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    05 September 2007

    Moving Goal Posts: The Surge to Anywhere

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    The White House noise machine and their military puppets are really putting the moves on now. As Kevin Drum points out, you can tell when a PR campaign is in process by the "sudden appearance of a raft of articles all telling a remarkably similar story." But the progress we hear is troubling. There's been no political progress at a national level, as we were promised. The security situation is fractionally better and not facilitating reconciliation but working against it. Senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus Dave Kilcullen admitted as much in one of the first "news" stories of the current PR campaign:
    The other implication is that, to be perfectly honest, the pattern we are seeing runs somewhat counter to what we expected in the “surge”, and therefore lies well outside the “benchmarks”. The original concept was that we (the Coalition and the Iraqi government) would create security, which would in turn create space for a “grand bargain” at the national level. Instead, we are seeing the exact opposite: a series of local political deals has displaced extremists, resulting in a major improvement in security at the local level, and the national government is jumping on board with the program. Instead of coalition-led top-down reconciliation, this is Iraqi-led, bottom-up, based on civil society rather than national politics. And oddly enough, it seems to be working so far. This does not necessarily invalidate the “surge” strategy: we are indeed seeing improved security and political progress, but at the local not national level. This was not what we expected, and probably will cut little ice with domestic opponents of the strategy, but the improvement in daily lives of Iraqis and willingness to talk rather than fight is a substantial real-world improvement nonetheless.

    Boy that's a dangerous stretch and indicative of failed policy. You take a plan and operationalize it. It goes awry and since it looks good you go with it?

    A CIA hand involved in Afghanistan in the 80's when the mujahideen (now the Taliban and al Qaeda) pushed out the Soviet Union was interviewed recently and reflected on that “grand bargain”
    When I was in Pakistan I asked an Army commander if we could get the Afghan tribes to do something and he said, “We can usually get the Afghans to do something that they want to do.” In Afghanistan, the Soviets made thousands of deals with the tribes, but you don’t buy them–you rent them. These guys change sides all the time. It’s the same thing [in Iraq]. Their needs and goals are completely unrelated to our vision of the world. The sheiks [in Iraq] figure that their turf is threatened by Al Qaeda in Iraq and they’re happy to help go after them, especially when the U.S. is doing the heavy lifting. But there will be a piper that needs to be paid. You don’t have to go much beyond T.E. Lawrence to see how this is likely to play out.

    So there you have one track, it's going in the opposite direction than intended.

    Then there's the violence. The numbers cited by war supporters and those individuals invested in the perception of success in this escalation talk of facts but offer no supporting evidence. Meanwhile, independent analysis from the AP, McClatchy, McClatchy again, and the apolitical GAO come to opposite conclusions, with numbers. Furthermore, the Center for Strategic and International Studies warns that data being used on civilian violence is unreliable and excludes most acts affecting sectarian and ethnic cleansing and does not include Shi’a on Shi’a violence in the South or Sunni on Sunni violence in the Sunni Triangle. The most independent means of statistic gathering is now suppressed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. Anything produced by this administration, or their selected generals and analysts should be rejected due to large collections of counter evidence and a history of the Bush administration, the Iraqi Government and Gen. Petraeus fudging the facts for political ends.

    The question is simple:
    I would like to see the data from the pro-war side that demonstrates that progress is actually happening. I don't want to hear about new hope in the streets, or markets safe enough for senators to walk through with a brigade of soldiers with them. I want to hear metrics that indicate Iraq is moving towards a peaceful stable state. Are there any?

    America! There comes a time when mere happy-talk is not enough to continue an obvious flawed policy. Granted the tactics being used are a welcome improvement to the last 4 years of mismanagement and cockeyed policy. It's just too late. We've seen a slight increase on some very basic benchmarks with 30,000 extra troops. In a perfect world we might see more improvements with more troops and more time. However, there are none of either. Those troops that are there are going to be headed home very soon. By this time next year we'll be forced to begin a draw down. Rather than chase around an elusive and unclear end, we should be focusing on what to do once we begin to leave in order to salvage what we have accomplished. A prudent way to do this is to first accept it. not defeat but the reality of the situation. Then begin to implement a procedure to orderly redeploy our troops and redefine the mission they're pursuing. Unfortunately we will be in Iraq for a long time. Whether we are there chasing reasonable ends or being overrun from all sides is up to the dead-enders on the right and their allies in Washington, DC.

    Posted by Geoff

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