al Qaeda Offensive

Bill Roggio reports the latest suicide bombing offensive in Iraq. This is the opening paragraph:

After a relative lull in major, mass casualty suicide attacks inside Baghdad, al Qaeda in Iraq has gone on a major offensive inside the capital city. Al Qaeda’s latest suicide offensive began on April 13; the last major bombing inside Baghdad was in a Shia market on March 29. Since April 13, al Qaeda has struck at 11 high profile targets inside the city limits. The targets have included the Iraqi Parliament, two of Baghdad’s 11 bridges and Shia markets. Under the readership of Abu Ayyub al-Masri Al Qaeda in Iraq is proving agile in its ability to switch targets in Baghdad while continuing to strike at sectarian fault lines outside the capital. The latest campaign threats to erode the remaining support in America for the Baghdad Security Plan, which is still ramping up.

Bill Roggio supports the war as I do, so I was taken with his last sentence which I think sums up the situation quite accurately. It accepts that American public opinion, not military events, will be the primary reality determining the outcome of the Baghdad Security Plan and by implication the war itself. The best summation of this situation I have encountered has been on this Pajamas Media podcast featuring Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom and Neo-neocon of Neoneocon. Their point in the podcast is that if defeat is measured by the ability of the enemy to kill civilians then defeat is inevitable because most of the time it is impossible to stop people who are willing to give up their lives to kill civilians. No matter that there has not been any military defeat in Iraq involving even a platoon of soldiers.

250px-germany-army-platoon.jpg
A typical platoon – 30-50 soldiers.
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

As I have said many times on this blog, the Iraq war is a mainly a propaganda or information war and the enemy is winning and they are receiving a great deal of help because of the way the press reports it. I would add that it is huge advantage when even strong supporters of the war, such as those mentioned above and many others, accept the premise that the ability to create civilian casualties is the main criteria to characterize the war as a failure. Nonetheless, what I want to do today is to also accept that the press and the opponents of the war will succeed in defining the war as a defeat and talk about what I see as some of the possible outcomes.

While I hope Americans elect a president in 2008 determined to win the war (Joe Lieberman will do quite nicely), I think, as things currently stand, that Hillary or maybe even Obama will win. I view the political reality behind much of the anti war campaign of the press and the calls for troop withdrawal by many Democrats as aimed at the political defeat of George Bush and the Republicans, and only by some at causing a truly negative outcome in the Middle East. Both Hillary and Obama have said they would keep troops in Iraq – probably in Kurdistan. Such a policy would prevent the Turks from taking over Iraqi Kurdistan, but doesn’t address the consequences of withdrawal on the rest of Iraq. Neither candidate, as far as I am aware, have explained how they would prevent Iran from taking over southern Iraq or the Syrians and Saudis coming to the aid of the central Iraqi Sunnis. Of course we don’t know how effective the Iraqi Army and Police will be at shouldering those responsibilities by the beginning 2009. Still, I think the Iraqi government knows it has a limited amount of time to gain control of the country. The question is does it have the will and the competence to do so.

Unfortunately, I think much of the European left and a certain segment of the American left want actual defeat of the United States. However, I do not believe that the center of the American electorate really wants that outcome. I think the center – Republicans and Democrats – want effective action in Iraq. And I think a lot of the disapproval of George Bush’s handling of the war arises from lack of effectiveness and not from a world view that seeks the frustration of US power based on the perception that the US is imperialist and colonialist and has an overall negative impact on the world. The Democrats walk a very fine line between those two positions and if they get it wrong – as I believe some of them do regularly – they may be in for a surprise in 2008. It is one thing to clip George Bush’s wings in 2006. It is quite another to appear to set America up for humiliation and create chaos in the Middle East in 2008.

The future of the Iraqi government and its ability to keep order in the country through its police and Army remain the biggest variable. I think the Shia dominated Iraqi government wants to survive and does not want a return to Baathist style rule. However, elements of the Iraqi Goverment and Parliament do – including the Sadrists and some Sunni politicians who believe they can reestablish a totalitarian system. It is obviously not easy to develop a working political system in the face of a deep seated belief in tyranny as the only viable form of government in Iraq. Even if Milaki and his party, the SCIRI, would prefer a Shia tyranny lite I think it is only human to prefer survival in power to the partition and ruin of the country. The recent withdrawal of the Sadrist ministers from the Iraqi government, but not the from the parliamentary majority, is Sadr’s latest attempt to control the government and steer the situation toward the emergence of himself as the new tyrant. I think it gives Maliki the opportunity to move his cabinet toward the center and build credibility with the Sunnis who will support the government over the Baathist rump and al Qaeda and eventually to marginalize the Shiite totalitarians in Sadr’s and his own ranks. In the end it is not just the American, but also the Iraqi, political process that is central to the outcome of the war.


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