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Behold Another Turning Point

It only takes a few minutes watching Fox News Channel or scanning wingnut blogs to figure out their latest marketing scheme designed to sell an increasingly unpopular war to an ever-shrinking base of supporters. The pitch line goes something like this:

We are on the "brink" of "victory" in Iraq. The surge has turned the situation around and the terrorists are on the run. The alliances Petraeus has struck with the Sunni tribes of Anbar are the key to winning the war in Iraq. If we lose heart now, we will literally be pulling the rug out from under the troops just as they are about to win the war.

This has become the favorite story line of right-wingers embittered by the disaster of Iraq and searching desperately for someone to blame as the neoconservative wet-dream of reshaping the Middle East to make it safe for American business interests goes up in flames. The idea that our recently constructed alliances with the Sunni tribes in which we give them guns and money in exchange for their willingness to take on the Saudi jihadists in their midst constitutes "victory" represents a wholesale misunderstanding of the dilemma we find ourselves in there.

Our problems in Iraq go far beyond the estimated 5,000 or so mostly Saudi jihadists who have come to that country to engage in a holy war against America and participate in suicide bombings. The paralyzed and intractable political situation in Iraq is by far the most serious problem we face, and is laying the groundwork for a continued fratricidal struggle for supremacy between the empowered Shiites and the disenfranchised Sunnis. Eliminating the Saudi jihadists simply clears the field for the Sunnis and Shiites to go after one another.

The Shiite militias, in particular Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, pose a much more significant threat to the long-term stability of Iraq than a few thousand Saudis. The well-armed Kurdish militias, known as the peshmerga, also pose an equally dangerous threat to the cohesiveness of Iraq. The peshmerga's loyalty is to Kurdistan, not to the federal government in Baghdad. At the referndum for the future of Kirkuk approaches we are likely to see an increase in violence in the north as the Sunnis and Kurds battle it out for control of the city and its oil-rich environs.

The moral of the story is that even if the Saudi jihadists were completely wiped out tomorrow, our troubles in Iraq are far from over. We can expect the Sunni tribes we are dealing with today to turn on us with a vengeance if we manage to eliminate the Saudis but then remain in place as an occupying force supporting a Shiite-dominated government that they universally despise.

The only difference then will be that the Sunnis will have gained weaponry and financing from ourselves with which to carry out a renewed battle against our presence. What we are doing in Iraq right now is simply trading one problem for a new set of much more difficult problems in the future. This new "turning point" will end up in bitterness and disappointment just like all the other failed turning points in the past: the first election, the second election, the third election, the first government, the second government, the third government, the interim constitution, the final constitution, the capture of Saddam, the killing of Saddam's sons, the hanging of Saddam, and the killing of Zarqawi.

War supporters who continue to promote these "turning points" every few months or so in order to prop up faltering support for the war and the beleaguered president are themselves to blame for the cynicism and distrust with which the American people regard the war effort and those politicians who are selling it to us. It is the war proponents themselves, who are singularly responsible for the turning of the tide against the war by their continual raising of expectations that ultimately always end up on the garbage pile as the next wave of violence, chaos and mayhem engulfs Iraq. If they truly wanted to deal honestly with the American people they would be cautioning against "irrational exuberance" and warning that it will require at least a decade, billions more dollars and many thousands more American dead to succeed at nationbuilding in Iraq. War supporters who know very well that this will be required to fulfill their grand vision will never admit that to the American people because their goals are far simpler and more immediate. Their goal is to add a few percentage points to Bush's popularity and prop up the embattled Republicans in Congress so they make it through the next few months without a total implosion. This "we are about to win" fantasy is just their latest attempt to fool you, the American people, into buying their war for a few more months.

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Comments (5)


I'm glad someone else has noticed that we've been here before. The "surge" is a new term, but there have been "offensives", so-called, every year since things have gone so obviously "south".
I remember the wingnut blogosphere's PR-centric, enemy-apprising, crowing about the helicopter "armada" of circa June 2006, gone to press home some sudden advantage. There were dozens of helos, but by my rough count, only about a battalion of infantrymen thereon, each CH-46 only capable of moving a squad+ per. (Not as big as they look on teevee!)
WTF? And of course, after 2 days, no mention again. Basically it was a troop movement but the synchronized helo squadron(?) was to cool-looking not to build-up. A twinkle in an otherwise black sky.

Conservative Friend:

Just why will they not admit mistakes? It is healthy to do that. They keep ignoring history and see signs of success that history taught us are illusions. In earlier Julys in Iraq we "learned" that drops in casualties from June to July were not a turning point, they were because it was friggin hot. The first transition from June to July, I was part of the "Hell yeh" crowd. In 2007, I was part of the sober sidelines.

This weekend Michael Ignatieff wrote a great item on just that;

"The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

I've learned that acquiring good judgment in politics starts with knowing when to admit your mistakes."


Hasn't it occurred to you that maybe some of the actors over there have figured out that Americans are relatively benign and neutral players compared to some of the other actors?

Steve Crickmore:

kim, I agree that to be 'neutral and benign' as possible and professional would be the best role for our troops, (if we are going to stay there) but too many of the supporters, (and it flters down to the troops on the ground) have a Knock the crap out of Iraq' posture (Hey it's old, but I just read it today)


If keeping the peace in the mideast is 'knocking the crap out of' both Sunni and Shia, then so be it. We are the world's civil authority, we and a varying coalition of the functioning democracies, whether you like it or not. The UN has failed miserably.

Mutually Assured Destruction doesn't work with religious fanatics. At this point, we are involved to prevent collateral damage, you know, good old 'innocent civilian victims'.


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