Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Robert Burns for the AP ... 
The surge is working.

The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working.

In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground and interviewing commanders, strategists and intelligence officers, it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year.

There was never any doubt that the US could surge and, in partnership with the Iraqis, gain the tactical initiative. This is especially true once Al Anbar started to tilt our way, freeing up resources to shift to Baghdad.

But you cannot really say the "surge is working" or "the surge is not working" in a strategic context. Why? Because of all the conditions necessary for the US effort in Iraq to succeed, the military condition is by far the easiest to predict: The US can and has taken the tactical initiative away from Al Qaeda.

This was one of several conditions neccessary for the surge to succeed. It is not yet success. The Iraqis must also develop their Army and police forces to self-sufficiency. It's happening with the Army, to a great extent. It is not happening with the police in many areas of the country.

The Iraqis must also form a political agreement that will last beyond the seige. Thus far, they have not. I am hopeful in this regard, and here's why: internecine politics in Iraq is one of brinksmanship and bluff. When push comes to shove, they've been able to come to an agreement on the important stuff. They came up with a constitution, they came up with their elections, they came up with a revenue-sharing agreement (at least a tentative one.).

Each of these will be revised and amended over time. That's life in a democracy.

I am less optomistic about the future of the militias. The U.S. has winked at a lot of arms transfers and cut a lot of deals with both Shia and Sunni militias who are willing to fight Al Qaeda.

We need to do this. But once Al Qaeda is finally defeated in Iraq (and they will be, if the U.S. is steadfast in its commitment), these militias will pose a serious problem for the Iraqi government.

Maliki's no dummy, and he resists this process. Petraeus is no dummy, and he lets it continue. The destruction of Al Qaeda's credibility in Iraq will go a long way to serving US interests, and making it more difficult for Al Qaeda to engineer a coup in say, Pakistan. It will make Al Qaeda more easily isolated from those who would otherwise be tempted to bargain with it in a non-aggression pact for weapons and weapons technology understanding, similar to what I believe Saddam Hussein had worked out with them.

The military success with the surge gets us to second base or so. The US will hand them the bat and coach, but the Iraqis will have to drive the runs home to win the game.

Success or failure for a unified Iraqi Democracy cannot be predicted yet. War is frequently like bull and bear markets. You can't see them except in retrospect.

Splash, out



I don't have your military experience, but I have read David Hume.

If you want somebody living worth reading, try Michael Totten's blog. I think you two are on parallel paths. Different vantage points. That is to say, I don't want to see Iraq turn into Lebanon, and yet Lebanon is better than Syria.

Developing democratic traditions are harder than recognizing fundamental human rights. The balance in getting there can involve the breaking of many eggs.
Hey Sir, Mr. Burns is no expert. His picture of the commander of 1/505 clearly shows someone with an electric pepper on their right shoulder. Anything by this guy needs about a million grains of salt!
Sorry that should be LEFT shoulder.
Hmm. Good catch. Even if the 1/505 was attached to one of the 25th Infantry Division's brigades, you still wouldn't swap out the patch, I don't think.

Still, as errors go, that one's rather trivial.
Minor mistake on the photo caption: The "Electric Scrotum" is worn by Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, who commands 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry of the 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division based in Alaska. 1-505 PIR is part of the 82nd AB Div.
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