Friday, January 12, 2007

An intelligence surge needed.

Things are just not going according to plan with the New Way Forward. W. sent Condi, Gen. Peter Pace and SecDef Bob Gates up to Capital Hill yesterday to explain the whole thing and they got mauled by both Democrats and Republicans. Imagine! The public is decidedly against the NWF, the latest AP-Ipsos poll showing that 70% oppose sending more troops to Iraq. This really must come as quite a surprise to the brains trust in the White House. After the drubbing the GOP took in the November elections, the spin coming from Tony Snowjob was that what American people were actually saying with their votes was that they wanted victory, not a withdrawal. It looks like what they really wanted, after all, was our troops out of Iraq.

Thud! What's a war president to do when he's got less than 30% of the public behind him? Go to a military base in the south, of course. Yesterday, W. made his way down to Fort Benning Ga. to rally the troops and bask in their adoration. I'm sure that to-a-man they were ecstatically happy to be going back to Iraq for another year or 18 months (or longer). But, who cares if they're weren't, they're a captive audience and surrounding W. in all that camouflage really makes him look macho.

Unfortunately, what can't be camouflaged quite so easily is the reality that W. doesn't even have the generals behind him. Thomas Ricks said on the Charlie Rose Show Wednesday night that he hadn't spoken to anyone in the military who supported W.'s plan. (Better make a bee-line for Ft. Bragg!)

But, hold the phone, Lt. General Petraeus is on board! This is what we keep hearing. People are talking about this guy like he's the second coming of Ulysses S. Grant or something. But unless he's got about 80,000 more troops up his sleeve and can convince the American public to give their full support for the surge for another few months, or years, then he's going to fail just like Casey and Abizaid did.

He may be a very capable and intelligent officer, but he's not a miracle worker. He has nowhere near the number of troops he needs to accomplish his task. His much touted counterinsurgency manual says that "the minimum troop density required" is "20 counter insurgents per 1000 residents." [Q&O blog] He's about 80,000 short. The manual also says that bipartisan support over the long term must be maintained in a counterinsurgency war. (I refer you again to the AP/Ipsos poll above.)

But let's give W.'s plan a chance, right? How will we know if it's failed unless we give it a chance to fail? Bob Gates said in his testimony at yesterday's House Armed Services committee hearing that it shouldn't take long to figure out if al-Maliki & Co. are going to play ball. "I think most of us, in our minds, are thinking of it as a matter of months, not years." There are those benchmarks, remember? What were they again?

W. said, "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." Well, it's already lost the support of the American people, so all we've got left to do is see if they break their promises. (That shouldn't take long.)

And then what? Condi was a little vague about what plan-B was. Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) asked her what would happen if W.'s "benchmarks aren't met." She replied: "It is a mistake to speculate about what you will do if a plan fails that you are trying to make work." See, you don't plan for contingencies like failure, because if you do, you'll fail. It's better to plan for a stunning victory, like they have been for the past three years. This is a long slog, remember, in their minds its going to take months not years, or years not decades, or something along those lines. Ever get the feeling they haven't got the slightest clues of what they're doing?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

General Halder:

Some interestign quotes I've used before but always find timely:

Some notes from German Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder on Hitler before he was fired during the Russian campaign:

"The continual underestimation of enemy possibilities takes on grotesque forms and is becoming dangerous. Serious work has become impossible here. Pathelogical reactions to momentary impressions and a complete lack of capacity to assess the situation and its possibilities give this so-called 'leadership' a most particular character.

Hilter's decisions had ceased to have anything in common with the priciples of strategy and operations as they have been recognized for generations past. There were the product of a violent nature following momentary impulses, which recognized no limits to possibility and made its wishdreams the father of its acts. . . "

When Hitler fired Halder he told him, "We need National Socialist ardor now, not professional ability. I cannot expect this of an offcier of the old-school such as you."

"So spoke," Halder wrote, "not a responsible warlord but a political fanatic."

Real men want to go to Tehran. . . uh, I mean Sadr City.

