Friday, August 22, 2008

The End Game In Iraq

As General David Petraeus leaves Iraq to take up his new post as the head of CENTCOM, it's a excellent time to reassess Iraq...the positives and the negatives.

General Petraeus, his successor General Ordiano and our warriors achieved something that many pundits and self-styled military experts thought was impossible in modern times - the defeat of an in-country insurgency, especially one backed by unfriendly states to the east and north that acted as havens, bases and transit areas for our enemies. And to make it even more impressive, the victory occurred in a country absolutely boiling with sectarian and ethnic conflict. I have absolutely no doubt that these two general's strategy in Iraq will be studied in depth for years to come at West Point and other places where the world's future military leaders learn their trade.

That said, what their valiant achievement accomplished( aside from sending a notable number of jihadis to their just desserts) was to put the best possible face on a bad situation and allow America a graceful exit.

According to President Bush, our goals were to have a stable Iraq who would be democratic and an ally of ours in the so-called 'war on terror.' The goals themselves were absolutely farcical in terms of the reality on the ground and what our actual war aims should have been, and even at that we have only accomplished one out of three, stability. And it cost us 4,000 lives and a trillion dollars, much of which was wasted or stolen.

As I pointed out some time ago, this was easy to see coming from a long way off.

What we've established in Iraq is a Shiite Islamic Republic based on Sharia with a great deal of its leadership friendly to our enemies in Iran. Iraq adheres religiously to a boycott of Israel that is against US law, and there has been open season under our watch on Iraq's Christians, a story that rarely merits a mention in the dinosaur media.Iraq will no more be a 'ally ' of ours against our enemies than say, Saudi Arabia or Yemen and will limit their 'war on terror' activities to simply suppressing any dissident elements in their own society.

As we see from the protracted wrangling between ourselves and the Iraqi government who want us out as soon as possible, the time come when the Iraqis are essentially saying to us,"Thanks for your time and money, infidels. Now get out so we can bond with our Jihad brothers next door."

This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary. There's even less reason for us to assume that Iraq's Shiites would be any more grateful to us for liberating them then say, the French.

The difference is that liberating France and opening a second front against the Nazis was part of our war strategy to ultimately defeat them, and the French at least fought at our side against the Nazis until the war was over.Iraq has fought at our side only to free its territory from dissident shock troops like the Mahdi Army and Al-Qaeda, and that's where it's going to end.

It's highly unlikely that we'll see the Iraqi Army we trained and equipped at such great expense sending troops to fight at our side against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Abu Sayef in the Philippines,or anywhere else. Nor will we see Iraq allowing US bases in their country or their ports or other facilities to be used by our military in any hostilities against our enemies in Iran. Maliki and his friends have said so many times.

Another bad aspect of all this is our acquiescence in Shiite domination of the country. Rather than allow Iraq to split into its natural divisions, we simply allowed the Shiites to take over.

To do that, the Bush Administration sold out our real allies in Iraq, the Kurds. Not only did we undercut their efforts to get the Iraqi government to abide by the agreement they made with the Kurds on sharing Kurdistan's oil and allowing the Kurds some autonomy in dealing with their domestic affairs, we passed military information to the Turks, allowed them to invade Kurdistan's territory and pulled our troops out of position to make it easier for the Turks to go in.

Now it's the Sunni's turn, as the Shiite dominated Iraqi government and military aims at decimating the US-allied Sunni Awakening movement who fought Al -Qaeda at our side at considerable risk to themselves..while our military is ordered not to interfere and we do nothing meaningful to stop it.

It's been obvious to me for some time that SecDef Robert Gates and Condi Rice have apparently engineered a quid pro quo with Iran that involves our trading control of Lebanon, Shiite domination of Iraq and a guarantee not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities or assist Israel in doing so for a ceiling on oil prices, an end to Iran's agitation in OPEC to end oil trading in dollars and a graceful exit from Iraq.

I have a feeling that bargain is going to look like an increasingly bad one time goes on, especially if Iran successfully goes nuclear in the coming months, with the ability to pass those weapons on to proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

What's worse, we've created what amounts to a Shia 'sphere of influence' dominated by Iran, a crescent icluding Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And that has huge implications for the future of the Middle East.

