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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » NY Times Op Ed - "The surge is working"

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Author Topic: NY Times Op Ed - "The surge is working"
Kent
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A War We Might Just Win

quote:
Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.


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kenmeer livermaile
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Petraeus is awesome. And of course the troops are jubilant after years of military clowns in charge. How soon that might resolve things like this:

Iraw power grid in tatters

...is a crucial question.The picture in the article is eloquent.

[ August 06, 2007, 12:39 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Kenmeer -

I'm actually far less worried about that and far more worried about the political issues. The economy will start booming right along the moment law and order is restored - the political issues, however, need to be solved to make our military solution permenent.

That said, I am optomistic about the surge - but I have been all along, so it's hardly a 'eureka' moment.

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DaveS
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The Pollack op-ed article has already been cited in another thread. It's run into a fair headwind on other blogs and papers, so who knows...
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Storm Saxon
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I posted a link to it and a rebuttal.

From what I recall, the gist of the rebuttal was that the authors have been saying almost the same things for the last three or four years, and their track record of actual criticism is almost nonexistent.

This isn't to say that the authors aren't right, but that what they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

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DaveS
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I forgot about SS's post. It's hard to quantify the impact of the surge when on the one hand, deaths are at the levels they were previously, and on the other, "they like us!" more than before. I think the surge would have to run for a year before I would be comfortable declaring the military/violence quotient either way. But, every month that it's "working" as well as it is right now means approximately 100 US soldier deaths, 2000 civilians killed, 35,000 civilians dislocated, and who knows what toll on children and the general health of the population.

That ignores what even Gates and Petraeus are saying publicly, that the surge can't "win" the war and that the political situation is rapidly deteriorating along with the physical infrastructure. It also ignores the ongoing disintegration of ME stability that our seemingly neverending, neverwon but neverfailing military operations in Iraq are contributing to.

Sorry, but it's hard to get excited, even if the O’Hanlon and Pollack op-ed is "accurate" (they weren't overly rapturous, themselves). Rather than "surge" the troops, we should have surged a dozen other things that nobody is talking about because since the "surge" began in January and is "working", nobody wants to talk about anything else.

[ August 06, 2007, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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Storm Saxon
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It doesn't really matter. The political will of the American people is such that forces are going to be seriously downsized by 2008. So, either it works by then, or it doesn't.

I suppose at the very least, people can't say that America didn't try it best.

Sad you can't really say the same of other countries.

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RickyB
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FdR - your attitude is why we're losing. The PEOPLE care far more about the power grids. Take care of that, and they might come around to liking your politics. You know, like we did in Europe. We won the hearts and minds of our part of Europe cause we took care of stuff and made life good.

Political stability can be overrated. Italy has had over 50 cabinets since WW2. Still a hell of a place to live [Smile]

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Sampler
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I agree with Ricky, political stability has lead to Basra, Iraq's economic center, turned into militia zones because the British farmed out the peace-keeping. Essentially it's one step BELOW organized crime.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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RickyB -

I agree. My point was this: once we secure and hold areas (the point of the surge), reconstruction will proceed at a far greater pace, and the local economy (not simply out-of-country contractors) will begin to flourish. That, in turn, will result in the area being easier to continue to hold on to.

It's basically a tipping point - once law and order is secured for a good period, we'll see some services restored, which will create a self-perpetuating loop. More people will find work, which will lead to less violence, which will lead to more reconstruction, which will... (etc).

I think that (in this case) I am saying the same thing you are – we just got our signals crossed.

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RickyB
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It's not happening so far. September is 3 weeks away. Sorry.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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RickyB -

I never would claim that success would move so quickly. However, it should be obvious where our military successes will lead - provided we take the proper tack through the storm that is this war. I would assume that any update by General Patreus and the various civilian governmental figures will include our upcoming economic moves as well as an update on the status of our military actions.

