I’ve been observing closely the rhtoric and content of the roll in to escalation. It is safe to say that of the many focal points of what will be a complicated and perilous mission, I’ve heard no mention of what the magnitude of collateral damage will be.

Except: it will be great. The increase promises to elevate the monthly figure of 2,000-4,000. Yesterday operations less than amile from the Green Zone saw US fightter-bombers swoop but not let loose their deadly payloads. It can be expected this moderation will cease sooner rather than later.

Although it is true that US military doctrine is geared toward mitigating collateral effects, the other dirty fact is that it is only in the past year or so that Iraqi civilian casualties have been more caused by the civil war’s horrific targetting than that of the occupying coalition. Cheney Inc. can be said to callous about those effects caused by the necessity of counter-insurgency and I think an argument can be made that Cheney Inc. really doesn’t give a hoot.

Hopefully, Congressional Democrats will elevate this factor in their inquiries over the next few weeks.

It’s a dirty business which unfolds in the land of destroying something to save it, a nihilistic dirty business…

Tony Snow today,

Q I guess the challenge would be who besides the President thinks that the war is winnable at this stage?

MR. SNOW: I think millions of Americans believe that this war is winnable, and I think, furthermore, that it’s important to rebuild the sense of political unity. One of the things the President has often said is, the only way we lose if we lose our will. And it is clear that there have been political debates in this country….

Q Does the President have concerns that Americans don’t share his concerns or visions of what might happen?

MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so, but I think it’s always important — it is, I think, important from time to time for the President to share a little bit of what he sees and how he thinks about it, because, fortunately, Americans have not been confronted since September 11, 2001, with direct evidence that terrorists are trying to kill us.

Oh yeah, when spokespersons for mendacious war criminals ask for a little uptick in citizen compliance so they can rub out a few more young men and women, toss greenbacks down the rat hole, while their pals laugh all the way to bank.

Sign me up.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows a daunting sales job ahead for the White House, which is considering a plan to deploy up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

Those surveyed oppose the idea of increased troop levels by 61%-36%. Approval of the job Bush is doing in Iraq has sunk to 26%, a record low.

John F. Burns, excerpted from today’s NYT.

War Could Last Years, Commander Says

BAGHDAD, Jan. 7 — The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another “two or three years” for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.

The commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, assumed day-to-day control of war operations last month in the first step of a makeover of the American military hierarchy here. In his first lengthy meeting with reporters, General Odierno, 52, struck a cautious note about American prospects, saying much will depend on whether commanders can show enough progress to stem eroding support in the United States for the war.

“I believe the American people, if they feel we are making progress, they will have the patience,” he said. But right now, he added, “I think the frustration is that they think we are not making progress.”

The general laid out a plan to make an impact in Baghdad with the additional troops. Several other military plans since the fall of Baghdad in 2003 have faltered. He said he wanted the new American units, working with three additional Iraqi combat brigades that Iraqi officials say will be deployed in the capital, to move back into the city’s toughest neighborhoods and show that they can “protect the people,” which he said coalition forces had previously failed to do.

General Odierno contrasted his approach with the last effort to secure Baghdad, effectively abandoned for lack of enough Iraqi troops last fall.

Then, American troops conducted house-to-house clearing operations before moving on to other neighborhoods, leaving the holding phase of the operation to Iraqi troops, who failed to control the areas and forced Americans to return. This time, the general said, American troops would remain in the cleared areas “24/7,” to stiffen Iraqi resolve and build confidence among residents that they would be treated evenhandedly.

Equally important, he said, coalition troops would move into both Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods. That, too, would break with the pattern set last fall, when American troops concentrated on known Sunni insurgent strongholds, especially Dora, in southwest Baghdad. This time, the general said, it was crucial the security plan be evenhanded. “We have to have a believable approach, of going after Sunni and Shia extremists,” he said.

First off, the domestic political ramifications of this hint, is that the Republican Party is willing to fight for the White House in 2008 as superhawk decider-finishers against appeasing timetablistas, be the candidate Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama. This would be, on its own terms, intriguing because McCain might have to vouchsafe his support for a messy situation in Iraq in 2008, and, furthermore, he doesn’t seem to be a very suitable Neocon team player. But, even more daring, would be what any Republican candidate would be compelled to do if it looked like an anti-war Dem would trounce them. In any case, superhawkishness doesn’t seem very surefire at this early date in the political calendar.

