The Iraq Crock



You know what I think about the tactical wanking war proponents are now engaging in. Even if we accept (I don’t) Petraeus’ much-disputed claim that the so-called surge is “working,” it has to be clear that force is a limited weapon against a cause with unlimited recruits; it cuts back on the number of insurgents by killing lots; it doesn’t eliminate the cause fueling the insurgency. Brute force will temporarily curtail sectarian strife, but it will do nothing to snuff out the religious animus between Shia and Sunni that has been brewing since 680 CE.

In short, anything we do, at most, will have quantitative—not qualitative—effects. If the Iraq war were not so tragic for the wretched Iraqis and for US soldiers, it would be, well, boring. There is nothing to add to the original analysis: what you have here is more doomed central planning.

Jim Michaels, of USA TODAY, has gone to the trouble of contrasting four views on the Iraq situation. Knock yourself out:

A series of reports measuring progress in Iraq were commissioned prior to Congress hearing from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador. Here’s where the reports agree or diverge on key issues:

TRIBAL RECONCILIATION: A growing number of Sunni tribes have begun cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi forces and are turning on al-Qaeda. The trend started in Anbar province, dominated by Sunnis, west of the capital, and there are signs it is spreading. VIOLENCE LEVELS: The U.S. military uses a variety of measurements to track the level of violence in Iraq, including the number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, sectarian killings and al-Qaeda-style bombings. NATIONAL RECONCILIATION: Iraq’s government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has made little progress on legislation aimed at reducing sectarian warfare. MILITIAS: Shiite militias have infiltrated Iraqi security forces, enjoyed political protection from the Shiite-dominated government and, according to the U.S. military, are being trained and equipped by Iran. There are about 80,000 Shiite militia fighters in Iraq. IRAQI SECURITY FORCES: Iraq has 346,000 trained and equipped security forces, including armed forces and police. They have shown more of a willingness to fight than in the past, but they required varying levels of U.S. support. Militia infiltration, particularly among police, remains a problem.

Petraeus- Crocker testimony: “In what may be the most significant development of the past eight months, the tribal rejection of al-Qaeda that started in Anbar province and helped produce such significant change there, has now spread to a number of other locations as well,” Petraeus said. “Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks, with the number of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006,” Petraeus said. “Iraq’s leaders have the will to tackle the country’s pressing problems, although it will take longer than we originally anticipated because of the environment and the gravity of the issues before them,” Crocker said. “Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi leaders face enormous obstacles in their efforts to govern effectively.” “We have… disrupted Shiite militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported special groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran’s activities in Iraq,” Petraeus said. “Iraqi security forces have … continued to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks,” Petraeus said. “In general, however, Iraqi elements have been standing and fighting and sustaining tough losses, and they have taken the lead in operations in many areas.”

National Intelligence Estimate Consensus of U.S. intelligence community as of Aug. 23, 2007: “Sunni Arab resistance to AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia,” the report says. “The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks,” the report says. The report also says violence remains high. Rivalries within the ruling Shiite groups will likely intensify. The Sunnis, who dominated Iraq under former president Saddam Hussein, are “politically fragmented” and their leaders are unable to engage in dialogue or deliver on promises. “Militia and insurgent influences continue to undermine the reliability of some (Iraqi security force) units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine coalition and (Iraqi security force) efforts.” Iraqi security forces which work closely with American troops have performed “adequately,” but they are not capable of conducting major operations without U.S. support. They remain dependent on American forces for logistics and other support.

Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq Requested by Congress and headed by James Jones, a retired four-star Marine Corps general: “Though these new Sunni allies have yet to earn the complete trust of the government of Iraq — and vice versa — they have dramatically improved the security situation in Anbar province, providing coalition forces with valuable intelligence leading to the captures of top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders.” The report says the number of sectarian killings and overall violence has decreased. “While these numbers may simply reflect the decision of many of the Shia militias to maintain a low profile during the coalition-led surge, there are signs of improvements in the security situation in Baghdad,” the report says. The “single most important event that could immediately and favorably affect Iraq’s direction and security is political reconciliation focused on ending sectarian violence and hatred.” “Militia members who join the (Iraqi security forces) often remain loyal to their local militia, and may take part in sectarian ‘extracurricular’ activities.” Maliki is “perceived by many” to have set up a separate chain of command to interfere in military operations, potentially targeting Sunni insurgents while protecting some Shiite militia leaders. The report cites “uneven” progress but says the Iraqi security forces won’t be capable of functioning independently for another 12 to 18 months. The National Police, a paramilitary unit under Iraq’s Interior Ministry, is so rife with sectarian bias it should be disbanded.

Government Accountability Office report Congress’ investigative arm looks at the 18 benchmarks established by Congress and President Bush to measure progress in Iraq: The report referred to the NIE’s conclusions about tribal reconciliation. The report says it could not determine if sectarian violence was down. It noted that overall violence had declined between June and July but remained high. “The Iraqi government has not fulfilled commitments it first made in June 2006 to advance legislative, security and economic measures that would promote national reconciliation among Iraq’s warring factions.” The Iraqi government fully met only one of the 8 “benchmarks” established by Congress to measure political reconciliation. Overall, three of the 18 benchmarks were fully met. “Militia control over security forces has not been eliminated and remains a serious problem in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.” The report said annual attrition rates are between 15% and 18% for the Iraqi army and between 20% and 22% for the police. It said the Iraq’s logistics systems are “immature” and Iraq’s military and police are dependent on American support. Corruption and sectarian biases hamper progress in the security forces, the report says.