueless anti-war sanctimony.”

    So I guess it’s better that we are killing them as opposed to Saddam.

  10. Actually, the claim that “Iraqi civilians died at a higher rate in the first four months of this year than in the same period of 2005.” is simply wrong. You can see this here:

    http://www.brookings.edu/saban/iraq-index.aspx

    You can cleary see on p4 that casualty rates were 2-3 times higher in early 2005 vs early 2008.

    What I suspect Steve has done here is take the old “violent deaths from war-related causes” and compared it to the current “violent deaths from all causes.”

  11. So I guess it’s better that we are killing them as opposed to Saddam.

    Oh great, the “our soldiers spend their time running around gunning down innocent civilians” meme has raised its ugly head again. I guess spitting on the military never goes out of style in some circles.

  12. This ignores that terrorists came into Iraq in the first place because of our presense there and because of our destabilization of the country.

    And this ignores the fact that we can’t turn back the clock and make all that have never happened.

    The question is, given that we did throw out Saddam, what do you do now? Drive out the terrorists, even though they may go elsewhere? Or (as Obama would have had us do) pull out entirely by March, 2008, because the war was unwinnable and there was nothing we could do to help the Iraqis?

    Really, its hard to find a time since the invasion occurred that Obama’s announced policy (to the extent it can be discerned) wouldn’t have been an utter fucking disaster. For us and the Iraqis.

    Once we went into Iraq, abandoning the field prematurely became the worst possible outcome, and should never have been considered by any serious person. The responsible debate should always have been about “how do we win”? Obama has never engaged in that debate, only putting forth a variety of timetables for withdrawal regardless of conditions on the ground.

  13. “Oh, come on. His position is hardly “confusing.” His position is simply that American troops won’t be withdrawn until it can be done and called a victory (and if it takes forever to achieve that, so be it.)”

    And who cares how many more of our young people die there to make the area more secure for Israel.

  14. “The question is, given that we did throw out Saddam, what do you do now? Drive out the terrorists, even though they may go elsewhere? Or (as Obama would have had us do) pull out entirely by March, 2008, because the war was unwinnable and there was nothing we could do to help the Iraqis?”

    How many of our young soldiers have died since then? I say we get out and cut our losses and let the Iraqis and others in the area stabilize the country. Would the country go to hell if we left now? Not necessarily according to Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration:

    “A US departure will not necessarily lead to genocide and mayhem. Iraq today belongs to Iraqis, a people with their own norms and tendencies. It is quite likely that in the absence of the cumbersome and clumsy American occupation, Iraqis will make their own bargains and compacts, thereby fending off the projected genocide and evicting outside groups like al-Qaeda.”

    “…once the US sets a date for withdrawal, it will compel the region to claim Iraq, forcing neighboring countries to decide whether an Iraqi civil war, with all its consequences, is in their interests. If nothing else, a failed Iraq will force surrounding nations to confront another deluge of refugees on top of the 2.5 million who have already fled the country.”

    “Faced with this reality, it is likely that the Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, Jordanians, Turks, and others will seek to mediate rather than further inflame Iraq’s internal conflicts.”

    Or is Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration not a “serious person”?

  15. “Oh great, the “our soldiers spend their time running around gunning down innocent civilians” meme has raised its ugly head again. I guess spitting on the military never goes out of style in some circles.”

    Whether our soldiers are deliberately killing Iraqi civilians or they are “collateral damage”, they’re still being killed. Those are deaths that we’re responsible for because of our presense there.

  16. And an average of 7,000 a month died under Saddam.

    An average of 1 million people died in German concentration camps between 1940 and 1952.

    Ergo, invading West Germany in 1953, and killing only 100,000 people per year in 1954-1960, would have been a great advance for the well-being of Germany.

    7000 people per month were most certainly not being killed in Iraq the year before we invaded. Or the year before that, or the year before that, or the year before that, or the year before that, or the year before that. We had already taken the steps necessary to prevent Saddam from being able to launch and aggressive war, or even a major internal crackdown like the Anfal campaign.

  17. Or (as Obama would have had us do) pull out entirely by March, 2008, because the war was unwinnable and there was nothing we could do to help the Iraqis?

