"officials here (Baghdad) are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years.
This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages. It is based on officials’ assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009. The questions officials are grappling with are not whether the U.S. presence will be cut, but how quickly, to what level and to what purpose." Ricks
Is this a joke? Is Ricks being ironic here? Is this a "take off" on an Evelyn Waugh novel?
For years the declared US policy in Iraq was based on the idea that the US would remove its troops when the forces of the Baghdad government could control the security situation on their own.
Now, Ricks implies that American military officers (who should have some grasp of the realities of the situation) are saying (without qualification as to the future state of affairs) that US forces WILL be withdrawn on a schedule that evidently has nothing to do with the combat situation in the country.
A couple of things:
– This withdrawal talk must be based on the assumption that the present Petraeus/Keane/Kagan plan will succeed in "breaking the back" of the insurgents. There is no real evidence for that so far, so one must assume that the supposed "improvement" is what is called a "planning assumption." A military plan exists within a universe created by assumptions about the world in which the plan will be executed. Thus, there can be several different plans designed to deal with a situation and they may be different because they are based on different assumptions. These assumptions are listed in the front of a published plan.
– If the combat situation is not improved by the time the imagined withdrawal is taking place it will quickly become apparent that such a withdrawal will result in the collapse of what is left of Iraq into an even greater chaos. That will stop the withdrawal.
– The idea of trying to leave one division plus advisors plus logistical troops and contractors is absurd if the assumption in the planning concept is incorrect.
– Surely, military people in Iraq know that this is a foolish idea in the absence of an effective "cease-fire." Do they know something that we do not? That is always a possibility.
– The probability that this planning assumption is politically imposed by the desire of the sitting government in Washington to be successful in both the GWOT and the ’08 election is overwhelming.
Anyone who thinks this "plan" is a good idea should think about what the personal consequences might be for advocating something this silly. pl
Decline and Fall is the best of his novels. I have read it well over ten times.
Nothing being written today is anywhere near as funny.
I seem to be quoting this a lot these days:
“That, commonly, Fortresses do much more Harm than Good
“I say that when princes or republics are afraid of their subjects and in fear lest they rebel, this must proceed from knowing that their subjects hate them, which hatred in its turn results from their own ill conduct, and that again from their thinking themselves able to rule their subjects by mere force, or from their governing with little prudence. Now one of the causes which lead them to suppose that they can rule by mere force, is this very circumstance of their people having these fortresses on their backs So that the conduct which breeds hatred is itself mainly occasioned by these princes or republics being possessed of fortresses, which, if this be true, are really far more hurtful than useful First, because, as has been said already, they render a ruler bolder and more violent in his bearing towards his subjects, and, next, because they do not in reality afford him that security which he believes them to give For all those methods of violence and coercion which may be used to keep a people under, resolve themselves into two; since either like the Romans you must always have it in your power to bring a strong army into the field, or else you must dissipate, destroy, and disunite the subject people, and so divide and scatter them that they can never again combine to injure you For should you merely strip them of their wealth, _spoliatis arma supersunt_, arms still remain to them, or if you deprive them of their weapons, _furor arma ministrat_, rage will supply them, if you put their chiefs to death and continue to maltreat the rest, heads will renew themselves like those Hydra; while, if you build fortresses, these may serve in time of peace to make you bolder in outraging your subjects, but in time of war they will prove wholly useless, since they will be attacked at once by foes both foreign and domestic, whom together it will be impossible for you to resist.”
Your readers might find this map from global security.org helpful (filesize = 446.73 KB (457455 bytes)) which is hefty enough so if you’re on a slow connection be prepared for some waiting as it loads:
This war was started for political reasons, why not end it for political reasons? Why should the neocons be any more concerned about the realities in Iraq now than they were when starting this war?
They have never said definitively why we invaded Iraq, what we hoped to accomplish, or what the definition of “victory” is as applied to Iraq. I fully expect that we’ll declare victory and start bringing the troops home before November 2008, in an effort to prevent the Democrats from winning the White House and/or veto-proof majorities in congress.
For both parties it’s a race to the finish line in November, 2008. The Democrats are angry and fed up and will be forced to take action in October if things don’t change, while Bush feels he can take the troops on and off the stage of his depressing play at will, thus cheering the voters around that same time.
Among other things, this war has been characterized by a total failure of imagination. And what our current leadership seems unable to imagine is that Iraq actually can get more dangerous – A LOT more dangerous – for surging (or departing) US soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike.
Today a Sunni Iraqi friend of mine, who is now a refugee in a third country, sent me a video of the Iraqi National Guard fighting alongside local guys in civilian gear. One guy was running around in sweatpants with an RPG launcher balanced on his shoulder. If US soldiers leave Iraq before the surge starts showing physical results, the security vacuum will probably make many other Iraqi males feel compelled to take sides if they haven’t already, just like sweatpants guy has done.
