Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Failure Of The Old Bush Iraq War Policy

Last year at this time, Preznut Bush announced a new plan for Iraq with "eight pillars" of U.S. policy that were designed to bring "victory" in the war.

This year, after tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, heightened sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, and 798 American military casualties (and counting), that old policy has been declared a failure and the preznut and his merry men and women are struggling to come up with a new policy - a "New Way Forward," if you will.

We've already heard that the "New Way Forward" will be an escalation of the war with an additional 20,000-30,000 troops being sent to Baghdad to police the civil war between Sunni and Shiite.

Today in the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler takes a look at the old Bush Iraq war policy from last year and notes that the simple stats the government keeps on how the war is going have shown the old Bush Iraq war policy to be a miserable failure:

A year ago, President Bush announced a new plan for Iraq, framed around "eight pillars" of U.S. policy for victory. In the past month, the president and his national security team have been busily working on a new recipe for success in Iraq, having declared the previous plan a failure.

But never mind what the politicians are doing. The bureaucracy churns on.

The State Department continues every Wednesday to issue a 30-page public report that details exactly how the U.S. government is meeting the goals set forth in the president's now-abandoned plan. The report frames the data around Bush's storied eight pillars, which include such goals as "Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgents" (Pillar 1) and "Increase International Support for Iraq" (Pillar 7).

In many ways, the report is a microcosm of the administration's lost year in Iraq. The reams of details aimed at touting success belie the fact that few of the goals are being met.

The report is often upbeat as it presents some of the most minuscule factoids of the situation in Iraq. The Dec. 13 report noted that on Dec. 7, 40 sheikhs from across Diyala province met "to discuss ways to maintain peace and stability" and that on Dec. 9, U.S. soldiers discovered a factory for making improvised explosive devices in a house in Baqubah.

But the bottom-line graphs tell a story of failure. Under Pillar 5 ("Help Iraq Strengthen Its Economy") the reports show that week after week, the Iraqis cannot meet their goals for crude oil production. Another chart shows that efforts to build a 15-day supply of all refined products, such as diesel and gasoline, are woefully behind schedule, reaching a peak of a four-day supply.

Under Pillar 7, increasing international support, the trends are on the decline. The first report of the year showed that 28 countries, in addition to the United States, contributed 23,000 troops to coalition forces. By last week's report, the number of countries had fallen to 25 -- and the number of troops was down to 16,860, a decrease of more than 25 percent. Italy recently dropped off the list when the last of its troops departed.

One figure has not really budged: the $20 billion apportioned for rebuilding Iraq (under Pillar 4, "Help Iraq Build Government Capacity and Provide Essential Services"). That is because the administration ran out of money for rebuilding Iraq, in part because about 25 percent was diverted to security. The latest report says that all but $4 billion has been disbursed.


The twists and turns of American policy are imperfectly reflected in the report. "Operation Together Forward," the effort this summer to bolster security in Baghdad, which was later deemed a disappointment, was the subject of several upbeat reports but then seemed to fade in importance. During the spike in violence in October, the report noted that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior had recalled a police brigade for more training after "possible complicity with sectarian violence," though it brightly added that the training "will improve the professionalism and confidence within the national police."

The report seemed uncertain how to treat the release of a report by the Iraq Study Group, the independent bipartisan panel that criticized the administration's policy and spurred the White House to come up with a new plan. The earliest mention of the study group's report, in the Dec. 13 edition, came under Pillar 3, "Help Iraqis to Forge a National Compact for Democratic Government."

The headline said it all: "Iraqi Leaders Blast Iraq Study Group's Report." The State Department, perhaps in an effort to demonstrate the unity of Iraqi leaders, then devoted a whole page to negative quotes about the panel's recommendations.

It must be hard to put a positive spin on a policy that the administration has already abandoned as a miserable failure.

And yet, as Kessler notes, the spinmeisters continue to churn out their spin.

Note that the last troop surge the administration tried in Iraq - called "Operation Together Forward" - in which the administration brought additional American and Iraqi troops into Baghdad last August through October was deemed a miserable failure when all measurements of sectarian and insurgent violence went up despite the surge in troops.

Let's see how the spinmeisters try and spin the "New Way Forward" troop surge and policy next year after it, too, is deemed a miserable failure.

Federal Fuckwits at the Helm..don't ya just love it?*

*sarcasm on

On Thursday, while stile battling the elements on the shores of the Great Plains, someone forwarded an OP-Ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman called "Mideast Rules to Live By"

You probably read it when It appeared in the NYT but you may want to post it.

A conservative blogger, unable to fly out of DIA when he was scheduled to do so, came over for Christmas dinner and agreed w/ most of the rules.

Tony, I missed the Friedman post. I don't have Times Select and I refuse to pay any money for the paper of Judy Miller/Jayson Blair. Tell me what Mr. Friedman said, if you would.
dusty, I love the phrase "Federal Fuckwits." It really captures them!
here is a pirated version of the Friedman piece. Enjoy.
Friedman's obervations are accurate and we would do well to incorporate his thoughts into our military action.

