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November 15, 2006

The Pooch is Already Screwed
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:35 AM *

The Repubs are going to blame the coming debacle in Iraq on the Democrats. “See!” they’re going to yell, “We had it all under control until those guys came along and messed up our plan!”

That won’t work. The Republicans dropped the egg; now it’s broken and no amount of finger-pointing at the Democrats will relieve them of the responsibility for dropping it.

Numerous reports from Bush’s own security apparatus have revealed that we’ve screwed the pooch in Iraq. National Intelligence Estimates from last spring were giving bad news. Just like Hosni Mubarak had predicted before Bush started his war, the fighting in Iraq is creating, motivating, and training new terrorists; the war is decreasing America’s security.

As if things couldn’t get worse:

(16AUG06) Situation Called Dire in West Iraq

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin’s classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”

The “very pessimistic” statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. “I don’t know if it is a shock wave, but it’s made people uncomfortable,” said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document’s sensitivity.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province’s most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

The situation in Iraq has been called dire before, and it has been dire before. Now we have a top Marine Corps analyst saying that the US can hold the perimeters of its own bases, and the Iraqi government has no control at all, in a third of the country. And he says that it’s beyond repair. That’s the reality.

(11OCT06) The Lancet study of deaths in Iraq puts the total of excess deaths (the number greater-than-expected from other causes) at 650,000. That’s the midpoint of the estimate, the 95% confidence level — as the study says, the true number could be as low as 392,979, or as high as 942,636. Despite what the political pundits say, this was careful science, published in a respected journal. Consider too that the low-end estimate is still higher than the 300,000 people that Bush claimed Saddam killed in Iraq during his 23 years in power. That isn’t going to get the USA well-liked in Iraq, by any group.

(20OCT06) The Mahdi Army takes the town of Amara. (This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned Amara.)

The Mahdi Army is al-Sadr’s group. Whatever al-Sadr may be, he isn’t a Baathist dead-ender. Sadaam had his father killed. These are the Shiites — the guys who, according to the neocon mythology, should have been throwing flowers and sweets. Instead they’re throwing grenades.

The real significance is this: A private army took an entire city. While they were in control they hunted down members of the Badr Corps (yet another private army). When private armies are having stand-up fights against other private armies, or against the Iraqi Army, or against the US Army, that’s a civil war.

(22OCT06) For Bush it was “Stay the course,” “stay the course,” “stay the course” until one day Bush was “we’ve never been ‘stay the course.’

What changed?

The day before, Bush met with some of the top generals dealing with Iraq. And all of a sudden it’s no longer “stay the course.” It used to be that timetables would only encourage the terrorists. Now, surprise! here’s a timetable. And the timetable is for 12-18 months before we leave. What did the generals tell Bush? I’d just be guessing, but my guess is that they told him “We can hold what we have for 12-18 months. After that we can shoot our way out.” So watch for helicopters on the Embassy roof in Baghdad no later than April, ‘08.

(25OCT06) Bush acknowledges setbacks in Iraq. Yep, the generals probably gave him a real talking-to. But “setbacks” is an interesting way to phrase “utter disaster.” Imagine how bad it must be for Bush to admit it.

Also before the elections: Bechtel bailed out of Iraq with less-than-stellar results. (The terms “fraud, waste, and abuse” come to mind.) Bechtel had been secretly offered the multi-billion-dollar Iraq Reconstruction contracts long before the invasion, back when Bush was still claiming that he was trying to avoid war. They’re pulling out, their projects uncompleted (for all that their pockets have been lined). The infrastructure situation in Iraq is only going to get worse.

Now for the real killer: this is why the pooch is screwed in Iraq, why Iraqization of the fight isn’t going to produce a win for the US, why Bush’s timetable won’t work, why the civil war is inevitable:

Sectarian Rifts Foretell Pitfalls of Iraqi Troops’ Taking Control

BAQUBA, Iraq — It did not take long for Col. Brian D. Jones to begin to have doubts about the new Iraqi commander.

The commander, Brig. Gen. Shakir Hulail Hussein al-Kaabi, was chosen this summer by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to lead the Iraqi Army’s Fifth Division in Diyala Province. Within weeks, General Shakir went to Colonel Jones with a roster of people he wanted to arrest.

On the list were the names of nearly every Sunni Arab sheik and political leader whom American officers had identified as crucial allies in their quest to persuade Sunnis to embrace the political process and turn against the powerful Sunni insurgent groups here.

In late September, troops led by General Shakir arrested 400 people, nearly all of them Sunnis, during raids in Baquba. Colonel Fisher estimated that there was reasonable justification to detain perhaps 10 percent of them.

He said the raids, which enraged the Sunni community, prompted American commanders to require General Shakir to clear all operations with them — a step back from the July 3 transfer of “lead” authority to the Iraqis. Nevertheless, while the Iraqi Fifth Division remains under the United States chain of command, American officers say that General Shakir is not fully complying with their instructions.

On Oct. 14, for example, commanders got word of what they said was a rogue Iraqi operation aimed at a Sunni sheik who had become an ally of the Americans in Khan Bani Saad. General Shakir never received approval for the operation, but ordered it anyway, Colonel Jones said.

After learning of the raid, American officers sent troops to force the Iraqis to return to base. When Sunni fighters saw the Americans arrive in the same sort of Humvees that the Iraqi soldiers use, they opened fire, Colonel Fisher said. The Americans returned fire and killed seven insurgents, he said.

How do you know they’re insurgents? Because they’re dead….
General Shakir said he was not aware of the firefight.

American commanders also say the security forces are intimidating and arresting Sunnis who could be contenders for high political office — perhaps with an eye to welding Diyala eventually into a Shiite-dominated autonomous region under Iraq’s new federalism law. That law would allow provinces to form into semi-independent states with wide powers over internal security.

“It just seems to be a deliberate attempt to make sure that the Sunnis are unable to organize politically here and represent themselves well in the next round of elections,” Colonel Jones said, “because there is an awful lot at stake in this province.”

General Shakir sought the arrest of Sheik Atta Hadi al-Sadoun, a general under Saddam Hussein, immediately after the sheik began to talk about running for governor, said Lt. Col. Frank Muggeo, who commanded a team advising an Iraqi Army brigade in Baquba.

Recently, Iraqi Army officials lured Sheik Atta to a meeting, where they arrested him. General Shakir was preparing to transfer the sheik to Baghdad when Colonel Jones intervened, he said, ordering the sheik into American custody because he feared he would be killed in Baghdad. “We saved his life,” he said.

The Americans released the sheik for lack of evidence, Colonel Fisher said. But the sheik’s nephew, who drove his uncle to the meeting and was seen leaving with General Shakir’s men, is missing and feared dead, he said.

I recommend that everyone read the full article.

“This is a tipping point. If we demonstrate to the Sunnis that we are not going to remove Shakir and that we are going to allow him to do business as usual, then they’re going to lose faith in us and faith in the reconciliation process. And this thing is going to go kinetic in a big way.”

What has the US tried to do about that situation?

(03NOV06) National Intelligence Director John Negroponte went to Iraq. That was four days after national security advisor Stephen Hadley made an unannounced visit.

What did they talk about? Negroponte told al-Maliki to disband the militias and get the death squads under control. Prime minister al-Maliki told Negroponte to get stuffed.

It’s understandable, in a way — al-Maliki is looking for some solution that doesn’t include him personally hanging by his neck from a Baghdad lamppost fifteen minutes after the US pulls out.

(08NOV06) Iraqi parliament renews state of emergency

In the final days before Tuesday’s midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year.

A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.

Al-Maliki’s refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.

Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved “we will withdraw from the government.”

“We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics,” Abdullah said. “And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war.”

“We will abandon politics.” That puts us in Clausewitz territory: War.

There’s a de facto civil war in progress right now. If the Sunnis withdraw from the government and field their own armies that’s a civil war de jure. Given the facts we know, the path seems inevitable.

Iraq was broken long before the recent elections. A Democratic congress will help, but the egg already hit the floor. No one is going to put it back together again.

Bush and his remaining Republicans will try to blame the Democrats for his disaster. Don’t let him.

Comments on The Pooch is Already Screwed:
#1 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 09:53 AM:

In terms of steering the country onto the right track, I think Jim's last sentence is an important one. It's clear who is responsible for the current state of Iraq. However, they have this habit of behaving like petulant 5 year olds when they realize they've been caught. Scarily, the tactic works much better than it should. Witness how they managed to focus the attention off the President and onto Kerry's flubbed line. It didn't matter whether Kerry was denigrating the troops or not. It only mattered that they could say he was, as loudly and as often as possible.

So, as Jim said, it's important to make the truth known, so that people who might direct the country onto a better path can actually try that. The fact is that despite Bush's happy talk, the situation in Iraq is already not good. It will not be the case that it will get worse merely because the Democrats control the legislature. (Also, let us not forgot who our Commander-in-Chief will still be come January.)

#2 ::: Ruhgozler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Well, I'm sitting here in the Al Anbar Province (for the last 2+ years) and I can say that it's about as mucked up as it can be. Things get better, then they get horrible. There is no good way out of this, now. If we stay it will be a mess. If we leave it will be a mess, but it will be the Iraqi's mess and they will have the opportunity to fix it their way.

#3 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 10:42 AM:

This is an excellent summary of the ongoing nightmare. Thanks, JMcD!

#4 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:29 AM:

" If we demonstrate to the Sunnis that we are not going to remove Shakir and that we are going to allow him to do business as usual, then theyre going to lose faith in us and faith in the reconciliation process" is undoubtedly true.

But consider the equally true flip side: it's bad enough that a general in the Iraqi Army is being given orders by a US colonel. If the US does decide to remove a legally appointed Iraqi general entirely, then it would be impossible to have a clearer demonstration of the fact that Iraqi sovereignty is a bad joke and that the Iraqi government is just a puppet government run by the foreign occupation.

The two choices are bad in different ways, but both are bad.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Jim Macdonald: Shorter version: W took the lid of the Iraqi pressure cooker and turned up the heat. He's now blaming everyone else he can for the mess in the kitchen.

(Seeing the expression 'the pooch is already screwed', btw, gave me thoughts of Rick Santorum...)

Iraq is, simply, another version of the former Yugoslavia, with a lot of scores from the last few decades being paid off.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Ruhgozler #2: Given what fixing it 'their way' is going to amount to, I hope you can duck out of the way quickly.

#7 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:38 AM:

Doesn't matter what the truth is - the media will blame the Democrats. It's all about being able to deny the label "liberal media." That and serve their corporate masters.

#8 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:40 AM:

JC at #1: that only happens because your self-censored corporate fascist news-media let them get away with it. You don't fix it, you don't get to complain.

Ruhgozler at #2: In what it was called Yugoslavia, "they" were completely unable to "fix it their way" without resorting to massacres (and they still are, the only thing stopping them from doing it is somebody else choosing for them, like Tito used to). Iraq is now completely balkanized already. Iran-backed majority shiites will start a massive "ethnic cleansing" effort as soon as US troops pull out. I hope the Dems know what they are doing, but the first "plans" circulated are all on the wrong paths: they are trying to persuade european countries to be more involved in Afghanistan, so that american troops can concentrate on Iraq... Wrong, wrong, wrong; the only thing that might ever work is the other way 'round, with US forces being replaced in Iraq by UN (or african -- one can dream!) troops that still have a shred of credibility.

It will take decades to recover from the mess that this useless president-emperor and his cronies (and their enablers in the corporate fascist media) will leave.

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:59 AM:

Good post, Jim. Let me add, the Baker Commission (or whatever they're calling that group, otherwise known as 41's Boyz) may help, but only insofar as it can neutralize the faux-Spartan ideals of Cheney and the remaining neocons and counter the attitude of Condi, et. al. that Bush is some sort of genius. (They must believe that, otherwise they would run screaming from the room when he talks, like the rest of us.)

As you have said, the options presented to the U.S. administration now are bad, bad, and bad. I hope that the midterm election loss has chastened Bush enough that he will listen to the Boyz and move toward whatever options will save lives and extricate the U.S. from the current debacle.

It may simply be too late to help Iraq.

#10 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:06 PM:

The "last helicopter out of the embassy in Saigon" scenario is optimistic.

It was obvious that the war was illegal, immoral, and to be fought under false pretenses as far back as summer 2002, when the White House and Downing Street began spinning on the pretext for hostilities in a manner that would have made Joseph Goebbels blush. (I'm not kidding. Re-reading Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" with an eye for the propaganda campaign against Poland during spring and supper of 1939 makes the parallels utterly, blatantly, clear.)

It was also obvious that the aftermath was going to be a complete clusterfuck when the rift between the Powell State Department and the Ministry of War^W^W^WRumsfeld-controlled DoD resulted in the DoD trashing State's detailed plans for administering Iraq after the invasion.

I don't know what drugs the neocons were taking to come out with that rubbish about being greeted with flowers, but they seem to have actually believed it, which only makes the resulting fiasco pathetic as well as stupid.

Finally, when the military governor sacked the entire Iraqi army ... then it was clearly only a matter of time before it was going to be "occupation: game over, you lose". (Six. Hundred. Thousand. Men with automatic weapons. And no jobs. WTF did they think kicking them out of their barracks and mess tents was going to achieve? The mind, she boggles.)

But this latest idiocy ...

"12-18 months" indeed.

In 12-18 months the remaining allied forces in Iraq will have their work cut out to evacuate all their personnel, abandoning their bases in place, and fighting their way out to the border with Kurdistan or Kuwait. If they manage to organize the evacuation for autumn/winter/spring (avoiding the 50-degree death march of summer) and if they can protect their ammunition and fuel dumps along the route, they might survive. If not, it's going to look more like the First Afghan War than Vietnam.

You can't evacuate armoured vehicles by air. Without control of a wide perimeter around the air bases -- tens of miles in all directions -- the evacuation aircraft will be vulnerable to MANPADs (and RPG-30s, which the insurgents have figured out how to use against helicopters). Likely as not, some of those bases are going to be evacuated by road. Which means traversing hundreds of miles of hostile countryside, insurgents with IEDs every inch of the way, and open season on American soldiers -- they won't be coming back, so what's the downside on a little revenge whoop-ass?

If they run out of ammunition or fuel before they make it to the border, they'll be in really deep shit. Because by the time it gets to that point, nobody (except possibly the government of Iran) will be real interested in taking Americans prisoner ...

#11 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:10 PM:

PS: "You can't evacuate armoured vehicles by air." And, I should have added, you can't abandon them or they'll be used against you. Apparently M1A2s are real hard to disable. And letting them fall into insurgent hands before the evacuation is complete? [Mastercard slogan goes here.]

#12 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:11 PM:

They screwed the pooch soon after the invasion. They jumped the shark with "Mission Accomplished."

Now they're screwing the shark.

#13 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:21 PM:

Re #4:

If Riverbend's blog is in any way representative, Iraqis are convinced that the government is US puppets anyways. And as long as the US is occupying, the "government" governs only with the consent of the US - so they are puppets, either way.

The question is, whether they see the US as controlling its puppets in a way that is benevolent to the Iraqis, or if they see the US as letting the puppets cause what havoc they want as long as they don't interfere with the US agenda to badly. As it is, we've replaced one set of thugs with another.

#14 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:24 PM:

...it's going to look more like the First Afghan War than Vietnam.

Or, in a grotesque 'best case', the Retreat from Chosin, only with much better close-air support.

#15 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:35 PM:

It's time to go the UN, hat in hand, prepared to spend money and lives, and beg. I think that's the only chance now. I find it hard to imagine the current administration doing this, but they are facing defeat so, with strong congressional encouragement, they just might.

#16 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Spend lives? Whose lives? The UN can't fix this, and the idea that an occupation can solve this problem is the same delusion that got us there to begin with. Occupying armies have stuck around far too long in order to help the occupied for centuries. What was done is tragic, but to think we can fix this debacle is adding more folly onto the pile.

#17 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:45 PM:

My personal estimation is that W has concluded that toughing things out until his successor was in the White House isn't going to keep him from being the US president who lost a third to a half of the US field army, so he has to do something else.

I'm not sure if he's capable of getting his head around the fact that his choices are being the loser or being the guy who lost the army, and that it's better to be the loser; from his public language about conflict, I'd strongly suspect he's not able to distinguish those choices. (I'd also strongly suspect that early summer of 2007 is about as long as he's got before he has lost the army.)

Which will leave his successor with a hell of a pickle; not only will there be a need to re-assemble the Army as a useful fighting force after it knows it got, no shit, defeated, and to do this from the traumatized and over-used veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, in the absence of the principled senior leadership Donald Rumsfeld forced to resign, and while being completely unable to contemplate anything resembling a victorious war or a political recovery from the disaster, but there will be the immense and unspeakable domestic mess as the general populace gets the choice between acknowledging defeat and weakness or disdaining reality entirely and utterly.