    Actually, Obama’s position was that pulling out would have helped the Iraqis, but improving the political situation, reducing the motivation for foreign terrorists to flood the country, and letting them get back to the business of fixing their country instead of fighting us and dealing with the consequences of the fight between al Qaeda and us.

    When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled. You want to know when would have been a good idea to pull out, that would have helped the Iraqis? How about, before your “flypaper strategy” turned their country into a terrorist battlefield?

  18. Oh great, the “our soldiers spend their time running around gunning down innocent civilians” meme has raised its ugly head again. I guess spitting on the military never goes out of style in some circles.

    If only life were that simple. Do you honestly think people want us to lose or hate our country because they oppose staying in Iraq? Your earlier comments that I didn’t copy certainly imply it. For all the success with the surge, have you ever seen what we do? We arm, train and in some cases even give cash to paramilitary groups for peace with them. So instead of killing us, they kill each other. Those people are inprisoned in the concrete walls around their own homes.

    Now they just have better equipment and body armor when they are shooting up rival neighborhoods. Also the government is attacking the paramilitary groups in a pre-emptive measure half the time. The other half, they’re responding from attacks committed by these groups. We’re essentially throwing more gasoline on the fire so that people like you can point to some neighbors and say we’re winning.

    And the reason I didn’t leave to go back to Iraq this month is because Im going to Afghanistan in September instead. We’ve lost control of the south because the taliban fighters are being supported by the local communities. It seems paying the afghan army to destroy the poppy crops for the war on drugs is a priority over rebuilding their nation.

    So who is the Patriot exactly? You represent a group of people who sent us into Iraq not for survival but as a political option. The Germans in the Reichstaag fought all the way to the 8th floor. The Japanese incurred 2 atomic bombs. Those were fights to the end. This was us throwing a country without a military against the wall, not for terrorism, but as a policy signed into law in 1998.

    Or how about the people who don’t want to send us to Iraq in the first place. Who don’t wanna tell other people how to live. When we invade, who don’t want us to stay. Do you really think it’s hard or expensive to plant Vehicle Bourne IEDs everywhere? The people who say using the military as just another “option” on the table is reckless and endangers our troops for political gain. Are they the Patriots who love this country and our troops more than you?

  19. Actually, Obama’s position was that pulling out would have helped the Iraqis, but improving the political situation,

    Because nothing improves the political situation like undermining stability and security.

    reducing the motivation for foreign terrorists to flood the country,

    You don’t think the spectacle of America bugging out wouldn’t have drawn terrorists like flies? It would be a long, messy process, creating unlimited opportunities for terrorists and the destabilization they seek.

    and letting them get back to the business of fixing their country instead of fighting us

    Erm, the Iraqs who were interested in fixing their country were not the Iraqis who were fighting us. Besides, I thought the people fighting us were flooding into Iraq (presumably, from elsewhere) because we were there. Which is it?

    and dealing with the consequences of the fight between al Qaeda and us.

    Odd, if AQ was in Iraq to drive us out, that AQ mostly targeted Iraqis and did its damnedest to fire up a civil war between Iraqis. Almost makes you think that AQ had other reasons for being in Iraq, that wouldn’t have changed if we had left.

    AQ and its ilk would not have been satisfied and gone home if we pulled out and the Maliki government succeeded. They would have continued their campaign until Iraq was as they wanted it, not as the Iraqis wanted it.

    But, no, all evil in the world emanates from the US, and nothing solves a problem like the absence of the US. Which is why joe is such an adamant opponent of US intervention in places like Darfur, I suppose.

  20. We’ve lost control of the south because the taliban fighters are being supported by the local communities. It seems paying the afghan army to destroy the poppy crops for the war on drugs is a priority over rebuilding their nation.

    A vastly stupid policy. Will Mr. Hope ‘n’ Change’s surge into Afghanistan change that?

  21. “The question is, given that we did throw out Saddam, what do you do now? Drive out the terrorists, even though they may go elsewhere? Or (as Obama would have had us do) pull out entirely by March, 2008, because the war was unwinnable and there was nothing we could do to help the Iraqis?”

