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  • The Coming Normalcy

    This is an astonishingly interesting article about the transitions happening in Iraq and the links between combat operations, politics, and institution and infrastructure building.

    http://michaelyon-online.com/media/p...ngNormalcy.pdf

  • #2
    Re: The Coming Normalcy

    Good post. Definitely worth reading. I've read two of Kaplan's books - to say he is well travelled would be an enourmous understatement.

    I found this part particularly poignant:

    "It was surreal. The stability of Iraq will likely determine history's judgement on President George W. Bush. And yet even in a newly secured area like this one, the administration has provided little money for the one factor essential to that stability: jobs. On a landscape flattened by anarchy in 2004, the American military has constructed a house of cards. Fortifying this fragile structure with wood and cement now will require more aid - in massive amounta, and a type that even America's increasingly civil affairs-oriented military cannot provide. This house of cards, flimsy that it is, constitutes a substantial achievement. But because Washington's deeds do not match its rhetoric, even this fragile achievement might go for naught."

    These are the reasons why I'm critical of Bush's administration when it comes to Iraq. They were not prepared for any of this, and I remain unconvinced that they are prepared for it now. To simply say it will be a "long fight," and to push any big decisions off to the next president is a cheap cop-out. I am also concerned for the drain this continues to create on the American economy and American resolve. It is not for the war itself, or the aftermath, but because of this botched mismanagement the war is losing support - and that helps no one - not Americans, not Iraqis, and not American troops there who are desparately trying (as referenced in this article and many others) to do all the good they can.

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    • #3
      Re: The Coming Normalcy

      Yeah that's a good point. On the other hand, if you hire a bunch of people and they start being targets for kidnappings and murder simply because you've hired them, you've spent a lot of money and done no-one any favors. I don't necessarily chalk it up to mismanagement, I just think it's a very complex problem.

      I do believe, as does Mr. Kaplan apparently, and certianly the Army officers quoted in the piece, that the key to this entire affair's success in the long run is persistence. It's important that the Iraqi people who are watching on the sidelines and the insurgents and foreign terrorists to understand that no matter what they do we will keep coming after them.

      Unfortunately I can only hope that's true, but I suspect things would be greatly improved there already if our foes felt that in their hearts.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: The Coming Normalcy

        Unfortunately, it is largely out of our hands when we will be forced to withdraw. As John Robb points out, if the Shiite militias upon which we have been relying for ad hoc security against the insurgency decide we are no longer an asset to them, then we face the prospect of fighting against both the insurgency and the nominal Iraqi authorities at the same time. And that is likely unsustainable.

        Here's a likely scenario for how this will play out: deeper entrenchment within US bases (to limit casualties) and pledges of neutrality (Rumsfeld) will prove hollow. Ongoing ethnic slaughter will force US intervention to curtail the militias. Inevitably, this will increase tensions with the militias and quickly spin out of control. Military and police units sent to confront the militias will melt down (again), due to conflicting loyalties. Several large battles with militias will drive up US casualties sharply. Supply lines to US bases from Kuwait will be cut. Protesters will march on US bases to demand a withdrawal. Oil production via the south will be cut (again), bringing Iraqi oil exports to a halt. Meanwhile, the government will continue its ineffectual debate within the green zone, as irrelevant to the reality on the ground in the country as ever. Unable to function in the mounting chaos and facing a collapse in public support for the war, the US military will be forced to withdraw in haste. It will be ugly.
        UPDATE: After I wrote this, there was news that the US intervened by attacking a gathering point for Shiite militias in Baghdad. An Imam was killed along with 16 others. There was also a raid on an Interior Ministry prison (Badr). The scenario begins...
        So the best ways to prevent this scenario would be to either risk more American forces in pursuit of crushing the insurgency (while turning a blind eye to the militias - taking sides) or hoping the Iraqi government itself can stabilize long enough to bring the sectarian strife under control.
        In game handle: Steel Scion
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        • #5
          Re: The Coming Normalcy

          I think that's a ridiculous statement that we can't sustain a fight against the insurgency and these militias. We undertook a straight-forward fight with the full might of the 4th largest military on eath and kicked them in the ass pretty hard. When we withdraw from Iraq is entirely in our hands.

          Seriously, you get your mojo from a dude who approves posting this pic on his blog?



          I wouldn't even let him touch my monkey.

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          • #6
            Re: The Coming Normalcy

            The Brookings institute maintains an index of near-raw data about the situation in Iraq. I suggest that people look at it and draw their own conclusions. http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf
            There is ample evidence in it to support the notion that things are getting better, or worse, depending on your personal inclination.

            One thing that is not supported is John Robb's interpretation of events. There has been a downward trend in civilian deaths, which is contraindicative of an ethnic cleansing. I'm sure he's a smart guy and he has some good bona fides in addition to his excellent hair and stair rail, but I don't think the data support his position.