If the anticipated force projection, re-occupation, and final battle of Baghdad is equal opportunity and seeks to solve both the problems of the deadender Sunni insurgency and Mahdi Sadrist triumphalism, and it makes lots of progress, the Dems may have to go look for a paddle and get with the flow toward victory.

But, if all that happens is that the Shi’a militias take it to the coalition throughout southern Iraq, and that the Sunni insurgents get thrashed and so do their neighborhoods and families, much rubble crafting ensues, then the Iraq war could widen and policy goals suffer incalculable unintended consequences. They could be very negative to any chances of reducing the chaos, and will be very very bloody.

Iran is one of the wild cards. Read Walrus’s provocative piece courtesy of Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyranns 2006

Anthony Cordesman, csis.org, has provided analytic touchstone after touchstone in the years following his justly signal paper, PLANNING FOR A SELF-INFLICTED WOUND (2003); a paper with the retrospective saddening gravity of, say, King Lear.

Looking Beyond A Surge:
The Tests a New US Strategy in Iraq Must Meet

Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
Revised: January 4, 2007

What It Takes for the US to Have a Hope of Success
This means that any change in US strategy must recognize the reality of
Iraqi sovereignty and the major divisions and weaknesses in the Iraqi central
government. It must deal with the acute and growing divisions in the Shi’ite
coalition, separate Kurdish goals and objectives, and the fact that Sunni
participation in the government is divided, has different objectives, and
limited real-world legitimacy in representing Sunni in most of Iraq.
It must address the fact that Iraqi forces are not yet ready to “hold” – even in
Baghdad and “safe” Shi’ite and Kurdish areas — and the Iraqi government
lacks the effectiveness and unity to provide services and “build.” It must
address the political and economic dimensions of what is happening in
Iraq. It also means that the security effort must look beyond Baghdad and
supporting the present central government.
The realities a new US strategy must deal with also go far beyond the threat
in four provinces where the insurgency is most active, or the Shi’ite and
Kurdish militias. The US must look beyond the number killed and the
number of measurable violent incidents, and consider a different kind of
civil struggle that is increasingly dividing up Iraq. The situation has
evolved to the point where the most serious threat to stability now seems to
be a form of “soft” ethnic cleansing that relies on pressure, threats,
blackmail, and kidnappings as much as actual killings.

Cordesman has long been the one-stop shop for the armchair set to inform themselves about how a systems perspective applies to Iraq.

Iraq is too chaotic to neatly yield to “reality-based” systems’ thinking. Iraq does present a fine object lesson in what happens when fantasists have their go at a complex system without thinking about its reality at all.

My own wooly feeling is Iraq is well beyond comprehensive, managed reconfiguration of the linked variables and loops in its complex systems.The scale and velocity of the system’s non-linearity reinforce the unpredictability and asymmetry.. Given this, for all anybody knows the actual magnitude of a satisfying reconfiguration could involve not 200,000 troops, but involve 2,000,000 troops.

As usual, Frank Rich tells it like it is in today’s NYT.

It’s against the backdrop of both the Hussein video and the Ford presidency that we must examine the prospect of that much-previewed “surge” in Iraq — a surge, by the way, that the press should start calling by its rightful name, escalation. As Mr. Ford had it, America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America’s top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops.

It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now. Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency (PDF) supervised by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the next top American military commander in Iraq. It endorsed the formula that “20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents” is “the minimum troop density required.” By that yardstick, it would take the addition of 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.

The “surge,” then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory” Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the “we’re not winning, we’re not losing” status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.” This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger “decent interval” exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck (to Mr. Ford, as it happened) on Vietnam.

Cheney Inc. have construed the implosion of the Republican majority over four years of horrific hubristic death-making in Iraq as a warrant to change direction by amplifying the old direction. The change in course is a change in these respects: the gloves will come off, the Army and Marine combat forces will hold what they clear, and the battle of Baghdad will aim to be the last battle of Baghdad. Although the thinking about surging economic fixes is not new and runs up against the security conundrum, it will also be part of the mission to draw ‘labor’ off of the soon-to-be unbearably pressured insurgents.

Unknown until next week is whether the US will choose the Shi’a side or bifurcate the point of the sword to go after the Sunni dead-enders and the Sadrist militias.