It's not my intention to rain on anyone's parade ...but I think it's necessary to look beyond our impressive victory in Iraq and realize that not only did it not fully accomplish the Bush Administration's own criteria for success there but that our subsequent actions are almost certainly robbing the US of most of what gains we made.In the end, selling out your allies never comes cheaply.

Iraq is just the first round of this war, and hopefully we've learned some important lessons for the future.


Roy Lofquist said...

What of the consequences of not invading?

Anonymous said...

will you be speaking at the RNC?

Freedom Fighter said...


Freedom Fighter said...

Hi, Roy

What of them?

Don't get me wrong...once we were in, the attempts by the Democrats to sabotage the war while our warriors wqere being shot at were treasonous in my view. But the original decision to go in and engage in 'nation buiding' was flawed from the get-go.

Iraq was a threat but not an imminent one. And we went there for very different reasons then WMDs...

If we had to go in at all, we should have given the Kurds a state and turned them into a US ally, which they were fully ready to be. We should have then kept the Shiites and Sunnis under a strict military governor ala' MacArthur in Japan while we taught these people democracy for four or five years, and used the country as a base against the real threat, Iran.

Iraq wasn't a total loss - we killed a great many jihadis, gave our military great experience and are leaving on a high note rather than retreating shamefully.

But that doesn't change the downside.

Had we not invaded,( or had we invaded and operated in th emanner I suggested above) and concentrated on curtailing the threat of Iran, ending the Saudi exporting of jihad into our country and securing our borders, we'd have already won this war an Dubbyah would be coasting to retirement on 80% approval ratings.

All Best ,


Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Freedom Fighter,

We, The United States - not by our intentions - have become the world policeman. We have interests in maintaining our freedom and our commonwealth. This is in keeping with "Just War Doctrine" - developed over the centuries by the Catholic Church and a central teaching in our military academies.

For those such as I who lost family in WWI and WWII and Korea and Vietnam it is quite immediate.
We have paid in blood for the knowledge that those who seek to harm us are immune to reason.

The United States Navy was formed specifically to deal with the piracy of the "Musselmen". Jefferson and Franklin (they're on the currency - $2 and $100 - I don't see either very often) met with the ambassador of the Barbary States in Paris. He informed them that piracy was sanctioned and required by their religion.

"From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.."

All of Europe was paying tribute to the pirates. That ended.

The United States suffered attacks on its interests starting in 1979 with the seizure of hostages in Iran. Similar incidents, attacks, occurred rather frequently over a number of years. September 11, 2001 was the most devastating attack we have ever seen on The United States. It is unfortunate, but it was time to kick ass and take names.

Draining the swamp is rarely pretty. People die. Things get broken. Feelings are hurt. If we, or others, had acted in 1939 we might have saved 60 million precious souls. Never again.


Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Roy,
I agree with you..draining the swamp is never pretty, but necessary.

My whole point is that rather than drain the swamp, in Iraq, we have merely erected a short term edifice that will revert to swampland or close to it as soon as we leave.

Nor have we made a dent in dealing with our REAL enemies in the region.The only way invading and occupying Iraq made sense was if we were going to use it a a base. That won't happen now that the Shiites are effectively running things to suit themselves. Read the links in the piece, please, if you haven't already.

It needn't have been that way if we had proceeded the way we did in WWII with Japan, as I suggested in the above comment.Even worse, the mismanagement involved have made the American people wary of further involvements at a time when we certainly cannot afford to take another vacation from history.

I can't really blame them. The entire `war on terror' nonsense was sold to them under false pretenses from day one, and NEVER conducted as a real war by the Bush Administration..because that would have involved dealing with long time bidness partners who had friends on both sides of the aisle.

Best Regards,

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear ff,

I'd like to refer you to this article by Edward Luttwak:

I am not as pessimistic as you about the end game.

As to mismanagement? This conflict has been the best managed one in our history.


Anonymous said...

Freedom Fighter

Thanks for the candid assessment of Iraq. I have to say that I, for the most part agree with you. I think you are spot on to point out that the goals for Iraq were
1.)a democratic Iraq, 2.)a stable Iraq, and 3.)an Iraq that will be allied with the US in the Global war on Terroristm. (You call it the war on Jihad, which is probably more accurate than the Global War on Terrorism.) The term I prefer is the war on Islamo-Communisim. It seems all of the Communist countries of the world are closely allied with the Islamic terrorist countries.

