Two pieces on Iraq that readers might want to think about. The first is from Global Guerillas and the second from Bill Roggio. First, Global Guerrillas:
Iraq is now in full failure and as a result, the assumption that the US will be able to continue with its partial efforts at urban pacification has become dangerously wrong.
The reasons should be obvious. US forces are now surrounded by a sea of militias and insurgents. Within Baghdad itself, where the current pacification effort is focused, US troops are badly outnumbered in extremely difficult urban terrain. Worse yet, the opposition is growing in numbers, sophistication, and aggressiveness at a rate more rapid than the static number of US troops can build up the Iraqi military. It is now only a matter of time before either a misstep or a calculated event pushes the countryside into full scale warfare.
In this near term conflict, we are likely to see a repeat of the lightly manned defensive hedgehog used successfully by Hezbollah against Israel (that lesson was not lost on this war's open source participants). If placed along critical US military supply routes or immediately outside US mega-bases, and augmented by informational superiority (a combination of better local intelligence and advanced signals intercepts), these defensive tactics would extract a heavy toll on US troops (even as the US wins a tactical victory). Further, if repeatably successful, these efforts will force the US to forgo all efforts at offensive pacification operations in favor of basic force protection. From that point on, the timer will be on until a US forward base is overrun (when it finally goes off, we will be cooked).
Next, we have Bill Roggio:
While the news from western Iraq has focused on the partial leaking of a Marine intelligence report purportedly focusing on the inaccurate reports of the 'loss of Anbar province',' a significant political development has occurred between the Anbar tribes and the Coalition and Iraqi government. The New York Times reported over the weekend that 25 of the province's 31 tribes have organized to oppose the insurgency and al-Qaeda. ...
The Anbar tribes have taken great risk by publicly going on record against the insurgency and al-Qaeda. In May, I documented al-Qaeda's assassination program against tribal, clerical and government leaders in Anbar. The threat is real. There is also the possibility that some of the 6 remaining tribes have held out from taking a stand against al-Qaeda out of fear of retribution. ...
The cooperation of tribes with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces is not a new development in Anbar. Nor is the willingness of the tribes to fight against al-Qaeda. Over the summer of 2005 and spring of 2006, I documented numerous incidents of 'red on red' infighting, as well as the formation of the 'Anbar Revenge Brigade.' I sat in on tribal meetings in Husaybah, where tribal leaders openly expressed a willingness to assist with stability, security and reconstruction. The tribal leaders have repeatedly expressed an interest in ejecting the jihadis from their midst, but fear, intimidation and outright violence have prevented them from organizing.
He also talks about press reports that the US has "lost" Anbar.
I've received plenty of questions about the intelligence report that claims Anbar province has been lost. I've talked to several sources in the military and intelligence who have actually seen the entire report (and not been fed excerpts). They are angry over the media's characterization of the report. Basically, the report indicated that the situation in Ramadi is dire, and that the political situation in Anbar as a whole as a result is in danger because of this. ...
Since my sources were unwilling to go on the record, I chose not to address this directly. If the military community is unwilling to step up to the plate and defend itself, except in vague terms, about the situation in Ramadi then they will have to deal with the backlash of this decision. Good work has been and continues to be done in Anbar. The military has a problem with public affairs, plain and simple, and fails to realize that the impact on remaining silent on this report far outweighs the need to keep the information classified.
The case for saying the US has militarily lost in Iraq is based on the application of a model to events there. The idea being that America will get the same "treatment" that Israel received at the hands of Hezbollah after Peace for Galilee. As in Lebanon, there has been a race between sides as to who will generate the most force from the local inhabitants. The US started this race early on, in its attempts to create an Iraqi government and an Iraqi Army. It seems to me that Global Guerilla's claim that the enemy is generating force from locals at a faster rate than the Americans has basic problems: America has stood up several Iraqi divisions and an internationally recognized government. The insurgents don't even have a single united front, let alone a shadow government, and they certainly don't seem to have the troop numbers of the Iraqi government. What you can say with certainty is they haven't even been able to prevent the Iraqi buildup. So to argue that they can suddenly do what they haven't done and surround and destroy US bases is somewhat questionable.
But Global Guerillas has an undoubtedly valid point lurking underneath the disputable facts. Simply put, the primary determinant of an insurgency's failure or success crucially depends on who the population thinks will retain the field. In every successful counterinsurgency it was clear to the population that the counterinsurgents would stay the course. Nothing would help the case of Iraq more than a bipartisan policy to finish the job. But because it seems likely that the Democratic policy will essentially abandon the Iraqi government, the insurgency will always remain strategically viable, no matter how weak it may be tactically. So unless the Iraqi government is set up so solidly that an eventual insurgent victory is out of the question or a bipartisan policy to support some eventual Iraqi successor state is established, the Global Guerilla scenario remains in play.
Parenthetically, a site called Done with Mirrors has a long post on what the author helped in achieve in Iraq, describing a catalogue of reconstruction projects which you and I will never hear of. The standard antiwar response to this is "so what?". But one response is to ask: "how did they do this without local support? If the enemy were so all powerful and omniscient?" It is really the "how did the Iraqi government and army happen?" question in a reconstruction context. The truth is that it has always been a horse race and not just the insurgent horse lapping the field. But again, the fundamental question each and every indigenous ally of America asks himself, at 2 am in the morning, or when he starts off for work is: will America abandon me? And the answer, of some politicians at least, is darn tootin' we'll abandon you. And if you are sufficiently certain of that abandonment, there is only one rational course you can take.
That said, there are really important differences between Israel in Lebanon and America in Iraq. Israel could never escape suspiscions it wanted territory, while it is abundantly clear that America doesn't want a square inch of Iraq. Also, Israel took sides in a civil war. In Iraq, America is working for the implementation of an Iraqi constitution which creates a federal state, with the central government in charge of working out resource sharing. This is a fundamental difference. Iraq is naturally three nations. It became a unitary state under Sykes-Picot, as an imperial Anglo-French exercise. America has given the Iraqis a chance to leave the Sykes-Picot framework in a constitutional and consensual manner. In a very fundamental sense, history is on America's side and insurgency which aims at re-establishing some ethnic dominance are really fighting the tide of events. Concealed in the debate about Iraq is the little recognized detail that a Federal Iraq with a Shi'ite majority is inherently far stabler than a Sunni minority-dominated state under a strongman, which is what liberals, who ought to know better, seem to hanker for. The bottom line is that the Global Guerillas scenario can occur if America doesn't come up with a settled bipartisan policy to support an democratic Iraqi successor state. And since there is about a 45% chance that the Democrats may win and eventually abandon the state, there is about a 45% chance that America will be driven out of Iraq.