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When Is A Change Not A Change

Quote: "During first eighteen months of the occupation, both the military and the American media did their best to measure the success or failure of the occupation in political terms, rather than Vietnam-style body counts. Yet suddenly, that conventional wisdom is no more. Commentators on left and right seem to agree that destroying enemy forces is far more important than occupying enemy territory."

Sorry, nothing has changed. Success or failure of the occupation should be measured in political terms, rather than Vietnam-style body counts. It's also true that killing insurgents is more important than (temporarily) seizing territory from them. In Falluja right now the military is pretending to know that it killed 1,000 to 1,2000 insurgents out of a total insurgent force that it's pretending to know contains 20,000 or so members and whose recruiting mechanism it doesn't understand. There's your body count. In political terms, Falluja has accomplished nothing. It would be disingenuous of me to argue that it's further alienated Sunni Arab opinion (either in Iraq or elsewhere) from the United States, since that would hardly be possible.

November 16, 2004 | Permalink

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» IN OTHER NEWS, A MILLION IRAQIS TURN AGAINST US from salto mortale
Matt may be referencing something else here, and he's got the snark on, but the problem is that when shit like this hits Al-Jazeera, more until-now-peaceful Sunni Arabs might consider picking up guns. (We're hosed in Iraq, you know. Watch this bo... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 16, 2004 1:50:02 PM

Comments

I thought the objective, such as it is, was to deny the insurgents the use of Falluja as a base of operations. IMO, Falluja is doomed to the same fate as that famed hill in South Vietnam that was taken as a strategic objective and then abandoned as the Viet Cong relocated elsewhere. Making an example of Falluja won't prevent insurgents from finding other places either.

Posted by: David W. | Nov 16, 2004 10:07:52 AM

True; Then you go in and deny them THOSE places, too. Hopefully a bit sooner. Eventually people will get the idea that letting their neighborhood be used as a base of operations is a good way to lower the local property values.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Nov 16, 2004 10:11:52 AM

Got Troops?

Didn't think so. Even smart bombs can only do so much. I suspect the British won't cover our butts again in order to free more U.S. troops for combat either.

Posted by: David W. | Nov 16, 2004 10:14:17 AM

Brett,
How many villages do we need to destroy before we can start saving them?

Posted by: theCoach | Nov 16, 2004 10:14:37 AM

Actually, you're also wrong, Matt. It's not about numbers at all, really. The strategic objective is is to bolster the Iraqi government's ability to stand on its own.

When you look at the disaster of Mosul and the increased reliance on peshmerga and Badr Brigade forces, you have to conclude that we're up shit creek right now.

Posted by: praktike | Nov 16, 2004 10:19:36 AM

oh i wouldn't say Fallujah has accomplished 'nothing' in political terms. there's a good chance the families of the limbless, sightless children are going to develop some new feelings about the US. those feelings will make their way into the political realm sooner or later.

but, W will be long gone by then; and besides, that legless infant probably had it coming.

Posted by: cleek | Nov 16, 2004 10:34:57 AM

Hey, is it *possible* that the elections will establish some legitimacy and things will settle down? I know it looks impossible now but maybe it will happen. Is there somewhere anyone can send me for good evidence that that will, or won't, happen?

(And I know you're tempted to answer: just read any newspaper! But does someone really have a lowdown on this?)

Posted by: Ruttiger | Nov 16, 2004 10:35:11 AM

I'm beginning to think the only meaningful metrics of success in Iraq are:
A) voter turnout (in depth and diversity) in the elections in January
B) number of trained Iraqi police/guardsmen who are willing to fight to insurgents

Posted by: dubious | Nov 16, 2004 10:40:50 AM

Ruttiger, here's a link to a post by Juan Cole that provides some background on what the Shia hopes may be for the January elections:

http://www.juancole.com/2004/11/35-killed-including-2-americans.html

For information about Iraqi politics, Juan Cole (www.juancole.com) is a good resource.

Posted by: David W. | Nov 16, 2004 10:45:34 AM

Which are two good metrics, dubious. And neither seem to be in good shape.

Posted by: Barry | Nov 16, 2004 10:46:34 AM

brett, you aren't serious in your 10:11 comment, are you? you don't really think that we have sufficient forces to keep "denying" bases; you don't really think that when the civilians come home to fallujah and see all the destroyed buildings and hear about the civilian deaths, they're going to blame anyone but the US; you don't really think that you win a guerilla war through body-count tactics (matthew's point in the first place)?

please say that you don't really think these things....

Posted by: howard | Nov 16, 2004 10:54:27 AM

Why is it an attribute for the Iraqi military to be willing to fight the insurgents? Aren't the insurgents also Iraqis? It appears to me that the attribute would be a willingness to sit down and work out a power sharing form of government that allows all factions a role in governing Iraq, and of course, in sharing the spoils of serving in that government. (It is the MIddle East after all.)

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Nov 16, 2004 10:56:27 AM

Not to get off-topic or nitpicking, but...
I wish everyone would look up a few terms up in the dictionary. Like: insurgent, rebel, resistance, and terror. Things are not what we call them, but how we feel about them does depend on what we call them.