It's a very intersting problem whoever you elect in 2008 is going to have.

(Oh, and protected static -- not a problem close air support is able to solve. Retreating roadmarch over ~500 km distances without secure routes and without secure supply points to fall back is just about impossible for reasons having nothing to do with your ability to maintain control of a perimeter or cohesive front, which is what the close air helps with.)

#18 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:48 PM:

Randolph Fritz, #15: Oh, yeah. Best of luck with that one. "Sure, we'd love to stick our dicks into that meatgrinder you built. But we have to, um, wash our hair. Yeah, 'wash our hair', that's the ticket."

#19 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:50 PM:

"The good Lord has assured me I will make it through this fight. He says you're f%^ked."

#20 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Fragano Ledgister said (#5):
Iraq is, simply, another version of the former Yugoslavia, with a lot of scores from the last few decades being paid off.

I'm extremely leery of this analogy, but there are some (some, mind you) similarities to Yugoslavia in the mid-1940s, with resistance groups often more interested in fighting each other than the occupiers.

(Note that I'm only interested in the "resistance groups fighting each other bitterly" part of the analogy, and if there's a better example that doesn't reference Germany, I'd be happy to use it instead.)

But, yes, the analogy to 1980s/1990s Yugoslavia is pretty apt.

#21 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:07 PM:

Just for the heck of it, let me suggest an alternate scenario to Charlie's "First Afghan War Redux":

If it's clear that the US is really pulling out, most of the "insurgents" might decide to leave them alone and let them go, on the grounds that:
a) They get to declare victory anyway, because they forced the Americans to leave;
b) There's no sense wasting their people and resources on the fleeing Americans when they're going to need them for the real battle, against the other Iraqi factions.

#22 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:13 PM:

#17-- The UN still has credibility--and people who speak Arabic--, and there's an awful lot of Iraqis who don't want a civil war. They might be able to broker a deal, which could be enforced by a peacekeeping mission. If the USA was willing to do what was necessary to support that mission, I think it would change some minds, worldwide. It's difficult to imagine, I admit. But the alternatives seem to me all worse. Over half a million Iraqis are dead already; the number could rise to millions before the civil war ends, and that end probably including a greatly empowered radical Islam--the harder the war, the harder the peace.

And never forget that we are partners with the Iraqi--with every nation--in the protection of the planetary climate and ecosystem. That alone ought to be reason to do everything possible to make the best peace we can.

#23 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:33 PM:

Peter Erwin, #21: I'd like to agree with you, but gambling on the benevolence and goodwill of one's enemies does not strike me as a sensible move.

#24 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Sean at #16: the minute Iraq remains without foreign occupation is the minute that Iran and Iraq start talking about unification. No, that's not true, they are talking about it already.

60 years of successful "divide et impera" policies have been ruined with one single strike, we better come out with alternative scenarios. The only one I see as viable is a semi-permanent unofficial UN rule over Iraq, excluding Kurdistan. The other one is a very long shot: a Persian state (Iran + Iraq) with democratic institutions. But Iran will be ruled by nationalistic fools for a few years, thanks to "us" scaring them to vote that way...

#25 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Just a thought for those people who keep thinking that the Kurds wouldn't be a problem in this, who gets to keep Kirkuk? Big oil revenue at stake, both the Sunni's and the Kurds claim the city, and the Sunni's aren't going to abandon their claim just because we ask, and the Kurds won't give it up without a fight.

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 01:46 PM:

[Ross Perot voice]
When you get caught screwing the pooch, don't go blaming the dog or thems that caught you.
[/Ross Perot voice]

Yeah, I can just picture devoted Outer Party members in MiniTrue writing the talking points for the blameshift.

They're probably looking for someone to write "Who Lost Iraq?" right now.

#27 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:00 PM:

They're probably looking for someone to write "Who Lost Iraq?" right now.

Their first choice for Who Lost Iraq will be Bill Clinton, if they can only figure out how to sell it...

#28 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:09 PM:

And the timetable is for 12-18 months before we leave. What did the generals tell Bush? I’d just be guessing, but my guess is that they told him “We can hold what we have for 12-18 months. After that we can shoot our way out.” So watch for helicopters on the Embassy roof in Baghdad no later than April, ’08.
It’s been clear for a while that the only available course is to Declare a Victory and Leave. That’s what I’ve been expecting from the Baker Commission.
We have Yet Another New Low when villains of one of the the last major misadventure s (Iran-Contra) are pulling our chestnuts out of the latest fire.


Giacomo at #8: that only happens because your self-censored corporate fascist news-media let them get away with it. You don't fix it, you don't get to complain.
How? Put up or shut up. Exactly what should we be doing to fix the “self-censored corporate fascist news-media”? Neither I nor just about anyone here is "let[ting] them get away with it".


Randolph Fritz at #15: It's time to go the UN, hat in hand, prepared to spend money and lives, and beg. I think that's the only chance now.
Being right isn't going to do you or any of us a bit of good, I'm afraid.

#29 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Graydon:
(Oh, and protected static -- not a problem close air support is able to solve. Retreating roadmarch over ~500 km distances without secure routes and without secure supply points to fall back is just about impossible for reasons having nothing to do with your ability to maintain control of a perimeter or cohesive front, which is what the close air helps with.)

I wasn't thinking 'solve' so much as thinking 'larger heaps of corpses'.

#30 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Tuesday's London Times had a sensible, clear op-ed: Damned if you leave, damned if you don't.
"The horrific, insoluble problem that Iraq has become was entirely predictable: don't let them tell you otherwise."
It was predictable, and was predicted by many people, but that doesn't get us out of it. In fact, nothing gets us out of it except "cut and run". Iran and Syria might be able to help, but why should they help a regime that's been slanging them and imposing sanctions (to little effect, by the way) for years?

#31 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Giacomo #24 : I don't see the Iran + Iraq scenario. Iraqis are Arabs, Iranians are Persian and speak Farsi. Aren't they racially and culturally too far apart? Besides, as Steve Buchheit says, there are the Kurds to add to the mix.

#32 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:43 PM:

1991, 1999, 2003, the military planners looked at invading Iraq. All said even under best circumstances, with ~400k troops, and no abu graibs to get the people mad at you, there was still a good chance the country would fracture into civil war.

We are now seeing those plans play out.

The only blame to be laid here is at the Bush administration's feet for ignoring all the military planning which predicted exactly what we are seeing today.

#33 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 02:45 PM:

How many Caliphate points does bin Laden get if Iraq and Iran decide they don't need that pesky border?

Disabling M1A1 tanks is not so difficult--undo the drain plug on the lubrication system and fire up the turbine. The armor plate keeps exploding shrapnel *in* as well as out. Smashing a few choice electronics boxes is recommended as well. These are definitely repairable (though we control many of the spares) but they will make sure that nobody uses your heavy armor against you for at least several days/weeks, which is all that is required for an evacuation.

The four big bases the US has are probably defensible, with enough laagered fuel and munitions to cover a retreat. Lots of smaller bases don't, and those troops will have to be airlifted out (most likely by helicopter, not the safest form of transport) to the big bases.

The scary one is the Green Zone: there will only be screaming masses of civilians at the gates until the first 2,000lb truck bomb shows up. And once militias control the streets, everyone with a mortar will be lobbing shells in--nobody in there except Americans and collaborators. At least in Saigon they could use helicopters--Bagdad may well have too many MANPADs and heavy sniper rifles, which will leave several thousand people at the mercy of....well, never mind that. It's too depressing.

#34 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:13 PM:
Besides, as Steve Buchheit says, there are the Kurds to add to the mix.
I am a very, very bad girl. The first thing that jumped to mind upon reading this was, "Which all the more proves there's no easy whey out."

Bad! Bad! Bad!

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:19 PM:

I think in the event of a desperate pullout, it's pretty obvious how the problem of attackers mixed with civilians in close-in urban areas will be addressed.

I also expect that withdrawing US forces won't be a target of any major militias or organized forces, because *they have a civil war to fight when we leave*! You can spend your strength killing Americans who are leaving, but they shoot back, and if pressed, they won't be shy about unleashing a lot of firepower in your general direction. You'll be needing all those men and equipment when the Sunni warlord comes over the hill in a few days.

If civil war and partition are in the cards, we could make it a hell of a lot less bloody by relocating people into defensible enclaves now, buying people out at some kind of haflway reasonable price, etc. That is, we do (or support) the ethnic cleansing, but do it in a way that doesn't involve murder or rape, just forcibly buying peoples' houses and moving them to someplace else. I'm not sure if this is workable, but it sure looks more likely to save lives and suffering than a straight pullout. Preside over an orderly and humane partition. But that would require acknowledging reality, which isn't this government's strong suit.

#36 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:19 PM:

From what little I understand of the situation, the only significant thing I can see our government doing to, at the very least, prevent a complete disaster is to open up diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria. Saudi Arabia needs to be included in these talks as well. Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. All of these countries (including Turkey and others as well) have a stake in the future of Iraq, and we need these countries to be at least talking about Iraq with each other.

#37 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:36 PM:

What I would really like to see is someone with a firm grip on (a) Middle Eastern history and (b) reality write up a scenario of what would have happened if we had not invaded.

I don't dispute, by the way, that invading has become a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but I remember back when the decision was still being debated over (in the public and media if not in George's brain), some very smart and non-tinfoil-hat-wearing people whose opinions I respect were in favor of taking Saddam down. Of course, I happened to be naive enough to believe that there really were WMD there at the time.

But still. I guess I'm just curious to know, insofar as it's possible to speculate on Might-Have-Beens, what would have happened if we had done nothing.

#38 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:37 PM:

Gen. John Abizaid appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Top general says Iraq status quo needs to change

In spite of admitting that things need to change, his attitude seems to be that everything is better than it was in August, and everyone over there wants success.

Choice quote from the general, "I remain optimistic that we can stabilize Iraq."

I suppose that means we need to get rid of him as well.

#39 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:45 PM:

When Dennis Kucinich was calling for a six-week withdrawal in his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination last election, an in-law of mine who's an AF reserve payload specialist pointed out that it would be difficult to get the troops and their packs out in that time, and that it would take two weeks, at least, just to get the payload specialists over there to pack the other stuff for shipment. And that one of the problems all along has been with the suits' inability to understand that military logistics isn't, really, just like Fed-Ex.

#40 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:51 PM:

Leigh:
But still. I guess I'm just curious to know, insofar as it's possible to speculate on Might-Have-Beens, what would have happened if we had done nothing.

First, we would have elected Gore President. Oh, wait... Never mind.

Seriously? I think that as soon as W took office, the invasion of Iraq was more-or-less a foregone conclusion.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Have might-have-beens and/or time-travel stories started showing in SF magazines yet? Let's NOT bring up Dan Simmons's piece of junk up again though, if you don't mind. Once was enough.

#42 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Jim McDonald: "It used to be that timetables would only encourage the terrorists. Now, surprise! here?s a timetable. And the timetable is for 12-18 months before we leave. What did the generals tell Bush? I?d just be guessing, but my guess is that they told him ?We can hold what we have for 12-18 months. After that we can shoot our way out.? So watch for helicopters on the Embassy roof in Baghdad no later than April, ?08. "

I expect what happened first is that the Wise Old Men of the GOP looked at the polls. The war is now a net negative for the GOP, with a reasonably steady long-term downward trend since (guessing) Fall '03. Projecting that ahead to Fall '08 would indicate a presidential election where the GOP is the ones who brought on an honest-to-God, undeniable quagmire. This is known as the 'Dems win it all' scenario.

Therefore, the first priority of anybody wanting a career as a GOP politician/courtier is to make sure that the war is over by spring/summer '08, for American domestic political purposes.

After that, the generals told Bush (and the Wise Old Men) that the Quagmire '08 scenario was the better-case scenario; the most likely was "What happens when the US Army collapses in enemy terrain? - Watch 'Survivor - Iraq' and Find out!" scenario. That put Bush's self-interest much more in line with the interests of many in the GOP.

#43 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:58 PM:

Leigh :I don't dispute, by the way, that invading has become a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but I remember back when the decision was still being debated over (in the public and media if not in George's brain), some very smart and non-tinfoil-hat-wearing people whose opinions I respect were in favor of taking Saddam down. Of course, I happened to be naive enough to believe that there really were WMD there at the time.

Clearly, those people were so badly wrong that they may well have been tinfoil hat types. Still, I'm intersted in who they were, because my estimation before the invasion was that is was (a) a really bad idea due to sectarian conflicts, (b) likley to detract from any meaningful cleanup of Afghanistan. and (c) no, there were *not* WMDs there. Bush's pushing through the UN and US backed inspectors analysis of the Iraqs WMD capacity was transparent. I knew that they were just using it as a front, as did most of the anti-war crowd.

Turns out I was 100% right.

#44 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 03:59 PM:

"I am innocent of this man's blood; it is in your hands now".

Matthew 27:24

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mathew%2027;&version=64;

Pontius Pilate on crucifying Jesus.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:02 PM:

In Salon.com's War Room today..

'...Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the United States needs to maintain -- or possibly increase -- current troop levels in Iraq because it has only "four to six months" left to stop sectarian violence from spiraling completely out of control. (...) Stop us if you've heard this one before. (...) As somebody said the other day, the "next six months" are always critical in Iraq. Tony Blair told reporters back in January 2004 that Iraq was about to enter "a very critical six months." Chuck Hagel said "the next six months will be very critical" in August 2005, and Joseph Biden said "the next six months are going to tell the story" in December 2005. U.S. ambassador Zalmany Khalilzad said in July that "the next six months will be critical in terms of reining in the danger of civil war." Gen. George Casey said in early October that "the next six months will determine the future of Iraq." And a certain New York Times columnist has declared the importance of the "next six months" so many times that 180 days is now known in some circles as "a Friedman."...'

#46 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Charles, as has been pointed out above, disabling any vehicle is pretty easy, if done from the inside. The big trick is that the Army's supply lines run through Shiite territory, and the Shiite militias, police and government are generally the same thing. This means that they have had two years to prep for an uprising, with the 'guerrillas' being also the guys in uniform doing the patrolling, and the guys working for the government doing interesting things like 'mainintaing' the roads. With luxury upgrades like built-in IED's, I'm sure.

In a lot of cases, the answer would be to pull out over open ground, using the Air Force to cluster bomb/napalm the route in front, and to do this *before* the last supplies run out. Which could be forced by circumstances, therefore, and not according to a pre-set timetable.

This, in effect would mean that a number of Army units would have to 'assault south', perhaps on little notice, or be well and truly stuck. That 'assault south' would presumably lead, very quickly, to all-out war with the Shiites, causing problems to those units which hadn't yet pulled away from inhabited areas.

#47 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:24 PM:

what would have happened if we had done nothing.

I don't think "done nothing" is in any way the realistic alternative. "Nothing" would require the rollback of postwar sanctions and inspections, not to mention the support of the Kurds over the interwar period and the lack of support for the postwar Shiite uprising. Oh, and the first Gulf War itself.

If you really want to get to the "done nothing" state, that requires rolling back not only US support of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war but CIA support of the Ba'ath party during its rise to power. Some serious alternate history stuff.

If, however, your alternative is "What would have happened if the US had supported sanctions and inspections", we have already seen several years of the answer during the interwar years.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Graydon #17: "My personal estimation is that W has concluded that toughing things out until his successor was in the White House isn't going to keep him from being the US president who lost a third to a half of the US field army, so he has to do something else."

As someone said in a language I can't claim to speak:
Quintilius Varus legiones redde.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Peter Erwin #20: I don't have a better analogy from recent times, alas. It looks to me like the same sort of conflict, with the same kind of score settling (with the scores being settled being a bit more recent than World War II). Only with the cause not being the incapacity of the leadership to hold a cobbled-together structure together, but the intervention of a giant with big feet (or ears) and no sense of what he was doing.

#50 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Steve Bucheit #25: The proclamation of an independent Kurdish republic in Kirkuk will be followed by the arrival of the Turkish army. The sudden incorporation of the Turcomans into Turkey may or may not follow, but the Kurds will be pierced by rotary fasteners.

#51 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:34 PM:

How many Caliphate points does bin Laden get if Iraq and Iran decide they don't need that pesky border?

About as many as Holy Roman Empire points Charles V got when King James I and VI was crowned at Westminster.

#52 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Greg London: The only blame to be laid here is at the Bush administration's feet for ignoring all the military planning which predicted exactly what we are seeing today.

