tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
via a WaPo chat session on the topic.
Analysis of why the surge in Iraq worked )
This jives with something I've thought for a while, that the driving factor behind the insurgency was that the Sunnis who had thrived under Saddam, especially the Tikritis of Saddam's tribe, just weren't ready to accept that they had lost the war, and with that their privileged place in Iraqi society, especially to the Shia who they had always dominated. Until they realized that there was the real prospect of mass ethnic cleansing at the hands of Shia looking for payback after what Saddam had put them through, no accommodation was possible.
tagryn: (Death of Liet from Dune (TV))
The actual legality of the '03 war isn't as cut-and-dried as either side makes it. In fine print, I think it would go back to the '91 ceasefire at Safwan airfield, which was violated when the Iraqis started firing at US jets in the no-fly zones (although those incidents were themselves preceded by "Operation Desert Fox", which was initiated by the USA over violations of UN Resolution 687 (the official ceasefire resolution) and AFAIK was the first military engagement between the two sides since the ceasefire). However, the no-fly zones themselves were under very iffy legal standing. In international law terms, someone would need to go through all the UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq and determine exactly what operations were authorized when and what resolutions were being violated when, assuming one accepts Security Council resolutions as being definers of international law in the first place.

(written up for a thread over at Elf's LJ)
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
The PBS program Frontline did an outstanding 2-part piece titled "Bush's War" which is now available for viewing online. Fair warning: each part is 1 hour long, but it is a pretty good and balanced overview of the history of the war up to a certain point (see below).

I don't think anyone really get out of this one without looking bad. CIA, State Department, DoD, the Administration all messed up in turn. Rumsfeld especially comes off as so focused on getting out of Iraq ASAP that it blinds him to the reality of the situation, and Bremer's edicts on de-Ba'athification and disbanding the Iraqi army are roundly criticized. The CIA totally blows the WMD investigation. The State Department and Defense become involved in a protracted turf war which detracts from the overall mission, and it seems that Bush either failed to realize what was going on - don't underestimate the ability to keep even the POTUS in the dark from bad news - or just chose not to intervene. Note that the real errors are systemic, rather than being linked to one particular party, which as David Kay says in the program, isn't something anyone really wants to hear (its much more difficult to fix than just expecting the next election cycle to bring a house cleaning).

As usual with programs that rely on personal interviews, you have to keep in mind that everyone has their own viewpoint and wants to come off looking good, even if it means throwing someone else (preferably a former opponent) under the bus, so you take each one in turn and try to discern the truth that lies between them all.

My only major quibble is with the ending, which implies that Iraq is a lost cause and that Sadr's militia is destined to rule the country. The show ends with only an in-passing mention of the surge, and Petraeus never gets mentioned at all. So, as I said, a good overview of the history to that point, but the book isn't as open and closed on the final outcome of Iraq as they present it to be.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
McCain is getting some heat for suggesting that al-Qaeda in Iraq is getting training and assistance from Iran. I don't get how its automatically a given that Shia Iran would never, ever help Sunni al-Qaeda, seeing how the 9-11 Commission Report found logistical cooperation between the two, at minimum. Add in the history of the Qods Force and Imad Mugniyah, and the possibility of continuing cooperation doesn't seem at all far-fetched.

As I recall, at the time most people would have considered the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact a ridiculous impossibility given the incompatibility of the two doctrines; yet, it happened. Enemy-of-my-enemy thinking can make for some strange bedfellows.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
The Iraqi army's operation against the Mahdi militia in Basra this week: sign of an increasingly-proficient Iraqi internal security force, or a repeat of Lam Son 719 as a desperate grasping-at-straws attempt by Maliki's government to show it can actually confront the militias? Time will tell...
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
Troops and locals stop twenty car bombs from reaching the streets of Baghdad. I was actually expecting something like this, with the news on Iraq starting to turn relatively positive, it would behoove AQiI to try something spectacular to regain the initiative and prove they're still relevant; the analogy would be to the Tet offensive in Vietnam. I still expect further attempts, though; a series of 8-10 car bombs in one day in Baghdad, repeated over a number of days, would do a lot to swing the positive coverage the "surge" has been getting back the other way.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)

  • Good article in Small Wars Journal which gives some context to the recent successes in Iraq which Michael Yon has been reporting on. Summary: while combining with local insurgents has permitted victories against Al Qaeda in Iraq, it doesn't solve the long-term problem of the Ba'athist professional military remnants who constitute most of the insurgency. While being able to reach consensus with the Ba'athists that AQI is a common enemy is progress in a divide-and-conquer way, it still leaves the huge problem of power-sharing between the various factions, something that the Iraqi government does not seem able to solve.

  • Stephen Bainbridge: Iraq as Kobyashi Maru

  • Problem with the "we should have finished the job in Afghanistan" meme: once OBL escaped Tora Bora, this line of reasoning tends to lead inevitably to advocating invading northern Pakistan...the problems therein - geography, nukes, India, etc. - which make what's happened in Iraq look like easy by comparison.

    I also think Afghanistan is a basket case, and has been for most of its existance. Making it into a prosperous, peaceful country was probably at least as beyond our capacity as doing that in Iraq has turned out to be.

  • I agree with this piece from Peggy Noonan in the WSJ:
    Americans hire presidents and fire them. They're not as sweet about it as they used to be. This is not because they have grown cynical, but because they are disappointed, by both teams and both sides. Some part of them thinks no matter who is president he will not protect them from forces at work in the world. Some part of them fears that when history looks back on this moment, on the past few presidents and the next few, it will say: Those men were not big enough for the era.

  • Wrapup on the major GOP candidates: why Giuliani, Romney, and McCain are all seriously flawed. OK, the Giuliani video is a union hit-piece akin to Swift Boat in '04, but there's other problems with his candidacy as well. Fred Thompson's running as bland a campaign as possible. On the other side of the aisle, Hillary looks like she's going to win by default, which would give us over 2 straight decades of Clintons-and-Bushes running things. Edwards is a personal injury trial lawyer by profession, which means he was contributing to the process which helped mess up the health care system...and he's the guy we're supposed to believe will reform the system, after building his personal wealth on it? Not likely. Obama is the most eloquent of them all, and while I love his reach-across-the-aisle rhetoric, his actual voting history is too far left for me, plus the whole lack of experience thing.

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tagryn

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