January 11, 2007

Cost of War and Escalation

CNN does a piece related to the Cost of War counter to the right.

I watched President Bush's speech last night. He was not his usual smirking self. In fact, he seemed a bit on auto pilot. That's why it might have been easy to miss some key parts of the speech. Three things really jumped out at me. The "green light" American and Iraqi soldiers would be given to clear neighborhoods, the new carrier group on its way to the gulf, and sending Patriot missiles to the region (he doesn't say to whom, but I would assume it's Israel as they are located perfectly to launch missiles on Iran). There will be no diplomacy with Iran and Syria, just more sabre rattling. I take it back, it doesn't look like sabre rattling. The US is going after Iran (in Iraq at least). Today US troops stormed the Iranian consulate in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and seized six staff members (BBC). Does Bush really want WWIII?

I don't feel this escalation - if you can really call a return to the number of troops we had in Iraq LAST year an escalation - will do any good and will, in fact, just make more U.S. targets for the insurgents (Sunni or Shiite). I am also pretty concerned that Bush seems to single out Sunni and Al Qaeda but seems to gloss over the Shiite response, basically inferring that if the Sunni hadn't done what they had done, the Shiite wouldn't be doing what they are doing. Note the linking of Shia to Iran in the statement below.

They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.
Juan Cole has a different take.

George Bush sends GIs to his private fantasyland.
. . . And the main problem is not "al-Qaeda," which is small and probably not that important, and anyway is not really Bin Laden's al-Qaeda. They are just Salafi jihadis who appropriated the name. When their leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed, it didn't cause the insurgency to miss a beat. Conclusion: "al-Qaeda" is not central to the struggle. Izzat Ibrahim Duri and the Baath Party are probably the center of gravity of the resistance.

Bush admitted that the Sunni guerrilla destruction of the Askariyah (Golden Dome) shrine at Samarra set off an orgy of sectarian reprisals. But he does not seem to have actually absorbed the lesson here. The guerrillas did not have to hold territory in order to carry out that bombing. They just had to be able to sneak into a poorly guarded old building that Bush did not even know about and blow it up.

And is an increase of merely 21,000 troops sufficient to "clear and hold?" Even the neocons are skeptical. From Gideon Rachman's blog at Financial Times comes this:

One of the more damning remarks on troop levels comes from Max Boot, a neo-conservative and a specialist on military history:

"Will 21,500 extra troops make a big difference? Based on classic counterinsurgency calculations (one soldier or policeman per 40 or 50 civilians), pacifying Baghdad, a city of 6 million people, requires a force of some 150,000. The beefed-up U.S. force in Baghdad still will be less than 40,000 strong."
I heard Randi Rhodes talking about this 40-1 ratio on her radio show, explaining that it is accepted military strategy.

It looks like Bush has pretty much put it all on Maliki, but doesn't tell us or him what the consequences will be of not meeting the "benchmarks" we have set. Do we pack up and leave? Stay? Take over the Maliki government? And what exactly ARE those benchmarks? Nothing new. They are the same benchmarks that were already set and have not been met. --- Oh, but this time we really mean it, and this time Maliki will be able to do it...nevermind what we had to say about him a couple of months ago (Slate)

I got an email from Harry Reid today saying that he opposes an increase in troops and asking me to sign his petition. Since I already signed John Edwards' petition yesterday, I will hold off. Bush won't listen to me anyway and I have no power to stop him. Congress, on the other hand, is not without some tricks up their collective sleeve. Will Congress do anything to stop Bush? Your guess is as good as mine.

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