With their usual consensus driven sense of what is true and what is not, the media have bought into the idea that the improved combat situation in Iraq is the result of "The Surge." If by that is meant the increased number of troops present in Iraq this last year, I can only say that the judgment of the media on this subject as on so many others is just silly.
Yes, more troops made possible a more complete application of Petraeus’ revival of counter-insurgency methods and that was a plus, but that does not mean that the increased number of troops would have produced a similar result without the basic change in strategy.
In addition, the Sunni Revolt against the takfiri jihadis lies at the very heart of what has changed in Iraq. That revolt reached the point of "critical mass" at a time in which many people succeeded in convincing the American command in Iraq that predestination might be a feature of religious thought for many Americans but the idea of redemption as a possibility for insurgents would probably be a better operational approach. This serendipity (revolt plus counter-insurgency methods) made the difference this year in Iraq, not more infantry. Once again, the additional infantry were useful, but only that.
It is reasonably said by some that none of this matters because the underlying social and political causes of the internal problem in Iraq have not been solved. That is true, but I haven’t given up on the possibility yet. pl
What can be done to improve our news media? A friend of mine summed it up nicely a few years ago – they provide absolutely *no context.* The Lefty Blogosphere calls them nothing more than stenographers.
Blood pressure…roof…you know the rest.
According to the Jamestown Foundation, Ex-Baathists Turn to Naqshbandi Sufis to Legitimize Insurgency.
I have Googled this topic, but – except for a few posts referencing this article, have found nothing else on point.
The Naqshbandi are about as far from Al Qaeda as one can get and still be a Sufi. Yet they also are a thousand years older and have stood up to Tamerlane and to Stalin, to mention a few.
If, as this article suggests, the Naqshbandi have turned against the Coalition, then this is a very serious problem.
In your view, what would be evidence of political reconciliation? For example, the new law passed by parliament rescinding the anti-Baathist measures is step in the right direction, although I’m very skeptical about it. The Sadrist and SCII blocs seem pretty entrenched. Any thoughts?
I think that a serious and extensive effort to integrate the “concerned citizens” into the security and armed forces would be a significant step. pl
<"the underlying social and political causes of the internal problem in Iraq have not been solved...">
One way to view the situation is to hope that our military can continue making progress, even if limited, out there until we have a POLITICAL regime change in Washington in Jan. 2009. Then, a new administration MAY (or may not) adopt a sensible regional policy (“Concert” etc) out there. The Iraq situation cannot be solved without attention to the regional context and a change in US regional policy, IMO.
the muffled zone is a little more than just muffled…
having spent several years in the working press myself (print) it seemed to me:
our TV media is concentrated and controlled by the “pro-Israel” crowd; our radio airwaves are increasingly dominated by the “Christian” fundamentalists and concentrated networks which are “pro-Israel”; and in our concentrated print media it is not a good career move in the newsroom or on the editorial board for a journalist to take a position that is not “pro-Israel” (definitely taboo). There are bills to pay, home and car payments to make, kids and college, so US journalists, in the main, seem to “adjust” and practice their stenography
and entertainment writing skills. There are some exceptions but…
I was a member of a major national professional press organization (editorial). When the White House Iraq War policy was gearing up in 2002 I denounced the Administrataton’s constant stream of lies, falsified “intelligence,” and propaganda on our chat line. The chat line was to assist with professional issues. I duly noted the influence of the Neocons on our foreign policy at a time when almost no one had heard of them. I explained the basics about Neoconism and listed AEI, JINSA, and other Neocon orgs as leads. After a while, I was told by our management not to place any more controversial data (and context) postings about the Neocons and Iraq War policy on the chat line. It appeared to me that a few militantly “pro-Israel” members, like Paul Greenberg, weighed in and intimidated my colleagues. On Paul, see
The pro-Israel CAMERA organization was then and still is pounding journalists who are considered insufficiently “pro-Israel”. See its History of CAMERA page for context and read it carefully, then check their board members out:
The “pro-Israel” Lobby pounds professors on campus via Dan Pipes’ Campus Watch org, for which see
Sorry, but I meant to write ISCI (the former SCIRI) not SCII above — as I understand it, SCIRI grabbed the interior ministry early on. Anyway, so far they have shown no signs of giving an inch to the Sunnis. Col. Lang, I’m glad you hold out the possibility that some of the underlying political problems can be solved. Hopefully, the next administration will share your views about what is needed. Until then, it will be “the surge worked, the surge worked” over and over again.
Thank you Colonel for the pithy analysis. Periodic reductions of violence may not signal much in a protracted guerilla campaign. The key would be to see command and control disrupted, declining finances, and reductions of support among various sectors of the population. None of this seems to have occurred.
The shift in Anbar seems unrelated to the ‘Surge’, but a tactically wise cooptation. Locals got tired of the foreigners throwing their weight around and stopped supporting them, and the US embraced the tribes.