I also agree with you on how you would have prosecuted the war in Iraq had you chosen to do it. I think I'm in agreement that Iraq may not have posed an imminent threat. It turns out much our intellegence was wrong but what does seem clear is Iraq posed a far greater danger to us than Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever did or likely ever could have. With Iraq's vast overseas terrorist networks and the huge boost they received from the oil for food program they could have done vast damage to the US and its interests.

The three goals listed above seem to be in the order of importance that the Bush Administration placed them. Unconsinablely the security of America is last on the list!! Nevertheless this is how the Bush Administration chose to prosecute this. As you rightly point out, this has been no war at all. President Bush should have been impeached for this alone. The goals should have been in the follwing order. 1.)Establish an iraqi government that is allied with the US in the Global War on Terrorism. 2.)Establish a secure Iraq. 3.)Establish a Democratic Iraq.

Had we achieved goals 1 and 2 I think this would have been a huge victory for us. Achievenment of a democratic Iraq is not mission critical to victory. If only goal number 1 was achieved, this might be considered a draw. American troops would still be engaged with the enemy in Iraq but the Islamic terrorists would be expending valuable resources trying to fight on the Iraqi front.

As it stands now, we have achieved goal # 3. We may be well on our way to achieving goal # 2. Unfortuanely, as it stands now, it seems Iraq will only be an intermittent ally in the Global War on Terrorism, at best, and an outright enemy at worst.

I do pray that those who allied with us are not betrayed. This would be most tragic if the Sunnis who supported us and the Kurds who supported us are left to be slaughtered by their and our enemies.

What is clear is that failure in the Global War against Islamic Terrorism will be a huge set back for America and the free world. If the United States loses in the war against Islamic terrorism, the best case scenario is America is finished as a major global power. The worst case secnario, which is far more likely, is the very survival of the country will be placed in an even more precarious position than it is already in.

Some semblance of victory in Iraq would be a situation where Iraq is at least not actively supporting Islamic terrorism against us or our interests, even though they may not be actively supporting us. Failure to achieve some semblance of victory here would be a HUGE setback for America and the free world. It would be a set back that we would be unlikely to recover from, as recovery would be almost impossible. It would mean the Global War against Islamic Terrorism would be lost. A defeat in this war would place the survival of America in an even more precarious position than it is already in and would end the United States as a major global power.

Whether or not the war has been sold to Americans based on false pretenses is a distraction. The truth is Islamic terrorists by themselves pose a greater threat to America than Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever did or likely ever could. When the support that these states receive from Russia and China is added in, the threat is even more acute.

Russia and China are the gravest threats that America faces right now. While Islamic terrorism is an existential threat to America, Russia and China pose even more acute existential threats to the country than the Islamic terrorists do.

A comprehenisve strategy to defeat all of these threats needs to be formulated as soon as possible. Americans need to fight as though the life of their civilization and their country depends on winning becuase it does.

Again, many thanks for the candid analysis of this situation. Most analysis in the news media consist only of "America's enemies, good. America bad."

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Roy,
First off, thanks for your insightful comments in this've added value to the mix and are welcome in Joshua's Army anytime.
I had read the Luttwak article before,and it unfortunately contains a few things I agree with as well as many things I don' what I consider to be factual errors. To wit:

"Yet the costly Iraq war must also be recognized as a sideshow in the Bush global counteroffensive against Islamist militancy, just as the far more costly Korean war was a sideshow to global cold war containment."

Korea was far from a sideshow, because it was a direct theater of communist aggression in clear violation of an agreement we had made with them. Iraq, on the other hand was a war of choice and was indeed a sideshow when you consider who was actually financing and providing a haven for jihad against the West.

