Looking Whose Coming to the Foreign Policy Dinner

Story here from the NyTimes. Bush now is negotiating a “time horizon” for withdrawal from Iraq. But it’s not a timetable, I promise (fingers crossed behind the back).

The Pentagon is looking to send more troops to Afghanistan. And rumors (which is all they are at this point) of opening a diplomatic “presence” in Iran (don’t call it a consulate).

In other words, without really wanting to, Bush is heading to Obama’s foreign policy.  Reality it appears intruded on his fantasies for the region.  A little late and kicking and screaming but the momentum and direction is clear (minus an Israeli attack on Iran).

A Reverse Sidney Poitier.

This leaves McCain even more isolated and radical in his thinking. His only homey at this point is John Bolton. And craptastic Romney on his VP-whoring circuit. It will be fascinating to see what Johnny does with this–come out and blast the President? Say that we need to keep those troops in there so we can win faster so we can withdrawal faster? Or just say this was the view he had all along (i.e. the old bald faced lie).

McCain can bluster on the trail all he wants, but the first day in office were he elected (Dear Krishna No) the Pentagon would sit down and have an adult talk with the Commander and let him know that his campaign promises and strategies in both Iraq and Afghanistan are unfeasible. They can not be undertaken with the current state of rotations, numbers of troops, etc.

And for all this talk for so long about how Obama was this naif more and more folk keep jumping on the wagon.

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War in Afghanistan

A must read post on the state of Afghanistan in the Australian. Not the kind of media coverage you would see in the US sadly.

Does this sound familiar?:

“Coalition forces are winning every battle but losing the war,” a private security consultant told me. “You can go out and kill Taliban all day long. You kill 20,000 – and there’s another 20,000 that will follow them.”

Worse:

The senior ISAF commander who briefed me there last week was forthright. The conflict, as it’s being fought, cannot be won. He cites two reasons: the safe haven enjoyed by the militants and their al-Qa’ida sponsors in neighbouring Pakistan; and the rampant corruption in Afghanistan itself. “We can reduce the physical insurgency and hand over to Afghanistan,” the commander says. “It is containable, but while those two things remain, it’s not solvable. The insurgents will never beat us. We can contain it, but we can’t solve it.”

He says the best they can hope for is to “reduce it to a stalemate favourable to our side”.

And the Iraq parallels get even more destructively eerie.

1)There is not one insurgency in Afghanistan:

Another factor in the war’s intransigence is the complex nature of the insurgency. This is neither a foreign-based terrorist movement as the Afghan Government likes to claim – “garbage”, says the commander – nor a simple “Taliban insurgency”. Instead, it is “a number of parallel insurgencies”.

The players include the so-called “southern Taliban” led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001; and the “northern Taliban”, led by Beitullah Mahsud, suspected of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud is reported to have an army of 20,000 men, including countless would-be suicide bombers, at his disposal in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (a misnomer, as they are clearly out of Islamabad’s control.)

This group is closely affiliated with the network of warlord Jalalludin Haqqani, based in the eastern city of Khowst. Another player is the wily mujahed, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a 30-year veteran of the jihad, whose shelling of Kabul during the civil war of the early 1990s left the city in ruins. Hekmatyar has aligned himself with the Taliban, in an example of the murky and ever-shifting alliances that dominate the country’s political landscape.

Supporting all of them is al-Qa’ida, which, thanks to the sanctuary provided in Pakistan, has been able to successfully re-locate its headquarters after the destruction of its bases in Afghanistan. As the ISAF commander explains it, al-Qa’ida now operates as a “facilitating network”, providing money, ideology, training, recruits and weaponry to its allies.

2)Suicide bombings and road side IEDs/guerrilla insurgency is the tactic of choice rather than straight up fighting (those techniques actually learned via the guerrilla laboratory of Iraq).

3)The NATO forces are even more bunkered down than the US in Iraq pre the surge. They have therefore relied on aerial bombings, which has killed scores of Afghan innocent civilians, turning the popular street level view of NATO as going from liberator to occupier.

Now the outlines of a President Obama (as looks much more likely each day, my best guess now is 60% odds and rising) are becoming clearer. With even the PM of Iraq (h/t Newshoggers) sounding like Barack, here’s a prediction.