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RickyB
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<shrugs>
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DaveS
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A fair assessment by David Brooks and the most credible optimistic view so far. Note that he says that the surge is failing, but a transformation is possible due to other factors. This is far from success, but worth mentioning.
quote:
Now, at long last, the smartest analysts and policy makers are starting to think like sociologists. They are finally acknowledging that the key Iraqi figures are not in the center but in the provinces and the tribes. Peace will come to the center last, not to the center first. Stability will come not through some grand reconciliation but through the agglomeration of order, tribe by tribe and street by street.

The big change in the debate has come about because the surge failed, and it failed in an unexpected way.

The original idea behind the surge was that U.S. troops would create enough calm to allow the national politicians to make compromises. The surge was intended to bolster the “modern” — meaning nonsectarian and nontribal — institutions in the country.

But the surge is failing, at least politically, because there are practically no nonsectarian institutions, and there are few nonsectarian leaders to create them. Security gains have not led to political gains.

It ignores all of the bad news in the hopes of finding a pearl among the dross. For instance, civilian deaths are up in each month of July and August, US deaths are higher month to month from a year ago. Deaths are down in Baghdad because the city has been mostly realigned along ethnic neighborhoods and huge numbers of people have fled. It isn't pretty, but the killing has accomplished its objectives. Sadr has called off his dogs for the moment, and the Sunni's that have allied with us are far from actual allies.

The country is a mess, and whatever peace there is is tenuous. The former country of Iraq is in an inexorable process of being partitioned by violence more than progressively protected by the surge, and anybody who thought that the central Constitutional government would somehow preserve and rebuild the former Iraq have been proven wrong. The positive grain that I take from this is that the killing so far has been so effective that the pace may begin to decline sooner than I expected.

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kenmeer livermaile
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So our brilliant Neo-Con-mongered wear is finally using principles proven through the eons, notably by those Romans the Neo-Cons so admired:

co-opt existing power structures, don't dismantle them and then rebuild from the center.

Politics begins from the ground up.

The USA started as colonies, then became a loose confederation, then fought a nasty-ass wicked civil war to cement it all under centralized rule.

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velcro
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So after four years of incompetent leadership, and four years of saying that things are improving when they obviously aren't, we finally get a few months where things are merely horrible, instead of accelerating to new depths.

I hope that things really are better, to the point that Iraq may be livable in the foreseeable future. But based on past history, there is no credible reason to trust the current leaders.

It's a bad situation if we stay. It's a bad situation if we go. It didn't have to be this way. It really sucks that the people responsible for this huge debacle have taken no responsibility for it.

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RickyB
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quote:
U.S. Comptroller General David Walker was asked today about the military's claim that sectarian violence in Iraq is down 75 percent as a result of the "surge." His reply: "We were briefed on the methodology. We're not comfortable with the methodology."

Will the rest of us have an opportunity to get "comfortable" with the methodology by examining it in some sort of methodical way? Fat chance. From the Washington Times via Think Progress comes word that Gen. David Petreaus' report -- where the 75 percent claim will be made -- won't be much of a report at all.

"A senior military officer said there will be no written presentation to the president on security and stability in Iraq," the Times reports. The necessary implication: If the president isn't getting a written report from Petraeus, neither is Congress and neither are the rest of us.

Link
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kenmeer livermaile
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Ever wonder what it would feel like to brak your neck trying to pull it out of your ass after ramming it in just way too far?

Behold America in Iraq.