" Until 9/11, Islamic militants, including violent jihadists of every sort, from al Qaeda to purely local outfits, enjoyed much public support—either overt or tacit—across most of the Muslim world. From Morocco to Indonesia, governments appeased militants at home while encouraging them to focus their violent activities abroad. Some, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) funded both militant preachers and armed jihadists. The Saudis financed extremist schools in many countries, including the US and Britain, and had thousands of militant preachers on the payroll in addition to writing cheques for jihadists in the Caucasus, Pakistan and a dozen other places{...}All this came to an abrupt end after 9/11. Sophisticates everywhere ridiculed the uncompromising Bush stance, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," as a cowboy stunt, but it was swiftly successful. Governments across the Muslim world quickly changed their conduct...the Saudis began to admit responsibility for having spread extremism through the thousands of schools and academies they financed at home and abroad. An agonising reappraisal of their own Wahhabi form of Islam continues. The Saudi king has convened an inter-faith conference of Muslims, Christians and Jews—a huge step given the Wahhabi prohibitions of any form of amity with non-Muslims. Inside the kingdom, only less extreme preachers now receive public support."
Unfortunately, Mr. Luttwak is misinformed. The Saudis and the UAE still fund radical mosques and madrassahs in the West and in the Muslim world by the boatload.I suggest you research the Pew polls of Muslim attitudes in Britain, America and several countries in the Muslim world that show clearly a trend towards the radicalization of younger generation of Muslims...the bitter fruit of our allowing this to continue cart blanche in our country.
As for the Saudis `admitting responsibility for 9/11', read this.

This a great deal more in Luttwak's piece I could deconstruct, but this will do for starters.

I would also differ with you when you call the Iraq War the best managed conflict in our history.
First off,at best Iraq was a theater in the war,not the entire conflict.And second,it was far from the most well managed, and didn't even approach victory until Bush finally listened to people like John McCain and actually put sufficient ground forces in the area with a competent commander.

I too remain optimistic regarding our victory in the war on jihad..but it's also important to take Iraq as a lesson in what we did right and what we did wrong.

We defeated the Nazis and the Japanese Empire utterly, who were far more powerful in a mere 4 and a half years.There;s no reason a bunch of 7th century brigands should still be a potent force 7 years after 9/11 unless our commander-in-chief is guilty of severe mismanagement.

Best Regards,

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Robert,

I referred to the Luttwak article, with which I differ in many respects, only to show that the Iraq conflict has had many salutary effects outside of the theater that are not discussed much.

As to our purpose in going into Iraq, I suggest that the reasons discussed here were secondary to a larger strategic goal. We were looking for the easiest way to avoid another cold war, this time with Islam.

Why Iraq? First, we had real justification. Iraq was in violation of the agreement ending the Gulf War. It was in violation of a number of UN resolutions. It was firing on our aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones. It had attempted to assassinate Bush 41.

Second, it is the most strategic location in the Middle East. It is on the Gulf and has borders with Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The ease with which we disposed of the fourth largest army in the world was a stark reminder that the tiger has teeth.

As to McCain's call for more troops, that was probably the intent from the start. The success of the surge depended on the cooperation of the population, a sufficiently capable ISF, an accumulation of intelligence and the elimination of 10 to 20 thousand enemy fighters. It took a while.

This war has many parallels with Vietnam. We actually won that war. The South was holding on and making progress for two years after the last US forces left. It failed when the Democrats, in the political mess of Watergate, cut off the funds. Most people see that war in two parts associated with General Westmoreland and General Abrams, with Westmoreland's reputation suffering. It was in two parts. Westmoreland's phase closely resembles Iraq before the surge. The South's military greatly improved and the population came around to our side such that the VC could no longer mingle. The North had to resort to uniformed NVA troops. Abram's phase closely resembled the COIN tactics the we are now applying in Iraq.

Why were we in Vietnam? JFK blinked. When JFK met Kruschev at a poorly prepared summit in Vienna in 1961 Kruschev bullied him and came away with the judgment that JFK was weak. This led the USSR to test JFK with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in military intelligence at the time and some some of the communications. JFK blinked. The net result was that we removed the Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Victory USSR. The next test came when the Russians started pouring military equipment and advisers into North Vietnam. Kennedy judged that we had to take a stand there or face even greater threats in the future.


Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Roy,
You're the guest so you get the last word.

FTR, I totally agree with your take on Vietnam. Nixon won that war, and it was only the craven, post-Watergate Congress cutting off all aid to them and the Cambodians that doomed these people to genocide and slavery.