So, you think we can get the general US population to understand this is a pattern with this administration? The predictions about what would happen to NOLA if a hurricane hit and the levees broke were horribly accurate; so were the predictions about this damned war. Showing that this is a pattern, and not a case of good intentions gone bad or of faulty information on which to base decisions, seems key in bringing about real change in critical areas.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 05:23 PM:

I love this line from the Times editorial: Either way, rich or poor were forked; as is our coalition in Iraq.

Re the Bechtel pull-out...did you notice, in the flurry before the election, that funding for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was pulled in a military spending bill? I smell a cover-up.

#54 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 05:36 PM:

#33 BigHank53 - when the militias rule the streets - they already do, some of them wearing police uniforms (and seeing as the uniforms are 'unfakeable' the wearers are probably police)

As for the militias not killing Americans (and Brits) as they skedaddle - wishful thinking. Killing Americans is fun. Killing Americans is nation building. Killing Americans is holy. These people want their country back and they won't stop firing until their borders are clear. Don't fool yourselves that they won't kill every single American they can on the very simple basis that they are Americans and they invaded their country.

You'd do the same thing, and these people are just as devoted to their land as you are, and have been for several milennia.

Then they'll get back to killing each other. Normal service will be resumed, but what they won't need to do is worry about weapons, because you've been selling them at knock down prices for decades (as have the rest of the 'civilised' world - when they haven't been giving them away)

What do the new government of Iraq have in common with Mr Bush? They're rich people born of rich people and they intend to stay rich by getting American troops killed. There's a symmetry there. A very ugly symmetry.

#55 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 05:37 PM:

But still. I guess I'm just curious to know, insofar as it's possible to speculate on Might-Have-Beens, what would have happened if we had done nothing.

Saddam was an old man by Iraqi standards, and his grown sons were ambitious.

When Uday and Qusay fought for control, perhaps the UN could have helped stabilize the region and usher in democracy. Or perhaps another strongman would have arisen to keep the status quo.

#56 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 05:56 PM:

How many Caliphate points does bin Laden get if Iraq and Iran decide they don't need that pesky border?

Keep in mind that, as John Stanning pointed out, the Iraqis and Iranians do not have a lot in common -- except having fought a very bloody war against each other not very long ago.[*] I doubt Iran wants the headache of trying to deal with a large population of Arabs, even the one who aren't Sunni, and they'd probably rather not deal with the Kurds (who are Sunni, and who might inspire Iranian Kurds to be more independent-minded).

A Shi'a-run client state that is friendly/beholden to Iran is probably more what the Iranians want.

(And Iran isn't someplace bin Laden is very fond of; as far as he's concerned, they're a bunch of Shi'a heretics.)

[*] Saddam actually referred to the war as his "Qadasiyyah," a reference to the 7th Century battle in which Arab Muslims broke the power of the Persian Sassanian empire, leaving it open to Arab conquest.

#57 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 06:32 PM:

Peter@56:

...the Iraqis and Iranians do not have a lot in common -- except having fought a very bloody war against each other not very long ago.

That very much depends on which Iraqis you are looking at. SCIRI, for instance, one of the more powerful parties in the current, U.S.-sponsored and Shiite-dominated "ruling" coalition, actually started as an Iranian-sponsored anti-Baath Iraqi resistance movement, with an Iranian-trained militia (the Badr corps) which is widely reported to have thoroughly infiltrated the new Iraqi Army.

So, while the Iranians certainly aren't friendly with everyone in the borders of the former nation-state of Iraq (certainly not the Sunni arabs that dominated the former Baath regime there), they are hardly without influential allies...

#58 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 06:40 PM:

peter,

Saddam actually referred to the war as his "Qadasiyyah," a reference to the 7th Century battle in which Arab Muslims broke the power of the Persian Sassanian empire, leaving it open to Arab conquest.

at least he didn't refer to it as his quesadilla!

sorry sorry sorry sorry, that was the first thing that popped into my head.

the second was, as a former jerusalemite, i think i know what the root of that word is.

i'd really like to learn arabic someday, it's cool how close it is to hebrew. except they got the prettier writing.

#59 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 06:47 PM:

#43 Josh: Clearly, those people were so badly wrong that they may well have been tinfoil hat types. Still, I'm intersted in who they were

Well, these were friends of mine, not pundits. But as I recall, most of the ones who were in favor of invasion at the time weren't even concerned, necessarily, with whether there were WMDs in Iraq, nor did they think that there was any connection between Saddam and the 9/11 terrorists; they just considered Saddam a bloodthirsty tyrant whom we should have taken down in the first Gulf War, but were too chickenshit to finish what we started once our allies all pulled out.

Of course, I suppose their (and my) naivete came in on not thinking the Bush administration wouldn't make a total horse's ass out of actually executing the war.

I guess what I'm saying is, everything now points to an imminent Sunni/Shi'ite civil war, but then, when didn't it? There's no question we fucked this war up royally, but I don't concede that our mistakes were the sole cause of how fucked up the region is as a whole. My question is, would civil war have not happened had we not invaded, or was it inevitable?

#55 James: Thanks. I wouldn't take bets on the former over the latter, personally. Which basically keeps the situation exactly as is, barring minor cosmetic differences. Oh well.

#60 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 07:17 PM:

Peter Erwin #56: The interesting question is does religion (around for 1400 years) trump nation (around for 80-odd years)? Or, put in other words, do Iraqi Shi'ites have much invested in either Iraqi or Arab nationhood? I'm no Esposito or Lewis, but I hae me doots.

#61 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 07:31 PM:

abi @ 53,

The IG for Iraq was restored yesterday on voice vote in the Senate.

#62 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 08:01 PM:

#28--"Being right isn't going to do you or any of us a bit of good, I'm afraid."

And being wrong is going to do better? Seriously--let's shoot for the best way out. A withdrawal under fire is going to be a nightmare.

#63 ::: Scott D-S ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 09:29 PM:

I hope to Ghod that Charlie Stross is wrong, but I'm afraid he isn't. It is possible for us to get the troops out, but it won't be easy, and a lot of folks are going to get killed/injured in the process.

It's going to be ugly any way you slice it; at some point, when enough folks get killed trying to pull out, the orders are going to change to allow a LOT more discretionary use of force. I'm not saying it is a good thing, but if the object is to get as many of our troops home as possible, then we may have to stomach some mighty ugly ROE to get there.

#64 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 10:29 PM:

W now wants his own study group to review the Baker study group's recommendations. No one knows if he just wants to pee on the Baker recs to mark them as his own, or if he just doesn't wanna do what they're telling him he has to do and wants his own "study" that tells him something he wants to hear.

Either way, it doesn't look like an orderly, timed withdrawal of troops is something W is willing to consider.

Which means our kids won't be getting out until they absolutely *have* to. Which means, under fire, with no secure lines of transport, and ambushes everywhere. The nightmare scenario.

I don't know what can be done about this - unless the military is making its own plans, regardless of what W or even Abizaid say.

#65 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:05 PM:

If no war, maybe one of Saddam's sons would have succeeded, probably after the other one had met with a lamented fate. I think it more likely there would have been some other monster. I know there's an actual dynasty in Syria, the other Ba'athist state, but Syria isn't riven with anything like the level of ethnic, tribal and religious conflict that Iraq is.

Whoever scrambles to the top in Iraq (if anyone does) will be doing it without anything like a functioning set of consensuses or conventions for a government, as do actually exist in Syria. It follows that he would have to be a successful warlord first, and then a superbly skilled tyrant. ("Skilled" in this case refers to a sheaf of abilities very few of which are virtues and most of which are indicative of extreme sociopathy, all within an exactly-judged pragmatism.) Neither of Saddam's sons showed much talent. They were more in the nature of playboys with sadistic overtones.

A skilled tyrant is really the best outcome possible now, and always was. I actually think it's reasonably acceptable, though I don't imagine that anyone is going to agree with me. So long as the tyrant is pragmatic enough not to go adventuring, there's no actual problem for the west there.

Iraq could simply dissolve into chaos, a round of civil wars fought between private armies, with all sides reserving their energies for slaughtering each other. This is of course deplorable; but it's difficult to know what practical steps might be taken to stop it, and in any case there is no threat to the west in it, as such. The resolution to this process would almost certainly be a skilled tyrant, anyway. The real problem outcomes are two.

One is the emergence of some unified leadership that will sponsor random terrorism in the west, or threaten western clients in the region. There's no denying that Saddam did the latter, and there's no guarantee that a successor regime might not be worse. But at least in such a case the policy options are perfectly clear: put up with it; subvert it; attempt diplomacy; depose it by force of arms, ours or someone else's.

The second case is worse: the successful colonisation (or re-colonisation) of an exhausted and divided Iraq by some regional power, either directly or through the use of puppets. The practical candidates are two: Iran and Turkey, and probably both, their interests being separate. Such a colonisation would be attended with extreme brutality, of course, which is why it might succeed where a western colonisation could not. The problem, of course, is that it would create a new empire in the Middle East. What might come out of that could be a genuine threat to the west.

#66 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:26 PM:

#52 Yeah, that would be nice. But I'm quite happy right now to simply focus on the Iraq quagmire and the Neocon's attemtps to suddenly make it all teh Democrats fault. the "OK, you're in charge now, what's YOUR plan?" crap. The main attitude there seems to be a complete washing of hands of any responsibility for any decisions made that got us into this mess inthe first place. And I think Pontius Pilate washing his hands is the perfect meme to sumarize just how slimy this attitude is.


"I am innocent of this man's blood; it is in your hands now".

Matthew 27:24


keep it handy next time some ahole tries to pull the "What's -your- plan for Iraq?" crap.

#67 ::: Anthony Ha ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2006, 11:31 PM:

Charles Stross @ 10: Thanks for your (very) sobering words.

Josh Jasper @ 43: Does Christopher Hitchens count?

#68 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 12:06 AM:

Personally, I intend to henceforth refer to the whole complex of political and logistical problems attendant upon our getting out of Iraq as the Anabasis. Anybody want to join me?

Joe (38), General Abizaid has the job he has because he says things like that.

Leigh (37), Bush's posse was set on a war with Iraq before he got into office. This is a matter of record. We might still have made a relatively clean job of it if Bush & Co. hadn't based their case on a lie that didn't hold up under inspection, and if the professional military had been allowed to do their jobs. They weren't.

At the insistence of Rumsfeld and other neocons, we went in with far too few troops. We never established control, and huge amounts of Iraq's everyday infrastructure got wrecked by a relatively small number of looters. Ammo dumps were never secured -- way too many of our guys were tied up in the search for those mythical WMDs -- and so huge amounts of explosives vanished into private hands. (It keeps reappearing as improvised explosive devices.) The Iraqi military was made various promises if they'd disband. They disbanded. We broke our promises.

Et cetera and so forth. Shortest version: we never had the resources and the executive-level leadership to get on top of the problem, and the responsibility for that traces straight back to Bush and his cronies.

What would have happened if we hadn't invaded? Not another Kuwait; Saddam Hussein already got his ass handed to him on that score. He wasn't going to try it again. Would Iraq have been a hotbed of terrorism? I don't think so. That wasn't Saddam Hussein's program, and he had very little tolerance for competing power-grabbers.

Iraq was in worse shape than it had been before the Gulf War, but it was a functional, nominally secular country, with roads and schools and a battered but working economy. It had a real SOB as its leader, but even the worst SOBs have to die someday.

And hey, somebody's horse might have learned to sing.

I'll say again what I've said so many times before: if Iraq could magically be returned to its former condition just by having someone get a blow job in the Oval Office, what patriotic American -- hell, what believer in civilization and human progress of any stripe -- could fail to volunteer?

Serge (45), it's always possible that this next six-month period really is critical. Damned shame if it is, of course; by now, no one will believe it.

Fragano (48): Quintili Vare, legiones redde! Is it one of the tests for a true geek that having you quote that tag made the hair on the nape of my neck stand up?

Abi (53), of all the untold stories of the Iraq War, the accounting may be the hairiest.

Any takers for the theory that all sorts of industrial profit centers and long-range fiscal plans were dependent on the Cold War; that the oft-predicted but disgracefully unforeseen collapse of the Soviet Union threw one hell of a spanner into the works; and that many otherwise inexplicable events in the United States subsequent to that event have been the military-industrial complex finding satisfactory substitutes for that hereditary enemy gone AWOL?

Miriam (58), do you want to explain that again in just a little more detail?

Leigh again (59), if every bloodthirsty tyrant who's disapproved of by his neighbors got taken down ...

Dave Luckett (65):

"The second case is worse: the successful colonisation (or re-colonisation) of an exhausted and divided Iraq by some regional power, either directly or through the use of puppets. The practical candidates are two: Iran and Turkey..."
If it comes down to that scenario, my money's on Turkey. They control the upper watershed of the Tigris and Euphrates. Baghdad flinches every time Turkey talks about irrigating more land in Anatolia.

#69 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 01:09 AM:

teresa,

do you want to explain that again in just a little more detail?

the arabic name for jerusalem is al-quds, "the holy [place]." (israel/palestine being what it/they is, it is hotly debated, whether that became the name because it is the third holiest city in islam, or not at all holy in islam but the muslims saw it was holy to the jews.)

the root of quds is q-d-s, almost identical to k-d-sh, the root of the hebrew kadosh, "holy." qaddassiya looks like it has the same root, cause vowels are just for conjugating with. so i figured it means the holy something-or-other. not that this ultimately tells us a lot, the middle east being a holiness-infested kinda place.

#70 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 05:13 AM:

TNH: I suggest the Katabasis. On the grounds that: a) they will be heading in the opposite direction; Xenophon's lads were heading north through the lands of the Karchenoi (or Kurds) to Trebizond and the Black Sea, whereas our lads will be heading south to Basra, Umm Qasr and the Kuwaiti border;

and b) it is derived from "katabatikos", which means "going downhill".

(a katabatic wind is what you get in, say, Antarctica, when a mass of cold air rolls off the high plains downhill).

#71 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:34 AM:

Fragano (#60):
Peter Erwin #56: The interesting question is does religion (around for 1400 years) trump nation (around for 80-odd years)? Or, put in other words, do Iraqi Shi'ites have much invested in either Iraqi or Arab nationhood? I'm no Esposito or Lewis, but I hae me doots.

I would certainly have my doubts about the power of Iraqi nationhood as an idea (the Kurds certainly aren't very invested in it). But the Arab-Persian opposition is very real, and is, effectively, older than religion (certainly on the Persian side, where they trace their history and identity back to at least the first Persian Empire, 2500 years ago).

According to the CIA World Factbook page on Iran, 51% of Iran is ethnic Persians (and 58% of the population speaks Persian), 24% are Azeris (as in Azerbaijan, and so related to Turks), and only 3% are Arabs. Even if Iran absorbed only the Shi'a Iraqis, that would still turns Persians into a minority within "Greater Iran."

That's why I can see a breakaway Shi'a Arab state, closely allied with Iran, but a wholesale merger.

#72 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:40 AM:

miriam (#69):

Apparenly Qadassiyah takes its name from a village near where the battle was fought. More than that I don't know (e.g., was the village originally Persian, or did it actually have an Arab name to begin with?).

#73 ::: dr. iodine ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 08:17 AM:

Not to be flip, considering the subject matter, but I notice mention of a Col. Brian D. Jones.
And the vanity/scam article just above refers to 'author consultant' Brien Jones.


I suspect that when I turn the radio on this morning I will hear a song by........

#74 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 09:13 AM:

I think anyone judging whether an Army is planning to do a runner, abandoning equipment, would be interested in where the thermite grenades are.

I don't know if they're part of the standard loadout for every vehicle, or whether they're kept under a little more control, but they're the standard tool for destroying equipment.

If you have a few main armament rounds left, and can pull them out of storage and expose the propellant, you can also get a really good fire in the crew compartment.

These tanks are designed to make it hard for the enemy. If they're being abandoned, destroying them is an inside job. There have been stories about Desert Storm, and the difficulty there was in destroying an M1 that was abandoned then. It sounded as if somebody didn't know what they were doing.

But let things get chaotic, let crews panic, and anything might happen. Night movement, get a track broken by an IED, and some small arms fire, and who'll remember the book solution?

And that'll go for all the other little problems of an evacuation. Especially if the rumours about what happens to anyone left behind are grisly enough. Plus, we'll find out what having women soldiers facing those risks does for clear thinking.

And if things go that wrong, is Basra really going to be a safe haven?

#75 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 09:33 AM:

Dave - no, Basra's not going to be a safe haven, but it's on the way to the only big port in Iraq, and also the only major road to Kuwait...

#76 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 09:49 AM:

#38 Choice quote from the general, "I remain optimistic that we can stabilize Iraq."

It all depends on the meaning of "stable." Once all the Iraqis are dead, there won't be any more fighting...