As the resulting chaos mounts, I assume it will be even harder for US soldiers to maintain their single-file waddle out of Iraq safely. And for Iraqis who haven’t chosen sides yet, or who have chosen the wrong side, I imagine only the worst. Iraq is the wrong place and it is the wrong time. (But of course that was always true as well.)
Some observations. Since the surge began in Feb. there has been some evolution in the situation on the ground. The anti-AQ alliance in Al Anbar which began in late 06 materialized with dramatic effect this past spring. With AQ proving to be the most intractible and dangerous foe in the insurgency, the coalition has attempted with varying success to replicate it wherever possible. This series of alliances with some of the Baathest insurgents and tribes has begun to provide an opportunity to fracture the insurgency and fatally amputate AQ from the mix. Tough to tell yet if it will work but non AQ insurgents having lived side by side with AQ and then experiencing a side-by-side (granted uneasy) existence with US forces may indeed make a rational choice as to what their life expectency is going to be with a victorious AQ and with a victorious US/Iraqi army. I’m betting they choose the latter for the time being. Now assuming they do (as assumptions are now being bandied about quite freely), what are the scenarios? Well, with the AQ “true believers” out of the way perhaps there is a possibility for a loose confederation of semi-autonoumous (much like Brits allowing Fr. Canada to keep civil code after they ran the French Army out of North America on Plains of Abraham) tribal areas to co-exist with a strong Federal/US presence to keep-em apart long enough to grow some economic roots/hash out oil revenues etc. Of the Sunni nationalist/tribal resistance groups, what percent are prepared to fight it out to the end given some power sharing and an economic stake in cooperation with central govt? The Sunni/US alliances might solidify and with a continued US presence, keep the moderate Shiite/secular Iraqis in a position to stay their theocratic bretheren from all out ethnic cleansing. Such stability could buy time for external (some version of Concert of Middle East) and internal moderating factors to take hold. Time to organize economic and eventually security dependence between the three regions?
As awful as it seems,a continued US presence must remain at a level that allows no single sectarian group to gain a position of dominance. This seems to be the troop level formula. This number will waiver back and forth until the Iraqi Army and security apparatus find their feet which they eventually will.
The first priority is to defeat AQ in Mesopotania with all means and with all allies that can be found no matter how bloody their hands. Theocratic zealots are a far greater threat than those fighting for economic privilege. They have one narrow end game in mind and it is exclusive of the interests of all others (as many sunnis are now coming to realize). Defeat AQ, counter the growth of an Iraqi Shiite Hezbollah, remain strong and we (MNF and secular state of Iraq)MIGHT have a realistic opportunity to draw down the war. It ain’t going to happen in a year or three either.
If a continued presence in one form or another for the next decade is what it takes, then so be it.
I would challenge folks to illustrate the alternative in non-partisan and non-simplistic terms.
Don’t be naive. The outcome of the VN War changed nothing. The Vietnamese continue to persecute the minorities as they hav always done. pl
i dare say that the lessons learned from the evac of saigon won’t help them much when that time comes for their evac of baghdad. i hope they have their contingencies in place, cauze if they don’t it’ll be one heck-uv a bugar-bear.
Defeat AQ, counter the growth of an Iraqi Shiite Hezbollah, remain strong and we (MNF and secular state of Iraq)MIGHT have a realistic opportunity to draw down the war.
Based on your signature, you read like a man with on the ground experience, which I don’t have. Even so, where is the reading from the Muslim/Arab pov. For example, based on what I hear and read, there is a growing sense of the ideas in Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, i.e. that the coalition is embarked on a new crusade. Yet you suggest that there is only one argument available to the Islamists:
They have one narrow end game in mind and it is exclusive of the interests of all others (as many sunnis are now coming to realize).
Maybe so, but how is continuing a military presence, with all that implies (including, obviously, the continuing insult to ‘Arabness’ incurred merely by the presence of an occupying force)? Further, can you appreciate how powerful is the Islamist appeal to the notion of al -wala wal-bara is at this moment; not just in Iraq, but for Muslims all over the world? Regardless of what many people might think, there is actually a real justification for legitimate jihad, and I’m afraid that the coalition is getting very close to it.
I have a son at West Point. When he calls me to say hello, I don’t know what to say to him, because he is fully brain-infested with Dubya’s garbage-ego.
What do I say to my kid about why soldiers are being squandered and permanently trashed for nothing?
God help them?
In Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, whose forces control the area of the bombing, spoke at length about U.S. efforts to draw Sunnis into the security forces.