W.'s speech last night was pretty depressing, wasn't it? He basically said 'I'm escalating the war because I can and the rest you can be damned.' He doesn't care about what the generals are telling him, what members of his own party are telling him -- never mind the Democratic majority in Congress -- or give a damn that he's lost the support of the American people for his personal war of choice. He's the Decider. He's the commander in chief. And that's pretty much all he's got going for him. Some in Congress are questioning whether the constitution gives them the authority stop him through the power of the purse. I'd say they'd better look into it, because I don't think he's going to quit when he gets to Sadr City. Something tells me, his estimation of what success means in the "ideological struggle of our time" includes eliminating the regime in Tehran as a threat to Israel.

What stood out to me was him saying: "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and to our enemies in Iraq." It can only be a matter of time before he decides that strikes inside Iran are necessary to destroy those "networks." That little troll from FOX News who asked General Pace this morning if we would attack Iran -- 'and if not, why?' -- may have had a point. W. says Iran is providing weapons that kill Americans. There's only one logical response to a provocation like that.

For folks who are still wondering why he chose Admiral William J. Fallon to run CENTCOM, you need look no further than the deployment of another carrier battle group to the "Arab Gulf." He's not there to oversee the ground war in Anbar Province. As I pointed out previously, you don't need two carriers worth of fixed wing fighter aircraft to conduct neighborhood by neighborhood clearing operations. That kind of high altitude fire power would kill as many of our guys as it would theirs. No. Those carriers are there to do a job. [Once the Eisenhower gets done bombing Solmali nomads into the stone age] And it's not to send a message to Tehran, either. You don't expend that kind of money and equipment to merely convince the Iranians to sit down at the negotiating table.

While the pundocracy battles it out over the relative merits of 21,000 troops making a difference in the Dora neighborhood and whether we'll finally start going after the Shiites, W. and Cheney have got the ball rolling for a much larger escalation. When it happens, whatever the trumped up rationale is, what will Congress do?

Think the entire notion is far fetched? Whose New Way Forward plan did W. go for? The bipartisan ISG recommended talks with Iran and Syria and a pullout of US troops by 2008. He didn't give it a second thought. Former general Jack Keane and and neocon true believer Frederick Kagan recommended escalation. [Kagan says: "Anyone who thinks that it's inconceivable that there could be a military option in Iran sometime down the road I think is making a mistake] Their plan he went with. It has no chance of working, because it's more of the same (but with higher casualties) but it is very appealing to someone like W..

Since he distains nuance and regards bipartisanship as weakness, this go-it-alone strategy leaves him free to do whatever he feels like doing. Attack Iran? Who's going to stop him? He doesn't have to run for re-election and the Democrats are too wimpy to dare impeach him. But even if they tried, by the time they were able to do anything, the American people would see the wisdom of his actions. So many things have gone so wrong he's due for a little luck, right?

Maybe, a little shock and awe over Tehran is all that's needed to bring Ahmadinejad and the mullahs down. The again, maybe Iranians unite behind the mullahs to repel the infidel invaders and they send waves of troops into Iraq and also manage to block the Strait of Hormuz. That sends the Western economies into a tailspin, which brings on a world-wide depression.

And so what if it does? W. will just retire back to back to Crawford, clear some brush and wait for history to vindicate him. And even if it doesn't, who cares? As he said, we'll all be dead anyway.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Polls don't lie and there's one born every minute:

I see in a news story from Rasmussen that: "As the President prepares to make his case for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, just 31% of American voters support that strategy. A national telephone poll of 800 Likely Voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that 56% think that we should be reducing the number of troops in Iraq. Just 26% believe that President Bush is doing a good or an excellent job handling the situation in Iraq."

I'm always wondering who these small number of people are. I think I have found one answer. Today in the LTTE section of the NYT, a "Bob Jack," a likely name, wrote this:

"The only way the war in Iraq will be won is through intensive, well-focused military operations led by United States military forces supported by Iraqi troops.

The proposed United States troop “surge” is essential to quelling the violence and killing off the insurgents and the forces of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The sooner we can get these troops there, the better.

Those in Congress who oppose the increase are doomed to defeat in their attempts to lose this war. This is a war that can be won.

We should be emboldened by the events in Somalia, where the Islamists are on the run and heavy casualties are being taken by Qaeda forces.

Assuming that the American military is unleashed in Iraq, we can have the same victorious results as in Somalia, and destroy the Iraqi incubation grounds for radical Islam.

I completely support the American troop buildup in Iraq and believe that our troops should be given the freedom to win the war."

The mind boggles.