We’ll have to see how this is all rolled out rhetorically, but my guess is Cheney Inc. has also construed the election results as a mandate to revamp the sales pitch. The ironies will come fast and thick. But I suspect the core trope will be triumphalist, while calling for unity at a last “turning point”.

A lot turns on whether it will be crucial for Bush to remind his subjects that there can be no timetables for “redeployment,” (the cynical term for withdrawal). If sustaining the triumphalist open-endedness is essential, then Bush may roll out, once again, the “world-historical” language about the war on terrorism and its mission critical Iraq front. If he does so, this will be a big clue about the willingness of Bush to chain McCain to a sustainable neocon re-ascendency that can only be about retaining the heavy force platform vis a vis Iran. This is, hello!, lunacy.

It’s also lunacy to believe this will allow a hawkish Republican Party to hold the Dem’s feet to the fire. I visualize this as trying to get a candle near Jack Murtha’s toes while Jack applies the blowtorch to the candle holder’s thighs.

On the other hand, were Bush to focus mainly on benchmarks and quid-pro-quo arrangements with the Maliki government, then this may swing around the bank toward a new version of “stand down” when the Iraqis “stand up”. This sets up the Republican party to run on national security in 2008 by casting almost all the blame on the Iraqis while setting things up to make the Republicans the party that can swing a big stick at both Iran and North Korea.

Frank Rich is right to pull decent interval out of the closet. It is even within the realm of possibility Bush will set things up to allow his party to run for the White House as Nixon did in the very odd landslide year of 1972. He’d have to exit Cheney and be willing to abandon the heavy footprint and profit potential in Iraq.

I suppose Carl Levin and those like him–you know who you are–think they can turn the screws on Puer Bush, the Boy Who Would Be King, but giving Bush a last pass strikes me as a not-likely-to-be-last-round of the feckless colluding with the craven nihilicons–with the minor point of more American blood and a ton more treasure wasted for, to hear Levin, “a symbolic show of force,” while Cheney Inc. morphs into McCain Inc.. and the neocons ascend.

And, from this I hear a simple “to hell with the tyranny of the exhausted majority”. Basically: “screw the whole bunch of ’em.” The rule of law, the Democratic Republic isn’t a suicide pact.

Surge becomes escalation becomes the reoccupation of Iraq. And what is the political calculus? Those who want a nice large and heavy footprint in Iraq and still (!) think this is all about a sobering chaos in the lands of, and democratization of, the Muslim hordes.

Against? Well: appeasers and those who don’t get the world-historical nature of ‘killing them over there so they don’t jump in their fallucas and sail up the Chesapeake.

Any committee investigations and hearings are pointless in the face of the Republicans thinking that there must be some way to regain their advantage by arguing for a lot more time to defeat the hordes come 2008.

Alas, I think that this is a prescription for political suicide unless there isn’t to be an election in 2008. Ummm, Cheney Inc. wouldn’t dare.

Better news from the House side where Murtha seems ready to reassert his role as patriot and pointman.

The passing of Gerald Ford and the grimy hanging of Saddam Hussain constitute surprising bookends. Ford has been over the past few days vivified as a great culture warrior, who healed the nation by staunching the lefty rabble’s desire for accountability. Saddam was a machiavelle of heinous criminality. Oddly, President Bush has turned out to be more machiavelle than culture warrior. Maureen Dowd [NYT Select] captures the roots of this strangeness today.

None of the eulogists noted the irony that the man who ushered out one long national nightmare had ushered in another, the one we’re living in now. It was Gerald Ford, after all, who gave America the gift of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — the gift that keeps on taking.

The two former Ford officials, who doomed Iraq to civil war and despoiled American values, were honorary pallbearers yesterday, as was that other slippery and solipsistic courtier, Henry Kissinger.

Did Cheney sit his student down early on and spell out how the re-balancing of the system of checks and balances was to work?

A lot of the pseudo-Straussian nonsense, pernicious as it was inevitably to be, comes down to the royalism implicit in a wildly self-serving version of historical comuppance. Rove’s favorite President is McKinley. Whereas I think Cheney wanted to create his favorite President. Underneath the reassertion of restored Congressional perogative falls the shadow of the ill Unitary Executive.

What happens to Presidents, emperors, dictators, who believe the rule of law isn’t a suicide pact? Well, they don’t usually live a decent dotage until they’re 93.