Rule 1: What people tell you in private in the Middle East is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in their own language. Anything said to you in English, in private, doesn’t count. In Washington, officials lie in public and tell the truth off the record. In the Mideast, officials say what they really believe in public and tell you what you want to hear in private.

Rule 2: Any reporter or U.S. Army officer wanting to serve in Iraq should have to take a test, consisting of one question: “Do you think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” If you answer yes, you can’t go to Iraq. You can serve in Japan, Korea or Germany — not Iraq.

Rule 3: If you can’t explain something to Middle Easterners with a conspiracy theory, then don’t try to explain it at all — they won’t believe it.

Rule 4: In the Middle East, never take a concession, except out of the mouth of the person doing the conceding. If I had a dollar for every time someone agreed to recognize Israel on behalf of Yasir Arafat, I could paper my walls.

Rule 5: Never lead your story out of Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq with a cease-fire; it will always be over before the next morning’s paper.

Rule 6: In the Middle East, the extremists go all the way, and the moderates tend to just go away.

Rule 7: The most oft-used expression by moderate Arab pols is: “We were just about to stand up to the bad guys when you stupid Americans did that stupid thing. Had you stupid Americans not done that stupid thing, we would have stood up, but now it’s too late. It’s all your fault for being so stupid.”

Rule 8: Civil wars in the Arab world are rarely about ideas — like liberalism vs. communism. They are about which tribe gets to rule. So, yes, Iraq is having a civil war as we once did. But there is no Abe Lincoln in this war. It’s the South vs. the South.

Rule 9: In Middle East tribal politics there is rarely a happy medium. When one side is weak, it will tell you, “I’m weak, how can I compromise?” And when it’s strong, it will tell you, “I’m strong, why should I compromise?”

Rule 10: Mideast civil wars end in one of three ways: a) like the U.S. civil war, with one side vanquishing the other; b) like the Cyprus civil war, with a hard partition and a wall dividing the parties; or c) like the Lebanon civil war, with a soft partition under an iron fist (Syria) that keeps everyone in line. Saddam used to be the iron fist in Iraq. Now it is us. If we don’t want to play that role, Iraq’s civil war will end with A or B.

Rule 11: The most underestimated emotion in Arab politics is humiliation. The Israeli-Arab conflict, for instance, is not just about borders. Israel’s mere existence is a daily humiliation to Muslims, who can’t understand how, if they have the superior religion, Israel can be so powerful. Al Jazeera’s editor, Ahmed Sheikh, said it best when he recently told the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche: “It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about seven million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West’s problem is that it does not understand this.”

Rule 12: Thus, the Israelis will always win, and the Palestinians will always make sure they never enjoy it. Everything else is just commentary.

Rule 13: Our first priority is democracy, but the Arabs’ first priority is “justice.” The oft-warring Arab tribes are all wounded souls, who really have been hurt by colonial powers, by Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, by Arab kings and dictators, and, most of all, by each other in endless tribal wars. For Iraq’s long-abused Shiite majority, democracy is first and foremost a vehicle to get justice. Ditto the Kurds. For the minority Sunnis, democracy in Iraq is a vehicle of injustice. For us, democracy is all about protecting minority rights. For them, democracy is first about consolidating majority rights and getting justice.

Rule 14: The Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi had it right: “Great powers should never get involved in the politics of small tribes.”

Rule 15: Whether it is Arab-Israeli peace or democracy in Iraq, you can’t want it more than they do.
Thanks for the pirated version, pt. What a fucking hypocrite Friedman is. Never once does he take responsibility for cheerleading and enabling this war. Back in 2003, Friedman said this about the coming Iraq war (I'm paraphrasing):

The Iraq war, if done right, will be a good thing that will transform the Mideast into a democratic basin.

The Iraq war, if done wrong, will make the Mideast into a hellish place of ethnic and religious violence.

For the next three and a half years, in both his column and his TV appearances, Friedman would talk about all the things the admin had done to screw up the war but then would go on to say "We have another 3-6 months to get this right or disaster will ensue."

He said this so often that Atrios coined a phrase - "Friedman Units" or "FU's" - as a shorthand for when some idiot said "We have 3-6 more months to get this thing right..."

And of course the FU's continue to go on because a) Friedman's kids aren't getting killed or maimed in the war and b) Friedman can't ever admit he's wrong.

In the meantime Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are fighting a proxy Sunni/Shia war using Iraq as their chessboard and the Shia/Sunni sectarian violence in Iraq gets worse by the day and threatens to bleed out of the proxy chessboard and into the region as a whole.

And the FU's go on and on and on...

Frankly I prefer Fareed Zakaria's writings on the Mideast. Friedman lost all credibility w/ me by failing to revisit his pre-war prognosis and take responsibility for his enablement of the war.
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