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            • #7
              Re: The Coming Normalcy

              Excuse me? 30 bodies a day in the last week is a downward trend? Note that the Brookings report does not include the latest mess:
              It is still unclear how many civilians were killed in the outburst of sectarian violence directly related to the destruction of the
              Askariya mosque in Samarra on February 22, 2006. Estimates range from 220 (the number of confirmed deaths according to the
              US military on March 1st) to 1,300 (early estimates according to morgue workers). Most estimates lie in the high 300s, but some
              officials believe the final tally could reach 550.11
              If we were to actually take significant military action against the militias, then we are actively fighting the security forces of the very government we have been trying to get organized. And if they decide to fight us in the streets, then you're looking at a Fallujah situation in Baghdad itself. Sure, we could level the place if we had to, but that is not what we want.
              Originally posted by leejo
              Seriously, you get your mojo from a dude who approves posting this pic on his blog?

              I wouldn't even let him touch my monkey.
              Your scintillating rebuttal aside, his analysis has been repeatedly sound over time. I didn't say it was infallible truth, I just pointed out his opinion.
              In game handle: Steel Scion
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              • #8
                Re: The Coming Normalcy

                I think his analysis is "sound" because it's sufficiently vague.

                if he happened, in shooting with a long bow of a thousand years, to strike within a thousand miles of a mark, the ingenuity of posterity could make it point-blank

                And yes, even if the final tally reaches 550, that does not spell civil war. Look at the graph. As terrible as that number is, it does not represent an escallation and it is consistent with a downward trend.

                And no, we've fought Mookie's forces before. I don't think that we'll wind up fighting the Iraqi armed forces, but if militias want to go, we can go.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: The Coming Normalcy

                  I don't see a point in arguing the half-empty/half-full, getting better/getting worse, or good news/bad news debates right now. It's as much a quagmire as the war itself. Each side is easily proven, and that's the way it's going to be for the foreseable future. People are going to die in Iraq every day while this struggle goes on - soldiers, civilians, and rebels alike. It's a war. Wars rarely end abrubtly. I don't see any signs that this one will.

                  I liked Kaplan's article because it seems to take an objective look at what the future might hold for Iraq, and takes an honest assessment of the American plan. I have no doubt that Iraq will someday stabilize - but the road will be rocky for every party involved. I also liked the title - the coming normalcy - because that's all we can hope for at this point - some semblance of normalcy. This picture is already coming into focus - a lot of crime, and a lot of struggle.

                  My frustration with all of this is that America, under Bush's leadership, should have known better than to have started this mess. I'm not sure that America is better off for fighting this war. I still firmly believe that we would have been better off (as in more secure in the face of terrorism) focusing our efforts on internal security and the war in Afghanistan. Saddam is a bastard, but he had very little to do with international terrorism. He was afraid of America. He was developing weapons primarily to attack his neighbors and Israel - who were all capable of fighting back. So, instead of narrowing our focus on improving our internal defenses and hunting down the group that attacked us, we diluted our efforts in a widespread show of force that may very well end up draining our resources far more than was expected.

                  Now that the pieces are in motion, however, it falls upon us to manage the situation as best we can (something I'm not convinced Bush is doing a good job of) and let time tell the outcome. In the meantime, I see no purpose in trying to assess change - in the end, it will all congeal into some sense of normalcy - just another country on earth that is searching for peace.

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                  • #10
                    Re: The Coming Normalcy

                    I agree that we're not going to figure out what's going to happen. The people who truly do have access to the most information are the ones who always say no-one knows what's going to happen.

                    With regard to this having been a bad decision in the first place, I still don't see a better plan. Knowing ONLY what we knew then, what's the better strategy for preventing further terror attacks in the USA and changing the culture of a region and idiology that is producing these terrorists?

                    I for one did predict a quick victory in the major military operations phase followed by a long insurgency. My two surprises have been the terrorists' and insurgents' willingness to use innocent muslim iraqiis as their targets and the shocking incompetence the military has shown in fighting the information war.

                    So what's the better plan to make everyone safe again? Should we have invaded a different country, and if so what assurance can you give that it would have gone any differently or better? Should we have maintained a policing approach to dealing with the problem?

                    I think that knowing then what we know today some minor things may have been done differently, but we'd basically have taken the same approach.

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                    • #11
                      Re: The Coming Normalcy

                      Had the culture and ideology that produces terrorism been active in the Iraqi government in 2002 then I suppose, yes, invading and deposing a regime that supported it would have been a good idea. But that was not the case. And moreover, those clamoring loudest for war KNEW that was not the case.

                      And when we had an opportunity to actually attack a known terrorist, Zarqawi, in Iraq before the war, we didn't, because that would have undermined our case against Saddam, who had no connection to Zarqawi.

