The Democrats and the War

In trying to fathom the oppositional behavior of the Democrats on the Iraq war I have said previously that I think American interests are such that they will not allow Iraq to descend into chaos even if they win both houses of congress and the presidency in 2008. Both Hilary and Obama have talked about keeping some troops in Iraq and, if elected, I think they will do whatever they see as in American interests in early 2009, not what they currently see as a politically winning position. I have speculated that they will do something like Nixon did in 1968 – run as peace candidates but try to avoid letting the war turn into a real disaster rather than just a political one for their opposition. I ran into a slightly different take on the situation at NeoNeocon. Discussing the urgency with which the Democrats and thier media allies like the New York Tines are urging immediate commitment to withdrawal she quotes one of her own commenters (the commenter’s quote in italics) who, I agree, has gotten it right:

I believe the Dems want very much to avoid a Nixon scenario where the next president – presumably a Democrat – would be forced to take charge and become accountable for the realities of the Iraq mission. Withdrawal from Iraq will be costly and ugly, with consequences and costs that will reshape the historical narrative. Rather than be responsible for their own political advocacy regarding Iraq, the Dems would rather that the current president take the political costs of the consequences of withdrawal from Iraq onto himself.

Thus, the undue haste. The Times drops another hint about this concern when the authors write:

Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now.

Yes, that explains the haste, but they still are in a difficult position. They can’t defund the war while Bush is in office without being responsible for the result. They may succeed in overcoming his veto by getting enough Republican votes to make the result a bi-partisan schlamozzle, but they will be politically adroit indeed if they can escape the ‘cut and run’ label that will be applied to them quite appropriately if chaos ensues. It will be sad indeed if America has to twice learn the consequences of abandoning a country to its enemies and, if that happens, I think the American electorate will notice.

I think the far more likely scenario will be that we will see a loudly publicized faux withdrawal and Bush humiliation by consensus with a residual military presence designed to keep the Iraqi government from collapsing before its own security forces are up to maintaining order. Think ‘advisors’, ‘air support,’ ‘peacekeepers’ – anything but ‘combat troops.’
In a more recent post on the Surge, Neo puts her finger on what I think is closer to the truth about what is currently happening in Iraq.

Perhaps a surge such as the present one might have had better results if it had occurred some time ago. But a more chilling thought is that it might not have, because al Qaeda had to demonstrate its horrific brutality in order for the Iraqi people to understand what they are up against and to cooperate with the US troops.

Having followed closely the progress of the counterinsurgency campaign – particularly in Anbar province – I think the Neo’s alternative interpretation is not chilling but simply the case. It was clear from Michael Yon’s reporting from Mosul in 2004-5 that it was a tough fight. Fallujah may have demonstrated to the jihadis that the American military could fight, but it didn’t win Sunni hearts and minds in Anbar or elsewhere. And it was clear from Bill Roggios’s overview of the Anbar campaign during the post Fallujah period that we were doing ‘search and destroy’ missions in a hostile Sunni area and that ‘clear and hold’ operations awaited the development of Iraqi security forces. Therefore, I think that serious American attempts at true occupation – ie clear and hold like the current surge – may well have created more opposition and hostility among the populace. To ‘do it right’ would have required way more troops than we had and may not have been effective anyhow.

It was not until al Qaeda in Iraq began occupying Anbar cities and imposing Wahhabi puritanism on the populace that the Anbar Sunnis realized that they wanted no part of them. Again it was Bill Roggio who began reporting the turn against al Qaeda in Anbar – but only in mid 2006. By then, American intentions were becoming clearer and our military was able to get the message through that we did not want to occupy and tyrannize the population. Michael Yon In a recent interview with a former Baathist leader who has joined the Coalition in helping to expel the gangsters – foreign and otherwise – catches the flavor of the Sunni Awakening that has changed the situation on the ground in Iraq and, I believe, made it much harder to claim that the war is lost.

I asked Abu Ali why he and the 1920s turned against al Qaeda in Buhriz. Speaking through LT David Wallach, a native Arabic speaker, Abu Ali said that “al Qaeda is an abomination of Islam: cutting off heads, stealing people’s money, kidnapping . . . every type of torture they have done.”

Still, I think the media and the enemy have won the information war and that the American public has been largely convinced that the Iraq war is lost. Still, the timing of the surge and its success so far is a great inconvenience for those who have already recorded a US defeat and moved on. For readers actually interested on what General Petraeus is trying to accomplish and how he is going about it I can only recommend Kimberly Kagan’s latest Iraq Report at The Institute for the Study of War. Kagan is an historian who has taught at West Point, Yale and Georgetown. If we had a newspaper of record in America her work would be published along with detailed analysis of the political situation Iraq so that interested citizenry could inform themselves of what is actually happening in that country. Her work is more of an overview that say Bill Roggio’s which details what the Coalition is up to on a day to day basis. Kagan focuses more broadly on the operational activity to bring the military and political strategy behind everyday events into focus. Unsurprisingly, we learn how the Baghdad Security Plan has the objective of improving the level of security in Baghdad to enable the Iraqi government to fully govern from its own capital.

Michael Yon ended his interview with Abu Ali with an open question. I believe Abu Ali’s answer is the correct withdrawal plan for American forces:

In closing, I asked Abu Ali if there was something he would like to say to Americans. The markets that had been closed under al Qaeda were bustling around us.Ali thought for a moment as some local people tried to interrupt him with greetings, and he said, “I ask one thing,” and now I paraphrase Ali’s words: “After the Iraqi Army and Police take hold and the security forces are ready, we want a schedule for the leaving of the American forces.”

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