And from a strictly military, strictly US point of view, once no one is left to shoot at US troops, it's stable.

#77 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 10:19 AM:

ajay, I like katabasis.

And chalk up one more strategic failure for Rummy--he didn't plan for a retreat. I don't suppose we could try the bastard for treason? Because he has surely done more harm to the USA than any enemy in the past century.

#78 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 10:34 AM:

TNH #68: The answer, I'm afraid, is yes.

I would advise against using the name 'Anabasis'; if W were to get word of this he might either claim to be or inveigh against 'Ex-enophon'.

#79 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 10:39 AM:

There's an excellent article in the NY Times on the political side of Wednesday's Senate Armed Services Committee with General Abizaid:

With Politics as Subtext, Senators Clash on Iraq

For the discription of the hearing in the article, the Senate comes off looking as clique-filled and catty as a highschool cafeteria. In particular, Lieberman looks like he's setting himself up to be a total pest to the Democrats:

Mr. McCain, who would have been the committee chairman had the Republicans maintained control of the Senate, arrived almost an hour late, heralded by the accelerated click of cameras.

As Mr. Nelson questioned General Abizaid, the Arizona senator stood up to confer with Senator Susan M. Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine. At this, Mr. Lieberman got up and walked to the Republican side to join them in a brief, chuckling huddle, then ambled back to his party?s side with a glance at his colleagues as if to say, "You watching?"

Nothing like an arrogant ass with who know he's in a position of power.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 10:41 AM:

Peter Irwin #71: I'm always suspicious of multi-hundred or multi-thousand year rivalries. The Sassanid Persians certainly had Arab allies (though, right now, I can't remember whether it was the Ghassanids or the Lakhmids -- I recall that one set was supported by the Byzantines, t'other by the Persians but I'm damned if I can remember which was which).

You may be right that a Shi'ite rump state could emerge out of Iraq, allied with but not incorporated into Iran. I suspect, though that the Shi'ite 'Islam is the answer' lads, might go for a Shi'a caliphate -- perhaps with its capital at Baghdad.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 10:50 AM:

You shouldn't have said that, Joe J... I'm not sure Susan has recovered quite yet although I haven't heard that she reacts to the word 'Lieberman' the same way Steve Martin reacted to 'cleaning woman' in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

#82 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 11:25 AM:

I'm always suspicious of multi-hundred or multi-thousand year rivalries.

Quite. It leads to saying things like "France and Germany will never cooperate" and "England and Scotland will never unite".

#83 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 11:40 AM:

Me: "Nothing like an arrogant ass with who know he's in a position of power."

I think I need to slow down and proofread a bit more before I post from now on.

Let's try "Nothing like an arrogant ass who knows he's in a position of power."

#84 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Lieberman's going to be a headache for at least two years. Our majority is so thin that if he bolts, the Republicans get the majority and control of the Senate. Expect him to play that threat for all it's worth...

#85 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Does Connecticut have the recall?

#86 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 12:27 PM:

I'm pretty sure that state recalls are only for state gov't offices. The rules for choosing Congresspeople are set in the Constitution, and don't include recalls.

#87 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 02:08 PM:

I see today on talkingpointsmemo.com that the Bush administration seems to be choosing between 'one last push' and 'unleash the Sunnis'. So much for "the US has to stay in Iraq to prevent ethnic cleasing". In a possible goalpost move, we're hearing more about the possibility of a regional war.

Leigh - I fear your friends are misremembering history. The shi'ites fought for Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war. The US stopped where it did because tanks needed refueling (notice that we stopped after 100 hours this time, too, but to recover) and because occupying Baghdad would have been a bad idea (as the secretary of defense pointed out at the time). Now, allowing Saddam to use helicopter gunships on the Shi'ites after calling for them to rise up... that is a different story.

Would there have been a civil war in Iraq without US involvement? Personally, I doubt it because the tanks and helicopters were pretty well centralized on one side. But if the best that can be said of the US intervention is that at least we've made sure that all sides are equally well armed (unlike the doomed Shi'ite uprising after the first Gulf War)...

In somewhat related news, is anyone else bothered that the current conflict in Iraq seems to be somehow nameless? It's not Gulf War 2, that's for sure.

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Teresa @68

...of all the untold stories of the Iraq War, the accounting may be the hairiest.

Amen. I'm thinking of something recent from the Corpuscle, though: the math eventually adds up. I think the money trail will be the last nail in the coffin of the plutocrats, after the other facts have come out and been spun and respun. Decades from now, though - we have a lot of muck to wade through first.

Any takers for the theory that all sorts of industrial profit centers and long-range fiscal plans were dependent on the Cold War; that the oft-predicted but disgracefully unforeseen collapse of the Soviet Union threw one hell of a spanner into the works; and that many otherwise inexplicable events in the United States subsequent to that event have been the military-industrial complex finding satisfactory substitutes for that hereditary enemy gone AWOL?

I'll buy a few shares on spec, but I'd like to see a plausible list that can be traced back to the same corporations. For instance, Katrina is a definite, but that wasn't planned. But can we fill in a reasonable revenue stream between, say, 1989 and the present?

(But if you're choosing between fleshing that out and the whole "Left Hand of Darkness" as slash thing, go with hot love in the cold Gethen wilderness.)

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 05:23 PM:

is anyone else bothered that the current conflict in Iraq seems to be somehow nameless?

George's War?


#90 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Greg at #89:

(Sarcasm on) Why, I thought everyone knew that it's Operation Iraqi Liberation. (Sarcasm off)

We are most certainly spending blood for oil and indirectly lining all of Bush's buddies' pockets.

I can't wait until someone (read the Inspector General) follows the money...

#91 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Greg London #89: The War of George's Flight-Suit?

#92 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:05 PM:

The War of George's Flight-Suit?

Ooh, ooh, I know! The Codpiece War!

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:28 PM:

protected static @92

You shouldn't have said that.

In centuries to come they'll sit and talk
About the war we started in 03:
"Some country called...what was it then?...Iraq.
They thought they'd go invade and set it free."
"Or was it oil?" "No, that just isn't right.
You cook with oil, silly. Can't be that."
"But maybe they were using oil to fight?
Non-lethal weapons? Bad guys drenched in fat?"
"Now that is just ridiculous. Listen. Hush.
They saw a vision, smoke that filled the sky,
Twin pillars in one day, a burning Bush:
Religious martyrdom...I think that's why."
"The war was a crusade, fighting over God?
You sure? So why's it named The Piece of Cod?"

Are you sorry now?

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:30 PM:

'The Clown War' ?

#95 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:41 PM:

Some good suggestions here (and I've been reminded of the Daily Show's "Mess'o'potamia") but what I meant is that the media/government/populace don't have a Name for it. "The War In Iraq" is probably about as close as we get, but this isn't even our first war there.

(Good point about "Operation Iraqi Liberation", Leigh. I don't think I've heard that or version 1.01 of same in quite some time.)

#96 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 06:55 PM:

abi @93,

Appended: "Iraq was a suburb of Boston?"

#97 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 07:13 PM:

abi @93 - Not in the slightest... ;-)

#98 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 07:33 PM:

I think it's important to pin the war directly on the @sshole who started it. Or at least his monkey. Therefore, I still say it should somehow name George Bush in some fashion. Because in another year or two, the neocons will try to pin this friggen mess on the democrats. Never mind Georgie is still president. So how about:


The War of Mad King George

That actually has a nice ring to it.

#99 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 08:11 PM:

We're holding out for Bush's War.

Short, simple, gets the point across. Difficult to argue with.

#100 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 08:45 PM:

#99 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean -- "We're holding out for Bush's War.
Short, simple, gets the point across. Difficult to argue with."

I've been thinking of it as "Mr. Bush's War", but now consider that a poor idea. The people who've pushed it, and acceded to it, don't deserve a scapegoat.


#101 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 08:53 PM:

The people who've pushed it, and acceded to it, don't deserve a scapegoat.

Ok, The Neocon War.

#102 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Ok, The Neocon War.

Except I'm afraid we'll have to start numbering them at some point.

Neocon War 1.

The Second Neocon War.

#103 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2006, 11:27 PM:

Re #100:

I don't think Bush qualifies as a scapegoat. He is the President, he wanted to be the President, and the responsibility for what happens on his watch is his, even if the deeds were his appointees'.

This incidentally, does not mean that the appointees can evade responsibility. There is surely enough to go around.

#104 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 01:12 AM:

Re: #103 ::"I don't think Bush qualifies as a scapegoat. He is the President, he wanted to be the President, and the responsibility for what happens on his watch is his, even if the deeds were his appointees'. [...]"

You're certainly right that he's not at all an innocent scapegoat, but my feeling is that if it goes down as "Bush's War", or even "The NeoCons' War", all of the Republicans (& Democrats) who abetted him will just point at him and shrug the whole thing off -- and probably get away with it.


#105 ::: Ruhgozler ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 02:22 AM:

What we suspect is going to happen is that the US is going to pull out some of the military filling service positions such as base management and replace them with more contractors. They aren't going to pull out the combat troops and they aren't going to give up such strategic bases. We fly more civilian personnel in every day and we are building things up, not taking them down.

#106 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 10:21 AM:

Vietnam II?
The War of Unintended Consequences?
Halliburton's Windfall?

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 10:24 AM:

Bush's Folly

#108 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 10:49 AM:

TNH: At the insistence of Rumsfeld and other neocons, we went in with far too few troops. We never established control, and huge amounts of Iraq's everyday infrastructure got wrecked by a relatively small number of looters.

Now some generals (and my husband, who's big into military history) say the only "good" option is to bring in more troops to try and hold things together, and keep them there for a long time. Given the changing political climate in DC, that might not happen, but is it the best-case scenario in a bunch of bad choices?

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 01:59 PM:

Today, CNN:

Top Sunni group to Sunnis: Quit government

Amid the furor over a warrant for an influential Sunni Arab leader, Iraq's government on Friday clarified it had issued an investigation warrant, not an arrest warrant.

The legal action was taken to simply "check security files linked" to Hareth al-Dhari, said an aide to Ali al-Dabbagh, the government spokesman.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry's Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf told CNN an arrest warrant had been issued for al-Dhari, accusing him of violating Iraq's anti-terrorism law by inciting sectarian violence and killings.

Al-Dhari has been a fervent critic of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government.

What happens next "depends on the decision of the Iraqi judiciary .... away from any political considerations," the government said.

The influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, a group of top religious leaders for the nation's Sunni minority, denounced the "arrest warrant" for its leader and called on Sunni politicians to quit the government.

"We call on Arab League and its secretary general, Amr Moussa, to condemn this cowardly act because it contradicts all the conferences held by Arab League to achieve national reconciliation," it said.

The association believes the government targets Sunnis and their mosques, and reports of the arrest warrant threatened to further inflame Sunni-Shiite violence.

Spokesman Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi called the arrest warrant political cover for "the acts of the government's security agencies that kill dozens of Iraqis every day," AP reported.

He said the government "has proven that it is not a national government," according to AP.

#110 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 02:41 PM:

But this latest idiocy ...

Charles Stross said

"12-18 months" indeed.

In 12-18 months the remaining allied forces in Iraq will have their work cut out to evacuate all their personnel, abandoning their bases in place, and fighting their way out to the border with Kurdistan or Kuwait. If they manage to organize the evacuation for autumn/winter/spring (avoiding the 50-degree death march of summer) and if they can protect their ammunition and fuel dumps along the route, they might survive. If not, it's going to look more like the First Afghan War than Vietnam.

You can't evacuate armoured vehicles by air. Without control of a wide perimeter around the air bases -- tens of miles in all directions -- the evacuation aircraft will be vulnerable to MANPADs (and RPG-30s, which the insurgents have figured out how to use against helicopters). Likely as not, some of those bases are going to be evacuated by road. Which means traversing hundreds of miles of hostile countryside, insurgents with IEDs every inch of the way, and open season on American soldiers -- they won't be coming back, so what's the downside on a little revenge whoop-ass?

If they run out of ammunition or fuel before they make it to the border, they'll be in really deep shit. Because by the time it gets to that point, nobody (except possibly the government of Iran) will be real interested in taking Americans prisoner ...


Err, no.

If we wind up evacuating the Iraqis will probably leave the Coallition forces alone. Why should they bother. Every round and fighter expended after we decide to leave is a round or fighter not available to help its faction rule Iraq.

Also, on a grimmer note, the rules change. It goes back to high intensity warfare and any Iraqis attempting to interfere will die. Think B-52s employing cluster munitions to kill everything within 5 km or so of the evacuation route or airfields. For a historical model, think Xenophon rather than Elphinstone.

Yes, you are correct that if the Americans ran completely out of fuel and ammunition they would have problems. The likeliness of this happening is remote, and ammunition could be airdropped to isolated units. Yes, IEDs would be a problem, but no worse than they are now, and it becomes easier to deal with if the roads are essentially declared free-fire zones.

There was a nice thread at Obsidian Wings that discussed this issue in more detail.

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/08/baghdadstalingr.html#comments

#111 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 03:39 PM:

OK, Donald, how far is it from Baghdad to Basra? How many bombs is it going to need to saturate that 5km strip?

This sounds comparable to what happened in France, 1914-18. Are there enough munitions stockpiled? How many tonnes can the USAF deliver in a day? What delivery rate can they sustain?

If it comes to that, doing tactical high-intensity warfare burns a huge amount of fuel, far more than just driving along. Going cross-country make a difference. I'm doubtful that a US force doing a Xenophon can carry enough fuel to cover the distance. Some vehicles could do the trip if it were ordinary highway driving, but not the ones doing the fighting.

And how many miles of highway does a Division occupy?

#112 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 06:04 PM:

The Iraqis will attack retreating a retreating US army, at the very least for revenge for the horror we've unleashed on them, and also because it is in there interest to make sure we retreat with as little equipment and personnel as possible, so that we have fewer resources if we decide to attack again, and so that we have a final reminder that invading Iraq is a bloody, bad idea.

A retreat would be an opportunity to raise the US death rate from in the dozens per week to in the hundreds or thousands over a short time, something desirable as both revenge and deterrent.

Attacks designed to separate US personnel from equipment can also be expected, so that equipment can be captured, used or copied.

#113 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Dave,

Its about 300 miles from Baghdad to Basra. Most of it is open ground, IIRC (its been a couple of years since I traveled it via a convoy leaving OIF 1). The open parts are less likely to need the saturation approach, unless a saturation target presents itself.

The amount of road space a division occupies depends on the spacing. Say 3,000 - 4,000 vehicles at 20 meter intervals. The column could be 50 or more km long, if it moved in a single file. It will not. There will be flank guards and vehicles moving 2-3 lanes abreast where possible.

What is your point? Are you suggesting that a long column could be attacked from the flank and cut off? Possible, in a town or city. Very unlikely in the open. A group of Iraqis would have to conduct an attack in the open against a US force that was not under restrictive ROE that are intenden to reduce collateral damage. When this was tried during the opening stages of OIF, it did not go very well for the Iraqis.

A long column would also make IED employment harder, because the emplacers need to get close to the road to deploy their IED. This is hard if there are armored vehicles with machineguns every 50-100 meters.

As for fuel, it could be a problem, but remember, the US force is not opposing a high intensity force. M1 tanks have a cruising range of app 300 miles, and they do not have to do a lot of evasive action and missile dodging, because the high intensity warfare is only going one way. The Iraqis do not have enough tanks and other heavy weapons to effectively conduct high intensity warfare against a retreating US force.

The main point of the air power s to snuff any attempt at a mass attack. 5-10 Iraqis engaging in a firefight will lose. If a hundred gather to conduct a larger scale attack, they attract airpower or artillery, which kills them in groups.

The big problem the US is facing from a strictly military perspective is the need to employ discriminate fire power. We are trying to win the people over and you don't do that with indiscriminate firepower. Once a withdrawal starts, the rules change and the importance of Iraqi hearts and minds drastically decreases.

#114 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 09:04 PM:

I wonder if we'll see, in the near future, an announcement by the Iraqi gov't that they're moving the capital from Baghdad to Basra? That would make sense, if the Shi'ite dominated gov't is looking to be the head of a Shi'ite nation if/when Iraq breaks up, and it would be a good cover for the US moving the mass of the troops south in advance of pulling out of Iraq.

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 09:05 PM:

Donald Clarke said:
We are trying to win the people over and you don't do that with indiscriminate firepower.

Well, that one got blown to h*ll some time back: that was the 'shock and awe' stuff that Donny started out with, and it's been downhill from there.

#116 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2006, 10:39 PM:

Donald Clarke said:
We are trying to win the people over and you don't do that with indiscriminate firepower.

Bombing, invading and occupying a country has never won hearts and minds...