"We should be emboldened by the events in Somalia?" Yeah, that's just like sending U.S. troops into Sadr City, with a population of 2 million Shiites armed to the teeth. ATC reported last ngiht that, "Announcements on Iraqi TV last night said that the cleric will force every man in Sadr City between 15 and 45 to join his militia. . . . The Mahdi Army is rumored to be distributing grenades to every family in Sadr City, a district already brimming with weapons."

You see, sending an AC-130 to blow the crap out of a bunch of Somalis and their camels is pretty much the same thing. USA! USA! USA!

3 years at Let's Talk About Democray:

Note: I've been attempting to revive my original blog LTAD, which I've had a tough time doing recently due to extreme time restraints and the lack of internet access at home. But Feb. will be the third anniversary of my starting LTAD, so I feel I should get back in the saddle. I don't know exactly what the deal with tripod (lycos)is but I tend to get most of my hits there from South Asia and Europe, whereas I get the majority of my hits at Blospot from the US and Canada. In any case, I write a lot more about foreign policy at LTAD. Maybe folks from areas other than North America care more about foreign policy issues? I don't know. Today I posted at LTAD so have a look, if you dare.

Monday, January 08, 2007

David Brooks: Out of ideas?

David Brooks writes in Sunday's NYT Op-Ed section that the idea of the Iraqis being able to nation-build themselves and provide their own security is so pre-Golden Dome bombing. Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. George Casey, according to Brooks, advocated a strategy of the light American foot-print, which has proven to be a disaster. It's all their fault, not W.'s. He just went along with the whole thing for three years and 3,000 US deaths because "Casey and Abizaid are impressive men, and Bush deferred to their judgment." You know, Gen. George McClellan was an impressive man too, but Lincoln only tolerated him for as long as it took him to find a replacement. Imagine if Lincoln had "deferred" to McClellan for as long as Bush has been screwing up in Iraq. (We'd have wound up with a string of presidents with southern drawls!)

Over time a chorus has arisen to oppose this policy, Brooks writes. "The members of this chorus -- John McCain, the Weekly Standard, whispering dissenters in the middling ranks of the military. . . have argued since the summer of 2003, that the US commit more troops to establish security before anything else became possible."

Right, I remember that don't you? I also remember the Weekly Standard and its editor saying something about U.S. troops being showered with flowers and little Iraqi children begging for American chocolate bars. I think there was also some mention of nylons and the invasion being a 'cake-walk.' That's all in the past now, though. We don't need to look too closely at what was said back then, beyond a few historical revisions provided by David Brooks, who knows better than we do about what went on.

In any case, Brooks is looking to the future, now, and his new plan for Iraq is to use a surge of US troops to create what he's calling "flexible-decentralization." He explains that this "would mean using adequate force levels (finally!) to help those who are returning to sectarian homelands. It would mean erecting buffers between populations where possible and establishing order in areas that remain mixed."

In other words, pretty much what the Iraqis have been doing themselves for the past 2 years or so. The Iraqis have been building their own "buffers" to separate themselves and the Madhi army has adequate force levels of its own to help Iraqi Sunnis to return to their sectarian homelands, or heaven -- which ever comes first. I find it kind of funny that Brooks thinks the Sunnis and Shiites who are being chased out of their homes are "returning" to where they're being chased to. There are about a million and a half Iraqis who are "returning" to Syria and Jordan, too, what happens to them? But, I guess, that's not really happening, because if he admitted that, he'd have to admit the war he pushed for so hard has been a complete fiasco.

Brooks', naturally, agrees with the president's new surge policy but goes way out into la la-land by saying that extra the US force levels should be used to "create a climate in which decentralized arrangements can evolve." They'll just "evolve." Just like the insurgency and the civil war have evolved. It may cause the deaths of a few thousand more Iraqis to work itself out, but we have to "create a political strategy, commensurate with the task of salvaging something."

This is reason enough to send perhaps 20,000 more young Americans into harm's way? To salvage something? That's the best he can come up with? Brooks is awfully cavalier with other people's lives, isn't he? What ever happened to transforming the entire Middle East by creating a shining beacon of freedom in Iraq? Again, the rationale shifts. Man, the neocons have really lost it.