In a strange twist of fate, Obama has his own surge in Afghanistan (which he has long said he wants to do). Guess who is now CENTCOM Commander with emphasis on Afghanistan? You guessed it David Petraeus. Obama has Petraeus unleash his vaunted COIN counter-insurgency strategy, teaching it to NATO, to similar effect to Iraq. Who knows what happens with Pakistan as Obama seems wise enough to realize the Pakistanis are full of s–t and always have been and no “democratic” government or Dictator-lite like Musharraf is going to go after the Taliban, the tribal regions. Do we? I have no clue.

[I assume in this prediction that if the US goes in, NATO is going to follow (or at least not get in the way).]

However, bracketing the Pakistan question for a sec, as in Iraq, the central fundamental issue remains: no government. Hopefully as in Iraq, NATO can break the code on IEDs (now killing 80% of NATO troops in Afghanistan, higher casualty figures total and much higher per soldier than in Iraq) and like in post-surge Iraq reduce the number killed/wounded through these style of attacks.

But as in Iraq this will only further fragment the insurgencies (evidence here) which will work at cross-purposes to the stated goal of a unified central government. The primary difference I see however is that the Pashtun (unlike al-Qaeda in Iraq) have become the standard bearers of Pashtun resistance. The Sunni Flip/Pay off only worked in Iraq because AQI had started slaying tribal leaders and their families. Not sure this will work quite the same with the Taliban–unless they overplay their hand which is always possible I suppose.

The political issue–i.e. the only issue–will remain outstanding and then Obama may be forced with his own John McCain like moment (circa his second run for the president in 2012) of whether he pivots to a withdraw position from Afghanistan or doubles down on his own surge. If he does the latter (doubles down), BO could then have someone run to his left in 2012 (now I’m on a roll) and run the Obama script from ’08 on the Obama cum McCain 2012 version.

Obama, however, has let it be known that his primary purpose in Afghanistan and Iraq has been to eliminate al-Qaeda and leave secondarily about as best a situation as can be expected in the countries. So he’s not locked himself into the “victory” delusion mindset of the current Bushian McCainian Republicans.

Right now Obama has the center and left (and sane right) with the idea that Iraq was a failure strategically (however well fought militarily). As Iraq pull down begins and is mostly finished about halfway or 2/3 into his first term, I wonder if a new chorus will begin applying the same logic to Afghanistan?

The wild card of course in all this is the country nestled between Iraq and Afghanistan, i.e. Iran. Obama realizes that you can’t be fighting 3 wars (or 2 1/2 I guess as Iran wouldn’t be a land invasion) simultaneously. As Thomas Barnett has always said, Iran has always had a veto in Iraq. And they as well as Sistani now appear to be cashing that in.

If things with Iran get “kinetic” then all bets are off as the board is completely re-altered and then we might be headed for a political terrorist singularity beyond anyone’s ken.

P. Cockburn on Iraq

From a reporter who actually is in Iraq and sees many different angles than that of the pre-approved US Army tours given to the US media, a very lucid analysis of the current state of play in Iraq.  Much subtler than say this fluff piece by Andrew Sullivan which has got so many holes below the water line tough to know where to begin (did I mention he is supposedly one of the “critical” voices in the blogosphere on the topic?).

On the one hand, Cockburn notes that Maliki’s government is stronger than it has been probably ever.  This is leading to claims of “the surge is working” “victory is at hand if only the Democrats don’t cut and run” for the umpteenth trillion time from the right.  Strong enough however (contra McCain-Bush) that they have rejected a Security of Forces Agreement for the time being (due to in part Iranian pressure).

However:

The government’s position looks stronger than it is because its opponents are waiting for the Americans to leave or draw  down their forces.

The Provincial Elections are a major sticking point and likely won’t take place in October.  Kirkuk is outstanding.  One of the Sunni Iraqi parties has rejoined the government so that Maliki and crew can help break the (Sunni competitors) Sons of Iraq who likely would knock the older Sunni parties out of power if the elections were actually free.  Same with Maliki and the ISCI in relation to Sadr (hence the crackdown on his militia).

And even if it succeeds, what would be “victory”:

Their aim seems to be to be eliminate their domestic Iraqi  opponents while they still have the backing of American firepower. It is a  brutal plan but it might come off. Maliki could become the Iraqi version of  Vladimir Putin in Russia. Like Putin, Maliki controls the state machine, a  large if unreliable army and benefits from the high price of oil so he has  control of over $40 billion in unspent reserves. Iraqis do not trust their  own government but, like Russians when Putin first came to power in  1999, they are desperately war weary. Many people will support anybody  who provides peace and security. But the analogy should not be carried  too far. Putin’s enemies were fictional or in distant Chechnya, while Maliki’s  opponents are real, dangerous and close by.

And even were that to happen, there is the issue of Iran:

An increase in Iranian influence in Iraq has been  inevitable since 2003. Once the US had decided to overthrow Saddam  Hussein the beneficiaries were always going to be the Shia religious  parties, because they represented the majority of Iraqis, and they would  be supported by Iran. Many of America’s problems in Iraq over the last five  years have happened because Washington believed it could prevent or  dilute the triumph of Iran and the Shia in Iraq.

As Joe Biden had said repeatedly there are three ways this ends:

1)Total Slaughter/Exodus of the Sunnis (reduction of their population to complete servitude, minority status)

2)A return of a Dictator.  That is the Maliki cum Putin scenario.

3)Break/Federalization of the Country.

The scenario Cockburn outlines where the US follows to the T the history of the British in Iraq and attempts to create permanent bases with a puppet government would certainly end the same way the British occupation of Iraq did–in ignominious defeat, as well as the overthrow of the puppet government and the installation of a new anti-British (i.e. anti-American in this case) regime.  In the short term that seems off the table as Maliki seems to have effectively pushed back on the deal.  McCain and Bush still want it, Obama doesn’t.  And more importantly the vast majority of the Iraqi population doesn’t either.

As Cockburn points out the only reason the American occupation continues is because the Shia and Sunni are fighting a low-grade civil war as well as intra-Shia and intra-Sunni wars.  The US policy of arming and training the Iraqi forces, the Sons of Iraq, and the new attempt to create Sons of Iraq Shia-style in former Mahdi Army strongholds, is what allows the occupation to continue but only further weakens the hold of the central government, tenuous at best, and prevents a large scale political endgame.  The Surge and attendant tactics works at cross purposes to the stated goal and strategy of Iraq.  Even in this best case scenario, the return is to a strongman dictator.  In which case why have spent so much time, blood, and money to get another dictator in power? Unless it is so that dictator (like Saddam a la 1985 becomes back to being “our son of a bitch.”  And so foreign oil companies can reap the benefits, Disaster Capitalism style, of pillaging the oil in Iraq leaving the country (minus some power elites) destitute and war torn.

The Iraq Double Bind

Perfectly described by Spencer Ackerman (italics in original):

(SOI=Sons of Iraq, the Sunni Tribes that the US Army is essentially bribing to not fight them and take out the so-called al-Qaeda in Iraq):

If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen — there are probably over 100,000 of them by now — then they have little incentive to keep their guns pointed away from U.S. troops, as the Maliki government has made it clear it distrusts them intensely. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we undermine the ability of the government that we still support to ever achieve a monopoly on the use of force, and put cash into the pockets of brutal men who, in many cases, promise to shoot their way to power. If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, al-Qaeda could reemerge in Iraq. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, the Shiites in the government will remain intransigent in terms of reconciliation, fearing that the armed Sunnis are getting ready to take a mile if given an inch. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we risk a resurgence of violence. If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we risk a resurgence of violence. Any and all of these possibilities exist whether or not we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen. Pick your poison.

The analysis as a meta point on news that one of the Sons of Iraq Abu Abed has fled to Jordan because he has been accused of murder by the Maliki gov’t.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zakaria on Obama Re: Iraq

Zakaria outlines a speech for Obama on the subject here.

Key quotation (my italics):

These reversals of strategy have had the effect of creating what General Petraeus calls ‘breathing space’ for political reconciliation. And he has always said that without political progress in Iraq, military efforts will not produce any lasting success.

“He is right. All today’s gains could disappear when American troops leave—and they will have to leave one day. The disagreement I have with the Bush administration is that it seems to believe that time will magically make these gains endure. It won’t. Without political progress, once the United States reduces its forces, the old mistrust and the old militias will rise up again. Only genuine political power-sharing will create a government and an Army that are seen as national and not sectarian. And that, in turn, is the only path to make Iraq viable without a large American military presence.

In other words, Zakaria is advocating a policy of conditional engagement.  FYI: Colin Kahl author of the policy is an Obama adviser.

While a part of me leans to the William Odom rebuttal (same piece linked above) that is not politically feasible in US politics (see Democratic Nominee Bill Richardson for proof).  I also tend to lean towards a Biden federalization plan outlook (Obama so far has not and Zakaria’s speech correctly reflects that fact).

