April 14, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ed Morrissey, in a piece headined "Iraqis Aren't Stupid—And They're Watching Us":

We can argue over 2002-3 all we want, but it doesn’t have anything to do with 2008. We are in Iraq, and al-Qaeda is arrayed against our troops. In fact, this is the best possible situation if we want to fight terrorists — to have them on a battlefield in straight-up fights against our military. It’s exactly what terrorists don’t want. If they wanted to fight our military, they wouldn’t use bomb commuter trains and fly civilian airplanes into their targets.

We have plenty of politicians who still don’t understand the strategic advantage this gives us. Instead of forcing them to defend ground and fight against the best military machine in history, these politicians want the military to retreat and allow them safe haven in Iraq. The best commitment they’re willing to offer is that if they get too comfortable in their new digs, we’ll stage another invasion of Iraq — without considering the costs involved, both logistically and in human lives, and that it depends on finding another country willing to host us after twice leaving the Iraqis twisting in the wind.

It also presupposes that we’ll get welcomed back for a third round of destruction by the people we would have abandoned twice. If we betray them a second time, don’t expect a third welcome. They already mistrust our honor after the 1991 bug-out that left them in the hands of Saddam Hussein. And it won’t just be the Iraqis who watch whether we keep our word; the Afghanis, the Saudis, the Jordanians all will take note of another retreat — and they will make their deals with radical Islamist terrorists accordingly.

Via Insty.

Posted by Attila Girl at April 14, 2008 11:22 AM | TrackBack

What I read indicates that AlQaeda is about 2% of the people we're fighting, being killed by, and watching kill Iraqis in Iraq. The rest is sectarian in-fighting.

Fighting AlQaeda (to the extent that that's who we're fighting in Iraq) is not like fighting Germany or any nation. There is not a fixed number of AlQaeda, as there would be in conventional warfare. There weren't a lot of other Europeans lining up to become German during WWII. Now, however, because of the way we've conducted this war and alienated moderate Muslims by calling the war a "crusade," we have increased AlQaeda's numbers and ability to recruit a hundredfold.

Surely this has some bearing on whether we should get the hell out?

Posted by: Rin at April 14, 2008 11:51 AM

Sources, Rin?

The phrase "sectarian in-fighting" seems a bit general. There is a lot of destabilization coming from Iran. But two-friggin' percent as AQ? Even given that AQ is allied with a handful of other Islamic extremist anti-American, anti-Democracy forces, I don't buy 2%.

Yeah, yeah: the effort is doomed to fail, because no matter how many schools and hospitals we build—and no matter how many civilians are bombed by the Islamic extremists—Bush once used the phrase "Crusade."

Please. You can do better than this.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 14, 2008 02:14 PM

One more thing: as always, I'd like to see your plan for avoiding a bloodbath of the kind that followed our withdrawal from Vietnam, should we decide to cut and run once more.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 14, 2008 02:33 PM

From Washingtonmonthly.com (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2007/0710.tilghman.html) I find this:

"The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which arguably has the best track record for producing accurate intelligence assessments, last year estimated that AQI's membership was in a range of "more than 1,000." When compared with the military's estimate for the total size of the insurgency—between 20,000 and 30,000 full-time fighters—this figure puts AQI forces at around 5 percent. When compared with Iraqi intelligence's much larger estimates of the insurgency—200,000 fighters—INR's estimate would put AQI forces at less than 1 percent. This year, the State Department dropped even its base-level estimate, because, as an official explained, "the information is too disparate to come up with a consensus number."How big, then, is AQI?

The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization.""

I won't claim absolute truth for this source or its conclusions. But people with some legitimate claim to being informed are saying Al Qaeda is not the central problem in Iraq, or anything like it.

As for my plan to get out, jaysis, I don't know. "You break it you bought it" doesn't seem like very good foreign policy. I don't know how to extricate ourselves, but it does seem that staying in Iraq only helps Al Qaeda and other forms of mayhem increase there, recruit, and foment hatred of the West and of America specifically. If we cannot win their hearts and minds, cannot stabilize the country or create a democracy out of whole cloth (and when was that our job anyway?), and cannot reduce the number of Al Qaeda (because we help them recruit and add to their numbers), what is the goal of staying? And if staying serves no purpose, provides no quantifiable benefits to Americans, it's hard to justify the project.

Yes, Hussein was a bad guy, obviously. But Iraq was a stable dictatorship with virtually no Al Qaeda presence 6 years ago, and now there are far more street killings and far fewer amenities (water, power, safe markets) for the people. What have we gained, for them or for ourselves?

If we could get the moderate Arab/Muslim nations to form a coalition, a sort of UN of their own, to provide Iraq with the stability and support it needs to forge a peaceful solution of its own, I think that would be better than the US trying to impose it from without.

How to do that, I do not know.

Posted by: Rin at April 15, 2008 08:32 AM

Um. It doesn't sound to me like AQ is recruiting very successfully.

The infrastructure now is much better than it was when we got there--it was decaying under SH.

And with every passing month the Iraqi army gets stronger and stronger--they are doing more and more on their own.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 15, 2008 09:15 AM

So, they're not recruiting successfully, as evidenced by their not being more than 5% of the problem, but we should still stay there to fight AQ because they're the problem?

I'm confused.

Bush wants AQ to be the problem in Iraq because that justifies having gone in in the first place (9/11 9/11) and because, if it's AQ (or Iran, or both) then it's not some sectarian clusterfuck unleashed by having deposed Hussein and removed the (granted, brutal) stabilizing force in Iraq.

Al Qaeda is some small fraction of those who hate us over there, and some small fraction of the woes facing ordinary Iraqis. Al Qaeda will continue to recruit, and hatred of Americans will continue to burgeon among AQ and nonAQ fighters, as long as we're there.

The rest, the Sunni-Shiite and Sunni-Sunni and Sunni-Shiite-Kurd debacles, cannot be solved by American soldiers. Nor yet by American diplomats. The best we can do now is to clear out and encourage Muslim nations to lend a hand in building a stable (more or less) democracy in Iraq.

Honestly, I don't know how to get out without doing more damage. But I don't see how staying gains us anything, in terms of goodwill, stability, safety, or any real return on the blood and treasure we've already spent.

If I thought some real benefit could be cobbled together out of this mess, I would admit it, despite having been opposed to it from the start.

Posted by: Rin at April 15, 2008 09:51 PM

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