Again, I ask the question: why is the media giving these people air time and print space? Don't the neocons have enough AM radio stations and print outlets to get their views across? What service to the readers of the NYT does having David Brooks on the Op-Ed page provide? Why do I have to endure his BS every Friday, not only on All Things Considered but also an hour later on the NewHours? Is the world that lacking for pundits?

If I want to read what the discredited neocon position on any foreign policy debate is, I’ll pick Weekly Standard. I don't need 24-7 coverage of their fringe opinions.

Execution of Saddam undermines US position in Baghdad.

Today the nation is breathlessly awaiting our fearless leader's plan for the New Way Forward. Supposedly he'll be letting us in on what he and his war cabinet have cooked up sometime on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I think Wednesday might be about six months too late. By making the political calculation to delay coming to grips with the fact that we weren't "absolutely" winning in Iraq until after the elections in November, the administration squandered what little chance there was of getting a handle on the situation in Iraq. Even as the president's new military and diplomatic appointments get themselves up to speed on the situation in Iraq and the troops load into their transports, events on the ground are again rushing ahead of W. & Co. By now, whatever strategy he and his National Security team have formulated has been rendered inoperable by their bungling of Saddam Hussein's execution.

I think history will eventually reveal that the failure of the administration to prevent that horrific spectacle was a crucial error that transformed the dynamics of the power relationship between the U.S. and the Iraqi government. By allowing al-Maliki and his puppet master Muqtada al-Sadr to get away with such a blatant sectarian lynching, the administration displayed its impotence. The United States government went eye ball to eye ball with al-Sadr and it blinked. In the dangerous world of the Middle East, weakness is something you dare not show. The U.S. may still have the most powerful militia on the streets of Baghdad, but that accounted for nothing when al-Maliki got the OK by the marjaiya in Najaf to sign the death warrant. [NYT]

Now it's clear for all to see who's really calling the shots in Baghdad. Any question as to Maliki's willingness or ability, or lack thereof, to rein in the Shiite death squads and the Madhi army should all be answered at this point. Yet despite this, the administration's plans for escalating the war continue apace. One fly in the ointment, however, remains the fact that the newly emboldened "sovereign" government of Iraq is refusing to sign off on the W.'s new surge strategy. To hear the Sunday talk shows you'd think it's a done deal, but according to an AP report from Saturday it's far from that:

"Sami al-Askari, a Maliki political adviser, said yesterday [Friday] that Maliki had not acquiesced to the reported White House plan to send as many as 9,000 more U.S. troops to Baghdad alone. 'President Bush told the prime minister he was ready to send additional troops,' Askari said, 'but Maliki said he would have to talk that over with his senior military officers to see if they were needed.'"

To put an even finer point on the Iraqi government's distain for U.S. interference, Askari said when al-Maliki spoke to Bush via video conference last week, he kept pressing Bush to withdraw U.S. troops to bases on "the outskirts of Baghdad." Could there be a reason why the Iraqis are so hell bent on getting us out of the picture? Could it be that a new security crackdown in Baghdad, announced by al-Maliki on Saturday, is in actuality the final push to ethnically cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis?

The official story is that this new crack down is part of Bush's -- as yet unannounced -- New Way Forward. Ostensibly, it's a joint Iraqi/U.S. operation to go neighborhood by neighborhood to clear out insurgents and death squads. However, another top al-Maliki aide, Hassan al-Suneid, told the AP that U.S. forces would only be needed in a supporting role.

U.S. forces were certainly no where to be seen on Haifa Street shortly after the crack down began on Saturday night. The NYT reported on Sunday that Iraqi army units had engaged "Sunni fighters" who had set up a fake security check point on Haifa Street and were pulling Shiites aside and killing them. The victims had then been hung from lamp posts, defense ministry spokesman Muhammed Askeri said. According to Askeri, 30 fighters were killed by Iraqi forces and residents in the mainly Sunni neighborhood said fighting continued into the night.

Oddly, as of yet, there have been no reports of Iraqi army units engaging Madhi army fighters. I'm sure that's just around the corner, though. As soon as all the Sunni insurgent groups are wiped out, al-Maliki will be getting right on that. 'Don't worry USA, just keep the money and arms coming and we'll take care of the rest.' I say we let them at it and take them at their word that they don't need us anymore. Instead of sending more troops to dodge bombs and bullets from both sides, we should get the hell out of their way.
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