Thursday, May 17, 2007


Defend America News files this report: At the meeting, five Sunni and five Shia volunteered to form a committee to recruit residents for the Iraqi police force. Further meetings are also planned between the Amugiya and Ubadie tribes to reconcile differences and sign an official peace agreement.

Even if you accept this as good news, which it is, the story is also indicative of just how far things have to go to attain any stability in the Western sense. You could also take the view that the Iraq was always a mess, but at least things seemed better when we didn't know it.

Bill Roggio describes the battle between al-Qaeda and Coalition forces in Mosul and Diyala with the enemy sustaining heavy casualties, though more civilians have died in Diayala as the al-Qaeda attacked again with chlorine gas.


Blogger 49erDweet said...

Another item you won't be reading soon in the NYT.


5/17/2007 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard wrote:

You could also take the view that the Iraq was always a mess, but at least things seemed better when we didn't know it.

That's a statement that leads to intriguing questions about the ignorance behind all the declarations of easy victory in Iraq. What wasn't known? Was it a massive communal case of one of Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns, in which we didn't know what we didn't know, or, was expertise overlooked and overruled, thereby leading to known unknowns? We (well, some of us) knew what wasn't known.

Wretchard, one of your first blogpost from May '03 claimed that the Iraq War was over, and your predictions of success throughout '04 led to your many statements of victory (5,6+?) in 2005. What didn't you know?

5/17/2007 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Fair question. Saddam's army was beaten in '03 without question. The Sunni insurgency is beaten too. You yourself have often expressed the view that Iran will inherit Iraq, or large parts of it, which is inconsistent with a Sunni victory. But beaten isn't the same as "stopped fighting".

I was just at a think tank talk attended by defense and diplomatic officials and one of the stated concerns was that if the US left precipitously the Sunni nations would be drawn into the war, if only to return the refugees who are now packing Syria and Jordan and protect their co-religionists. The principal speaker compared the old Sunni elite to the southern whites during Reconstruction who could not quite believe that world had turned upside down on them, couldn't even admit they were only 25% of the population. The Old Regime is unlikely ever to return.

But where I was wrong was to think that some kind of political stability could be returned to Iraq. The principal speaker believed the chances for a stable Iraq were good -- but the process would take a long time and it was time that the politicians would probably not provide. One colonel just back from Iraq was struck by the contrast between the optimism of the men in the field -- and he had talked not just to Australians, but other Coalition troops -- and the gloom and doom in public opinion circles. He allowed there might be an element of "self-justification" among men who were on a mission. But some men are already on their third or fourth tours and they are coming back of their own accord.

How to square the circle? A lot of the discussion during the talk revolved around whether the West was ready for a "long war" and the consensus was that Western militaries at least were not. Some things by nature take a long time and it was understood that Western militaries are not designed for that kind of thing.

So while we can probably stabilize Iraq in the long run there's a sense that in reality we probably won't. In effect, we've won or can win but politically lack the patience to stick around for the victory party as a practical matter.

It was my sense there was near unanimity in the belief that very bad things would follow from the probable pullout from Iraq and that we had best get ready for it. And one of those things, quite apart from the redeployment of terrorists to the west, is a possible flood of refugees out of Iraq.

5/17/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I now remember the phrase the speaker used. "There's this idea floating around Washington that by being in Iraq we are somehow getting in the way of the Iraqis coming together. But there is no one I know or have spoken to in Iraq who thinks this is true. Practically every Iraqi wants us to leave Iraq, but practically none want us to leave right now." Or words very close to that.

5/17/2007 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Would_U_pecker said...

NYT never print it

5/17/2007 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

re: [T]he story is also indicative of just how far things have to go to attain any stability in the Western sense.

"Officials in charge of the United States' Arabic-language satellite television network explained Wednesday that it aired an anti-Israel speech by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah because none of the supervisors spoke Arabic."

"Mistakes were made"
___Joaquin Blaya

"Why are American taxpayer dollars used to spread the hate, lies, and propaganda of these nuts, when our goal was to counter them?"
___Gary Ackerman

U.S. Aired Nasrallah Speech Because No One Knew Arabic


5/17/2007 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

If memory serves it was probably way into 2005 before large numbers of interpreters began to arrive in theater. I was at a discussion where it was mentioned that the State Department has only now been deploying capable personnel to the field level in Iraq and that most of them are learning about Iraq on the job.

It is often forgotten that equipment is far, far easier to produce than trained men. One Air Force officer at a telephone discussion I was on once said that the public thought building an Air Force was all about buying planes. In truth, the biggest factor in building an Air Force was the decades long investment in building up its people.

I really wonder how long it is actually going to take before Western society is ramped up far enough to resist this new threat seriously. It make take decades. Literally.

5/17/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

re: No One Knew Arabic

Organizations such as MEMRI could be hired to insure against such screw-ups. How many years will it take the bureaucrats to discover that? And, would a "Zionist" organization be hired, recalling that bullets manufactured in Israel cannot be used downrange against Muslim "insurgents".

There may not be enough years.

5/17/2007 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

I think that our memory of WW2 made us forget the reality of South Vietnam. I mean that we're tied to a dysfunctional, often incompetant, Third World state.

Germany and Japan could right themselves without a civil war. They had been functioning countries before the 1930s, and could revert back to their own traditions. What was Iraq's pre- Saddam tradition? We should have paid more attention to Iraqi history. We gave them too much credit toward their ability to rule themselves- they haven't done it for centuries.

5/18/2007 02:47:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

That's what makes the War on Terror so hard. None of the challenges are going to involve changing regimes in places which resemble Japan or Germany. The action will happen in places which will make 1960s South Vietnam seem like Switzerland.

We'll be dealing with tribes, exotic societies, impoverished masses, fanatical preachers, conditioned irrationality. Consequently many of the war-winning tools and capabilities (assuming we win this war) don't even exist yet. Austin Bay talks about the need to mobilize all aspects of national power. The challenges of learning how to overcome the current world crisis go way beyond the simple issue of leaving or staying in Iraq.

I remember arguing someplace that the real strategic value of Iraq was the people and what was inside their heads. Through the Iraqis the West would learn what fighting the war on terror was all about. How to do it. How not to do it. How and how not to convince others to fight alongside you.

Somebody remarked at that talk I was in, that the civil-military crisis which followed Vietnam would probably be reprised in the event of an abandonment of Iraq. Not that people would mutiny or anything, but that a lot military people, feeling betrayed, would quit in disgust and find other jobs. It took a fairly long time to rebuild the Army after Vietnam. And what that means is that having spent blood and treasure to learn so much we'll go and throw it all away. Throw away the institutional memory, throw away the Iraqi networks or leave them to be taken over by the Iranians or al-Qaeda and turned against us.

That'll be all right if the terrorism phenomenon ends right there, but if it goes on then we will have wasted an almost irreplaceable resource. We learned how to upend countries like Germany and Japan. But winning in the Third World is still and unknown art. And we've learned, we're fixing to forget.

5/18/2007 03:21:00 AM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

It's actually occured to me to vote Democrat in the next election because of Iraq. If we're not going to be able to win a war, we might as well stay out of it in the first place...

Of course, they're a big reason why so I probably won't.

5/18/2007 04:07:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

john lynch

If we shall have learned anything from 9/11 please let it be that Americans do not have exclusive decision making authority about who will be doing what to whom over the next several decades.

The Arab/Muslim world and large swaths of Africa are bursting a demographic bubble of young males with no prospects and no future. That this is happening in a culture that actively encourages genocide as acceptable social behavior should be telling us that this is not the time to be sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for the best.

5/18/2007 01:07:00 PM  

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