    You don’t change a wrong by continuing it–you just change perception. The fact is, if/when we “drive terrorist out of Iraq, then they go somewhere else and so do we in pursuit of them. What does this mean?

    1. A brief respite for Iraq until the groups decide to return

    2. We spread our brand of mayhem democracy to another country so that they can also experience us destroying their infrastructure, orphaning their children, imprisoning their men and bombing their culture–the net result is we give everyone in the region a first hand glimpse of why buffoon foreigners should mind their own business.

    Either we go in uninvited and kill and destroy until the chaos causes the countries to self immolate–or we go in a kill and destroy until we stand on the rubble pile and declare ourselves heroes.

    But either way–not one act will change the amount of death and destruction and no act will stop the dying and destroying short of us getting our asses back stateside. No one ever dug themselves out of a hole by digging deeper–you just change the size of the hole and if you are really crafty and a liar–start saying a bigger hole is what you had in mind–in the first place.

  22. “AQ and its ilk would not have been satisfied and gone home if we pulled out and the Maliki government succeeded. They would have continued their campaign until Iraq was as they wanted it, not as the Iraqis wanted it.”

    RC, you don’t think the Iraqis could handle as Qaeda?

  23. “Erm, the Iraqs who were interested in fixing their country were not the Iraqis who were fighting us. Besides, I thought the people fighting us were flooding into Iraq (presumably, from elsewhere) because we were there. Which is it?”

    It could easily be both. You seem to think that there is just one idea of what it means to “fix” Iraq. For the Sunnis, who enjoyed the vast majority of gov’t jobs and power pre-invasion, smashing that power structure and replacing it with what would logically be a more Shia, pro-Iranian power structure would hardly seem like the right fix for Iraq. So, these Iraqis fought the groups that were implementign the change – the US and the new, Shia dominated gov’t. (And,in what is I’m sure just a wild coincidence, the largest Sunni group in the Iraqi parliament decides to end their boycott right around the same time that Maliki announces that he would like to see a date set for withdrawl of coalition forces be discussed). And as for al-Qaeda, Im sure that their idea of a fixed Iraq does also not include a more Shia dominated gov’t. See, al-Qaeda types tend to take their religion seriously. But as for what the US needs to do in terms of al-Qaeda in Iraq, I don’t think engaging in what is essentially a high stakes game of chicken with people hell bent on killing themselves is a wise strategy.

  24. “Odd, if AQ was in Iraq to drive us out, that AQ mostly targeted Iraqis and did its damnedest to fire up a civil war between Iraqis.”

    It’s not odd if you consider that one way to drive us out would be to have ordianry Iraqis blame us, and democracy, for the violence that was being carried out by al-qaeda. It’s called asymmetrical warfare.

    “Almost makes you think that AQ had other reasons for being in Iraq, that wouldn’t have changed if we had left.”

    Yeah, they were originally there for the waterparks. But they stayed for the jihad.

    “AQ and its ilk would not have been satisfied and gone home if we pulled out and the Maliki government succeeded.”

    So, even if the Maliki gov’t succeeds it still means that we can’t leave Iraq? Because that sentence seems to imply that so long as there is even 1 member of al-qaeda that is hell bent on making Iraq his own personal land of Jihad that the US must keep the bulk of its armed forces in Iraq.

    “They would have continued their campaign until Iraq was as they wanted it, not as the Iraqis wanted it.”

    But that fails to recognize the disconnect between al-qeda’s goals and the realistic chances of them happening. Al-qaeda does not have a reasonable chance of making Iraq “as they want it” because the appeal of al-qaeda is not something that translates into what a majority of Iraqis want.

  25. Whether our soldiers are deliberately killing Iraqi civilians or they are “collateral damage”, they’re still being killed. Those are deaths that we’re responsible for because of our presense there.

    No, they aren’t, they’re protecting civilians from the poeple trying to kill them. That’s like arguing the police are responsible for every crime, because they failed to prevent it.

