Monday, May 07, 2007

Blue skies and Iraqis gone fishin'.

You know, in 2002 we heard neocons like Kenneth Adelman, Richard Perle and William Kristal predict what a "cakewalk" Iraq was going to be. Their bylines were plastered all over the editorial pages of the NYT and the WaPo expounding on their rosy scenarios of chocolates and nylons, as if those papers had become merely subsidiaries of the Weekly Standard. Voices opposing the war, particularly Scott Ritter, who were shouting that that there were no WMD and that a war in Iraq would be a boon to al-Qaeda were mentioned, if at all, only as examples of the crackpot fringe who would cause another 9/11 if they were listened to. Four years later, we now know that Scott Ritter and the others were right and that everything Kristal & Co. said was completely and utterly wrong from A to Z, yet they're still getting gallons of ink in the major newspapers of record, why?

A case in point is in this Sunday's NYT: Frederick Kagan, the author of the Surge, defends this latest neocon/Strangelovian scheme by writing that the debate about a Plan B, "shows only how little the critics of the war understand about military operations." Luckily, we have military experts like Kagan to patiently explain to all of us numbskulls out here that, "The strategy now under way in Iraq will change the situation in Iraq significantly, whether or not it succeeds in its aims." (Man, talk about CYA!)

There's no point in planning for what happens if things get dramatically worse, because no matter what happens, things will change, and that's a success in itself. What we do know is that at this "early stage," of the Surge: "Sectarian killings in Baghdad in April were about one-third of the level in December." McClatchy papers reported today that "sectarian violence is on the rise again, 25 bodies, often attributed to Shiite death squads, were found throughout the city," but that's to be expected, as Maj. General Rick Lynch of the 3rd ID told reporters yesterday, "It may get harder before it gets easier for the Iraqis." [Especially now, that we know that half of our Army has no respect for them.]

We lost 104 US troops in April, too, the highest number of deaths since last October, but this is the "dynamic nature of war." As Maj. General Lynch says, "There are going to be increased casualties during this surge because we're taking the fight to the enemy." Funny, with all this complicated military talk in Kagan's op-ed -- which any of us can barely understand -- I don't see any reference to higher US casualties.

In any case, Muqtada al-Sadr is on the run and "American forces have killed or captured 700 key leaders and allies of his Mahdi Army, causing the movement to fragment." That five hour gun battle between US forces and the Mahdi Army in Sadr City on Sunday is just a sign of their weakness, I guess. This is just a mopping up operation, I expect. Sure we lost 13 GIs the past two days, but that's just the "nature of war," I keep forgetting.

Meanwhile, on the political front, we've got those Sunni Sheiks in Anbar on our side now. In fact, Kagan points out, so many young Iraqis have joined up to fight al-Qaeda that, "police forces in Ramadi and Fallujah are considered to be at 'overstrength.'" Just imagine, the same people we dropped Willy Pete on in Fallujah back in November of '05 are on our side now! [Judging by what happened in Afghanistan yesterday, with two US soldiers killed by an Afghan soldier outside of Pul-e-Charki prison, I'd say our guys should probably watch their backs.]

For all his talk about the impending success of this new Surge "strategy" Kagan brings up Nuri al-Maliki's name only once in the entire piece, he is kind of the linchpin to this whole thing isn’t he? Kagan writes that al-Maliki and the mysterious Iraqi Lt. General Aboud have in "an 180-degree turnaround . . . permitted repeated strikes against senior Shiite leaders and Shiite neighborhoods;" nothing in there about parliament fixing the de-Bathification law or signing on the dotted line with Exxon/Mobil to share the oil wealth, which is, I thought, what this whole security operation was supposed to make easier to accomplish.

What Kagan has also neglects to mention is that while our troops will be sweating it out this summer dodging IEDs and sniper's bullets, the NYT reported on April 28 that Def Sec Robert Gates "found himself pressing Mr. al-Maliki last week to keep Parliament from taking a two-month summer break." You really get that the Iraqis are sensing the urgency of the situation. We wouldn't want Congress micro-managing the situation by legislating firm benchmarks or setting a "date for surrender" or anything like that.

According to the NYT: "If lawmakers remain in Baghdad, said one senior American official . . . 'we'll have some outputs then.' He added, 'that's different from having outcomes,' drawing a distinction between a sign of activity and a sign of success, which could take considerably longer." How much longer you might ask? "The timelines they are now discussing suggests that the White House may maintain the increased number of troops in Iraq well into next year." If Parliament takes a two month break it could be even longer than that, is that a problem?

Not to Frederick Kagan who reminds us, "Military plans of this magnitude take months to work, General Petraeus is right to say that we will not know if this one is working until the fall at the earliest." And if nothing of any significance has been accomplished by then? Well, of course, we all know that it's only Democrats who know nothing about military strategy -- like John Murtha and Joe Sestak, for instance -- who are calling for a Plan B... Well yeah, them and House minority leader Republican John Boner, who says, "By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?" [Bloomberg]

But let us not dwell on the negative, let's give this new plan a chance to work. So we lose another 500 GIs killed and 5000 or so wounded (the VA will be fixed by then) between now and September or October, it's all worth it right? Kagan and his ilk have been totally correct about everything else, haven't they? As Kagan sums up; "It is time, however, to consider the possibility that any Plan B in Iraq will focus on exploiting the success of the current surge rather than mitigating a failure."

"Blue skies, nothing but blue skies, do I see. Where's Al Jolson when you need him?


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