Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The surge is still failing

By Libby

Whatever temporary tactical success the surge may have accomplished, in terms of a long range plan for victory, where victory is defined as a peaceful and stable Iraq that doesn't require our remaining in military occupation to keep them from killing each other, it was and remains a failure. The latest evidence comes from the Rolling Stone, where Nir Rosen describes his observations from a recent lengthy stay. It's a long and revealing piece that should be read in full but here's just a couple of pertinent grafs.
"Before the war, it was just one party," Arkan tells me. "Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good." He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. "In Saddam's time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite," he says. The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.
The jobs promised to members of the Awakening have not materialized: An internal U.S. report concludes that "there is no coherent plan at this time" to employ them, and the U.S. Agency for International Development "is reluctant to accept any responsibility" for the jobs program because it has a "high likelihood of failure." Sunnis and even some Shiites have quit the government, which is unable to provide any services, and the prime minister has circumvented parliament to issue decrees and sign agreements with the Americans that parliament would have opposed.
But the illusionary nature of "The Awakening" and the potential for the bribery of insurgents strategy to work in the long term is perhaps best summed up by this vignette.
On one raid with U.S. troops, I see children chasing after the soldiers, asking them for candy. But when they learn I speak Arabic, they tell me how much they like the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr. "The Americans are donkeys," one boy says. "When they are here we say, 'I love you,' but when they leave we say, 'Fuck you.'"
Not that these sort of on the ground recountings will dent the faith of the true believers. In example, here's one rose colored response to Nir's article.
Here are some assertions which are also true. How do we square them with Rosen's thesis? The Shi'ites are no longer helpless; the former insurgents are now in open view, visible to intelligence and some extent under discipline; the killing (which Rosen believes will pick up in the future) has largely stopped; Sunni refugees have returned; business is up. But most importantly, the Iraqi Army which will exceed more then 13 divisions in strength, is multi-ethnic. Does this sound like a nation about to fall apart?
That would have been a really effective counter if any of those assertions were demonstrably correct. The problem is a quick perusal of the news archives of the last month, starting with the recent spate of suicide bombings, would suggest them all to a great extent to be false. But why let the facts ruin an otherwise perfectly good theory?

I'm no miltary tactician but it seems rather clear to me that we're never going to find a graceful way out of that sandbox if the occupation supporters insist on keeping their heads in the sand.

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