In any event, the ‘Surge’ cannot continue. Forces are stressed and have insufficient leave and recuperation time, retention has fallen drastically, equipment is being consumed at rates far faster than it can be repaired or replaced, and our ability to respond to provocation elsewhere in the world has been decimated.
The media seems to have retreated to its role as reporters. If someone says something, they report that. There seems to be little effort expended generally to check the validity of any claims. When they try to be ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ it simply means finding someone else who will say something different to another claim. They report, but decline to investigate or determine the truth about almost any matter.
With the latest maritime confrontation between Iran and the US we see the media eager to parrot official claims. They seem to be oblivious, when not enthusiastic, about the possibility of fairly typical behavior to get kinetic and rapidly escalate. The testing and probing by the navies seems similar to the play between the US and USSR in the Mediterranean, which was simply one more factor in standard patrols. It’s almost as if the Navy is searching for a trip wire to walk right through and the media is their primary cheerleader.
Pretty discouraging behavior, overall, for the fourth estate.
I think it should also be mentioned that the fact that much of the mixed areas of Iraq have now been successfully cleansed plays a role in the reduced numbers.
With all of the Sunni/Shi’a (take your pick) cleansed out of your particular area, the violence is bound to lessen.
However, with a couple of million of Iraqis wanting to come home to the areas that they were evicted from, one wonders if this will last.
The corporate media never understood–or cared to understand–what the war was about in the first place. So why would they understand anything at all about the surge? Or about the remaining social and political issues?
Of course, issues remain amongst the Kurds, various Sunni factions and various Shi’a factions. Even the media understands that. But above all there is the question of oil, the paramount issue for all of the above, particularly for the folks who brought us the occupation.
Petraeus succeeded in part by buying allegiance. What percentage of the oil profits would it take to buy off the rest of the country? Answer: far more than Washington has been willing to pay so far, though certainly far less than the occupation is currently costing. (It’s always easier to disappoint ‘powerless’ people under occupation than to refuse your greedy cronies their booty.)
Well, I can’t find anything to disagree with in this post or “A Fools Errand.” Well said.
To add some content to this comment, however – and as a former squid – I’d like to put this forward as the best analysis I’ve yet read on the SoH incident with Iran.
It is disappointing (and undeniable) that the media has assumed this role of
“stenographer”. Because as in the instance of the “surge” it is within their function to analyze such memes, their veracity, and likely implications. I agree with PL’s assertion that the awakening program (& the Sadr standdown & all the wall building) are the major reasons for the decline in violence. So my questions are about the awakening program itself, a few of which are:
What are the longer term implications for the U.S. to assume primary responsibility, since the Shiite government has no interest, in paying/training a new tribal militia. How much. How long. Whats to prevent the new militia (like all the others) to be infiltrated by former Baath military/political leaders, or other insurgent groups not interested in doing the occupations work, but interested in the money and the weapons. What happens if the program takes on a life of its own beyond U.S. or Iraqi government control? Do they then de-fund the program, leaving a well armed anti government force – now scorned, up to their own devices?
Or is part of the plan, of the current administration to cement a long term commitment
for a future administration along these lines? Because it hard to think of anything worse than weaning a well funded fully employed tribal militia off the goods. Especially when, by that time their Shiite rivals are likely chomping at the bit for a rollback of their free ride into direct competition. That could concievably then draw in the Saudis and the Iranians to take up the slack, thereby increasing the chances of the conflict going regional.
Does the awakening program facilitate a U.S. withdrawal or does it make it more difficult, or does it make it impossible?
Thanks for the info, Cliff. I haven’t read all that info yet but I look forward to it.
Andy, us Zoomies monitored all that action down there in the late 1980s from here:
Remains of the Elephant Cage
Again, from what little bit I’ve read in the media they have provided no context.
My suspicions receive some confirmation in a recent Al-Quids report quoting Gregory Gause (Council on Foreign Relations) in an interview stating that Saudi Arabia is already active in social and financial support of the awakening tribes. And is additionally calling for the replacement of Maliki with “Allawi, or someone like him”.
This is exactly what worries me, that a general sectarian identification (amongst Sunni’s) is one thing, active monetary investment is something quite beyond. Call it regional wide commitment. Especially while calling for the end of the presiding Shiite regime.
pl: It is reasonably said by some that none of this matters because the underlying social and political causes of the internal problem in Iraq have not been solved. That is true, but I haven’t given up on the possibility yet.
Why have you not given up?
Do you have a model in mind?
Why would the Shiite Iraqis lay down their swords and embrace former Baathists?
Waiting with bated breath…..
<"the judgment of the media on this subject as on so many others is just silly.">
Just published is a new study on the Bush Administration’s systematic deception of the American people and the world through false public statements.
Where was/were the media? The stenographers and their editors were just recycling the White House statements/lies. Go along to get along. Same with Congress.
“….Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war….”