  26. RC, you don’t think the Iraqis could handle as Qaeda?

    Obviously not; they were taking over a lot of Sunni areas until we started supporting the anti-AQ Awakening movements in 2006. Leaving the problem to the Iraqis to handle the extremists themselves is how the country nearly fell into a sectarian civil war. They just did not have the institutions to handle it.

    Al-qaeda does not have a reasonable chance of making Iraq “as they want it” because the appeal of al-qaeda is not something that translates into what a majority of Iraqis want.

    Why would that matter? Do you think a majority of Iraqis wanted Saddam in charge? AQ didn’t ask them to vote on the matter, they told them to fall into line or die horribly.

  27. Well the main thing now is to help Iraq establish a government that in the long run:

    1 – Won’t break up into armed factions that eschew political engagement in favor of fighting it out on the streets.

    2 – Will be strong and stable enough to combat terrorists and other violent extremists in the absence of a foreign military presence.

    It is not just a matter of “how long should the coalition stay?”. There is also the question of “What else can we do to help move the negotiating process between the sects along (if anything)?”.

    Even after the US leaves, it can provide military equipment and intelligence assistence. It could make such assistence predicated on the condition that the Iraqi government does not discriminate against any ethnic or religious sect; so even if one faction gets the ability to do so, they’ll have an incnetive not to. Also, perhaps the US could use its influence with the kurds to induce them to split up the oil fields near Kirkuk and Mosul – giving sunni arab provinces a cut.

    TallDave

    What is your endgame for Iraq?

    Can you describe what you think the US and its allies should do from here on out?

    And how about the circumstances under which you would favor witdrawal (I presume you would acompany with a declaration of victory), and some idea of when you think its plausible that those circumstances might be met?

  28. I think you’re seeing us move toward it now: more reconciliation, less violence, more ISF-run operations against extremists, less US-run military operations, more freedom, more prosperity, more democracy. Just keep the current trends going, basically.

    Commanders on the ground foresee an almost exclusively overwatch/training role as soon as next year. Some of that training will take a long time; the Iraqi Air Force won’t be fully capable before 2012 or so, and their logistics chain needs a lot of development.

  29. a declaration of victory

    Well, we already have the likes of Joe Klein declaring victory here. But let the Iraqis declare their own victories in retaking the country from extremists (and they do, they aren’t shy about it).

  30. RC,

    Because nothing improves the political situation like undermining stability and security. As our intelligence agencies kep telling us from 2002-present, the American occupation itself was the prime driver of the insurgency. Look at Anbar, where ending our occupation and pacification efforts, leaving the locals to rule themselves along with their al Qaeda “buddies” led to the the locals turning agaisnt the jihadists and teaming up with us. Do you still not get that people take up arms against foreign invaders?

    You don’t think the spectacle of America bugging out wouldn’t have drawn terrorists like flies? I think the jihadists only went there to fight us, and the locals only tolerated them to fight us. Once we were gone, their motivation to be in Iraq would vanish, and as we saw, the locals would turn against them.

    Erm, the Iraqs who were interested in fixing their country were not the Iraqis who were fighting us. Funny, the people carrying guns in the “Awakeing Councils” were exactly the people fightin us. As were the Badr Bridgades, now known as the Iraqi Security Forces.

    Besides, I thought the people fighting us were flooding into Iraq (presumably, from elsewhere) because we were there. Which is it? I’ve made actual arguments. You can man up and address them whenever you get bored of your pacifier.

    Odd, if AQ was in Iraq to drive us out, that AQ mostly targeted Iraqis and did its damnedest to fire up a civil war between Iraqis. Not odd at all. Sparking the civil war was their strategy for making Iraq ungovernable, and for increasing the ranks of the Sunni insurgency.

    AQ and its ilk would not have been satisfied and gone home if we pulled out and the Maliki government succeeded. No, they would have been dead, at the hands of the Iraqis.

    But, no, all evil in the world emanates from the US, and nothing solves a problem like the absence of the US. Which is why joe is such an adamant opponent of US intervention in places like Darfur, I suppose.

    You probably didn’t intend this statement to be a demonstration of how completly inaccurate your depiction of my beliefs are, but I’m really enjoying the fact that you did so unwittingly.