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Paladine
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quote:
The USA started as colonies, then became a loose confederation, then fought a nasty-ass wicked civil war to cement it all under centralized rule.
We went over a decade without the Constitution, and we expect Iraq to form a functional new government with cooperation between rival sects in a matter of months. Our own Congress is currently much less effective than the Iraqi parliament, and yet we have the temerity to lecture and sneer at them for not doing through the political process much more difficult things than we could currently do, and at a much quicker rate? I don't see why the bar for the world's newest democracy should be set so much higher than that for the world's oldest.
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DaveS
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We invented democracy during those first 10 tender years and perfected it over the next 200. Now it's a franchise. If we can't "export" it and "install" it, nobody can. Deal with the reality that they don't want it, and we have no right and are learning that we have no power to insist that they should have it anyway.
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Paladine
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quote:
We invented democracy during those first 10 tender years and perfected it over the next 200.
That's nearly as arrogant as it is inaccurate. Impressive! [Wink]

quote:
If we can't "export" it and "install" it, nobody can. Deal with the reality that they don't want it, and we have no right and are learning that we have no power to insist that they should have it anyway.
The numbers that turned out to vote suggest rather strongly otherwise to me. Many Iraqis certainly don't like each other, and many certainly don't like us, but I've yet to see evidence that they aren't interested in democracy. They're simply more interested in security and not getting blown up walking down the street, and in some parts of the country we haven't provided that.

While the final solution does have to be a political one, some basic degree of security is prerequesite. Hopefully General Petraeus can begin to deliver that, and we can proceed from there.

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DaveS
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quote:
That's nearly as arrogant as it is inaccurate. Impressive!
Yeah, well, thanks! [Smile] . I was thinking of our chauvinism that we represent the ideal in its finest incarnation and can speak with authority about its virtues. We also had to figure it out without an occupying force to 'splain it to us and steer us toward it through those troubled early years.
quote:
Many Iraqis certainly don't like each other, and many certainly don't like us, but I've yet to see evidence that they aren't interested in democracy. They're simply more interested in security and not getting blown up walking down the street, and in some parts of the country we haven't provided that.
If I may return the compliment, that is powerfully naive [Smile] . The main goal of the sectarian violence has been ethnic cleansing and establishing new enclaves. I could give a lot of examples to support that, but Basra will suffice. Nearly all of the violence there is between Shiite sects for control of the city. There is no major Sunni or AQ presence there, and the city is ruled by vigilante militias and security teams.
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kenmeer livermaile
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Whoever 'invented' the thing we call democracy, the USA version began in enclaves (settlements, colonies), fought a civil war (the American Revolution was not universally supported by 'mercans), resulting in a confederation, which then fought a humungo Civil War that formed today's unified nation of states.

It didn't start by Brits building a capital in D.C. and telling everyone 'You're all democrats now'.

In Iraq, you the movement reversed: 'y'all dems now' regressing into neighborhood war lords.

My opinion is that any honest student of political science would concede that democracy stands very little chance of being implemented by force from the top down: to do so goes against the very grain of which democracy is formed.

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RickyB
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"We invented democracy during those first 10 tender years."

All by ou'se lonesome? [Big Grin]

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RickyB
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We had the luxury of relative seclusion, the absence of violence on religious grounds, and... oh, I could go on. Please don't make me right now [Smile]

Seriously, the Iraqis simply don't have the luxury of waiting the time we did. Not fair but true. Then again, I done read the holy book, and it don't say a doggone thing about Eye-raq having to be one unified country.

[ September 08, 2007, 07:27 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Paladine
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quote:
If I may return the compliment, that is powerfully naive . The main goal of the sectarian violence has been ethnic cleansing and establishing new enclaves. I could give a lot of examples to support that, but Basra will suffice. Nearly all of the violence there is between Shiite sects for control of the city. There is no major Sunni or AQ presence there, and the city is ruled by vigilante militias and security teams.
Which has nothing to do with the question of whether the average Iraqi would prefer to live in a free, democratic society. The fact that bands of armed thugs are roving about killing us and each other speaks to the military and security challenges Iraq and we face. What it doesn't do is mean that the people there generally don't want democracy and would prefer authoritarianism or theocracy. People are people, whether here or anywhere else, and they want substantially the same things.

