Progress in Iraq

Looking for information about the implications of the ‘surge’ in Iraq, I found this NY Times report, which seems to sum up a lot of relevant points, and ought to prompt some rethinking of firmly held views. The key points

  • The American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions
  • Attacks on allied forces have dropped to 30 to 40 a day, down from an average daily peak of 140

  • Thirty-six American troops died in Iraq last month, the lowest monthly death toll in over a year

  • More Iraqi civilians are defying the insurgents’ intimidation to give Iraqi forces tips

  • Even some of the administration’s toughest critics now express cautious optimism

  • There has been a steady increase in the capabilities and numbers of Iraqi units

As they say, read the whole thing. Then check the publication date.

63 thoughts on “Progress in Iraq

  1. Ian

    I agree with your comments too – I had greatly simplified things and there are many different militia groups in Iraq with different agendas. For that mater, we could also throw in the Kurds, who actually straddle the borders of northern Iraq, SE Turkey and Iran. Plus for neighboring powers with influence, we should probably add Syria too. I don’t think that changes the conclusion though – Iraq is a complex mess in which it will be hard to find a political solution. The fighting won’t stop just because foreign terrorists have retreated from some parts of Baghdad in the short term.

  2. Ikonoklast, you are misrepresenting what I wrote.

    “mediaeval Swiss tactics as requiring so little direction that the rank and file insisted that their officers justify their higher pay by taking the forward positionsâ€? is not the same as “Well of course the tactics needed little extra direction in battle as the Swiss infantry squares were already well drilled” – that’s a bait and switch, leaving out the whole of Swiss practice at unit level before and after combat. The Swiss formation was not the square (though it was similar to the phalanx in some ways, and in defence it could regroup to a hedgehog that was somewhat similar to a square in function). I was not referring to “extra direction in battle” but to the whole system they used that allowed them to go straight from line of march to combat and did not require any special input from officers. It is indeed true that the Swiss drilled constantly, but that is rather the point – they knew they got no input from their officers for that. It was not the case that the officers led from the front but that the rank and file put them there because they had better armour than average; the point at issue was the actual and effective attitude of the rank and file, which included many veterans; the officers had no choice in the matter.

    Don’t make snide and irrelevant comparisons between me and Sun Tzu, compare what he asserted and what Sir Charles Oman described.

  3. The issue of refugees is an issue that needs more consideration in debating the ‘success” the invasion.

    Last estimate was around 2 million across national borders and 2 million displaced within the country. Their views on the whole exercise might be relevant.

  4. Doug 54

    In that culture perhaps an even bigger tragedy is the 500,000+ extra widows now in Iraq. (Curious so many widows if there were “only” 150,000 deaths. What are the rest doing – claiming on life insurance?)

    Seriously these women are in a dreadful situation.

  5. Re 52. Hmmm well. 🙂

    I really don’t see how;

    Statement A – “mediaeval Swiss tactics as requiring so little direction that the rank and file insisted that their officers justify their higher pay by taking the forward positions,â€?

    could ever be advanced to refute,

    Statement B, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.�

    With all due respect, I really think that certain profundities in Sun Tzu’s thought are escaping my esteemed opponent. Indeed, I think the differences between grand strategy, strategy and tactics are eluding him.

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et. al. failed to make their grand strategic calculations before they went into Iraq.

    I will use the Wikpedia’s definition. It is serviceable enough.

    “Grand strategy is military strategy at the level of movement and use of an entire nation state or empire’s resources.

    Military grand Strategy includes calculations of economic resources and man-power. It also includes moral resources, what is sometimes called national will. Issues of grand strategy typically include the choice of primary versus secondary theaters in war, distribution of resources among the various services, the general types of armaments to favor manufacturing, and which international alliances best suit national goals. It has considerable overlap with foreign policy, but grand strategy focuses primarily on the military implications of policy.”

  6. Ikonoklast, I am well aware of all those other issues, and that Sun Tzu’s statements are good and sound in general. However, they were presented as absolutes, and it so happens that counter-examples exist – like the mediaeval Swiss. It is that aspect, the absolute universal side of things, that is refuted.

  7. P.M. Lawrence, yes that’s correct. There is a form of instruction where statements are presented to illustrate the 999 cases which conform to the rule. The one thousandth case is then presented to challenge the student. Sun Tzu suffers from translation of his definitional terms one might assume. I am no scholar of the original being only monolingual.

    I guess my point really was to illustrate the hubris and stupidity of the American Neocons. it almost defies belief how stupid they have been.

  8. “Looking for information about the implications of the ’surge’ in Iraq” John Q.

    John u couldn’t find any recent information that supports your views on Iraq and the surge so you went and linked to a report nearly 3 years old to prove what exactly? You must be running on empty Champ!

  9. Thanks for the interesting link, Terje (#58). I knew Bush’s administration had caused the death of up to one million Iraquis; I didn’t realise that it has saved many more Africans.

  10. It’s George Bush and the American administration which are running on empty both morally and logically.

    There is no moral analysis and no logical analysis by which the invasion and occupation and occupation of Iraq makes any sense at all.

    We ought to get particularly irate at the moral exceptionalism practiced by the Bush administration and their supporters. One might also call it moral hypocrisy or double standards. If an Abu Ghraib prison type event had been perpetrated by Muslim extremists(terrorists) or the Iraqi resistance (insurgents) then we can all imagine the avalanche of condemnatory propaganda which would have flowed from the Bush Administration. The event would proved the “nature of our enemy” and the fact that they were “pure evil” etc etc. However, because the US did it, it is an “aberration”, “perpetrated by a few”, “not typical of our noble fighting spirit” and “cannot taint the good work of the US”.

    On the logical side of matters there again is no way that the US actions make sense. They do not make sense economically. Oil and other energy sources including renewables could have been traded for or researched for as the case may be. Two trillion dollars buys a lot energy and a lot of energy making capacity. Invading Iraq was an abysmally stupid action if the motive was energy security.

    In terms of grand military strategy, Iraq again does not make sense. Once oil effectively runs out (in about 20 years when 4/5 of the world’s oil is gone), the Middle East will cease to have any strategic importance for the US other than the residual problem of the terrible position their ally Israel will be in by that point.

    In taking away Saddam’s Iraq as a counter-weight to Iran, the US has simply strengthened Iran’s position. The US has unleashed Shia fundamentalism across a great arc in the Middle East. In summary, Islamic opposition to the US was magnified manyfold when the US embarked on its ill advised Afghanistan and Iraq “adventures”.

  11. Bush sneaks into Iraq on “surprise” visits.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flies in the front door and convinces Maliki to belittle Bush.


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