My fear is a combination of the (by me) italicized passage as fundamentally correct as well as the inability of the US to help broker political progress (Odom’s point as well William Lind’s).  Meaning the inevitability of the return (they never really left) of the militias.

Nevertheless, still sane points in Zakaria’s approach.  One point that would add strength to the speech is a call for no permanent bases.

Published in: on June 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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As Good as Post on Iraq as You’ll Read

From Dr. I-Rack at Abu Muqawama. He details good news, lingering bad news, and potential deal breakers.

On the positive side violence against US forces is down to 2004 levels however:

1. The right metric for violence? Attack levels are now down to March 2004 levels, but overall Iraqi civilian casualty numbers over the past few months (perhaps a better gauge of stability) are still at late 2005/early 2006 levels. That is a big improvement over late 2006/early 2007, but Iraq remains a very dangerous place.

Maliki has won some short term tactical victories against Sadr (it would appear) and according to the good Dr. may have a moment’s opening with the Sunnis. But Maliki is not interested in dealing with the Sunnis, integrating the Awakening Sons of Iraq into the army or any such thing. Maliki sees his role as the protection of the Shia particularly the traditional Shia order. Down the road the question is how long can the ISCI (which wants federal Shia regionalization in the South) and Maliki (who wants to become a strongman dictator) link up last? Seems to me some potential tension points there.

As with other operations, some networks of the Mahdi Army clearly have been hit, but also some have not. Plenty have escaped, the balloon was squeezed and people went elsewhere. Sadr is moving towards revolution from below via the poor outreach social organization of the movement.

And more importantly the tactical wins to the degree they happened were dependent (as Dr. points out) due to US airstrikes and logistics.

To invoke Biden for a second, this still does not get at the heart of the lack of a political deal. Just seems like different militias (some the government, some not) moving pieces on a chessboard and some short term reduction in violence (though again far too high for civilians).

To wit:

3. Electing to fight. There is a real danger of violent intra-sectarian competition in the lead-up to, or immediate aftermath of, the provincial elections. For obvious reasons, considerable attention has been paid to intra-Shia fights in recent months between Dawa/ISCI and OMS/JAM, and this could generate more strife as the ascendant but still unpopular Dawa/ISCI compete with OMS/JAM’s residual “street” power. Less noted in the media is the risk for intra-Sunni clashes between tribal and Awakening forces and “Green Zone” Sunni groups (Tawafoq/IIP) in the lead up to elections or in their aftermath if either side feels like they were cheated out of their rightful share of power.

So to bring this back to US political discourse, when Andrew Sullivan (and a reader who sends in the comment he responds to) says that McCain was as right in 2007 as Obama was in 2002, this doesn’t quite work.

Because this is still conflating correctness relative to military tactics (McCain) with overall strategic correctness (Obama). I could even quibble with the McCain was right tactically given the real reductions had to do with the flipping of the Sunni tribes (which started before the surge and is not tied to the surge), the separation of the populations/ethnic cleansing of Baghdad (again prior the surge), etc, but I’ll just give him that for the purposes of the argument.

The reader’s comment states:

The fact remains: he [McCain] was right about the surge. Not necessarily about what to do next, or what our long-term goals in Iraq should be, but about the need to reduce violence and reach a minimum level of stability before we could expect any political progress.

Everything following the but seems on the surface to make logical sense. But I think what Iraq has shown overall is that the US has no influence over the politics and the assumption that the US working to create some local deals, reduce violence, security does not translate (at least hasn’t yet) into political progress. I actually think it won’t and is structurally set up not to. In a weird way (and disturbing because obviously I don’t want this) I actually think there won’t be political “progress” or rather end-game status/new equilibrium until there is more violence. Horrifically much more violence.

The only other option being that Maliki does in fact become a dictator in which case we’ve changed a Sunni dictator for perhaps a slightly less villainous Shia one. Though by most accounts Maliki would give Hussein a good run for his money on levels of paranoia. [Though in the Iraqi context, what I would label paranoia might from that vantage point be better termed intelligence].

I should put my cards out on the table and state that I think the country known as Iraq is gone and is not coming back. All Petraeus’ horses and all his men are not putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

In that sense, McCain and his support of the surge may not have been right nor wrong but merely sideways to the central issue: there’s no endgame. The reader admits nearly as much but I don’t think takes that insight to its conclusion. Namely if there is no sense of where to go next and any ability to influence such a plan, how then does reduction in violence lead to a place no one really has any idea about? Made worse insofar as McCain publicly upholds the idea of a unified pan-ethnic state that is an ally in the war on terror.