#117 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 12:06 AM:

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

(courtesy of William Goldman, The Princess Bride - noted for completeness' sake.)

#118 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 01:07 AM:

Donald--

What makes you think, when (not if) American/British troops retreat, the people wishing to take potshots are going to neatly take numbers and line up like goons waiting to fight Xena?

You'd get far more bang for your buck to just invest in some IEDs and leave them to blow up the parade as they try to get out, then massacre whatever stragglers get left behind. Hell, you can even film that and put in on the internet.

Certainly people are going to leave their strength for fighting their countrymen, but since that fight is as much politics as guns, having bragging rights to having shot the people who invaded your country? Especially if you can do it for little or no trouble?

Of course, I'm here ascribing sensible tactics to people in charge of armies. I'd feel particularly bad for my country if we were the only one to have incompetent leadership and poor planning. Likely there will be some Iraqis who do stupid things too, so a large scale battle in he middle of the pull out? I don't think that's out of the question either.

#119 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:25 AM:

Ursula said:

Donald Clarke said:
We are trying to win the people over and you don't do that with indiscriminate firepower.

Bombing, invading and occupying a country has never won hearts and minds...


It seemed to work out well enough for the Allies in WW2. The postwar occupation of Germany and Japan went fairly smoothly.

Note, I believe the occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most thouroughly botched ever. It does not mean that successful occupations are inherently impossible.


#120 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 04:31 AM:

oliviacw said

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

(courtesy of William Goldman, The Princess Bride - noted for completeness' sake.)


Never is perhaps too strong a word. I think never get involved in a war anywhere where all the decisions are being made to further domestic political agenda might be a better statement. Iraq and Vietnam should serve as classic examples of that for a long time to come.

On the other hand, I really think South Korea is fortunate that we had not yet heard Mr Goldman's advice at that point. I really would rather not contemplate the entire peninsula as poor as North Korea.

#121 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 05:18 AM:

interspersed

Kevin Murphy said

Donald--

What makes you think, when (not if) American/British troops retreat, the people wishing to take potshots are going to neatly take numbers and line up like goons waiting to fight Xena?

You'd get far more bang for your buck to just invest in some IEDs and leave them to blow up the parade as they try to get out, then massacre whatever stragglers get left behind. Hell, you can even film that and put in on the internet.

How this is different from what is going on now? My point was that a US withdrawal was highly unlikely to turn into the little big horn or the British retreat from Kabul in the First Afghan War. I did not say the US would suffer no casualties. I expect they will still suffer some, but probably fewer. It is easier to keep a few main roads clear with relaxed ROE and heavy patrolling. After all, by that point most of Iraq will be abandonded to the factions and the US force ratio for the mission of keeping the MSRs clear will be much more favorable.


Certainly people are going to leave their strength for fighting their countrymen, but since that fight is as much politics as guns, having bragging rights to having shot the people who invaded your country? Especially if you can do it for little or no trouble?

I very much hope you are right about the post occupation fighting being as much politics as guns. My own expectation is that the Shia will start doing to the Sunnis what the Hutu did to the Tutsi in Rwanda. I will be immensely happy if I am wrong and the Iraqis just need a US departure to reach a political settlement. That is the biggest problem in this situation, in that all of the options are lousy.

As I see it, there are three options:

(1) We could try to massively reinforce by deciding that all tours are 18-24 months and use that time to build a larger Army. This might work, but is probably politically impossible. Use US forces to lockdown the country and try to shut down the violence while rebuilding the institutions. It would probably take a decade and pushing the military budget to 6-8% of GNP.

(2) We could continue the current policy ansd try the same thing with current forces. It hasn't really worked yet, and probably will not succeed. It would keep the really large scale ethnic cleansing under control and keep Iraqi casualties at a relatively lower (compared with option 3) rate.

(3) We can decide to leave now (actually in the next several months). This will reduce US costs in lives and money, but will probably lead to Iraqi deaths in the hundreds of thousands to a couple of million as the Shia crush the Sunnis and they fight back.

I personally would like to try # 1, since if I am right about the Shia-Sunni ethic cleansing; that is the best chance to minimize Iraqi casualties. I don't think it is politically feasable. Failing that, the best idea from a strictly US stand point is probably withdrawal, since it will cut US losses. Advocates of withdrawal need to understand that it is not a panacea and will probably cause doubling or tripling of Iraqi casualties. I hope I am wrong about this, but hope is not a plan.


#122 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:47 AM:

CNN, today:


(CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair provoked a storm Saturday after apparently admitting that the invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain was "a disaster."


Blair gave the surprise assessment of his decision to go to war in an interview with David Frost on Al-Jazeera's new English-language channel.


British opposition MPs seized on the comment as evidence that Blair has finally accepted that his strategy in the Middle Eastern state had failed.


British newspapers carried the story on their front pages Saturday


"Iraq invasion a disaster, Blair admits on Arab TV," was the headline in the Daily Telegraph.


"PM Tony Blair last night sensationally admitted the Iraq War fallout has become 'disastrous,' reported Britain's biggest selling daily, The Sun.


Blair's remarks came after former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said he feared his country was on the verge of disintegration -- a situation he said he never anticipated.


"It's really quite alarming and dangerous, where Iraq is now. It's quite frightening," he told CNN.


"Iraq is slipping continuously into a chaotic level of violence. "To be honest, this is not something that I could have imagined when we fought Saddam's regime."

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 07:54 AM:

Here's what I see happening:

Anbar becomes part of Syria.

The Kurds declare independence, then are invaded by, and partitioned between, Turkey and Iran.

The Sunni south becomes The Islamic Republic of Iraq, which is loosely allied with Iran.

#124 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:26 AM:

Donald Clarke:

Bombing, invading and occupying a country has never won hearts and minds...

It seemed to work out well enough for the Allies in WW2. The postwar occupation of Germany and Japan went fairly smoothly.

Two points.

1. In both cases, Germany and Japan were occupied by troop numbers equal to roughly 5% of their total population. About 3 million troops in each. There's nothing like the ability to put a squad of soldiers on every road intersection to rub in the fact that you've been occupied. In contrast, the invasion and occupation of Iraq proceeded with roughly 150,000 troops -- for a similar occupation force level we'd have needed to use two-thirds of a million.

And the occupation of Germany, at least, still wasn't bloodless: US casualties in Germany from July 1945 to July 1946 ran to about 3000 dead, largely due to SS Werewolf units that took a couple of years to hunt down.

2. In both cases, the Germans and Japanese knew that if they kicked the US or the UK and France out, they'd have to deal with the other ally who'd declared war on them. And nobody was terribly eager to kick the American occupiers out so they could be replaced by the Red Army backed up by entire divisions of the NKVD.

I suspect a western invasion of Iraq in 2003 could have been made to work -- if Rummy had listened to the State Department on how to run the country once it was occupied, and if they'd scrounged enough troops from somewhere, and then taken the business of occupation seriously. But the US army of today isn't geared up for occupation duty, and the western public aren't prepared for what occupying a country entails.

#125 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 09:43 AM:

Donald Clarke:

I think your listing of likely outcomes is about right, and I agree with you about the political workability of #1. The problem here is that the people of the US mostly don't think getting a decent government going in Iraq is worth 4-6% of GDP, a complete loss of initiative in any other foreign policy issues for the next decade, and maybe ten thousand American casualties. I think they're right.

The decision to invade Iraq was a disasterous mistake. It was probably a helpful hint to the administration that they had to actively suppress opposition to the invasion within the military, not on moral or political grounds, but simply on grounds of "once we take it over, what do we do with it?" There seem to me to be shades of the Vietnam war here, with information from the military and intelligence people being filtered according to how well they tracked with the administration's ideas and political goals.

But we can't take the decision back. If we're going to pull out, I hope we can think the decision through honestly, and do what we can to minimize the horror. I'm not sure what that is, other than trying to do some of the ethnic cleansing that will happen anyway with eminent domain and humane treatment of refugees, rather than leaving it to be done by death squads later. (But it sounds like a lot of ethnic cleansing by death squad is going on now.)

#126 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 10:43 AM:

Donald Clarke:
- extending Charlie's comments, I'll also point out that both Japan and Germany had generations traditions of social order and obedience to designated authorities. (Generations rather than centuries, but the tradition was there.) The Allies took out most of the top ]management[ in both countries, giving them a measure of control. Matters would be bad enough if Iraq were just three contending parties, but instead there are a large handful of people who think they can get absolute power if they have enough guns.
The Allies also made it obvious that being peacefully occupied was a win; food was available and criminals (such as there were in a more settled society) were prevented from molesting the peaceful. (Both of these are consequences of a large-enough occupation force.) This has not happened in Iraq; after the pains of a dozen years of sanctions it might not have happened even with a larger force, because (from what I've seen) the average Iraqi was convinced the Western world were villains rather than simply enemies.
I'm still uncertain about your evacuation plans; how many vehicles wrecked from IEDs or hashishin will it take to slow down the column? How long can ammunition air-drops continue? How much stomach will there be for a bloody stalemate (such as would happen even with adequate ammo, once the fuel in a blocked column runs out), even if there are no body bags coming home? You point to the failure of the Iraqi army to stop a full-force advance; I see a victorious force that won every morale roll against conscripts who saw no reason to fight, which does not compare to a retreat versus people fighting for their own home. I have my doubts about the dire scenarios simply because they represent extremes, just as "they'll follow us home" represents an extreme; but I'm not confident in your mechanics.

James: what's your assessment of the warrant? Even NPR says the subject refused offers to suspend combat and talk; I'm ... unimpressed ... with the Sunni violence, as I see it making matters actively worse for Sunni civilians in Shi'ite areas.

#127 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 11:16 AM:

Re: 119: It seemed to work out well enough for the Allies in WW2. The postwar occupation of Germany and Japan went fairly smoothly.

Note, I believe the occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most thouroughly botched ever. It does not mean that successful occupations are inherently impossible.

Hardly. The West Germans behaved because they knew the Russians were just over the border. And that was a threat that kept everyone in line.

Plus their fighting age men were all kept locked up, they were forcibly disarmed, and the occupation itself was overwhelmingly large, not the joke that we used now.

Hearts and minds of those who knew the war personally were never really "won." My father and grandmother both believe that, at least through the 1960s, they didn't have "democracy" where you chose your own government for your own country, they merely had a choice between various US-approved puppets. Even now, the US troops are still there, and laws intended to control Nazi insurgents are still on the book, albeit focused on a new generation of neo-Nazis and skinheads now.

The one thing that made the US-occupation tolerable for my relatives was that they'd been in the East when the Russians moved in, and were just glad to have gotten away from that.

Even though he moved to the US in the 1960s, my father didn't become a citizen until the 1990s, and that had as much to do with fear that he'd be disqualified for the Social Security he'd paid into all those years as it did with having his heart and mind won to believe the US were the "good guys." He saw too many bombs drop, suffered too much hunger, knew too much fear, to ever believe that.

The most we could have won, after the invasion, was to be seen as the lesser evil, as we were in W. Germany. That opportunity was lost thousands of Iraqi lives ago. Perhaps even before the first bomb was dropped, since, unlike the Germans, they did not believe that they'd started a war and lost, they saw themselves being attacked for a lie.

#128 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 03:29 PM:

CHip said (#126):
You point to the failure of the Iraqi army to stop a full-force advance; I see a victorious force that won every morale roll against conscripts who saw no reason to fight, which does not compare to a retreat versus people fighting for their own home. I have my doubts about the dire scenarios simply because they represent extremes, just as "they'll follow us home" represents an extreme; but I'm not confident in your mechanics.

Recall that the Iraqi army was not all conscripts (e.g., the Republican Guard), and the Ba'ath Party irregulars like the Fedayeen Saddam did not lose morale, but made numerous frankly suicidal attacks on US forces.

Normally, people "fighting for their homes" are people fighting against an invasion or the occupation itself. I have difficulty seeing why people would be more ferocious in opposing a retreat, when that's what most of them want.

I don't recall that Soviet forces being wiped out when they tried to withdraw from Afghanistan.

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2006, 06:43 PM:

Charlie Stross #124:

The Allies were willing to do what was necessary to occupy Germany and Japan, and their publics were willing to go along with it, because the occupation came at the end of six years of war (or 4 in the case of the Russians and 3� in the case of the Americans) in which it became clear that the other side had constituted a grave danger and it was believed necessary to bring that danger to an end. The Cold War was certainly an additional factor, but only an additional factor.

Iraq, of course, constituted no threat to the US nor to its other allies.

#130 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:50 AM:

Long post warning.

General Comment: Just to be clear on this issue, I believe that this occupation is probably the most ineptly and incompetently planned military operation of its type. I don?t know enough military history to be conclusive on that point, but I certainly hope there weren?t any worse ones, at least in US military history. That still does not change the point that just because this operation was ineptly planned and conducted (the second part stems from the first ? failure to plan = planning to fail)., not all occupations are doomed to failure, and enough forces can redeem poor planning (Grenada and Panama, for example).

I fully agree with all of those who said more troops were needed. I was wondering myself at the time if we didn?t need more troops, especially when I was told about the original ?plans? which suggested a drawdown to 30,000 by Fall 2003.

That said, a couple of specific points.

Charlie Stross # 124 said
And the occupation of Germany, at least, still wasn't bloodless: US casualties in Germany from July 1945 to July 1946 ran to about 3000 dead, largely due to SS Werewolf units that took a couple of years to hunt down.

Do you have some cites for this? I have read a little about the occupation and I recall crime problems, but no serious resistance.

Chip # 126 said

I'm still uncertain about your evacuation plans; how many vehicles wrecked from IEDs or hashishin will it take to slow down the column? How long can ammunition air-drops continue? How much stomach will there be for a bloody stalemate (such as would happen even with adequate ammo, once the fuel in a blocked column runs out), even if there are no body bags coming home? You point to the failure of the Iraqi army to stop a full-force advance; I see a victorious force that won every morale roll against conscripts who saw no reason to fight, which does not compare to a retreat versus people fighting for their own home. I have my doubts about the dire scenarios simply because they represent extremes, just as "they'll follow us home" represents an extreme; but I'm not confident in your mechanics.

Who do you think is going to block a US column? This is not the French in Vietnam. There is no credible conventional opposition in Iraq. The insurgents can hurt us and inflict attritional losses. They can not stop us from going any where we want to go. The French suffered several defeats in Vietnam to effectively conventional forces, most famously Dien Bien Phu, although the destruction of mobile group 100 was probably even more significant. There are no conventional insurgent forces that can even try that, and if they did, they would be killed.

If General Abizaid or General Casey thought there was a chance in hell the Iraqis would be dumb enough to try for a Dien Bien Phu on a major base they would be praying for it every night. The Iraqis are not that stupid and the generals know it.

As to your specific column scenarios, if a vehicle is disabled by an IED, it will be fixed at the scene or pushed off the road and burned if it is un-repairable. A sufficiently valuable vehicle (M1 or M2) might be left with a guard force for a follow on repair unit; unless it was the last column when it would be blown in place. A blown up place in the road will be bypassed (relatively flat desert helps a lot).

In general, obstacles are usually effective only if they are covered by fire to prevent their removal or bypass. If the Iraqis hang around to cover their obstacle they will be killed and then the obstacle will be bypassed or removed.

As for "how much stomach would there be for a bloody stalemate" I am not sure what you mean. The troops will certainly fight to the last. Given the record to date, there is very little point in surrendering to the insurgents to be tortured and killed. As for the US public, the reaction might be the opposite of the insurgents intent. Yes, we would probably just leave. If on the other hand they tortured and executed the survivors and broadcast it over the web, we might also decide to crush the Iraqis. Look at what happened to the Indians after the Little Big Horn.

It is probably just as well that the scenario of a trapped US column being massacred by Iraqis is extremely unlikely. It is not impossible, but I think I have better odds at winning a Powerball jackpot.

#131 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 08:18 AM:

Ursula L # 127 said

>Re: 119: It seemed to work out well enough for the Allies in WW2. The postwar occupation of Germany and Japan >went fairly smoothly.

>Note, I believe the occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most thoroughly botched ever. It does >not mean that successful occupations are inherently impossible.

Hardly. The West Germans behaved because they knew the Russians were just over the border. And that was a threat that kept everyone in line.
Plus their fighting age men were all kept locked up, they were forcibly disarmed, and the occupation itself was overwhelmingly large, not the joke that we used now.

Hearts and minds of those who knew the war personally were never really "won." My father and grandmother both believe that, at least through the 1960s, they didn't have "democracy" where you chose your own government for your own country, they merely had a choice between various US-approved puppets. Even now, the US troops are still there, and laws intended to control Nazi insurgents are still on the book, albeit focused on a new generation of neo-Nazis and skinheads now.