Keith Olberman’s fervid special comment last night fell flat. In the bubble of Cheney Inc. the tyranny of the anxious majority bears little pressure. It’s a measure of the disconnect that Bush will probably roll out an appeal to finishing the job based in an attempt to guilt trip the citizenry to restore his royalist presumption to primacy.

Bush–no doubt–sees himself as a world historical crusader compelled to lead the US to vanquish despot and fascist. But I don’t think there is anyway to rebottle the cognitive dissonance into something satisfying albeit bitter. The old wine is gone.

Let’s suppose the surgescalation works to pacify Baghdad. The insurgents abandon their strongholds, or, stand and fight and are annihilated. This provides good military news from Iraq and we’ll arbitrarily mark it to the fall of 2007. For this rosy scenario it is assumed the Dems have done their oversight but also agreed and voted to endorse funding for the escalation.

So we roll into the fall and the coalition turns to the Sunni triangle and Anbar. All the while the insurgents are striking elsewhere and the level of sectarian violence is bad yet it seems clear the strategy of focusing on the Sunni side of the equation is working.

However, it becomes clear that the fight against the Sunni strongholds outside of Baghdad will occupy the Iraqi military agenda through the election year 2008. US military casualties now have surpassed 4,000 dead and 30,000 wounded. Still, the Rovian political strategy has been mostly successful in painting the anti-war crowd as being unrealistic in the face of the necessity of taking the fight to its end game beyond Baghdad.

What else comes with this turn of events? Do the sunnis abandon the government? Does ethnic cleansing break out in Baghdad? Are hundreds of thousands of Sunnis on the move out of Baghdad and Anbar? Does the Maliki government fall and is it replaced by a Shi’a strongman or junta?

The presidential election shapes up between McCain and either Clinton or Obama. Only Obama swims against the good news. Anti-war demonstrations occur in the spring of 2008 when McCain endorses a longterm plan proffered by Bush to remain in Iraq to “finish the job”.

This is the rosy scenario. The bet is placed but by 2008 the warfare is fierce and it’s looking like 1968 all over again as US combat deaths tick inexorably toward 5,000.

“It looks like the president would rather let the whole operation go down in flames than admit he was wrong.” Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. [Bush Digging In Heels on Iraq Course Change – Reuters]

Pat Lang, US Army, Ret.: Things are NOT going well. The president is going to approve a reinforcement of 4 Army brigades and two or three marine regiments for the express purpose of fighting a decisive battle of attrition first against the Sunni insurgents in the Baghdad area and then to “disarm” Sadr’s Mahdi Army. This is a hell of a gamble.

EH via David Kurtz @TPM “In all of this talk of increasing troop levels to accomplish some kind of success or unstated goal, I’m reminded of a software engineering principle called Brooks’ Law: “Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.” This meshes nicely with analysis of the escalation being designed to carry the war into the ’08 election cycle, but I think the administration is cynical enough to push the surge just for this reason, especially since the reasons and goals of the surge have remained nebulous throughout the past weeks.”

Matthew Yglesias: Consider the process here. It’s not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission.

Okay. Jack keane and Fred Kagan, of the AEI, have volunteered to be the neocons of record on the surgescalation. They’ve gone out front while Cheney Inc and Rasputin’ Rove manage the more complicated details in the background. Today in the Washington Post, Keane and Kagan offer their thinking (as-it-were) on the coming hail Mary.

You really have to read their piece. It’s amazing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes assumptions throughout that defeat it’s logic throughout. (Ahh, more of interest to a logician like me, perhaps.)


“We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad — the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development — is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.”

“The key to the success is to change the military mission — instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.”

“In addition, a short surge would play into the enemy’s hands. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias expect the U.S. presence to fade away over the course of 2007, and they expect any surge to be brief. They will naturally go to ground in the face of a short surge and wait until we have left. They will then attack the civilian population and whatever Iraqi security forces remain, knowing them to be easier targets than U.S. soldiers and Marines. They will work hard to raise the level of sectarian violence in order to prove that our efforts have failed.”

“The only “surge” option that makes sense is both long and large.”

Let’s highlight one assertion.

“In addition, a short surge would play into the enemy’s hands. Both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias expect the U.S. presence to fade away over the course of 2007, and they expect any surge to be brief. They will naturally go to ground in the face of a short surge and wait until we have left.

Why couldn’t you plug in any year where the ‘2007’ is? Why wouldn’t they go to the ground and wait out any surge of any length? Keane and Kagan are caught in a kind of temporal fallacy here and then compound it by assuming the insurgents can plan for a short surge and would be defeated by a long one. Yet they suggest the tactic the insurgents would use to weather anything long and large. Heck, you go to war with the surge you get!

