FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Prognosis for Iraq

Most wars move not at a steady pace but in a series of fits and starts. For about half a year, we have been enjoying something of a lull in the war in Iraq. Anything that reduces casualties is to be welcomed. But the bulletins’ claims that the downward trend in violence will continue should be seen more as political vaporing than military analysis. Events begin to suggest that the lull is ending and Mars is in the ascendant.

To make a prognosis, we first must understand why we have enjoyed a period of relative quiet. There are four basic causes. In order of importance, they are:

1) Al Qaeda’s alienation of much of its Sunni base, to the point where many Sunni insurgents changed sides. As I have pointed out before, al Qaeda in Iraq made a common error of revolutionary movements: it attempted to impose its program before it had consolidated power. As best I can see from Olympus, it seems to be persisting in that error, perhaps because its loose discipline does not allow it to do otherwise. That is good news for us. But we dare not forget that in 4GW, all alliances are temporary. The Sunni Awakening militias like our money but they don’t much like us.

2) Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to order his Mahdi Army to observe a truce, now extended to August of this year. The truce remains in his interest, because he needs to husband his strength for a winner-take-all final gambit.

3) Moving many U.S. troops off their FOBs and into neighborhoods where they can try to protect the population.

4) Last and least, the “surge.” This usefully added some additional troops for #3, but without the former move it would have simply created more Fobbits. A question I have not seen addressed is what percentage of the troops for #3 were already in the country. My bet is a large majority.

If we look at where each of these is now going, we see rough water ahead:

1) Al Qaeda in Iraq and other anti-U.S. forces (there are many) are both attacking and penetrating Sunni militias now working with U.S. forces; the latter is likely to prove more effective. U.S. forces are also killing Sunni militiamen who are working with us, by accident of course, but sufficiently often to strain relations. Much of this results from our counter-productive and just plain stupid continued use of air power in a country we occupy. American attack aircraft are al Qaeda’s (and the Taliban’s) best friends. The most powerful alienating factor is the irreconcilable hostility between most Sunnis and the Shiite government in Baghdad. The Sunnis know we created the government and remain allied to it. The government fears any armed Sunnis. We are left with one foot on the boat and one on the dock, a position that is difficult to sustain indefinitely.

2) Muqtada al-Sadr is feeling increasing pressure from his “street” to respond to U.S. attacks (again, often by aircraft) on Shiite neighborhoods. He has quietly been using U.S. and Iraqi government forces to “whack” dissenters within his own movement. But this can easily blow back on him. At this point his “street cred” is or soon will be on the line, at which point he has to respond or see his militia fragment (which is the natural tendency of everything in 4GW). The Mahdi Army can send U.S. casualties soaring overnight.

3) Any rise in American casualties means politicians in Washington will want U.S. troops to head back to the FOBs. The absurd American definition of “force protection” means many within the military will want to do the same. Petraeus will stay the course (in this case, rightly), but he’s on his way out. Having gotten this right doesn’t mean we won’t get it wrong again.

4) The extra troops brought over by the surge will go home this summer. Again, this is far less important than what the remaining troops do, and points #1 and #2 also, but it is a factor.

The main story of the current lull is one of lost opportunity. Whether soon or in the more distant future, the war in Iraq will get hotter again. The lull gave us what might be our only opportunity to leave Iraq with some tailfeathers intact. Just as the Bush administration’s blindness got us into this war, so its rigidity made us pass over our best change to get out. Like opportunity, Mars only knocks once. Next time, he blows the building.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail