Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mission Possible?

Robert Kagan wonders whether the "impossible" might actually be happening.

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bush administration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. I wonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference.


Only time will tell if the encouraging signs, reported here and elsewhere, really last. But if the changes last the then what factor tipped the balance? Even though the number of troops committed to the Surge is relatively small -- so comparatively small it has been pooh-poohed -- it is possible that the enemies were themselves stretched to the breaking point and the additional forces simply began the process of snapping them. Another possibility is that the hidden, cumulative improvements in Coalition capabilities finally came together: the lessons learned by command, growing experience of field officers, the training and mobilization of Iraqi forces, and the pent-up disgust of the population at the men who were terrorizing them. It's possible that Democrats may claim some share of the credit arguing that by threatening to abandon Iraq they forced both the Administration and the Iraqi government to act decisively against militia groups which were previously tolerated. Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is an orphan.

If the Baghdad security plan works it will be an important step, but the challenges in Anbar and the Southern Iraq, among others remain to be met. During the recent blogger roundtable with General Caldwell, the impression was conveyed that although initial signs were encouraging there remained a long way to go in the larger scheme of things. So if Baghdad actually turns the corner its greatest dividend may be as a new source of patience to confront the rest of the problems facing Iraq by demonstrating that what was declared "impossible" may be possible after all.

11 Comments:

Blogger Ash said...

ah yes, turned the corner and reached the tipping point, it is all downhill from here.

an alternative view, and more probable, is that the 'surge' has prompted the smart combatants to sit tight for awhile. The US cannot maintain the current troop levels for long (politically if not militarily) and this surge has done nothing toward encouraging the myriad groups fighting each other to find solutions.

3/14/2007 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

It is not the US forces per se but the Iraqi forces they can "stiffen" and improve the operational capabilities of. So 20,000 US might leverage 60,000 Iraqi troops.

Also, after the election the insurgents must have thought they had the thing won. Then more Americans show up. Could have been a disappointment.

Did you ever see the movie Michael Collins? In that the famed IRA commander is at the end of his string (but keeping up the attacks even though he will run out of men in a few weeks), and is saved by the British offer to negotiate. Perhaps we can do the same for AQ. Apparently, failure is an oppotion.

3/14/2007 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

It might be that while the mufsidun were waiting for our support to quit, we were waiting for their support to do the same before we got serious about security.

We talk about our having had a need for investment in our nation at the start, why wouldn't they require the same investment. Just standing around waiting for a country to be handed to them on a plate wouldn't guarantee an appreciation for freedom.

3/14/2007 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Hdgreene, I agree with you, the Democrats really helped tip the balance. After the elections, the muj were sky high, Iraq was finally becoming the next Vietnam! The weak Americans, just as Osama predicted, swept the anti-war Democrats into power, and they would shortly pull the plug on their imperialist minions in Iraq. Like the Paper Tiger Americans are, we would stumble away trembling from the inexorable forces of jihad. And then Iraq would become the old Afghanistan and Dark Age days would be here again!

And then their bubble was popped when the Democrats appeared to be viewed as blithering idiots, unable to "re-deploy" and save the day. O no, even worse, that savage Bush increased the troop levels.

Can you imagine what a huge buzz-kill that was for the average terr and his dreams of the Caliphate?

No wonder they're losing so bad all of a sudden. They probably feel like Al Gore after the 2000 election - they had that thing in the bag.

Even now, their partners in Congress scream and shout, like Joe Biden whining today that Bush is "driving us over a cliff" to his apparently ignorant audience, who live in the past and don't want to hear about today. But darn it, it's not working. Americans act like they want to win. How can that be? Didn't they just vote to surrender, to lose on purpose?

What if Iraq becomes the next South Korea, and the Americans never leave? - the poor muj must be thinking. Oh, the horror.

3/14/2007 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Well, well.

(CBS) An American helicopter had to bring the Iraqi Prime Minister in for his first visit to Anbar Province, the heart of the Sunni insurgency and home to hard-line Saddam loyalists, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports.

He came to reinforce a new and unlikely American alliance — a deal between the U.S. military and Sunni tribes who only weeks ago were their enemy — to take on the deadly insurgents called al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

The Euphrates River valley that runs through Anbar is the route used by foreign fighters who helped make an area the size of Utah the bloodiest battleground in Iraq for U.S. forces, accounting for one-third of American casualties. The killing and mayhem turned Anbar into a failed state and convinced tribal leaders they had to re-think their allegiances.

The chanting at a recent rally was "no, no to terrorism." A few months ago U.S. troops were their sworn enemy. Not any more.

"They have seen al Qaeda kill too many of its sheiks, of their sons and brothers, their family members," says Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.

3/14/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Iraqi and US officials release quantitative data on the results of the Baghdad security plan, the American officials downplaying and Iraqi officials playing up the the positive results. (Reuters)

3/14/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


Under President Hillary, Iraq will be the next Korea

While Mrs. Clinton declined to estimate the size of a residual American troop presence, she indicated that they might be based north of Baghdad and in the western Anbar Province.

“It would be fewer troops,” she said. “But what we can do is to almost take a line north of — between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region the ones that are going to remain for our antiterrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis.”

3/14/2007 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

A little o/t but not.at the risk of
emboldening Ash.A fascinating read is "My Battle of Algiers "by Ted Morgan.Morgan who is French was a conscript as well as an observer in the French-Algerian war in the 1950's.Critics claim the account is telling regarding this war.
The French faced the same dilemma the west faces today;how to combat fanatical urban guerillas under restrictive rules of warfare.Their answer was to throw out the rulebook.The French army under Colonel Matthieu used torture and assassination to decapitate the FLN movement and remove terror in the process.In the doing so though they achieved a Pyrrhic victory by alienating the muslim moderates and leading to the ultimate expulsion of France from Algeria.
The obvious difference though in Algeria and Iraq is the French were colonial oppressors while we aren't.
An interesting irony is that while our Viet Nam involvement caused a loss of will in military affairs and the turning of many leftwing boomers into lifelong defeatists;the French experience was much different.
The French paratroopers learned the value of torture in Viet Minh hands after Dien Binh Phu and found it useful in Algeria.The Algerian Indochinese veterans were radicalized by their contact with the Viet Minh and brought it home.
What the lesson in it all is is past my feeble brain,but its an interesting book to read especially in conjunction with the 1966 film,"Battle of Algiers",availible on DVD.

3/14/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

trang,

One of the interesting things about the Algeria was that the FLN killed 20 times more Arabs than Frenchmen. "Internal" violence is much more decisive than "external" violence. It didn't really matter whether the FLN could inflict a military defeat on the French for so long as they terrorized the Arabs into submission. When the Left cheers the terrorists on that campaign of terror is exactly what they are rooting for. Objectively speaking.

3/15/2007 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger USpace said...

Let's hope they can keep this up long enough to embolden and strengthen the Iraqis to take over and beat the terrorist monkeys back forever.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
cut and run from war

do what your enemies want
let them think you are weak
.

3/15/2007 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Osama's throwin' sevens, the Dems are not coming through. The Paper Tiger thing is not working out.


The US Senate doesn’t know they’re supposed to surrender now


Measure Number: S.J.Res. 9
Measure Title: A joint resolution to revise United States policy on Iraq.
Vote Counts:
YEAs 48
NAYs 50


SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This joint resolution may be cited as the `United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007'.

SEC. 2. PROMPT COMMENCEMENT OF PHASED REDEPLOYMENT OF UNITED STATES FORCES FROM IRAQ.

(a) Transition of Mission- The President shall promptly transition the mission of United States forces in Iraq to the limited purposes set forth in subsection (b).

(b) Commencement of Phased Redeployment From Iraq- The President shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq except for a limited number that are essential for the following purposes:

(1) Protecting United States and coalition personnel and infrastructure.

(2) Training and equipping Iraqi forces.

(3) Conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations.

(c) Comprehensive Strategy- Subsection (b) shall be implemented as part of a comprehensive diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community for the purpose of working collectively to bring stability to Iraq.

(d) Reports Required- Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the President shall submit to Congress a report on the progress made in transitioning the mission of the United States forces in Iraq and implementing the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq as required under this section.

Calendar No. 72
110th CONGRESS
1st Session
S. J. RES. 9
JOINT RESOLUTION


Nah.

3/15/2007 03:13:00 PM  

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