                      The Iraq war has never been about stopping terror. There are a thousand things we could have been doing to prevent terror and none of them involved Iraq. But Cheney wanted Iraq so Cheney got Iraq.
                      In game handle: Steel Scion
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                      • #12
                        Re: The Coming Normalcy

                        Originally posted by leejo
                        With regard to this having been a bad decision in the first place, I still don't see a better plan. Knowing ONLY what we knew then, what's the better strategy for preventing further terror attacks in the USA and changing the culture of a region and idiology that is producing these terrorists?
                        Knowing what we knew then, I would not have invaded Iraq. All we knew was that they had, at one time, chemical weapons capable of reaching Kuwait and Israel. All other evidence showed that Saddam's capabilities had been drastically reduced following the Gulf War - as this evidence was later proved completely correct. No evidence showed postive signs of links to Al Qaeda or international terrorism, and again, this was later proven correct by both Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. These known and unknown variables do not amount to a need for war, but rather a need for improved defense from a plethora of unknown threats.

                        Like I said, I have always thought that the better strategy would have been to commit 60,000 troops or more to Afghanistan to completely (instead of partially) eliminate Al Qaeda. On the homefront, I would have commited more money and effort to the newly formed DHS to make sure it was living up to expectations (which it currently is not). I would have also made domestic use of National Guard troops, such as at border crossings, airports and other security-sensitive areas.

                        Originally posted by leejo
                        So what's the better plan to make everyone safe again? Should we have invaded a different country, and if so what assurance can you give that it would have gone any differently or better? Should we have maintained a policing approach to dealing with the problem?
                        Again? Nobody was ever safe - from man or nature. Did we forget that the generation before us literally grew up beneath a very real threat of nuclear attack and certain death? Do we forget that there are hundreds of nuclear missiles still aimed at us? When have we ever been safe from terrorism? The elimination of such threats is unrealistic and as unattainable as World peace itself.

                        No we should not have invaded another country. No we should not have maintained a policing approach to dealing with the problem. We should have kept pressure on the U.N. to perform this function, and reform as necessary. By distracting ourselves with a long and difficult war, we have drawn attention away from this and many other areas.

                        I realize that the other side of the argument, which Bush has annunciated many times - is that "the best defense is a good offense" and "we must take the fight to the enemy rather than let them bring it to us." I believe that in this case - Iraq - these strategies are proving uneffective. Instead of taking the fight to the enemy, we have instead picked a new fight - possibly many more fights. We should have taken the fight only to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and bolstered our State Department, CIA, FBI, DHS and any other intelligence service to maintain an expansive, well funded and well staffed vigil against any external or internal threat.

                        I also wanted to mention the war of ideas and ideology. This war of ideas and beliefs will most certainly not be fought on a battlefield, it will be (and currently is being) fought in the media. I would argue that this is the war that America is least prepared for - although for perhaps different reasons than Rumsfeld may have mentioned in his recent visit to the Army War College. None the less, he sees it coming, and so should we all.

                        My apologies for hijacking the thread somewhat - but you asked me questions, so I answered :)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: The Coming Normalcy

                          I grew up under a very real threat of nuclear attack, and I remember how people called Reagan a fool and worse for provoking the Soviet Union. But he saw a way to end the stalemate and drove his vision through to its conclusion. I think the same thing is happening here.

                          If, on 9/12, you don't see the advantage of dropping 150,000 soldiers right next door to Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran while deposing Saddam Hussein, I can't help that. I also think that the best way to fight an enemy is on our terms and the place of our choosing. Our enemy is very good at fighting an asymmetric war but incapable of fighting head-to-head, which is why I think it's a good idea for us to try to pick a big fight with them somewhere.

                          And Dick Cheney is my uncle and I'm getting rich beotch! Muhahahahaha viva la guerre d'huile!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: The Coming Normalcy

                            Originally posted by leejo
                            If, on 9/12, you don't see the advantage of dropping 150,000 soldiers right next door to Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran while deposing Saddam Hussein, I can't help that. I also think that the best way to fight an enemy is on our terms and the place of our choosing. Our enemy is very good at fighting an asymmetric war but incapable of fighting head-to-head, which is why I think it's a good idea for us to try to pick a big fight with them somewhere.
                            Iraq is a very strategic country to have a major US military presence in, and if the next target is Iran, they are surrounded by US occupations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and an ally with Pakistan.

                            Although picking a big fight (militarily) at this point of time with, Iran for example, would be counter-productive to the regions stability. Not to mention, stress tenious US relations with China and Russia that are major trade partners with Iran.

                            Our presence in Iraq is more of a chess move rather than to solely depose a dictator. The great game is still being played out.

                            edit: spelling errors
                            Last edited by aeroripper; 03-31-2006, 03:52 AM.
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