Recommended reading for this weekend

I.  Some hard data about the application of US airpower in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Role of Airpower in the Iraq and Afghan Wars“, Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic adn International Studies (19 March 2008)

II.   Another article about the effect of the Long War on the US military.  It gives well-deserved praise to our officiers serving in Iraq, the sort of ground-level coverage we expect and need from the major media.  However valuable this perspective, they tell us little about the overall dynamics of the war.  These optimistic articles are standard-issue in wars.  Both victorious war and lost wars.

Scions of the Surge“, Newsweek (24 March 2008) — “Five years on, the war is transforming the American officer corps.”

III.  Another perspective on foreign fighters in Iraq.  Here is a comment posted by R. Vangala to the post “Know Your Enemy” at Matthew Yglesias’s blog:

Here’s a better question: Would it have killed the Times to mention that Iran is not the only foreign nation influencing the conflict in Iraq?  We often seem to forget that we too are a part of what is going on in Iraq.  The american discourse about the Iraq war often depicts Iranian influence as foreign “meddling” which is fine as far as it goes, but it is a rare thing indeed to find commentators who mention that everything we do over there is “meddling” as well.  This sort of one-sided critique really only makes sense on the tacit assumption that, as Chomsky has put it, “we own the world.”  Without assuming that much, the discussion of Iranian influence in Iraq makes absolutely no sense.


Vangala is refering to this observation by Noam Chomsky, from “We Own The World“, adapted from a Z Media Institute talk in June 2007 (1 January 2008):

The whole debate about the Iranian “interference” in Iraq makes sense only on one assumption, namely, that “we own the world.” If we own the world, then the only question that can arise is that someone else is interfering in a country we have invaded and occupied.   So if you look over the debate that took place and is still taking place about Iranian interference, no one points out this is insane. How can Iran be interfering in a country that we invaded and occupied? It’s only appropriate on the presupposition that we own the world. Once you have that established in your head, the discussion is perfectly sensible.

IV.  “The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War“, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington Post op-ed (30 March 2008).  Excerpt:

… The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

… Contrary to Republican claims that our departure will mean calamity, a sensibly conducted disengagement will actually make Iraq more stable over the long term. The impasse in Shiite-Sunni relations is in large part the sour byproduct of the destructive U.S. occupation, which breeds Iraqi dependency even as it shatters Iraqi society. In this context, so highly reminiscent of the British colonial era, the longer we stay in Iraq, the less incentive various contending groups will have to compromise and the more reason simply to sit back. A serious dialogue with the Iraqi leaders about the forthcoming U.S. disengagement would shake them out of their stupor.

Ending the U.S. war effort entails some risks, of course, but they are inescapable at this late date. Parts of Iraq are already self-governing, including Kurdistan, part of the Shiite south and some tribal areas in the Sunni center. U.S. military disengagement will accelerate Iraqi competition to more effectively control their territory, which may produce a phase of intensified inter-Iraqi conflicts. But that hazard is the unavoidable consequence of the prolonged U.S. occupation. The longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be for a viable Iraqi state ever to reemerge. …

V.  Here are two posts about the fighting in Basra recommended by the Instapundit.  The Instapundit is far more careful with his sources when it comes to legal matters than those he uses to learn about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Behind the Bloodshed in Basra“, Mohammed Fadhil, reporting from Baghdad for Pajamas Media (28 March 2008).  Excerpt: 

One of the most notable things about the fierce and bloody confrontation taking place the government and Sadr’s militia is the spin on the operation by the commanders and the government; that it is a crackdown on outlaws with emphasis that the operation targets no particular movement or political line.

This generic label, includes the so-called rogue Sadrists. Sadr announced only weeks ago that whoever doesn’t uphold the ceasefire would no longer be considered a member of the movement.