[And this is not to downplay the reduction in violence, though if the gains in violence reduction are more to with the US army, then obviously withdrawing troops a la Baker-Hamilton would have reduced probably more violence against US soldiers as there would be a lot less of them].

Iran Failing in Iraq?

Image here. Iraqi Army unit with American soldiers.

Vali Nasr pens a very interesting piece today in the Washington Post here.  He argues that Iran has taken a major hit in Iraq with the offensive by Maliki against the Mahdi Army.

Nasr:

Iran wants U.S. forces to leave Iraq and assumes that a friendly Shiite government would then protect Iran’s interests. Tehran has looked to Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards‘ Quds Force, to manage its strategy of supporting Shiite unity and resisting American occupation. But these efforts do not go hand in hand. The first means supporting stability and state-building and working with Iraq’s government; the second involves building violent militias that undermine government authority.

For Nasr these two were in tension with voices like anti-Ahmadinejad/Revolutionary Guards Ali Larijani and Tehran Mayor Mohammed Qalibaf (likely next president of Iran) were calling for full support of the Iraqi government and the end of supporting rogue elements of the Mahdi Army.  Or not so rogue elements of the Mahdi Army according to some reports.

This points out how useless the American policy of ratcheting up pressure with Iran via Iraq has been.  The clear and obvious alliance was always pro-Shia government (not Sadr) between the two countries.

I think Vasr may overestimate the degree to which Sadr has lost out (I’ve learned never to underestimate that guy) and how this might give the US leverage to negotiate with Iran (from a position of strength–which would be fine by me, I’m for negotiations and ending this ludicrously and dangerously ignorant policy of Iranian isolation) but this sounds correct to me:

Iran still has considerable influence in Iraq. It may reconstitute the Mahdi Army and pick up the fight against America, using special groups of the type suspected in the Baghdad car bombing Tuesday. It may also try to use nationalist opposition to the U.S.-Iraq “status of forces” agreement to its advantage. But Tehran will find it difficult to regain lost turf in Baghdad or Basra, or to go back to happily supporting Shiites both at the center and in the militias. It will have to choose whether it is with the state or the sub-state actors.

As much as I have criticized Bush & Co. (rightly) for their wrongheaded position vis a vis Iran, there is also the revolutionary-expansionist wing of Iran that is a serious part of the problem (equally wanting to ratchet up for their own political ideology), the response to which I’ve always thought is that if they think they are so smart and can handle Iraq, give it to them and watch it be their Poland or Vietnam or whatever analogy you prefer.

On the other hand, there is still a fundamental inconsistency not mentioned by Nasr regarding the Maliki government.  How can the central government be strong via parties that seek regional autonomy?  Unless the government is a function of the achievement of power via militias.  The Maliki and SIIC militias may be better in terms of market reforms, women not being forced as much into Islamist garb/oppression, but there still remains the question of why the US should be inserting itself into an intra-Shia theocratic fight.  But if it does for God’s sake, make common cause with the elements of Iran that want to support this militia (over Sadr).  What you can’t have, and which we do, is the Maliki/SIIC position while maintaining the anti-Iran position thereby failing to see the parties within Iran jockeying for power and neutralizing the US ability to empower elements more to its liking.

Though of course I am forgetting, Israel’s truce with Hamas is a victory for Iran and now come to think of it, I’m an appeaser.  So you probably shouldn’t listen to what I have to say on the matter.

Published in: on June 19, 2008 at 6:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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Iraq Update

About that success/turning the corner/victory within reach, a little snag (or two):

BAGHDAD, June 13 — The Bush administration’s Iraq policy suffered two major setbacks Friday when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly rejected key U.S. terms for an ongoing military presence and anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a new militia offensive against U.S. forces.

Power and credibility is gained in Iraq through opposing the US.  Maliki’s pro-US position was untenable once it was clear Bush was trying to ram through a long term base.  This will likely push Maliki even closer to Iran as Iran will be the one propping this government up.

The moves by two of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders underscore how the presence of U.S. troops has become a central issue for Iraqi politicians as they position themselves for provincial elections later this year. Iraqis across the political spectrum have grown intolerant of the U.S. presence, but the dominant Shiite parties — including Maliki’s Dawa party — are especially fearful of an electoral challenge from new, grass-roots groups.

Hey they are starting to look like a sovereign entity after all (Victory Achieved!!!).