They want to be able to live in peace, to be confident that they can go to the store and their children can play in the street without the serious possibility they'll be blown up. They want to be able to pass the real possibility of a brighter future on to the next generation. They want a hand in determining their own futures, and the ability to speak their minds without fear. So why are they incapable of democracy, exactly? Why do you think they don't want it?

quote:
My opinion is that any honest student of political science would concede that democracy stands very little chance of being implemented by force from the top down: to do so goes against the very grain of which democracy is formed.
Here I agree. But again, at the local and regional level there's been considerable progress in empowering local authorities. There's been significant progress in participation in self-government on a grassroots level. We need to build this thing from the bottom up. Let Petraeus handle the security aspect and those roving bands of thugs will go away. The question then becomes whether Iraqis are able and willing to govern themselves, and if we start by getting them invested in local governments in which they have a real say and which have a real impact on their lives, I think the answer will emphatically be yes.
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RickyB
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"My opinion is that any honest student of political science would concede that democracy stands very little chance of being implemented by force from the top down: to do so goes against the very grain of which democracy is formed."

And yet it worked in both Germany (a country with a single, brief, disastrous episode of democracy) and Japan, a country with absolutely none and a fully divine monarch. Yes, obviously there are difference, but this example cannot be brushed off when analyzing the performance of people who chose to attempt this.

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DaveS
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quote:
They want to be able to live in peace, to be confident that they can go to the store and their children can play in the street without the serious possibility they'll be blown up. They want to be able to pass the real possibility of a brighter future on to the next generation. They want a hand in determining their own futures, and the ability to speak their minds without fear. So why are they incapable of democracy, exactly? Why do you think they don't want it?
How does wanting those things translate (in your mind) into wanting democracy? Wouldn't the comfort of knowing that you lived under the protection of a beloved religious leader's guiding hand, protecting you and everyone else around you from perversions and foreign influences be a good solution? If your entire cultural history was founded on familial, tribal and religious authority, why (and how) would you yearn for this other thing called democracy?

I don't know the detailed histories of Japan and Germany after WWII, but I recall reading that the Japanese willingly accepted McArthur's imposition of a parliamentary system because the Emperor did, and the Emperor was a deity. McArthur they could maybe disobey, not the Emperor.

I also am no expert on ME culture, but it's my understanding that power accrues upwards through family and tribal relationships, not downwards from a central representative system as western governments do it. Iran and Egypt are about as close as they come in the region. Saddam had his own version, and the Shia were not well pleased with it.

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RickyB
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Where in the middle east is political rule NOT top-down? OK, in Saudia now so many people are semi royal that it really is the people's kingdom [Razz] But everywhere else it's authoritarian. Sure, if you want to rule in peace you need the tribes and clans and big city families content, but...
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DaveS
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quote:
Where in the middle east is political rule NOT top-down?
How about Iraq, with Afghanistan not far behind? United Arab Emirates probably, but they're peaceful.

I'm not saying there isn't authoritative and differing degrees of centralized rule in any country, but in some countries it's based on federation of tribal areas or other forms of agreement. I have no idea what to describe Afghanistan's government as, since it mostly governs just Kabul and the vicinity. Iraq's parliament mainly serves by distributing wealth and arms through patronage, corruption and loyalty arrangements.

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RickyB
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Yeah, cause they've been thrown into chaos. Kinda proves my point. Besides, Afghanistan is not in the ME. ME ends with Persia [Smile]

UAE is the kind of place where "citizens" are a minority among multi-month residents.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"People are people, whether here or anywhere else, and they want substantially the same things."

Sure. Americans are people. We all want the same things, right? You just upped the arrogant assumption ante.

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Pete at Home
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Afghanistan is not the ME, but it's dominated by Pashtun Pakistanis who freaking worship the Arabs and rewrite their own blatantly Indian geneaology to feign descent from Ishmael. Remember when Clinton called Haiti "America's backyard"? A massive chunk of Afghanistan aspires to be, dreams of being, Arabia's doormat.
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