“There are tribal sheiks out there who say ‘Hey, just allow me to be the local security force. I don’t care what you call me. … You can call me whatever you want. Just give me the right training and equipment and I’ll secure my area.’ And that’s the direction we’re moving out there,” the Third Infantry Division commander said.
In a meeting with reporters, Lynch said contacts with the Sunnis, who make up the bulk of the insurgency, were a matter of pragmatism.
“They say: ‘We hate you because you are an occupier, but we hate al-Qaida worse and we hate the Persians (Iranians) even worse’ … you can’t ignore that whole population,” Lynch said.
His division, he said, had lost 43 soldiers since the beginning of the U.S. troop surge on Feb. 14.
Closing a tag.
Col. The military people knew that invading Iraq with a small force and no planning for postwar transition was foolish as well. From what I could tell allot of them chose to ‘roll the dice’ and hope the US could pull it off.
The leaders on the ground may know something we don’t, the question is what could they know? What piece of information would allow them to confidently predict that there is going to be a significant reduction of violence in Iraq in the next year?
I can’t think of anything, but I’m far from an expert in Iraq or in the Military.
The Talkingpointsmemo blog post below points out that this not the first time we have heard this kind of talk:
For all the talk about … the “Korean model”…, Thomas Ricks looks at the future from the military’s perspective.
I wonder if the reason we have heard things like this before is that the administration actually did fix itself on this plan from the beginning. They thought the Iraqis would greet us and liberators, and out of gratitude, allow us to build a few token gigantic super airbases along with medium sized garrisons, and lotsa planes and bombs thrown in, just for the heckofit.
I don’t know much at all about these things, but maybe the problem here is that the military is been trying to figure out how to execute the plan tactically, and logistically, but can’t so far because they simply cannot stabilize the situation. So, if that is true, then the military is not responsible for decding to implement plans that are silly, given the current and likely future conditions on the ground. The military has been repeatedly ordered to carry out such a plan, but they cannot manage it alone. But they have been completely alone and abandoned. Until very recently the Bush/Cheney has given them absolutely none of the diplomatic, political and economic support that might make such a plan feasible. Now Bush et al are doing too little too late with opening limited talks with Iran, but simultaneously very publicly announcing their intentions for a long term occupation. And I think that probably cancels out the good of the talks.
I was very opposed to the Iraq invasion from the start, but I could never in my wildest dreams imagine how badly the administration would mess up, and turned a very bad idea into a slowmotion disaster.
And Senator Lieberman still wants to bomb Iran. He has become as crazy as the Cheney gang.
Tom Ricks in January 2004:
“Senior U.S. commanders say they are making progress toward defeating insurgents in Iraq . . . Commanders are heartened by a sharp reduction in the number of attacks on U.S. forces and say that an overhaul of intelligence operations has produced a series of successes that have weakened the anti-occupation insurgency.”
A Measure of Success
January 23, 2004
I wouldn’t take Ricks’s latest reporting too seriously. In a couple of years, he’ll write another book to tell us how wrong his sources were back in the summer of 2007.
Although the developing plan to significantly draw down U.S. troops referenced in the article might be serious, the Washington Post could just be sending up a trial balloon or doing basic propaganda to keep the public thinking that the executive branch is really planning to reduce the troops. But, the Post assures us, the idea is to have a “longer-term force that would remain in the country for years”.
Certainly the Bush jr. administration and the war pushers would like to reduce the troop levels. But this will not happen as long as there is resistance to the goals of the war.
The number one objective of the invasion of Iraq was to prevent the existence of an independent, nationalist Iraqi government or leader. That goal has been accomplished, and will continue to be, as long as there is a compliant Iraqi government, a federation of three areas of Iraq, or chaos.
The remaining goals are to control the oil, water, and financial structure of Iraq, make Israel the dominant power in the Middle East, and suppress certain moral and business principles of the Muslim world. These are proving much tougher to achieve, except that Israel’s position is enhanced as long as there is no nationalist Iraqi government or leader.
This is why the Washington Post, an active and knowing promoter of these goals, is sure to mention that the force “would remain in the country for years”. That is the primary purpose of the article: to continue to plant the seed that a long-term occupation of Iraq by the U.S. is supposed to happen, or is inevitable.
The war is funded through September. General Petraeus is to make a “report” in September about the Kagan/Keane/Petraeus counterinsurgency escalation.
I see no indication that the Iraqi insurgency will be beaten down by then.
Thus, I do not think the troop levels will be reduced. This is especially so if an attack on Iran is still in the works.