Now, Sadr is watching those rogue elements being hit hard by the government forces. Instead of disavowing those who blatantly disobeyed his ceasefire orders we see him call for negotiations and condemning the government, thus once more revealing his real face as a defender of his own version of terrorism.

… This is the first sign of the rising election fever in the south. Word on the street is that Sadrists want to hijack the provincial elections. Everybody knows that their criminal methods can severely reduce the chances for holding fair elections and may grant Sadr’s people huge gains at the expense of other Shiite factions such as the SIIC, Da’wa and Fadheela. The stakes are high for the SIIC in particular whose federal dream in the south, which Sadr is opposed to, hinges on the results of provincial elections.

If Sadr is to be cut down to size before the provincial election law can be passed, presumably his rivals would be able to compete in a relatively more civil way.

I find it amazing that after five years of war among the factions of Iraq, with so many acts of terrorism committed by all sites – especially in the ethnic cleanings conduct by the Kurds, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Arabs – anyone can distinguish one side as “terrorists”.  Also bizarre is how the author ignores the evidence suggesting that the Sadrists have wide support among the Shiite Arabs in Baghdad and the sourthern provinces.  Acknowledging these facts would destroy his simple narrative, forcing him to deal with a more complex and morraly ambiguous reality. 

The second link goes to a post even more absurd.

Friend or foe?“, posted at The Belmont Club (27 March 2008).  Except:

CNN’s analysis of events in Iraq are wonderful example of how to patch up a theory that is rapidly falling to pieces.  The theory of course, is that Iran is a poor, misunderstood victim of US aggression in a third country.  The facts however, are that Iran is supporting the Madhi Army in Iraq.  How to square the circle?  Easy.  Just read Michael Ware.

… According to this theory, Iran is supporting Moqtada al-Sadr in order to rein him in.  If the US would only leave Iran alone then all would be well.  But unfortunately Americans are too stupid to understand that people who are firing EFPs, mortars and rockets are you are not your enemy.  By acting against Sadr, America has created the real enemy.

… But if Iran were determined to advance peace by restraining Sadr why would “the most daring attacks on U.S. forces in the country” be “committed by Iranian-backed breakaway elements of Muqtada’s militia faction”?  If these are two dogs with the same master how can the master be benign in the one case and malign on the other?  Inquiring minds want to know.

A few comments on this.

  • The Mahdi Army are not dogs, nor is Iran their master.  The analogy is absurd; this is political rhetoric for fools.
  • The “benign” and “malign” labels reflect the common war-bloggers WWII narrative.  It fits the Iraq War very poorly.  These terms mean little in a multi-polar situation — unless the author believes that what’s good for America is good for Iraq (i.e., is delusional or naïve).
  • Like Iran, we too are supporting several sides in Iraq (Kurds, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Arabs) — who have fought one another before, and probably will again.  That does not make any of them dogs, nor us their masters.  This attempts to reduce a complex set of relationships to crayon drawings fit for toddlers.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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1 thought on “Recommended reading for this weekend”

  1. “These terms mean little in a multi-polar situation”

    American culture has been dumbed down into good-guy-versus-bad-guy ever since James Fenimore Cooper stopped writing. Walker Percy tried to enlighten the American masses, but the task was too great.

    If you want subtle thoughts from Americans, pick up a bunch of script kiddies — the kind of scum who won’t do their compsci homework but will work on the computer to crack a game — and get them interested in watching liveleak. For example, who are these “Abu Bakr” guys posting at:

    Video: Jaish Abu Bakr al-Salafi: Storming IP’s House, Kidnap 2 and Burn House Down: Witness the kidnapping of 2 enemies of Mujahideen infront of their family…..NO EXECUTION, I CUT THAT PART.

    “Jaish Abu Bakr Al Salafi”? I have no idea who these guys are, but they post an action movie better than anything out of Hollywood or the USA grunts on liveleak. Get the script kiddies to figure out who Jaish Abu Bakr Al Salafi is, and then you’ll have your multi-polar perspective.

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