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What About All The Good News?

Not even sarcastically, this really does sound like good news, though John Burns sort of buries the lede here, which is less the decline in attacks than this stuff further down:

But the change American commanders see as more promising than any other here is the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi troops. American commanders are eager to shift the fighting in Iraq to the country's own troops, allowing American units to pull back from the cities and, eventually, to begin drawing down their 150,000 troops. Haifa Street has become an early test of that strategy.

Last month, an Iraqi brigade with two battalions garrisoned along Haifa Street became the first homegrown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq. The two battalions can muster more than 2,000 soldiers, twice the size of the American cavalry battalion that has led most fighting along the street. So far, American officers say, the Iraqis have done well, withstanding insurgent attacks and conducting aggressive patrols and raids, without deserting in large numbers or hunkering down in their garrisons.

I wonder if we aren't due for a rhetorical flip-flop here in the USA. Doves have tended to emphasize the "bad news" out of Iraq in order to make the war look bad, while hawks have tended to emphasize the good. But insofar as you want to see the troops brought home and the occupation ended, it seems that this is the sort of news that will push the White House to start drawing our force level down. Hawks, meanwhile, who want to see some kind of massive, open-ended deployment are going to need to find bad news to point to as justification for continuing the mission. Maybe.

March 20, 2005 | Permalink

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» Purple Heart Boulevard: Signs the Insurgency is Losing from Outside The Beltway
Last September, in Baghdad's Haifa Street neighborhood, a suicide car bomb killed approximately 50 people, many of whom were hoping to join the fledgling police force. It marked the "disintegrating state of security." Last month, as Major General... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 9:20:22 AM

Comments

This story surfaces every few months, it just gets rewritten. "Attacks are down" then they go up. "Iraqi troops doing well." Then they don't. That you are so consistently a sucker for these stories says more, perhaps, then the stories do.

Posted by: Moreothesame | Mar 21, 2005 12:10:35 AM

Perhaps you didn't read what I wrote after the quotation.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Mar 21, 2005 12:17:55 AM

I don't care about the politics of this. What is the ethnic/sectarian composition of the Iraqi troops on Haifa Street? If it's just peshmerga and Shi'ites then I see nothing to get excited about. The Iraqi army is years away from being able to control the country. I wish it were otherwise, but it's not.

Posted by: Elrod | Mar 21, 2005 12:31:59 AM

Maybe the rhetorical flip-flop you mention could happen, Matt, but there would have to be many, many more success stories, which just seems unlikely. The article you quote is about how we've managed to take control of a STREET -- okay, maybe more like a neighborhood, but you get my point.

Posted by: David | Mar 21, 2005 12:54:13 AM

I believe Scott Ritter. He has never lied to me before. :)

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 21, 2005 1:00:28 AM

I think John Burns still has a lot of credibility.

Posted by: jerry | Mar 21, 2005 2:12:21 AM

Matthew's getting a bit more partisan and catty lately.

I predict that Matthew's prediction will be proven incorrect.

But much taunting of him will ensue when the troops come home.

Posted by: ronb | Mar 21, 2005 2:57:14 AM

Ronb, why would the troops come home unless we lose?

Posted by: J Thomas | Mar 21, 2005 4:45:12 AM

Shame on you, depressing 'doom and gloom' people. They have more than 2,000 soldiers and can defend a street! Soon they may be able to secure an entire city block! Good, very good news, indeed.

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 21, 2005 5:06:24 AM

Hawks, meanwhile, who want to see some kind of massive, open-ended deployment

To give them their due, that's not what they want -- unless by "massive, open-ended deployment" you mean "across the length and breadth of the Middle East." The divide, if this is true, will eventually be between doves, who'll say, "Yippie! Now the troops can come home!" and hawks, who'll say, "Yippie! Now we can make Iran, Syria, and six or seven other countries our bitch!"

Posted by: Steve M. | Mar 21, 2005 7:21:33 AM

Hawks, meanwhile, who want to see some kind of massive, open-ended deployment

Huh? Which hawks want to see some kind of massive, open-ended deployment? As far as I can determine, the hawks resistance to calls to 'bring the troops home now' do not derive from a desire to have 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. It seems to me that the resistance derives from a desire to withdraw the troops as a result of a successful outcome rather than as an alternative to a successful outcome (that is, a 'victory strategy' rather than an 'exit strategy')

The hawk fantasy with respect to Iraq? Iraq stablilizes with a democratic government. Liberal revolutions sweep Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Syria, etc. The Palestinians see the writing on the wall and cut a two-state deal with the Israelis. None of this requires any more U.S. military action. Troops come home to parades. Hawks argue, for many years to come, that the money and blood spent did not just trasform Iraq but the entire region.