The gangster foreign policy exemplified by the goals of the war will continue. The only announced presidential candidates who will end the war are Ron Paul and Mike Gravel. But their road is difficult, especially with the Washington Post and other major media working to marginalize their campaigns and trivialize them. Congress has done nothing yet. Both the Democratic House and Senate Campaign Committees have been picking and supporting pro-war Congressional condidates.
This grotesque tragedy placed on the U.S. soldiers and their families, and on the Iraqis, will continue.
May I add, or stress, one element of this mess in Iraq?
It is that, unlike the Kurds and Shias, each of whom physically sits upon actual oil-bearing turf (or are the majority populations wherever the oil is found in Iraq), the Sunnis are largely not situated on oil turf.
Meaning, if Iraq is to split into ethnic nations, the Sunnis our West of Baghdad will be melon farmers more than oil sheiks, which is most certainly not a future they will accept.
Nor will it be accepted among their Sunni brethren in neighboring Arab nations.
The Shias and Kurds have no issue with partition; the Sunnis do, and so they have to go for holding the nation together (with themselves back in the governing role), or civil war until such time as they get their patrimony from the unwashed multitudes of Kurds and Shia.
Sunni cooperating with US troops is just self-service. Nothing lasting or valuable will come of it.
One wonders where to start.
>>>If a continued presence in one form or another for the next decade is what it takes, then so be it.<<< Is this in the absence of approval by the American people? Does their/our voice and wishes count for anything? What if the majority of Iraqis vote to have us leave? Do we stay because some group, however inaccurately that name applies to them, chose to called itself AQ? (a decision welcomed by the US command because it provided, for a while, a more palatable political reason for being in Iraq in the first place) Stop being rope a doped by this band of criminals. >>>>>I would challenge folks to illustrate the alternative in non-partisan and non-simplistic terms.<<<< I have a nagging feeling that anything anyone proposed that ran counter to your thoughts would be deemed 'partisan and simplistic'. That said, I would propose to get out within 6 months, come what may. Leave it to the Iraqis, and their surrounding neighbors to settle. Try and set up a Concert, as PL calls it to settle the differences, as best as possible. We can be a more effective player once the issue of permanent occupation is, relatively speaking, off the table. Leave the so-called AQ of Mesopotamia to the tender mercies of the Sunni Tribal forces, the Shia milita, and our special forces, where the latter is possible and practical. Learn to live, and deal with forces like Hezbollah. Reject colonialism in a post-colonial world. Not because it is inherently wrong in the moral sense. (which I think it is) Rather, because it has proven impractical and counter productive. Reject militarism, as a first choice to 'solving problems'. If, for no other reasons than: 1. The vast, vast, majority of Americans don't want to fight anymore not-withstanding all their flag waving, ribbons, parades, and moments of silence. Look at the truth coldly and without blinders, and set your military and diplomatic course accordingly 2. They seem hesitant even to pay for others to fight. 3. We appear to be, essentially, clueless about the world in which we fight in. That may because we are, in fact, clueless for various structural and institutional flaws. Or, more likely, in my opinion, our leaders chose, and choose, to reject advice they do not welcome. In either event it rendered us almost blind in a mass knife fight. Acknowledge, however painful it may be, that whatever we have done in Iraq we have made things worse. Come home, and start to work on the various problems confronting our nation, our government, and, especially, our Military -Industrial Complex. Start, yesterday, figuring out a way to reduce our dependence on two things, ME oil, the Texas/Sunbelt Mafia that promotes said dependence. Yeah, I know, I'm dreaming. It won't happen until things get much, much, worse in the nation. We're gonna have to hit bottom before we start back up. As this plan, outlined in the Ricks article seems to indicate.
Emily Craig: You google “Abu Khaleel” & open “A Glimpse of Iraq” click on “Goodbye My Boy” under recent posts.
You love him and pray “may the Goddess of Safety, Happiness & Good Fortune blow gently in your sails”
Do not argue with him, long walks and mint tea,
and wait for the pleasure of future hugs.
Another case of “cart before the horse”. It seems ludicrous that this administration “knows something we don’t” since they have only shown they tend to disregard relevant information in similar previous situations. They make decisions based upon an agenda not upon information that may impact an outcome.
Joe Lieberman has become the offical neo-Cheney attack-dog, except his rabies shot apparently didn’t work. He has begun to foam:
“Lieberman backs limited U.S. attacks on Iran”
“By Brian Knowlton, New York Times, June 10, 2007
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent who strongly supports the war in Iraq, said today that unless Iran stops training Iraqis to carry out anti-coalition attacks, the United States should launch cross-border attacks into Iran.
“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”
This could be achieved mostly with air attacks, Mr. Lieberman said, adding, “I’m not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran.”
I’m sure that will end well all around, Joe being the master strategist that he obviously is.