  31. Here’s the latest operation, btw:

    http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/07/iraqi_military_prepa.php

    Iraqi security forces are massing more than 30,000 soldiers and police for an upcoming operation against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army in the eastern province of Diyala, according to police and military officials.

    The operation, which was expected to be launched this week, has been scheduled to kick off on August 1, an anonymous senior Iraqi military officer told AFP. “The operation is aimed at cleansing the region of insurgents, al Qaeda and militias who are still there,” the officer said.

    Like other offensives against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army, the Diyala operation will be planned and led by the Iraqi military. “It will be an operation led by the Iraqi army,” an anonymous US military officer told AFP. “The US army will probably only watch. … If they need help, we’ll help them. If not, we will not do anything.”

  32. I think you’re seeing us move toward it now: more reconciliation, less violence, more ISF-run operations against extremists, less US-run military operations, more freedom, more prosperity, more democracy. Just keep the current trends going, basically.

    Well, I hope you’re right. But my ability to be optimistic Iraq has been greatly damaged by the way things went the first 4 and a half years or so.

    While security has improved significantly in the past year, political progress has been slower. Some of the progress we are seeing now is from the government becoming more favorable towards sunni arab involvement. However, there are still significant issues that need to be worked out (how many Awakening Council members will get to join the armed forces, how will oil be divided up, etc.).

    Also, some of the progress we’ve seen comes from more shia politicians agreeing with sunnis that there should be a timetable for US witdrawal, and/or greater restrictions on the operations of US troops while they remain. Indeed disagreement over this latter point seems to be preventing the US and Iraqi governments from coming up with a Status of Forces agreement.

    This could be viewed as a good thing – it might mean that Iraqis have more confidence in their society and think it will remain stable after the coalition departs. But it also suggests that perhaps the US should consider a timetable (or “time horizon” whatever that means) as a way of encouraging this newfound Iraqi confidence.

  33. “Al-qaeda does not have a reasonable chance of making Iraq “as they want it” because the appeal of al-qaeda is not something that translates into what a majority of Iraqis want.

    Why would that matter? Do you think a majority of Iraqis wanted Saddam in charge? AQ didn’t ask them to vote on the matter, they told them to fall into line or die horribly.”

    For starters, at least Saddam was an Iraqi. al-qaeda does not claim to represent the Iraqi interests, nor is it made up of Iraqis, however a contrived notion that may be. Even if a majority of Iraqis did not want Saddam in charge does not mean that the allure of al-qaeda would come to rule Iraq. For all of Saddams faults he was still able to provide basic needs that are essential for a state to operate. He did many things that are characteristic of a functioning political body – built infrastructure, provided education, health care, created a bureacracy. To suggest that al-qaeda would then come in with an agenda to build these types of things essential to maintain any semblance of political stability seems highly unlikely (in fact, you have almost no type of evidence to support any such claim). But I guess when looking for any excuse to keep troops in Iraq to deliver “Gods gift of freedom to mankind” (w/ the US acting as the Big Guy’s middle man) even the most illogical of arguments gets offered.
    Again, Hussein was far from perfect and did not keep the interests of the ordinary Iraqi at heart, but to suggest that Iraqis would accept al-qaeda, whose main appeal is purely ideological and does nothing in terms of establishing a practical, semi-functioning form of gov’t is beyond foolish to accept as some type of reasonable outcome.

  34. “TallDave

    What is your endgame for Iraq?”

    It’s most likely to just keep stating over and over that the next few months are crucial. And then every few months just keep changing what “security”, “stability” and a “functioning Iraq able to defend itself” means.

  35. The US has troops in 135 countries – 70% of the world’s countries. I doubt very much they will ever withdraw from Iraq unless the US itself collapses.
    Reference:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance8.html

  36. “””Iraqi security forces are massing more than 30,000 soldiers and police for an upcoming operation against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army in the eastern province of Diyala, according to police and military officials.””””

    I’m sure they will capture that territory with ease since they’ve given AQ and the MA a heads up.

  37. Where did the “7,000 a month died under Saddam” number come from? Someone’s ass?

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