Just on the face of it this staying the escalated course is presented as a human resource solution to the problem of clearing and holding those neighborhoods in Baghdad from which the Sunni insurgency operates. How does this come back to bite us in the ass?

First, if it doesn’t work, a big chunk gets chewed. Really the question is how might it not work?

Unspoken is that this sketch of a plan does take sides in the civil war. Taking the side of the Shi’a militias, death squads, compromised Iraqi police force, and the violence-enthused part of the Shi’a majority, does point in the direction of a big downside if the plan does work, which is that when the US leaves after ‘winning’ the Shi’a irregulars would finish the job.

But, the more likely downsides accrue should the Sunni insurgents melt away and wait us out. Keane and Kagan seem to think the Iraq catastrophe is suddenly going to become symmetrical simply because we move bigger chess pieces onto the board. And this is just one commonsense flaw in their argument.

But, it’s much more likely that the guerilla war will reconfigure itself to attack targets all over Iraq rather than fight something like a set piece series of battles in the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad.

And, training an Iraqi army to set aside tribal and sectarian codes of honor (in favor of military discipline’) when this likely amplification of insurgent violence will surely stab at vulnerable targets closer to their own homes rather than at anything else, seems to be a ridiculous assumption even it is implicit that the Iraqi army will be the coalition’s focused partner.

Then there’s the unspoken and time-honored regimen of counter-insurgency: to kill the fish in the sea, which is to say to break the back of the insurgent’s support by. . .killing their non-combatant friends and families. History teaches that this is necessary as a precursor to pacifying once unfriendly areas where unfriendlies operate. This has seldom worked out, but this is what is meant when somebody suggests ‘the gloves should come off’.

Read this Sectarian Ties Weaken Duty’s Call for Iraq Forces too. See if you can square the danger signs with Keane and Kagan’s wild eyes b.s.

(I’ll comment about the political conundrum posed by this latest reprise of ‘after 9-11 everything changed and now a generation is called to fight a world war against Islamofascists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here’.

It occurred to me that Cheney Inc.’s surge-to-infamy, err, victory, is, when you boil the detritus of their failed strategy and tactics away, a last ditch effort to re-occupy Iraq.

Incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last Sunday that he could ”go along” with the widely predicted surge in U.S. troops in Iraq, but for only two or three months. Is it conceivable that Reid doesn’t know that this is about the next two years — not months? Egged on by ”full-speed-ahead” Cheney, Bush is determined that the war not be lost while he is president. And he is commander-in-chief. Events, however, are fast overtaking White House preferences and are moving toward denouement well before two more years are up.

Patrick Lang & Ray McNamera -editorial-Miami Herald

Every constituency for US success or failure seems to me to be stuck to dissonant contradictions.

Cheney Inc. — not caring to comprehend that the situation in Iraq right now is the prelude to defeat, the central contradiction for Cheney Inc. is this impossible “possible”: that victory is the successful shifting of blame for the actual defeat. They are stuck by needing to win even if the loss is “impossibly” inevitable.

Maliki & his government — stuck between dependence on the US and the wish to be independent and sovereign. Needless to say, this government would not survive a referendum or election were it held tomorrow. The Maliki government has become very cut off from the Iraqi people too. It is possible the appearance of independence is irrelevant at this point.<br /><br />Iraqi people — caught between the violent and the victimized, all the while those that can escape to make their way out of their shattered country,

American people — deeply polarized, it is probable–at least–a majority of Americans feel that their representatives are too busy aggrandizing arrogant ideologies, while some stuff greenbacks in their pockets. They’re caught between what victory has already asked and what both victory and failure have yet to demand.

Democratic Party — as a cowardly minority, the Dems were unable to find even informal ways to call Bush to account. Now they’re stuck between fear of political consequences and the consequences which will accrue should they ignore the obvious debacle in Iraq in favor of calculated triangulation or however it is they justify not taking a stand

Republicans — in a better world (for them,) Cheney Inc, would confidently obtain a victory in Iraq and their mindless support would be rewarded. But, now the Republicans have to figure out whether they want to remain the party of perpetual (and sour) war and run to the hawkish right in 2008, or, fragment into realist and idealist parts. They’re stuck between phantasy and reality.