Surge Redux

As a follow up to my previous post about winning/losing & the surge, I thought this was interesting (h/t A.Sullivan):

By tracking the amount of light emitted by Baghdad neighborhoods at night, a team of UCLA geographers has uncovered fresh evidence that last year’s U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not have been as effective at improving security as some U.S. officials have maintained.

Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit, the team reports in a new study based on publicly available satellite imagery.

“Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning,” said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict. “By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left.”

The surge as John Robb long ago pointed out was not winning but rather acceding to the reality of militia control of Iraq.  [Really that started with the Anbar Awakening which contra McCain preceded the Surge but whatever…]

The issue as I tried to make clear in the previous post (one among many) is the centrality of the political.  The surge can not succeed (or frankly fail) when it is hooked to a unreachable political  goal with an overall strategy (national reconciliation) which itself can never be achieved because it is a strategy attempting to reach an unreachable point (goal of democratic, unified Iraq). 

Particularly when the surge follows on the reality of ethnic cleansing because the cleansing is at heart political:  namely the fight over who gets to control the corpse of what used to be the Iraqi state.  The “failure” goes back to the inabiilty to “mind the gap” created in the wake of the destruction of the Baath police state in 2003-2004!!!!  The peace was already lost (i.e. two years+ prior to the surge).  Once it became clear that the US was not going to fill the vacuum, and that everything was returning to a Hobbesian state (weirdly with a Leviathan there but not a backup to deal with state formation)–i.e. the war of all against all–the Shia and Sunni got on doing what they had to do in that situation….a civil war. 

The Surge following upon all that could not and did not reverse that reality. How could it?  How could in a post-ethnic cleansing situation could anyone ever seriously ask about winning or success?  When hundreds of thousands are dead and millions more are refugees? 

What the Surge did do was prevent the vacuum from being filled–hence the anger of Maliki at the US for financing the Sunni Awakening Councils which he correctly perceives as a threat and not getting out fast enough.  He wants to fill that vacuum.   We will see whether the Surge has allowed groups to re-arm providing them the (false imo) hope of an attempt to recolonize and undo the ethnic cleansing.  If so, it is going to be scary violent. 

 

 

New Iraq Plan Same as the Old

As anyone who had been paying attention figured out the so-called surge was creating a deeper embed than officials were willing to admit at the time–just like in the run up to the war itself.

Story from the NyTimes:

Troop levels in Iraq would remain nearly the same through 2008 as at any time during five years of war, under plans presented to President Bush on Monday by the senior American commander and the top American diplomat in Iraq, senior administration and military officials said…But it now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president. That ensures that the question over what comes next will remain in the center of the presidential campaign through Election Day.

This is the real reason Admiral Fallon was canned from Central Command.  He opposed the surge and now this new “pause” tactic.  i.e. No troop reductions until this summer when the military does not have the numbers to keep them at the current level.

On one level of course this is sad because I worry about the troops in the battlezone.  4,000 are now dead and many many more psychically and physically wounded, scarred.

On the other hand, from a tactical perspective, since a Democrat will likely hold the White House next, and they will be left holding Bush’s bag, I guess it is better that Petraeus do what he can to stabilize whatever can stabilized of the completely disasterf–k known as the former country of Iraq.

Because Obama (assuming he wins) is going to start the draw down and it will be horrific to watch.  Everybody is waiting for the US to leave and the notion of a “responsible withdraw” as Michael Ware said might accurately describe safe sex practices but not Iraq.  The non-alternative of course is to stay a la McCain and continue the slow bleed and decline of US influence and actual power worldwide–not to mention how many more dead and wounded.

This news also means (as the article correctly points out) this issue will be front and center in the Presidential debates.  Bush’s dereliction of duty and McCain going around saying that history will look back on him as this foresighted great leader.

I know the patriotism stuff with Obama will hurt in some quarters, but with Iraq (where McCain is so against the grain of the populace) and his economic policy–which is to give more tax cuts to an even slimmer percentage of the rich than Bush…i.e. more regressive–he is deeply deeply out of touch.  How can a man who embraces a failed occupation/war and recessionary (or “sharp slowdown”) economic policies not get hammered?

The three top issues will be (not necessarily this order):  Iraq, Health Care, and the Economy.  And McCain is in a serious minority on all three.  His party lacks the organization and the finances.

Except of course Obama is a member of the Nation of Islam/Black Nationalist Power Movement and hates America, especially hates crackers (er white people sorry), right?  So I guess that’ll even out the playing field a bit.

Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Nir Rosen: The Myth of the Surge

(h/t John Robb).

Nir Rosen, Arabic-speaking American Journalist, who is the (THE) source for reporting on the insurgency, life on the ground in Iraq, and the feel of the country, comes back with another disturbing, eye-opening account from his recent trip.  This one concerns the creation of Awakening Councils (Sawha in Arabic) aka local citizen groups in Sunni neighborhoods.  The effect?  Funding both sides of a Civil War which is looking to reignite once the Americans leave.

Just a smattering of quotations from the piece (read the whole thing):

“We are essentially supporting a quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves, which exist at the expense of central government authority,” says Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. “Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-a-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future.”

This meta point is extremely difficult to let sink in:

The Iraqis do not resist — they are accustomed to such treatment. Raids by U.S. forces have become part of the daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians. Every man in a market is rounded up and searched at gunpoint. Soldiers, their faces barely visible behind helmets and goggles, burst into a home late at night, rip the place apart looking for weapons, blindfold and handcuff the men as the children look on, whimpering and traumatized. U.S. soldiers are the only law in Iraq, and you are at their whim. Raids like this one are scenes in a long-running drama, and by now everyone knows their part by heart. “I bet there’s an Iraqi rap song about being arrested by us,” an American soldier jokes to me at one point.

The clincher:

To the Americans, the Awakening represents a grand process of reconciliation, a way to draw more Sunnis into the fold. But whatever reconciliation the ISVs offer lies between the Americans and the Iraqis, not among Iraqis themselves. Most Shiites I speak with believe that the same Sunnis who have been slaughtering Shiites throughout Iraq are now being empowered and legitimized by the Americans as members of the ISVs. On one raid with U.S. troops, I see children chasing after the soldiers, asking them for candy. But when they learn I speak Arabic, they tell me how much they like the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr. “The Americans are donkeys,” one boy says. “When they are here we say, ‘I love you,’ but when they leave we say, ‘Fuck you.'”

Gang on gang warfare, power devolved to the local level with local gangs & guns, and the Americans played by both sides within that game.  That’s victory to some.  The Sunnis are arming for another attack on the Shia post-American draw down.  The Mahdi Army is using the US Army to prune its movement of rogue elements.

Everyone is using a traditional medieval imperial Islamic technique of a hudna, to gain a better position, and then re-start hostilities when the situation improves.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.