The one thing that made the US-occupation tolerable for my relatives was that they'd been in the East when the Russians moved in, and were just glad to have gotten away from that.
Even though he moved to the US in the 1960s, my father didn't become a citizen until the 1990s, and that had as much to do with fear that he'd be disqualified for the Social Security he'd paid into all those years as it did with having his heart and mind won to believe the US were the "good guys." He saw too many bombs drop, suffered too much hunger, knew too much fear, to ever believe that.

The most we could have won, after the invasion, was to be seen as the lesser evil, as we were in W. Germany. That opportunity was lost thousands of Iraqi lives ago. Perhaps even before the first bomb was dropped, since, unlike the Germans, they did not believe that they'd started a war and lost, they saw themselves being attacked for a lie.

Are you arguing that because some (OK-maybe most) Germans were not completely happy the occupation was unsuccessful?

I think it was very successful, certainly more than the previous version after Versailles. Just as well too, the discussed alternative was the Morgenthau plan which called for elimination of all German industry and turning it into farmland, regardless of the consequences. Those consequences included famine for whatever portion of the German population that could not feed itself off of its new farmland.

#132 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:06 AM:

Charles Stross:And the occupation of Germany, at least, still wasn't bloodless: US casualties in Germany from July 1945 to July 1946 ran to about 3000 dead, largely due to SS Werewolf units that took a couple of years to hunt down.

Yes, a lot of ignorant people, such as Condi Rice, started saying things like that when the Iraq resistance kicked off.

They were wrong - either mistaken or lying to serve their own political ends.

http://www.slate.com/id/2087768/
http://mediamatters.org/items/200512150003

Werwolf units killed the (allied-installed) mayor of Aachen in March 1945 - before the end of the war. There were no other significant attacks before or after the May 1945 end of hostilities.

"According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany ? and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases ? was zero."

#133 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:43 AM:

No, I'm saying that, even with everything that went right in Germany, the US did not win "hearts and minds," they won a begrudging tolerance, in the face of a threat from a worse outsider.

Thinking you'll be welcomed with flowers and candy when you invade, or thinking you'll be appreciated when you bomb, is just plain delusional.

Americans like to use Germany as an example of how you can invade and occupy a country, and win the "hearts and minds" of the people. It isn't that example.

It is an example of how you can invade an occupy a country, and with a massive multi-generational occupation and the threat of an even worse occupier, you can keep the first generation of occupied people complacent, and get physical, economic and political conditions good enough so that the next generation lacks an interest in changing the status quo.

There is no way to do that in Iraq, for one thing, we don't have the threat of the Russians on the doorstep, waiting to rape and plunder.

But more fundamentally, the people of Germany saw themselves as having lost a war they chose to enter, and, while not happy of the outcome, saw it as "fair", the people of Iraq see themselves as the victims of an illegal and immoral and unjustified war and occupation. The situation we're in isn't that of the US occupation of Germany, it's more like the German occupation of France (speaking strictly in terms of the resentment of the general population, here, not of the holocaust, and using this example in keeping with the theme of WWII occupations), or, at best, the British colonization of India.

#134 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 10:59 AM:

Concerning the post-WW2 occupations of Germany and Japan: an additional factor is the fact that the Germans and Japanese had been at war for almost six years in the case of Germany and almost nine years in the case of Japan (counting from the Japanese invasion of China in 1937). It's reasonable to argue that both populations were "war-weary," especially given the increasing hardships and privations of the last year or so, and I think this played a role in the success of the occupations.

In the case of Japan, the symbolic "top management" (i.e., the Emperor) both ordered the surrender and was left in place; this made it easier for ordinary Japanese to go along with the occupation.

#135 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Ursula L # 133 said

No, I'm saying that, even with everything that went right in Germany, the US did not win "hearts and minds," they won a begrudging tolerance, in the face of a threat from a worse outsider.

Thinking you'll be welcomed with flowers and candy when you invade, or thinking you'll be appreciated when you bomb, is just plain delusional.

Fair enough, although I think we just might have been greeted as liberators if we had continued in 1991, at least by the Shia. After all, despite the German bombings invading Russia, IIRC their original reception in the Ukraine was pretty favorable. They didn't lose popular support until it became apparent that to the Nazis the Ukrainians were just another group of subhuman slavs, like the Russians.

As it was, IF we had moved into Iraq with sufficient forces to maintain order and a creditable rebuilding program, we MIGHT have gotten enough Shia support to keep it from falling apart. Given real improvements in electricity and public works, the Sunni might have eventually bought in. I am not sure, and we will never know now. Still, I would much rather defend the decision to invade Iraq in a debate than the planning and conduct of the occupation.

Regardless, we still need to decide what to do and what are the acceptable consequences. Here are the options again:

(1) We could try to massively reinforce by deciding that all tours are 18-24 months and use that time to build a larger Army. This might work, but is probably politically impossible. Use US forces to lockdown the country and try to shut down the violence while rebuilding the institutions. It would probably take a decade and pushing the military budget to 6-8% of GNP.

(2) We could continue the current policy ansd try the same thing with current forces. It hasn't really worked yet, and probably will not succeed. It would keep the really large scale ethnic cleansing under control and keep Iraqi casualties at a relatively lower (compared with option 3) rate.

(3) We can decide to leave now (actually in the next several months). This will reduce US costs in lives and money, but will probably lead to Iraqi deaths in the hundreds of thousands to a couple of million as the Shia crush the Sunnis and they fight back.

I really don't think # 1 has a chance. I think it is going to be #2 or #3. What can we do at this point to mitigate the consequences? Should we consider some ethnic cleansing lite ourselves, relocating isolated Shia or Sunni populations before they get massacred after we leave as I think Albatross suggested? If the ethnic cleansing is inevitable, should we just leave now and let the massacres begin?

For that matter, what are the longer range effects of the Iraq failure? Unfortunately I expect one of them will be the elimination of any chance of intervention in Darfur. How about Afghanistan, where we actually could maintain the 30-40,000 troops needed to fix the place almost indefinitely? The severe impairment of the US ability to intervene will (Vietnam syndrome will be replaced by Iraq syndrome) prevent or severely hinder all interventions; not just the inept and stupid ones.


#136 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:48 AM:

Donald --

Your options set is incorrect.

You can get a very limited amount of combat service out of any particular individual. 18-24 months is much longer than that time frame, even if you were starting with fresh troops. Once people have gone over that time frame, you're going to get repeated dire atrocities; that's just plain what happens. (The current 12 month rotations are much too long already.)

You're not starting with fresh troops; the ability of the US Army to function as a cohesive force has already been severely impaired -- that's what not treating courage as a finite resource does -- and the present circumstances are not a status quo; they're getting steadily worse, and will continue to do so.

The real options are brutally constrained by the complete and utter lack of competent leadership in the executive branch. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no plan survives being executed by idiots, either.

So the real options are very much "let George Bush continue to direct the use of armed force after demonstrated massive and disastrous failure" and "stop George Bush from directing the use of armed force".

That's it. What someone competent would do with this situation does not matter because there is no one competent available to set policy.

#137 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Charlie Stross said (#124):
1. In both cases, Germany and Japan were occupied by troop numbers equal to roughly 5% of their total population. About 3 million troops in each. There's nothing like the ability to put a squad of soldiers on every road intersection to rub in the fact that you've been occupied. In contrast, the invasion and occupation of Iraq proceeded with roughly 150,000 troops -- for a similar occupation force level we'd have needed to use two-thirds of a million.

Do you happen to have sources for the Germany and Japan numbers? The largest number I've seen for Japan is something like 400,000 troops (US + Commonwealth). This is almost the same number of soldiers per civilian (given a 1945 Japanese population of about 75 million) as is currently the case in Iraq, though it's definitely more soldiers per square kilometer.

I think the "3 million troops in Germany" is the total number in Europe at the end of the fighting; a couple of sources put the number actually in Germany at 1.6 or 1.7 million. From this source, it appears US troop strength in Europe was down to about 614,000 by the end of 1945; this doesn't include British and French troops, though.

#138 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:17 PM:

Greydon #136 said

You can get a very limited amount of combat service out of any particular individual. 18-24 months is much longer than that time frame, even if you were starting with fresh troops. Once people have gone over that time frame, you're going to get repeated dire atrocities; that's just plain what happens. (The current 12 month rotations are much too long already.)

I disagree. The problem with faster rotations is that by the time a unit learns its area, it is time to leave. Experience never builds up. As for longer service, WW2 was for the duration, 3+ years for the US, more for most other combatants. Granted, it is a different experience from counter insurgency, but the notion of 1 year tours is a recent innovation.

You're not starting with fresh troops; the ability of the US Army to function as a cohesive force has already been severely impaired -- that's what not treating courage as a finite resource does -- and the present circumstances are not a status quo; they're getting steadily worse, and will continue to do so.

Actually roughly 20-30% of Army personnel have never deployed. The problems are in the reserves and special operations units. The former were not intended to pull multiple tours, and the latter are starting to get used up (one special operator has accumulated 9 deployments since 9/11).

The real options are brutally constrained by the complete and utter lack of competent leadership in the executive branch. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no plan survives being executed by idiots, either.

Agreed.

So the real options are very much "let George Bush continue to direct the use of armed force after demonstrated massive and disastrous failure" and "stop George Bush from directing the use of armed force".

Armed force is already in use. Do we stop it and let the massacres start, or do we keep on going and hope the locals get tired of killing each other?

That's it. What someone competent would do with this situation does not matter because there is no one competent available to set policy.

Well we can at least explore the possiblity that his recent electoral thumping will allow Bush to take competent advice.

#139 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Headline article on MSNBC:

Embittered insiders turn against Bush

"War advocates, other conservatives say president mismanaged their vision"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15773983/

Um, yes, blame the Special Needs President. All his fault. You didn't have anything to do with it. You couldn't know he and his team were incompetent bunglers. Poor, poor, benighted neocons. Maybe you should get certificates of merit for at least trying.

#140 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:00 PM:

Donald,

I think your three options are a bit skewed by your perceptions and various what I see as false assumptions.

With "Option 1," you're arguing that "If the miltary had a pony (ie. Barbie's dream troop numbers), we could still 'win.'"

This, I argue, is false. Why? Because the deaths caused by the US war/occupation has so far eclipsed any amount of deaths under Saddam that the Iraqi population will never view the occupation as anything other than a brutal invasion. Saddam also, despite his many horrid faults, kept Iraq's numerous cultural treasures relatively safe, rather than overseeing the burning of libraries, the looting of museums and so forth. And Bush lied about the pretexts to get us into the war and didn't even do this well, so that doesn't help either. Which means that the resistance is going to continue no matter how much meat you shove into the meatgrinder.

Of course, the US population isn't going to stand for a draft or any other means of getting the military its pony, so it's not going to happen anyway. But that said, please don't delude yourself into thinking the pony you're not getting would work.

Option 2? I believe this is rephrased as "Stay the Course!" Even Bush, acknowledged liar and now in his own party's phrase "flip-flopper," has realized this isn't going to work either.

However, before we take Option 2 off the table, part of the reason it won't work is because the US/British forces are the hated invaders, Abu Ghraib rapist-murderers and so on. Other countries forces--if they were willing--might actually be able to do something credible as actual "peacekeeping" forces.

Of course getting the UN to help with the mess we created can't really happen until Bush is out of office.

Option 3? Probably the best option because it doesn't preclude a UN solution as outlined in option 2B. Of course, the UN hasn't done much in, oh, say, Darfur, so it's very likely the civil war would be allowed to sort itself out without intervention. Which, if I can play Cassandra for a moment, I predict it will, at a horribly bloody cost, but still a less bloody cost to the folk of Iraq than the US war and occupation.

#141 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Donald --

WWII enlistments were for the duration; the expected utility of troops on combat ops was still measured in weeks, and units were rotated with that in mind and manpower management was undertaken with that in mind. Something like eleven to fifteen weeks of intense ops and another similar time period on low-intensity ops and that's it; they're, statistically, not sane and not reliably following orders any more after that.

This is basic leadership stuff; you have to conserve troop effectiveness as well as troops, and one of the core reasons for the post-Vietnam reorganization of the US military into a high-intensity, short-duration force -- you can use an army like that and keep it as an institution.

Indefinite duration in a meat grinder with no prospect of victory or stability or getting out of the meat grinder is at least one of a sentence of death and a sentence of loss; the troops in the meat grinder lose home and place and family, because they have been so changed they cannot go back.

In this war, the communications tech is good enough that the troops get to experience the loss incrementally while they're in the combat zone.

Again.

Basic, implicit promise between troops and voters in a functioning democracy -- we'll go, and we'll get the job done, on the troop side, and we won't send you unless it's an achievable task, and that important, on the voter side.

The voters haven't kept their side of that bargain this time.

Oh, and that un-deployed 20 to 30 percent? of an army with a tooth/tail ratio of at least 1:5? Think about that very carefully.

#142 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:42 PM:

Donald Clarke (130): "Just to be clear on this issue, I believe that this occupation is probably the most ineptly and incompetently planned military operation of its type."

Part of the appeal of military history is that its propositions are subject to field-testing, and its failures are hard to disguise. This makes it difficult to award the title of "worst [anything]". For instance, the Iraqis hate our troops. Do they hate them worse than the Dutch hated the Spanish? Worse than the Spanish hated Napoleon's troops? Worse than the peasants of the Beauvais hated just about everybody? It's hard to say.

I'm half convinced that our folly in Iraq doesn't truly belong in the "worst planned" category. After all, we had perfectly good planners. The problem was that Bush, Rumsfeld, et al. repeatedly insisted on overruling them and ignoring their advice. This would put the Piece of Cod in the "insanely bad leadership" and "ignoring your advisers" categories.

I can identify two thoroughly field-tested propositions that apply here. One says that if you're frustrated because your war has been going badly and you have no remaining options that might lead to victory, announcing that you need to gamble everything you have left on One More Big Push is a very, very bad sign.

The other proposition is that when any polity lets itself get into the habit of thinking that its forces will always win in the end, it will wind up being disabused of that notion in some exceptionally awful way.

#143 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 04:58 PM:

#142 - PNH

Can anyone think of another political leader who, in time of war, always knew better than his professional military advisers?

Your last statement is probably the most significant statement that can be made at this time. It should be pondered long and hard by everyone, and then the truth of it accepted.

#144 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 05:04 PM:

Graydon #141 said

Donald --

WWII enlistments were for the duration; the expected utility of troops on combat ops was still measured in weeks, and units were rotated with that in mind and manpower management was undertaken with that in mind. Something like eleven to fifteen weeks of intense ops and another similar time period on low-intensity ops and that's it; they're, statistically, not sane and not reliably following orders any more after that.

This is basic leadership stuff; you have to conserve troop effectiveness as well as troops, and one of the core reasons for the post-Vietnam reorganization of the US military into a high-intensity, short-duration force -- you can use an army like that and keep it as an institution.

Cite please.

So everyone in the First Marine division who fought from Guadalcanal to Okinawa was insane by the end of WW 2? Cite please.

On a more serious note, I agree that for maximum efficiency you need regular rest and refit cycles. However I think you are seriously underestimating human endurance. US troops in WW2 left the line for rest periods, but personnel who under went the 10-15 weeks of intense operations and the similar period of low intensity operations were not relieved as combat ineffective. If possible, they were given some rest, either off the line (preferrably) or in a quiet sector, and then recomitted. The US would have been hard pressed to win WW2 if its troops were as fragile as you suggest. The Army wasn't nearly big enough.

#145 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 05:20 PM:

Theresa Nielson Hayden # 142

I'm half convinced that our folly in Iraq doesn't truly belong in the "worst planned" category. After all, we had perfectly good planners. The problem was that Bush, Rumsfeld, et al. repeatedly insisted on overruling them and ignoring their advice. This would put the Piece of Cod in the "insanely bad leadership" and "ignoring your advisers" categories.

You may be right. Does an operation that was ineptly planned because the planners were specifically told by Rumsfeld not to plan for an occupation count as ineptly planned or not planned?

I did not mean to suggest that this was the fault of the military and/or state department. I do blame the administration in general, and Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Feith and Wolfowitz in particular.

Some in the military can be faulted for being slow to realize that counter insurgency was the type of war they faced. Others could have protested more strongly. I wonder if some junior officer will write a "Dereliction of Duty" for OIF the way McMasters did for Vietnam. I hope so.

#146 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 05:25 PM:

I think the "3 million troops in Germany" is the total number in Europe at the end of the fighting; a couple of sources put the number actually in Germany at 1.6 or 1.7 million. From this source, it appears US troop strength in Europe was down to about 614,000 by the end of 1945; this doesn't include British and French troops, though.