And this fascinating tid bit:

Salah al-Obaidi, Sadr’s chief spokesman, said the order was essentially a full-scale reorganization of the Mahdi Army, transforming it from a militia into a permanent peaceful organization with a small armed wing of several hundred or so members. He said the cease-fire for the rest of the movement would remain in force.

As always sadr seems to be ahead of everybody else.

Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Iraq Blogging From Corn Islands

I had been hoping to do some political blogging and today is the day–and I have the sand fly bites on my foot to prove my dedication to the task.  They don´t call this the Mosquito Coast for nutin.  Particularly in the Wet season.

So it´s been awhile since I´ve written on Iraq and there has been some important news in interim. 

The biggest news is that Iran brokered a ceasefire in Baghdad (mostly Sadr City) allowing the government forces of Maliki into Mahdi Army strongholds.  Though they had multiple days before the entry to hide weapons and or escape.

Also the government forces attacked seemingly more on their own Mosul attempting to get the last remnants of (so-called) al Qaeda in Iraq.

On the former point, for yet the upteenth million time, hardline right elements are proclaiming success and the death knell of Sadr, 6 more months and the corner while yet be turned, and the government they´ve been waiting for is coming.

This line will be used as a measure of whether Obama is honest about ¨facts¨or in the thrall of the anti-war American hating terroist loving left.

Here´s the problem, for the millionth time.  Tactical military success in Iraq has not in 6 years lead to political achievement.  Because there is no structural possibility at the current time with massive numbers of US troops in the country for a political reconciliation and/or more likely in my mind a final battle to settle the score.

When the US invaded Iraq the second time, the entire police state went underground leaving a massive vacuum that was filled by militias.  The militias run the country.  In fact Iraq as such no longer exists.  There are simply fiefdoms like Basra, Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk.  The militias have names like the Sons of Iraq, The Mahdi Army, The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the Peshmerga (the 2 Kurdish militias), Fadhila (strongest in Basra) and Salafi jiahdist elements (AQI).  Plus a whole host of other smaller outfits, some criminal, some religious. 

Both candidates for president still see this thing through the lens of a state as if a state of Iraq actually existed and/or the central government was an actual organ of said state.  McCain ignorantly thinks that this government (which is really just a militia or two) is going to win.  Obama wants to put pressure on it as an excuse to drawdown troops.  When in fact no such government exists. 

Pay no attention in other words to the man behind the curtain.  There is no great and all powerful Oz.  The govenrment does not supersede the militas.  The militas are the primary reality and the government and its security forces to the degree they exist do so to further the aims of the militias not the other way around.  If we had a Ven Diagram of the situation, the militias would be the largest circle with the government inside of that larger circle. 

So you see then immediately how McCain and the right´s line about increased success means nothing.  Because to echo Joe Biden there is goal, strategy, and tactics.  This like the surge is of the third variety.  It is unsustainable because there is no regional and/or national political context in which to hold these military victories.  As always they are just squeezing a balloon.  The air simply goes elsewhere. 

Take Sadr.  Sadr knows that the real battlefield is not physical (military only mindset) but ideological. He can and has and will continue to trade the former for the latter.  He will give up ground in order to achieve greater cred on the street (where the real power in the Arab world lies). 

The US for yet another time has failed to learn its lesson of supporting an exile aristocratic political outfit over the street people power poverty movements of the Arab world.  We choose Fatah over Hamas.  The latter wins in a straight up fight and is then isolated by the US gaining greater cred in the process.  US supports the Sunni businessmen of Lebanon, who lose to Hezbollah (get routed).  Now we choose Maliki and SIIC (Iranian creations) against Sadr.  Why choosing one Shia milita over another in US national security interest is beyond me but there it is.  But if we are going to choose a side (while simultaneously arming their enemies) why choose yet again the outsider group that immediately will receive the US touch of death.  The only reason in the prior fights the SIIC-Badr Corops managed whatever non-losses they could pull off had to do with American firepower.  Unlike the Fatah-Lebanese examples, this time the army is being trained by the US and not the Jordanians.  Oh and the Iranians (but hush hush about that Iran is the enemy in Iraq remember). 

But what kind of success is one Shia theocracy over another?  Only if you follow the propaganda that the one Shia theocratic milita is the legitimate government and the other isn´t. 

In sum:  When you hear success from the victory in Iraq crowd remember they mean military success and nothing else. 

Published in: on June 10, 2008 at 10:49 am  Comments (2)  
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