Monday, July 28, 2008

Not the NYT Headline

Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost
AP BAGHDAD — The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.
Considering the source, AP veterans who have been in Iraq for several years, and the conclusion, one would think that this story deserves somewhat more prominent display than, say, an article in the Life & Style section questioning whether there is a cat heaven.

While this story appeared to merit widespread spiking, other events treading that same path did reach the light of MSM day. In what must come as an unwelcome surprise to a locally prominent blogger,
BAGHDAD — The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.
Call me bold, but I predict there will be no apologies coming from for bringing us the maliciously mangled "General Betrayus."

In hindsight, this turn of events, nearly unthinkable only 12 months ago, is the consequence of a fiendishly brilliant neo-con plan, unless it is proof positive of blundering to success.

How so? By giving the various Islamist forces a chance to get what they asked for. As with communism, this was a baby best defeated by not strangling it in the crib, but rather waiting for death through ignominious failure on its own terms.

Having been confronted with the consequences of sectarian slaughter bringing to mind the Reformation, the surge had the opportunity to walk through a door the Islamists had themselves opened. As an allied benefit, this also provided an opportunity for the Iraqis to act as moral agents, rather than mere puppets of the ugly unshaven head of the Western cultural imperialistic hegemon.

But wait, there's more! When bin Laden attacked the US, his goal was to demonstrate that the West had become so thoroughly degenerate that, even when faced with such an outrage, it would be unable to fight in its own defense. Toppling the Taliban, since it was accomplished primarily through proxies and airpower, failed to provide meaningful contradiction.

However, through conducting a ground war in Iraq, and accepting the losses coming with the territory, the US demonstrated bin Laden's, and, by extension, fundamentalist Islam's fallacy. An eventual victory in Iraq, looking ever more likely, will only serve to drive the point home.

As if that isn't enough, the turn of events will demonstrate to the MAL the awful amorality of their position on the war in Iraq, their utter inability to reason through the deeper strategic consequences, and their near traitorous behavior.

Ok, actually I think it rather more likely that administration policy contained nothing like this Machiavellian brilliance, nor was that brilliance available to anyone except in hindsight.

As for that last bit about the MAL? That is pure fantasy. We would long since have bought steel umbrellas as defense against flying pigs before that would happen.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The Bush approach has been more akin to letting the horse escape the unlocked barn, burning down the barn, rebuilding a new barn out of gold, then evolving a new horse inside.

And what about liberty for Kurdistan?

July 28, 2008 9:25 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

You don't think Kurdistan has far more liberty now than before the USA intervened? Or is your argument that's it is better to let evil flourish than fight it imperfectly?

July 28, 2008 12:52 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Yes, I do. But if you really don't want to be there for a hundred years, might as well fix all the borders now.

On what grounds would you not support independence for the Kurds, the largest identifiable people without a state?

I suppose you'd like to put the USSR back together, instead of letting those pesky Georgians and Estonians govern themselves?

You have, however, identified the great failure of Bush -- and it is just about the greatest failure a national leader can make -- which is going to war without knowing why.

July 28, 2008 1:53 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

On the grounds that it would require disassembling other sovereign nations, at least one of which is an ally. The break of the USSR did not require any other nation to be partitioned. One might also ponder the independence of Pakistan and its results. Even independence for Kurdish Iraq might start another war.

July 28, 2008 7:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

And principal be damned, I guess.

Turkey isn't an ally, you know, but even if it were, the disassembly of our undoubted enemies Syria and Iran would be worth a great deal.

Anyhow, if the Kurds don't get independence, there will be war, whether we want it or not.

And, in addition, what is your assessment of the likelihood that the Kurds and Sunnis plan to actually work hand-in-hand to make a state work? They could have done that at any time in the past if they'd a mind to.

Might as well reunite Taiwan with China. No outsiders involved in that one, either.

July 28, 2008 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean "Turkey is not an ally"? Of course it's an ally, it's been a member of NATO since 1952.

July 29, 2008 3:07 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Now you're in favor of no-compromise action on principle regardless of consequences? Don't results count?

P.S. When you set up analogies as presumptions of other's beliefs, such as "Might as well reunite Taiwan with China", you might want to pick ones that are consistent with the position of the person you're analogizing. E.g., in this case, whether it's the USA should actively re-arrange other nation's borders. I was taking the "no" position, while re-uniting Taiwan with China would be the "yes" position, i.e. yours.

July 29, 2008 6:56 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Yes, I recall how Turkey jumped on board when we were going to risk our soldiers' lives in 2003.

Besides, Turkey manages the neat trick of being simultaneously a secular military dictatorship and a antiwestern Muslim thugocracy.

If it's an ally, it's the kind we could do without.

July 29, 2008 9:11 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

You have, however, identified the great failure of Bush -- and it is just about the greatest failure a national leader can make -- which is going to war without knowing why.

Read the text of Pres Bush's UN speech, then explain to me how it is Bush was going to war without knowing why.

As an exercise for the reader, and one which the MAL has never passed, provide a precis of the state of play prior to the war. Include the positions of all the actors, from Saudi Arabia to France, and all the way to Islamist terrorism.

Then, propose and defend an alternate course of action.

BTW, Turkey is an ally. It is not a perfect ally, but it surely is not an enemy. Turkey is not a totally pro-Western secular democracy, but neither is it a Muslim thugocracy. After all, if it is, what words are left to you in describing Iran or Saudi Arabia?

And it was certainly an ally we could do with during Desert Storm.

(I have spent a fair amount of time in Turkey. I have found the Turks to be very decent, easy going, and likable. And they drive lots better than the Chinese.)


There are several things that astonish me most about this story.

First, it received almost no attention. The Anchorage Daily News didn't bother to pick it up, nor did the NYT. I am willing to bet that no expert analysis that considered the war irretrievably lost, or doomed to industrial strength quag mixed with neck deep mire, was relegated to such obscurity.

Part of the problem is the inverse of the most time honored maxim of journalism: What bleeds, leads. There is no blood in this story, and darn little to be found in the "... and yet ..." formulation that must be part and parcel of any good news from Iraq item.

Second is what must -- but won't -- come as a complete admission of the MAL's abject moral failure. In the space of five years, we may well have caused the complete elimination of an entirely toxic regime with something that show signs of achieving a functioning civil order that could well become something similar to Turkey.

Now, before questioning whether, whatever the gains to the Iraqis, it was worth the cost to us, consider the alternative left as an exercise for the reader.

Finally, whether intentional or not (I favor the latter, but keep in mind you read this analysis on TDD first), this could well go down as one if history's premier cases of jujitsu.

July 29, 2008 10:38 AM  

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