View Full Version : Iraq: Things Looking Up, or Not?

09-21-2008, 01:48 PM
Back in Iraq, Jarred by the Calm (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/weekinreview/21filkins.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1222003432-dtRJr2/zIIX27kKIh5yNhQ) - Dexter Filkens, New York Times

... When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope. The questions are jarring, too. Is it really different now? Is this something like peace or victory? And, if so, for whom: the Americans or the Iraqis?

There are plenty of reasons why this peace may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. The “surge” of American troops is over. The Iraqis are moving to take their country back, yet they wonder what might happen when the Americans’ restraining presence is gone. The Awakening, a poetic name for paying former Sunni insurgents not to kill Americans or Iraqis, could fall apart, just as the Shiite Mahdi Army could reanimate itself as quickly as it disappeared. Politics in Iraq remains frozen in sectarian stalemate; the country’s leaders cannot even agree to set a date for provincial elections, which might hand power to groups that never had it before. The mountain of oil money, piled ever higher by record oil prices, may become another reason to spill blood...

Tom Ricks's Inbox (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/19/AR2008091902805.html) - Tom Ricks, Washington Post

Some very senior Bush administration officials are rushing to claim credit for backing the "surge" of US troops to Iraq, calling it the turning point in the war. But before they spike the ball into the end zone, they might want to listen to John McCreary, a retired analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who now puts out a daily e-mail report called "NightWatch." He brings the savvy of a career intelligence official to bear on the day's events - a function similar to the one he used to perform for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Here, in part of his Sept. 11, 2008, bulletin, McCreary explains why he expects violence to increase in Iraq...

09-21-2008, 02:19 PM
I didn't vote because my perfect choice, "we have turned the corner but the tide could change in the blink of an eye" was not available.

I think both sides have equally valid, and supportable, points. I am witness to it every day...the violence is down, and in fact I started to liken my current rotation to a tour in Somalia a while back.

Those who would return to the goals and aims of the FRLs and nationalists could be easily prodded to do so if we do not continue to have measurable success that benefits everyone, not just the Shia majority.

09-21-2008, 03:56 PM
But, we've learned the hard way that hope is not a method. For now, I'm still pessimistic.


Bill Moore
09-21-2008, 04:35 PM
This is one situation where complexity theory definitely has a role, and in my opinion the number of variables that could influence the answer is unknowalbe.

The coalition and Iraqi security forces have made remarkable progress in many areas of Iraq, but ability to maintain progress will be influenced by:

1. Numerous local ethnic leaders
2. The economy
3. The ability of the coalition to maintain sufficient political will at home (go back to number 2 as a factor on this one, another one is competitng security priorities like Afghanistan)
4. Regional actors, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi, Jordan, etc.
5. Global actors, UN, Russia, China, (major actors not currently in the coalition)

Along with several other variables the list about will be major contributers to what the Iraq situation will look like in the coming months. I don't think anyone has a crystal ball that can accurately predict where we'll be a year from now (not the Iraqis, not AQ, not the coalition, etc.). We're doing good, perhaps very well, and I think that applies not only to our military efforts, but to our diplomatic efforts as well in the region and globally..

Like MikeF posted, hope is not a method, but I am now comfortably neutral (not optimistic or pessimistic), which is quite an improvement from my views a year or more ago. God help me, I sound like I'm morphing into a politician, what the heck is neutral? :eek:

Rank amateur
09-21-2008, 04:53 PM
It depends on what you mean by looking up.

09-21-2008, 05:11 PM
I can't tell. It used to be front and center in the news everyday. Now it's just a buried tidbit every other day or so.

Old Eagle
09-21-2008, 06:56 PM
...is the correct answer to the question. We should have better clarity on the exact outcome of our efforts in Iraq in 30-40 years.:wry:

These two articles are fairly balanced. What irks me are those who try to reduce the situation in Iraq to an oversimplified soundbite, usually (but not always) for political purposes. The situation is extremely complex, and changes every day.

I will also reiterate that the external force in a COIN situation cannot "win" the conflict, it can only set the conditions to enable the host nation to "win". If the HN squanders the opportunities presented, no amount of surges, awakenings, perseverance, or anything else can create success.

30-40 years.

Ken White
09-21-2008, 07:13 PM
for some time. Upturn for the better in 2008, roughly tranquil IAW mideast norms by 2013, marginal rule of law by 2018, functional nation IAW world (NOT western) norms by 2033...

I can go with 30-40. :D

Ron Humphrey
09-21-2008, 07:32 PM
But, we've learned the hard way that hope is not a method(Emphasis Ron H). For now, I'm still pessimistic.


I am still waiting for anyone to explain to me how anything worthwhile ever comes about without hope.:confused:

For me realism always leaves room for both pessimism and optimism :D

09-22-2008, 03:15 AM
I didn't vote. Honestly, I don't know how it will end - I have hope but I have long felt that too much water has gone under the bridge in Iraq for it to function as a strong centralized state. I hope I am wrong though. My gut tells me that when we withdraw someone will stoke the sectarian war again, and it will be ugly.

I guess that makes me a pessimist on Iraq, which may surprise some.

09-22-2008, 01:14 PM
Filkins has been there a long time and seen a lot of changes. I worked with him back in 2004 and he has a good head on his shoulder. That being said, I'm not sure he fully appreciates just how fast all the gains we made can disappear. Tough call to vote. Trying to be the optimist, I voted for turning the corner.

Then again, I've been wrong before....

Tom Odom
09-22-2008, 01:53 PM
Like Jon and Niel, I am of the mind that where it goes is as yet unseen. The real issue as Ken alludes to it is where we go, meaning how long we stay and how we attempt to do that. I use the word attempt because we will vote on that and so will the Iraqis.

I too would add an option that says we are near a crossroads but not ready to make a turn.


09-22-2008, 01:57 PM
In honor of the closing of Yankee Stadium, I'll use a Yogi Berra quote for this thread:

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

I think Yogi understands COIN.