Friday, September 07, 2007

Predictable Petraeus

So we are seeing the expected script from General Petraeus on developments in Iraq--the "mixed" message (progress is uneven and success is elusive but we are on the right track and need to continue).

Back in June, I had said:

My sense is that when General Petraeus releases his report, he will note that when resources and attention have been focused on an area in a sustained way, you can see signs of progress--but then recommend that the U.S. maintain or increase its commitments for the next two to three years--something I think is politically unsustainable in the U.S.

These are some of the comments the general said today:

--that he has the "sense that we have achieved tactical momentum and wrestled the initiative from the enemy in a number of areas."

"The result has been progress in the security arena, although it has, as you know, been uneven. We are a long way from the goal line but we do have the ball and we are driving down field."

He went on to say:

--"the progress has not, to be sure, been uniform across Baghdad or across Iraq ..."

"However, the overall trajectory has been encouraging, especially when compared to the situation at the height of the sectarian violence in late 2006 and early 2007."

So, something for everybody. What is important is that if this is the message we continue to hear next week, the general is giving the politicians no cover. Those who want to withdraw will hear that there has been progress; those who argue for staying will be confronted with an assessment that says all is not rosy and that there are real problems (and the related report coming out from the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq makes it clear that sectarian and ethnic violence is on the rise including in the areas now being vacated by the British)--so no 2008 victory for pro-war politicians to run on either.

More to come this week.

The General needs to explain to the dead-enders that tactical momentum is irrelevant when the politics are disasterous.

Although he is fooling himself when he says US forces have the initiative. Insurgencies aren't like that. The insurgents exercise the initiative by determining when and where they take action. Its like Mao said "Where the enemy is strong, retreat. Where the enemy is weak, advance." Since the "surge" cannot be maintained, all the insurgents have to do is lay low a while, and wait us out. We will then see conditions return to the pre-Surge state.

And that's the path we're on, back to where we began, at a cost of about 1000 troops, and a couple hunderd billion bucks.

Impeach Cheney now. Impeach Bush tomorrow.
The problem is that we have found the tactical means necessary to achieve a political outcome that is not the one we want. For the last four years we have been arming the Shias. The Kurds have been armed all along. Over the last year we have been arming the Sunnis. The political outcome that would make sense under these circumstances is partition.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, there was much hope in Washington that we would create a democracy as we did in West Germany after 1945. But there may be a different German analogy that is more appropriate. After 1945, neither the Western Allies nor the Soviet Union wanted to see a politically divided Germany. But the terms necessary for one side to consent to unification were not acceptable to the other, and the result was that Germany formed two states and we armed the western one.

It seems to me that we are now doing the same thing in Iraq. The Shias and the Sunnis cannot agree on terms for a united Iraq. The United States has now armed the Sunnis, partly because they have rejected al-Qaida and partly because the Sunnis are a logical and necessary part of any strategy to isolate and confront Iran. The logical result should be that we move our forces from the Shia areas to the Sunni and Kurdish areas of Iraq to protect these areas from Shia conquest. This should be a simpler problem of conventional defense and not a problem of counterinsurgency.

The real danger in Iraq is a civil war between the two Shia factions led by the Hakims and the Sadrs. The Iraqi Army is mostly Badr Brigade, ie. Hakim, and the irregular Mahdi Army is mostly Sadr. A civil war in the Shia regions could draw the intervention of Iran. But the Iranians might stay out so as to avoid becoming enmired in guerrilla warfare and the resulting Shia state might then see itself as a buffer state with the freedom to follow its own path.

The impasse in Washington thinking results from the dissonance between the tactical situation, which is moving toward partition, and the strategic notion that there must still be a united Iraq. At some point in 2008 patience to wait for the latter will exhaust itself and we will accept partition and relocate our bases to the Sunni and Kurdish areas.
I should add that there is of course no comparison with West Germany in political terms (the Sunni Arabs are unlikely to become democratic and liberal). We will only relocate to western and northern Iraq if the populations there want us to stay and if Sunni and Shia Arabs each cease fighting for the totality of the other's territory. Absent these conditions, we would have no political basis for continuing a military presence.
I think that the scripts have already been written and all that will happen after this week is that Petraeus "excerpts" will simply be inserted. Nothing will change, policy won't change, opposition won't change. So no big deal.
I think that US presence in Anbar or in Kurdistan is untenable. In fact, US presence in Iraq is untenable.

The context is very different than the end of WWII - US was not perceived to be against core European values then.

In the Middle East, today, US is percieved to be against Islam. How can a state dedicated to the destruction of Islam maintain any presence in that area of the world? How can such a state create an alliance of other Muslim states against THE state that has wrapped herself in the Mantle of the Prophet?

The path forward is all too clear: more wars or withdrawal from ME.
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