You do, however, need to count British, US and Russian troops to consider the ratios needed for a successful invasion - that, or only look at the population of the US sector, rather than the entire population of Germany.

Better yet would be to look at the ratio of allied soldiers to surviving German men of fighting age not locked up in POW camps. A much larger percentage of the Iraqi population was fit to fight when Shrub declared "mission accomplished" than was fit to fight of the German population at the end of the war.

Occupying soldiers to total occupied area is also an important ratio - soldiers can't secure areas where they don't have enough people on the ground to do the work. Without the density of occupying troops, a small number of resistance fighters can move easily through unsecured areas.

#147 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 07:23 PM:

Can anyone think of another political leader who, in time of war, always knew better than his professional military advisers?

Abraham Lincoln. Winston Churchill. David ben-Gurion.

#148 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 08:12 PM:

Peter Erwin, 137: do I have a cite? I do not: I'm currently sitting in a hotel room on a different continent from my library. But ...

I think the "3 million troops in Germany" is the total number in Europe at the end of the fighting; a couple of sources put the number actually in Germany at 1.6 or 1.7 million. From this source, it appears US troop strength in Europe was down to about 614,000 by the end of 1945; this doesn't include British and French troops, though.

You seem to be suffering from the delusion that US troops won the war in Germany. They didn't: the ground war in the east was largely fought by the Soviet Union, and at the end of the war they had considerably more boots on the ground in Germany than the other allies combined.

#149 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:00 PM:

Duncan --

The weeks-before-ineffective figure comes from a Royal Ordnance Corps publication which I have not been able to find online; it was discussing the history of logistical requirements in the 20th century.

You may wish to peruse:

FM22-51, particularly chapters 8 and 11, the list of links associated with this CBC documentary, and also to recognize that "some infantry regiments were suffering casualty rates of 1,600 per thousand per year"; there were very, very few troops who made it through the entire set of combat operations in which a particular division was engaged.

Oh, and with relevance to sustained counter-insurgency operations in an insecure environment, The effects of sleep deprivation are accumulative. If three soldiers do their part of a task at 50 percent effectiveness, the chances that the whole task will be accomplished correctly are less than 50 percent. In fact, it is about 12 percent (.5 x .5 x .5 = .125). Army studies on the effects of individual sleep deprivation on artillery FDC and gun crews show that seven hours of sleep for each man a day can maintain effectiveness indefinitely, five to six hours of sleep a day can maintain acceptable performance for 10 to 15 days, and four hours of sleep for each day maintain acceptable performance for only two to three days. Less than three hours of sleep a day is almost the same as not sleeping at all.

Oh, and the desired figure is two years at home for each year deployed. Current figures are pushing less time at home than deployed.

#150 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:10 PM:

Charlie Stross said (#148):
You seem to be suffering from the delusion that US troops won the war in Germany. They didn't: the ground war in the east was largely fought by the Soviet Union, and at the end of the war they had considerably more boots on the ground in Germany than the other allies combined.

No, that's not a delusion I suffer from, fortunately. (I'd recommend Antony Bevor's Berlin to anyone who did.) I did get slightly misled by the lumping together of Germany and Japan, and so I ended up, in effect, wondering about how many non-Soviet troops were occupying (what became) West Germany.

You're right, though, that from the standpoint of preventing any sort of "insurgency" in the year or two after the fall of Germany, the total occupation is meaningful. One could certainly add up all the US, British, French, and Soviet troops and divide by the population of Germany and Austria, and that would be a useful number, especially from the standpoint of keeping the peace during the first year or two.

On the other hand, that wasn't the number that led to a more-or-less functioning democracy and economy in West Germany. The problem is that the Soviets ran their occupation separately, and had different objectives (e.g., carting off as much German industry as they could).

As far as I can tell after a little more research, the maximum occupation force in Japan was 350,000 US troops near the end of 1945, with about 40,000 Commonwealth troops added in 1946 (as US levels started going down). But Japan was clearly a special case, even an abberation in this sense.

#151 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Alex Cohen (#147):
Lincoln did not "always" know better than his military advisors. He generally did a very good job of not micromanaging military affairs (he would sometimes offer suggestions, but almost always made it clear that these were just suggestions). What he was capable of doing was firing generals who had clearly demonstrated their incompetence -- or at least the fact that they clearly weren't capable of dealing with Robert E. Lee.

My impression of Churchill was that he was more stubborn and more prone to try micromanaging -- but that he was also capable of being talked out of bad ideas by his advisors.

#152 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 10:02 PM:

There are two insidious mythologies about civilian control of military forces. One is that the right thing to do is to "let the generals do their job"; that is, that the civilians worry only about politics and let the generals handle the war.

The other is that the generals must be micromanaged by the civilian leadership or they won't act in ways that lead to political victory.

Both have grains of truth but are essentially wrongheaded. What Lincoln and Churchill were especially good at was setting the political context of military operations and then constantly challenging the generals to adapt their tactics and strategy to the larger political goals, but at the same time, as you say, listening to what they say and accepting their guidance when appropriate.

Needless to say, George W. Bush has played the worst possible role here: completely disconnecting the operations on the ground from the political goal, and cloaking that ghastly error with the flag of "I listen to the ground commanders." Idiot, the ground commanders need to be listening to you. Doesn't anyone read Clausewitz any more?

#153 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 10:08 PM:

I should credit the ideas from the above post as being largely taken from Eliot "no relation" Cohen's Supreme Command. It's an interesting book for a number of reasons, one of which is that it was extremely popular in the Bush 2 White House in the run-up to the Iraq War. So it's a glimpse into what they were thinking.

And yet they still got it wrong.

#154 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:44 PM:

After all, despite the German bombings invading Russia, IIRC their original reception in the Ukraine was pretty favorable. They didn't lose popular support until it became apparent that to the Nazis the Ukrainians were just another group of subhuman slavs, like the Russians.

The Ukrainians, however, considered themselves "occupied" by the Russians, they did not consider the Russian people their own, or the Soviet government their own. The Germans and the Russians were equally foreign, and there was initial hope that the Germans might be better than Stalin. The fact that the Ukrainians welcomed the Germans is more indicative of just how bad a Russian occupation at that time was, than it is about how an occupier might be welcomed. The Russians were both the threat that made the Ukrainians initially welcome the Germans and the threat that got the West Germans to tolerate the US.

You really, really don't want to be occupied by the Russians of the 1930s and 1940s. Not at all. No way. And find some good hiding places if there is even a hint of it.

With the US invading Iraq, while the Shia certainly resented Sunni domination, there is still far more in common between the Sunni and Shia than between the US and either group. Common language, common faith, common culture on many, many levels. Common historical ties, going back to ancient Mesopotamia.

The US had also betrayed the Shia after the 1991 Iraq war, leaving the Shia with plenty of scores to settle against the US as well as against the Sunnis, and giving them no particular reason to trust or cooperate with the US. Add in the history the British, the US's main allies, had in colonizing in Asia, and there is no reason for anyone there to cooperate with either occupier.

Being glad the old dictator is gone is not a reason to support an invader. At best, it is a reason for a small sigh of relief while planning on how to resist the new threat. If the Russians weren't as bad as they were, there is no reason to believe that the Ukranians would have either welcomed the Germans or even contemplated cooperating with the invading force.

An overwhelmingly large and ruthlessly pragmatic occupation in Iraq, as in Germany, might have had some success. But without the terror of Russian occupation on the doorstep, I really doubt even that would have worked - the Russians were so bad that the Ukrainians were willing to welcome the Germans, and there is no comparable outside threat to any Iraqi that the US would be able to protect Iraqis from, to inspire cooperation as a form of self-preservation.

Aside from the US occupation in West Germany, I can't think offhand of any 20th or 21st century occupation where a foreign army was able to successfully hold an invaded nation. And that took an enormous and ruthlessly pragmatic multi-generations long occupation (we're still there) along with a monstrous and horrifying threat, not just on the doorstep but already through the front door and settled in the hall, for which the occupiers were the only available means of protection.

#155 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2006, 11:48 PM:

Donald: two (sets of) questions:
- is the desert between Baghdad and Basra such a hardpan that (as at, e.g., Edwards dry lake bed / AFB) roads are simply a matter of drawing lines that say "go here"? If not, how does the speed of a column over neighboring ground compare with its speed over the road itself? If one vehicle is blown up in the middle of the road, \how/ \long/ does routing around it take while you're burning/bulldozing/...? You've described the maximum length of a column and said that it's probably denser; is it dense enough to bring serious firepower onto attackers anywhere along its length?
- What good does "knowing the territory" do when the first thing the unit knows is that most of the people in the territory hate them? (Maybe not personally -- probably very few residents know them personally, given the justified paranoia of most units -- but by their uniforms.) How many of the units have the skills even to paper over the history of bad feeling created by a few bad apples? Absent citations, I take Graydon with more than a pinch of salt, but it seems to me you're being optimistic about the benefits of keeping people in-country.

#156 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:37 AM:

Re: #150 "[...] the maximum occupation force in Japan was 350,000 US troops near the end of 1945, with about 40,000 Commonwealth troops added in 1946 (as US levels started going down). But Japan was clearly a special case, even an aberation in this sense."

Yup. I served in the Occupation of Japan forces for eight months, five years after the end of the war. Granted, eight months was barely long enough for me to begin to think I understood something about the language & the people, but it seemed obvious that the occupation had gone so well partly because we clearly had good intentions and a reasonably well-developed program for helping rebuild the country, and partly because of a deeply-ingrained Japanese tradition of obedience to established authority. (I think the Germans also had an element of this.) The Emperor had said "Co-operate", so the people co-operated. Traveling (as much as I could) around the countryside, alone & unarmed, I never once felt myself endangered, or encountered anything I could recognise as rudeness. (Well, okay, the Koito family that operated the soba-ya I frequented in Fujiyoshida gave me a scroll painting depicting a horse and a deer -- a pun on the word for "crazy" -- but I'm sure they knew it would be fully appreciated.)

Iraq and nomad-tradition Arab countries in general have pretty much the opposite cultural pattern -- people follow local/clan Leaders, but tend to be fiercely resistant to any kind of over-arching Governmental Authority. (Rather like most of the Science-Fiction Fans I know, actually.) A foreign occupation might possibly work by persuading the vast majority of the local Leaders, but we didn't even _try_ that, and it's much too late now. (We encountered the same problem with American Indians, and obviously didn't learn from it. Nor, I suspect, will we learn from this experience.)

#157 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:54 AM:

Don Fitch: you are sounding very similar to Machiavelli in his discussion of "why it is dead easy to conquer France, but a bugger to rule it, and vice versa for Turkey". If you haven't read it, you should.

Aside from the US occupation in West Germany, I can't think offhand of any 20th or 21st century occupation where a foreign army was able to successfully hold an invaded nation.

Tibet?

#158 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 07:40 AM:

Intespersed

Ursula L #154 said

>After all, despite the German bombings invading Russia, IIRC their original reception in the Ukraine was pretty >favorable. They didn't lose popular support until it became apparent that to the Nazis the Ukrainians were just another >group of subhuman slavs, like the Russians.

The Ukrainians, however, considered themselves "occupied" by the Russians, they did not consider the Russian people their own, or the Soviet government their own. The Germans and the Russians were equally foreign, and there was initial hope that the Germans might be better than Stalin. The fact that the Ukrainians welcomed the Germans is more indicative of just how bad a Russian occupation at that time was, than it is about how an occupier might be welcomed. The Russians were both the threat that made the Ukrainians initially welcome the Germans and the threat that got the West Germans to tolerate the US.

You really, really don't want to be occupied by the Russians of the 1930s and 1940s. Not at all. No way. And find some good hiding places if there is even a hint of it.

Agree fully about not wanting to be occupied, especially by the Russians. My mother was Finnish and lived through the war in Finland.

With the US invading Iraq, while the Shia certainly resented Sunni domination, there is still far more in common between the Sunni and Shia than between the US and either group. Common language, common faith, common culture on many, many levels. Common historical ties, going back to ancient Mesopotamia.

The US had also betrayed the Shia after the 1991 Iraq war, leaving the Shia with plenty of scores to settle against the US as well as against the Sunnis, and giving them no particular reason to trust or cooperate with the US. Add in the history the British, the US's main allies, had in colonizing in Asia, and there is no reason for anyone there to cooperate with either occupier.

We betrayed them to Saddam, the Sunni dictator who killed them in large numbers. I guess they are correct to dislike us more than him. I wonder if Stockholm syndrome applies to populations?

Being glad the old dictator is gone is not a reason to support an invader. At best, it is a reason for a small sigh of relief while planning on how to resist the new threat. If the Russians weren't as bad as they were, there is no reason to believe that the Ukranians would have either welcomed the Germans or even contemplated cooperating with the invading force.

It depends on just how bad the dictator was. I highly doubt the remnants of the German Jewish population resented the Allies for conquering Germany. While I do not doubt your anecdotal evidence, do you know of any supporting evidence ? public opinion surveys for example that indicate the hostility of the German population into the 1960s.?

An overwhelmingly large and ruthlessly pragmatic occupation in Iraq, as in Germany, might have had some success. But without the terror of Russian occupation on the doorstep, I really doubt even that would have worked - the Russians were so bad that the Ukrainians were willing to welcome the Germans, and there is no comparable outside threat to any Iraqi that the US would be able to protect Iraqis from, to inspire cooperation as a form of self-preservation.

Actually I think there is such a threat to at least part of the population, the Kurds. That part of the occupation does seem to be holding its own, even if the rest of the country is falling apart.

Aside from the US occupation in West Germany, I can't think offhand of any 20th or 21st century occupation where a foreign army was able to successfully hold an invaded nation. And that took an enormous and ruthlessly pragmatic multi-generations long occupation (we're still there) along with a monstrous and horrifying threat, not just on the doorstep but already through the front door and settled in the hall, for which the occupiers were the only available means of protection.

In general, I think you are correct about the difficulties of successful invasions. A few caveats, yes we are still in Germany, but I think the part about keeping the Germans down in the old saying disappeared back in the 50s. By successful occupations, do you mean ones where the occupied country became a friend, or just failed to throw out the occupier? If the former, we conquered the Japanese and the British conquered the Boers in South Africa. They may not count, since they were occupiers themselves. The US conquered the Phillipines, but promised to let them go. As for the latter, the Chinese conquered Tibet and show no signs of letting it go. The Soviets conquered the Baltic states and they did not escape until the Soviet Union collapsed.


#159 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 09:48 AM:

Today, CNN:

Kissinger: Victory in Iraq no longer possible

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. victory in Iraq is no longer possible under the conditions the Bush administration hopes to achieve, but a quick withdrawal of American troops would have "disastrous consequences," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday.

President Bush has said the United States will remain in Iraq until the country's government "can sustain itself and defend itself," and a top Iraqi official disputed Kissinger's assessment of the three-year-old war in an interview with CNN.

But in a BBC interview Sunday morning, Kissinger said the U.S. course needs to be redefined -- and the breakup of Iraq could be the eventual outcome.

Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and has advised the Bush administration on Iraq. In August 2005, he wrote in The Washington Post that "victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy."

But on Sunday he said a military victory in Iraq was no longer in the cards.

"If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he said.

#160 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 10:55 AM:

Chip #155 said

Donald: two (sets of) questions:
- is the desert between Baghdad and Basra such a hardpan that (as at, e.g., Edwards dry lake bed / AFB) roads are simply a matter of drawing lines that say "go here"? If not, how does the speed of a column over neighboring ground compare with its speed over the road itself? If one vehicle is blown up in the middle of the road, \how/ \long/ does routing around it take while you're burning/bulldozing/...? You've described the maximum length of a column and said that it's probably denser; is it dense enough to bring serious firepower onto attackers anywhere along its length?

IIRC it isn?t a hardpan like Edwards or Bonneville, but there is a lot of open ground. A vehicle gets disabled and blocks the road. It either gets pushed off the road by a bigger vehicle or the column routes around it covering 50-100 yards at 10-20 mph until it gets back on the highway. Away from populated areas I would not expect a lot of problems because during an evacutation we would essentially shut down the evacuation routres and reserve them for US use. Thus, I would not expect many IEDs 20-30 miles from the nearest village because the insurgents would have to get there by foot.

The tricky part would be moving around population centers, although the main route avoids most of them. They would be the biggest obstacles and preferably would be skirted. Even so, keeping 1-2 km away should put the convoy out of small arms range and if insurgents come out to effectively hit the convoy they get engaged by gun trucks. If there are larger numbers of insurgents, the convoy will call in reaction forces to include attack helicopters and/or fighter bombers. Yes, convoys will take some small arms fire, but if say 50 Iraqis mass to strike hard at a convoy the reaction forces will clobber them.