Posted by: Bil | Nov 16, 2004 11:19:57 AM

Iraq could have had elections 1 year ago. But the US would not have liked the result. The Bush objective is to establish permanent military bases in Iraq under the protectorate of a friendly secular government. Unfortunately for us, the secular force in Iraq was Saddam's Baath Party that the US has disbanded and seems to be fighting in the Sunni areas. The likely election winners will be supporters of Sistani and Muqtaada al Sadr. The friendly Iraqi troops fighting with the US are almost all Kurds. The Sunnis and the Shias will have nothing to do with the occupation forces.

Iraq is lost.
Bush does not know it and he won't give it up.
The US has 2 choices.
1. We can leave now, the Iraqis will hate us and Iraq will be unsafe for Americans for some time to come.
2. We can stay and kill another 100,000 Iraqis and the Iraqis will hate us and Iraq will be unsafe for Americans for some time to come.
President Stubborn will pursue option 2 for the next 4 years.

As for Falloojeh, alienate this:

fallujapictures.blogspot.com/

Posted by: bakho | Nov 16, 2004 11:21:57 AM

It would be disingenuous of me to argue that it's further alienated Sunni Arab opinion (either in Iraq or elsewhere) from the United States, since that would hardly be possible.


Considering that there are quite a number of Sunni Arab persons and governments that have not made the destruction of the United States their sole objective in life, I think that it is quite possible to further alienate Sunni Arab opinion.

Posted by: cmdicely | Nov 16, 2004 11:35:44 AM

In political terms, Falluja has accomplished nothing.


Bullsh*t.

In political terms, it's accomplished denying the insurgents their main base and it's also accomplished the necessary precursor for elections in January there. So, it's actually accomplished a great deal.

Posted by: Al | Nov 16, 2004 11:48:24 AM

For information about Iraqi politics, Juan Cole (www.juancole.com) is a good resource.


Ah, yes. Al Jazeera of Ann Arbor. You can certainly get a well balanced picture of what's going on there! *snicker*

Posted by: Al | Nov 16, 2004 11:49:29 AM

you don't really think that when the civilians come home to fallujah and see all the destroyed buildings and hear about the civilian deaths, they're going to blame anyone but the US; you don't really think that you win a guerilla war through body-count tactics (matthew's point in the first place)?


Seeing as how there were plenty of stories before we retook Falluja about how pissed off the locals were with the insurgents, yeah, it's not inconceivable that that locals won't blame the whole thing on us.

Posted by: Al | Nov 16, 2004 11:52:14 AM

and al, the fact that the insurgents are clearly mounting loads of attacks without their main base hasn't yet crossed your mind? and the fact that Juan Cole actually can read and speak the language and therefore has a better idea of what's going on than you do, that hasn't crossed your mind either?

as for "not inconceivable that the locals won't blame the whole thing on us" pretty much tells its own story, doesn't it. Yes, it's not inconceivable; it's just not going to happen.

Personally, i suspect the marines know all of this and are just doing what their civilian masters in the backbone administration have asked them to do, but no, we have gained absolutely zilch in terms of US national interests in Iraq.

And if you think that now we have smooth sailing to January elections, maybe you should be reading Juan Cole - or at least someone with some familiarity with conditions on the ground (you could try spencer ackerman's iraq'd column in tnr.com, for instance)....

Posted by: howard | Nov 16, 2004 12:03:36 PM

"Eventually people will get the idea that letting their neighborhood be used as a base of operations is a good way to lower the local property values."

We see that the doctrine of collective punishment and retaliation against civilians extends deeply into the Republican Base. Violation of Hague & Geneva Conventions, indifference to concepts of just war, torture and assassination soon to be written into the Party platform.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 16, 2004 12:14:25 PM

As was said elsewhere yesterday, "Atrocities mat be bad policy, but for Republicans, atrocities are good politics."

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 16, 2004 12:18:33 PM

and al, the fact that the insurgents are clearly mounting loads of attacks without their main base hasn't yet crossed your mind?


Gee, howard, if you can't stop all of the insurgent attacks at once with one counterattack, then you shouldn't do it at all? You might want to look up what the defintion of a "campaign" is.

and the fact that Juan Cole actually can read and speak the language and therefore has a better idea of what's going on than you do, that hasn't crossed your mind either?


The al Jazeera folks speak the language too. I don't think we get a balanced view of what's going on there from them either. As I thought my post stated.

Personally, i suspect the marines know all of this and are just doing what their civilian masters in the backbone administration have asked them to do, but no, we have gained absolutely zilch in terms of US national interests in Iraq.


Yeah, those marines all think that this is entirely useless. Yet they go out and support Bush anyway. Morons.

Posted by: Al | Nov 16, 2004 12:26:47 PM

In political terms, it's accomplished denying the insurgents their main base and it's also accomplished the necessary precursor for elections in January there. So, it's actually accomplished a great deal.

The thing is the insurgents don't need a fixed base. Their bases are now elsewhere, and new regions now lack the "necessary precusrosrs" for the elections in January.

And Fallujah now mostly lacks a population, which, I think, is probably also a "necessary precursor" for conducting any kind of election there.

Posted by: cmdicely | Nov 16, 2004 12:29:01 PM

Al, where do you get your information?

I ask sincerely not rhetorically.

Posted by: Ruttiger | Nov 16, 2004 12:34:08 PM

Oh, and thanks David W. for the tip.

Posted by: Ruttiger | Nov 16, 2004 12:34:55 PM

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