Monday, January 14, 2008

Still Policing a Failed State

When, occasionally, the media gets around to reporting on the Iraq occupation these days, the most prevalent message seems to be that violence is down in a few areas, and therefore the surge was a success. The Republicans and conservative pundits are all too eager to leave it at that. Who can blame them. It's a political win for Bush, and therefore a chance to save the party in 2008.

But let's step back to the spring of 2007, and the battle over troop withdrawal strategies, when the Republicans weren't talking "stability" so much as "winning." Remember? The Democrats were the one's who wanted us to fail, right? And the GOP, Bush Dogs, and Mikey O'Hanlon were all about the winning, and this mastermind strategy of a troop surge that would quell violence long enough to allow the Iraqi government an opportunity to stand up and make political progress in the region. With me so far? This all ringing a bell?

So where does it stand today, you ask? Well first, lets just say yes, the violence is down. And that is inarguably a good thing. Further proof that throwing enough American soldiers at the enemy will indeed allow us, through their bravery and willingness to stand in the line of fire for their country, to control any situation. It is a testament to the strength and prowess of our military. And for that they deserve the respect of every one of us.

But what of the "winning" our fearless leaders promised we "cut and runners"? Where has this "strategy" lead us? Well, that's the bad news. Violence levels are down 60% in the past 6 months, but they are down from 2007 levels to mid-2005 levels (over 800 killed, 6,000 wounded). The world is also dealing with 2.5 million internally displaced refugees. And 2007 still goes on record, en total, as the most violent year of what is turning out to be a very, very long war. The sum of our progress has been to return levels of violence in the 4th year of the war to that of the 2nd year.

And what of political progress? In the last report provided by ambassador Ryan Crocker, he provided no evidence that tactical progress had any effect at all on political progress. The Iraqi government has failed to produce oil sharing legislation, eliminate militia domination of local forces, and made very little progress in the build up and training of Iraqi forces. All of which were "goals" of the President's surge strategy.

In 2008, we will have no choice but to begin drawing down our troops out of necessity not strategy. When this happens, the iron fist we have applied to police a failed state loosens, and without any changes in Iraqi leadership, we leave an Iraq that would be no different with our withdrawal this year than it would be if we had pulled back our men and women in 2005, 2006, or 2007. The strategy, in effect, is to lull us into a sense that Bagdad is peaceful, and therefore the surge was a success simply because 2006 was pure hell.

So tell us all again, oh sages of military strategy in the Bat-Shit Crazy Republican trenches, how well the President's plan worked, and why so many have died. Success! they say.

I guess it all depends on your definition of the word.

"These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," he said. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

On a day when the top half-dozen U.S. national security and intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill to talk about the continued determination of terrorists to strike the United States, their statements underscored the unintended consequences of the war in Iraq.

"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss said in his first public testimony since taking over the CIA.

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