You might ask why doesn?t that happen now? Regular operations involve lots of smaller patrols and convoys which are further impeded by restrictive RoE, particularly on area-effect weapons like artillery. US forces that are still trying to win over the Iraqi people, or at least avoid creating more enemies prefer to shoot at clear targets. After an evacuation starts, the focus will shift to force protection and a lot of things and people hat probably would not have been shot up earlier get shot up now.

- What good does "knowing the territory" do when the first thing the unit knows is that most of the people in the territory hate them? (Maybe not personally -- probably very few residents know them personally, given the justified paranoia of most units -- but by their uniforms.) How many of the units have the skills even to paper over the history of bad feeling created by a few bad apples? Absent citations, I take Graydon with more than a pinch of salt, but it seems to me you're being optimistic about the benefits of keeping people in-country.

The big problem in fighting an insurgency is finding the enemy. Until you know what normal looks like, you can not figure out what is abnormal and a sign of enemy action. Look at what the 3rd Armored Cavalry achieved in their area (around Tal Afar) in 2005. They got results and had success, which dried up after they rotated out and the next unit and commander elected to change tactics. A unit that spends only 2-3 months in an area is basically a target. It will not be able to identify ?wrong? conditions, because it does not what ?right? looks like. Also, not everybody hates us. The Kurds are one example.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:18 AM:

IIRC it isn't a hardpan like Edwards or Bonneville, but there is a lot of open ground.

The point is whether it's soft enough to slow or stop vehicles, or people trying to go from disabled vehicles to those still usable.

#162 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 11:37 AM:

On Kissinger's comment, see
this.

#163 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:10 PM:

On Kissinger's comment...

While leaving Iraq might have disastrous consequences, how would that disaster stack up against the disaster of staying? What's the difference between partitioning the country and letting the country partition itself?

#164 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Graydon # 149 said

Duncan --

Err, I?m Donald

The weeks-before-ineffective figure comes from a Royal Ordnance Corps publication which I have not been able to find online; it was discussing the history of logistical requirements in the 20th century.

You may wish to peruse:
FM22-51, particularly chapters 8 and 11, the list of links associated with this CBC documentary, and also to recognize that "some infantry regiments were suffering casualty rates of 1,600 per thousand per year"; there were very, very few troops who made it through the entire set of combat operations in which a particular division was engaged.

Well I did take a look at your links. See this quote from the first:

d. Fifty to eighty-five percent of battle fatigue casualties (hold and refer) returned to duty following 1 to 3 days of restoration treatment, provided they are kept in the vicinity of their units (for example, within the division).

And this one from the second

The power of the unit and of organizational climate can be measured by comparing soldier breakdown rates for different regiments and divisions engaged in equivalent combat scenarios. Psychological casualties ranged from 3 percent to 54 percent. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team[4] had almost no psychiatric casualties throughout the Italian and German campaigns.

So give most personnel 1-3 days of light duty and they recover. In a good unit, psychological casualties can be minimized. Yes, combat fatigue does exist. Yes it can be a problem, but as the manual describes, it is a manageable problem.

Oh, and with relevance to sustained counter-insurgency operations in an insecure environment, The effects of sleep deprivation are accumulative. If three soldiers do their part of a task at 50 percent effectiveness, the chances that the whole task will be accomplished correctly are less than 50 percent. In fact, it is about 12 percent (.5 x .5 x .5 = .125). Army studies on the effects of individual sleep deprivation on artillery FDC and gun crews show that seven hours of sleep for each man a day can maintain effectiveness indefinitely, five to six hours of sleep a day can maintain acceptable performance for 10 to 15 days, and four hours of sleep for each day maintain acceptable performance for only two to three days. Less than three hours of sleep a day is almost the same as not sleeping at all.

As for lack of sleep, yes that can be a problem. However, the quote is talking about cumulative long term lack of sleep, with continuous operations. However, generally soldiers are not operating around the clock. Intensity of operations varies with the territory, and you would be surprised at what people can sleep through. There are quiet areas in Iraq. I am currently on my second tour. The FOB where I work has been attacked twice in the last two years, the last time over 15 months ago. It is not all war all the time.

Oh, and the desired figure is two years at home for each year deployed. Current figures are pushing less time at home than deployed.

So it is not the desired figure. So we can not all have ponies. Oh darn. How many WW2 troops got to go home without the proverbial "million dollar wound"? It would be interesting to do a survey asking the troops what they think of my suggested three options. Given the evidence of reenlistment rates, I think the troops would prefer option 1. This probably is not be true for the reservists since they have civilian careers which will be impaired by repeated tours. Since the troops are only a small potion of the population, their views are not and should not be decisive. Still, how are we going to tell them that their friends died in a futile delaying action and that all of the Iraqis who helped are probably going to die?

#165 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 02:15 PM:

PJ Evans # 161 said

The point is whether it's soft enough to slow or stop vehicles, or people trying to go from disabled vehicles to those still usable.

Short answer: No, it is not that soft.

Longer answer: So what. Say the rear guard, the last retreating column has a vehicle disabled 10 km freom a town. The unit is a cavalry troop (company sized) with no one friendly behind them. It does have a UAV conducting recon around it and an Apache overhead with the Air Force on call. It takes them 24 hours to get rid of the obstacle. What do you think the Iraqis are going to do in those 24 hours?

In a normal military retreat, the retreating elements would have to swiftly abandon the vehicle and keep going, to keep from being caught by the pursuit. In Iraq, who is going to pursue that rear guard? Lets try some examples:

(1) 5-10 guys from a nearby village with AKs and RPGs. They sneak up, maybe kill another vehicle, and get shot to pieces.

(2) 50-100 guys with similar weapons, and a mortar and some rockets. They set up their mortar and start firing while the main body attacks. The main body gets shot to pieces by 25 mm cannon and machine guns. An Apache kills the mortar with rockets.

(3) 10,000 Iraqis attempt to surround and overrun the troop. Moving 10,000 is hard to conceal so the attempt is spotted by an UAV or an Apache. Then the Air Force flips a coin with the artillery to see who gets to kill 10,000 Iraqis with cluster munitions.

The general pattern is that a force big enough to do serious damage is hard to conceal, especially if it has to move across a few kilometers of open ground. If it can't hide, it will die as soon as we concentrate enough firepower on it.

Probably the best move from the Iraqi point of view would be to use a couple of guys with sniper rifles to try to kill some Americans. Reasonable shots would probably get some, but tank shells or 25mm would reply.

The absolute worst case might be a complete change of sides by the Iraqi army that we have been trying to put together. They are still very weak in heavy weapons and anti-aircraft, so they would have major problems trying to engage US forces. They might have the mobility to pull off something like the attack on the 507th, but not against a real combat unit.


#166 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:03 PM:

We've got a choice of disaster, disaster, or disaster.

Seeing as we're still being led by the people who created the disaster, I don't see any reason to hope that the disaster they choose will be the least disasterous disaster.

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Donald CLarke:
You're assuming always that our military can get the Iraqis before they get a large number of our military. Our guys may be that good, but they may not be that lucky. (Any plan that relies on the other guys to be either 'cannon fodder' or 'stupid' is already in trouble.)

#168 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:27 PM:

PJ Evans # 167 said

Donald Clarke:

You're assuming always that our military can get the Iraqis before they get a large number of our military. Our guys may be that good, but they may not be that lucky. (Any plan that relies on the other guys to be either 'cannon fodder' or 'stupid' is already in trouble.)

Personally I am assuming the Iraqis will leave us alone. I think they would be idiotic to waste troops and ammunition attacking US forces who are leaving. IIRC the Afghans didn't make any serious efforts to interfere with the Russian departure, and I find it very hard to believe the Iraqis hate us more than the Afghans hated the Russians.

It is even more foolish given the ongoing civil war. Why waste resources fighting somebody who will be gone tomorrow when you have enemies that are still here and are staying unless you can kill them. Yes, the death toll resulting from the US invasion of Iraq is approaching Saddam levels, but most of the killing has been Iraqi on Iraqi. Those hatreds will remain during and after any US departure.

As for plans relying on a stupid enemy, I am not sure what you are talking about. How does a predominantly light infantry force with limited anti-tank assets attack an armored unit in open country intelligently? I am curious, please enlighten me.

(hint: IMHO they do not)

#169 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 03:55 PM:

I'm confident that US forces could shoot their way out at any time, if given the opportunity to choose the time.

What fills me with dread is the thought of an Indian Mutiny style blue-on-blue fight starting one morning. Yes, the US forces would win. No, it wouldn't be pretty.

#170 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:23 PM:

Still, how are we going to tell them that their friends died in a futile delaying action and that all of the Iraqis who helped are probably going to die?

Which "we" are you talking about, Donald? The US Government? The US people? People in general?

I think the answer, on the government end, of how they will be told, will be Years later, in vague noncommital phrases such as "Mistakes were made" and threadbare sympathies such as "We deeply regret."

As for the people, some folk are telling them the unvarnished truth right now. Generally not anyone who voted for Bush, because admitting it is, uh, well, embarrassing, but the New Republic just sent me an email saying that they'd finally apologized for supporting the war, and while I won't buy a subscription in order to read that, it's not out of the question for some people to fess up and say that they're responsible for this mess and they're sorry. Not that I think the NR apology will go that far, but still.

#171 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 04:53 PM:

Donald Clarke: "Personally, I am assuming the Iraqis will leave us alone."

I wish I had your faith in that scenario. I do not think that is how they will respond -- after all, suicide bombers are not a logical response, it deprives their side of potential fighters.

When we bug out the Iraqis will be gunning for us and will take out as many of the invaders as they can. My guess is that given time and opportunity, not only will it be a fire fight, but there will be booby-traps on each and every escape route.

The Iraqis will see this as just punishment for invading their land, polluting (if not destroying) their sacred places, and ruining the infrastructure of their country. They will also be making an example of us -- it's a shame they won't be hitting the people that deserve to be under fire.

#172 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Jim Macdonald #166: "We've got a choice of disaster, disaster, or disaster."


Actually, I think the choices are calamity, fiasco, disaster, or fck-up of biblical proportions.

#173 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Donald, your point about wasting resources needed for a civil war is a good one.

But now you're assuming the enemy are smart.

OK, a stupid enemy will attack in stupid ways, but they're not monolithic. The people actually trying to kill you can be pretty good at that job, while not thinking of the big picture.

What if the Iraqis taking the strategic decisions are Rumsfelds?

#174 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 07:23 PM:

It does occur to me that the circumstances of the retreat probably matter a great deal.

A carefully planned retreat of units in good supply is one thing.

A hastily improvised retreat of units in poor supply is probably an entirely different matter.

#175 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Alex (147), Peter (151), Lincoln made a considerable effort to study up on military theory when he became President and the war started, and he always discussed overall strategy with his generals who were willing to discuss it. When he was satisfied that they knew what they were doing, as he did with Grant and Sherman, he told them so.

Good political leaders and military advisers are aware that they know different things, and that they need each other.

#176 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2006, 08:03 PM:

I don't think the Iraqis will leave us alone while we're retreating, because if an invading force had occupied my country for years and made a shambles of it the way we've done to them, I'd be shooting at their retreat every step of the way.

Also, if I knew there was a good chance I'd have a civil war on my hands afterward, I'd want to visibly demonstrate that I could make the invaders run, and that my loyalties were in the right place. It'd be a good way to attract more fighters to my side.

Also, if a large, heavily armed retreating force was passing through my area, I'd want to give them every encouragement to keep moving and not dawdle.

#177 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 01:40 AM:

A number of folks have pointed out that the Afghans didn't attack the Soviets as they were pulling out - I wonder how much of this might be due to their being an active, ongoing attempt at the time to capture Kabul from the Soviet-backed puppet regime.

Plenty of mujahadeen resources were tied up in pitched (more-or-less conventional) fighting against government troops. Large-scale intra-Iraqi fighting like that definitely has the possibility of erupting - and it probably will. But if it doesn't happen prior to any kind of US withdrawal, that's a lot of pissed-off, well-if-lightly-armed Iraqis who haven't got a whole lot to do apart from harass US forces as they pull out.

#178 ::: Donald Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 06:35 AM:

James D. Macdonald # 169 said

I'm confident that US forces could shoot their way out at any time, if given the opportunity to choose the time.

What fills me with dread is the thought of an Indian Mutiny style blue-on-blue fight starting one morning. Yes, the US forces would win. No, it wouldn't be pretty.

Agree fully.


Lori Coulson # 171 said

Donald Clarke: "Personally, I am assuming the Iraqis will leave us alone."

I wish I had your faith in that scenario. I do not think that is how they will respond -- after all, suicide bombers are not a logical response, it deprives their side of potential fighters.

Actually, given their other limitations, suicide bombers are an intelligent (note I am not saying anything about the morality) use of their resources. The average suicide bomber would be cannon fodder as a conventional fighter. Here he gets a chance to be an inspirational martyr and probably has a better chance of inflicting casualties. Note, the leadership has nothing to do with the martyrdom business. They are too important.


Teresa Nielson Hayden # 176 said

I don't think the Iraqis will leave us alone while we're retreating, because if an invading force had occupied my country for years and made a shambles of it the way we've done to them, I'd be shooting at their retreat every step of the way.

Also, if I knew there was a good chance I'd have a civil war on my hands afterward, I'd want to visibly demonstrate that I could make the invaders run, and that my loyalties were in the right place. It'd be a good way to attract more fighters to my side.

I would agree, but the civil war is already going on. It might well be better (for their future) if they did band together against the US, but most of the blood shed has been Shia by Sunni and vice-versa. If we start to leave, will Sadr tell the Mahdi Army to go after the US, or will he tell them to finish cleansing the Sunnis from Baghdad. I think Baghdad matters more to him. Both the Sunni and Shia factions can get plenty of followers just by recruiting from those striving to take their revenge on the opposing faction.

See this article in the times for just one example.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/20/world/middleeast/20revenge.html?em&ex=1164258000&en=efad14c168db978c&ei=5087%0A

#179 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 10:33 AM:

#168: I think they would be idiotic to waste troops and ammunition attacking US forces who are leaving.

Others have already commented on this issue, but I'd just like to add that it reminded me all too much of the other thread where the guy without the ID was already trying to leave the library when he got tasered.

#180 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2006, 11:33 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden said (#176):
I don't think the Iraqis will leave us alone while we're retreating, because if an invading force had occupied my country for years and made a shambles of it the way we've done to them, I'd be shooting at their retreat every step of the way.

I agree that they probably won't leave us alone, but at this point I doubt there would be a really large-scale, organized attempt to attack us. The main attackers might even be the non-Iraqis who came to Iraq purposely to fight Americans, and who don't have strong stakes in the internal conflicts.

Also, if I knew there was a good chance I'd have a civil war on my hands afterward, I'd want to visibly demonstrate that I could make the invaders run, and that my loyalties were in the right place. It'd be a good way to attract more fighters to my side.

The problem, I think, is that the defining issue of the civil war won't be (or isn't) whether or not you were anti-American enough; it will be whether you were pro- or anti-Sunni/Shi'a/Kurd, or which cleric/warlord you're loyal to. We're already seeing Shi'a militias fighting each other.

Also, if a large, heavily armed retreating force was passing through my area, I'd want to give them every encouragement to keep moving and not dawdle.

That last point actually sounds like an argument for not attacking the retreating force (except for harrying the rear-guard). Attacking a force on the move is, I believe, a time-honored tactic for slowing it down: people walking hit the ground or seek cover, roads get blocked, defenses and counter-attacks have to be organized, etc.

#181 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Bush: Nothing less than victory in Iraq

President Bush today vowed again not to support removal of U.S. troops before the mission in Iraq is complete. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren," Bush said. He blamed sectarian violence on al Qaeda in Iraq for stirring up trouble between Iraq's Shiite majority and the Sunnis favored by Saddam Hussein.

There you have it. The man is demented.

#182 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Jim @ 181
At least most people aren't buying that 'al Qaeda plot' line, according to the CNN.com poll that's up right now (74% no, 26% hardcore Bushie).

#183 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:01 PM:

Re: the Lancet study of civilian deaths in Iraq, and their finding that a lot more people have been killed than has been reported. Observe now, from the Iraq Study Group:

On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

That's right: If a body turns up wearing handcuffs and shot in the head, and you don't know precisely which death squad killed the guy, he isn't really dead. And if a bomb blows someone up and no US trooper is blown up by the same bomb, he isn't really dead.

I'm told that Iraqi men are starting to tattoo their names and addresses on their legs, so that their bodies can be identified. You don't see that sort of thing unless they expect to be killed.

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