That's not to say that the above is certain or even probable (though, at this point, it would be foolish to argue that it is flatly impossible)--but to suppose that the hawks would prefer to see U.S. invasions of Iran and Syria rather than the above scenario shows, I think, a profound misunderstanding of the other side.

Posted by: mw | Mar 21, 2005 8:13:39 AM

I look at this a bit differently: in order to secure an area, we replaced 1000 American troops with 2000 Iraqis, backed by 1000 Americans in reserve. If we can't quite secure the country with our 150000 troops, we will not be quite securing the country with 300000 Iraqi troops, particularly since these troops aren't nearly so well-trained or well-equipped (Like, we're going to trust them with helicopter gunships and hook them to our sophisticated command and control infrastructure? Might as well hand the tools to al-Zarqawi directly.) What will the Iraqi government do with an army of 300,000, over time? Stage a coup to distract from poor social conditions? Invade Iran? Basically, the same thing that Saddam did with it? If the Iraqi government sees the Iraqi army as a tool of popular supression, and is confident that it can put down the current insurgency, what keeps it from telling us to pack up our enduring camps and go home, so that they can go about their business of crushing every kind of dissent and intimidating their neighbors? I don't see an short-term endgame that gets American troops home in terrifically-large numbers.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Mar 21, 2005 8:39:00 AM

"As Iraqi security forces develop, Rumsfeld said, they will take increasing responsibility and the insurgency will diminish over time. He estimated current Iraqi security forces at over 145,000"....From March 20th, 2005 newswire. I've lost count of the testimony and dispatches from Iraq attesting to the wildly inflated reported levels of trained Iraqi troops. During Condi's confirmation hearings she was very publicly called into question on this isssue, with allegations from panel Democrats there were as little as 2000 fully trained, fully armed, battle ready Iraqis to fight insurgents. Desertions, AWOL soldiers, lack of weapons, uniforms, supplies and transportation, spies within the ranks, poor morale, low or no pay, kidnappings and murders at recruiting centers and innumerble other problems plague efforts to raise an army to replace ours. Yet the MSM publishes Rumsfeld's figure of 145,000 as if it is fact. The same idiotic 60% that believes Saddam was one of the pilots on 9/11 will believe this too.

Posted by: steve duncan | Mar 21, 2005 8:53:05 AM

mw,
I think you forgot the part in the fantasy where the Iraqis, [and arabs in general] skin turns lighter and they start speaking with a southern accent and hanging up pictures of Ronald Reagan on their walls.

Posted by: theCoach | Mar 21, 2005 9:04:43 AM

I think you forgot the part in the fantasy where the Iraqis, [and arabs in general] skin turns lighter and they start speaking with a southern accent and hanging up pictures of Ronald Reagan on their walls.

Lighter than Condoleeza Rice's would you say? Or Alberto Gonzales's?

Another serious lack of understanding. Yes, there are southern, right-wing racists--but those are the isolationist, Pat Buchanan supporters. Buchanan vociferously opposed the war--on the grounds that 'the world has always been a cesspool of despotism' and America does better just to stay out of it and leave all those poor unfortunates to their own devices.

Posted by: mw | Mar 21, 2005 9:29:12 AM

I guess it's impressive in a way that 2,000 Iraqis were convinced to make a career out of being human shields for Americans.

Posted by: Tim H. | Mar 21, 2005 9:29:39 AM

Even though there are many types of antiwar positions, two seem to dominate. One sees America as the source of all evil in the world and often engages in the sort of petty and mean-spirited ad hominem you'll find in this thread. The other is appalled by the war in Iraq and doesn't believe Saddam Hussein was that bad, but they think regime change in Afghanistan was worthwhile and hence not every American military intervention is a crime against humanity.

The question I would put to both positions is as follows. Recently Rumsfeld said, he believed if Turkey had allowed the allied forces to come in from the north, they would have caught many of the retreating Baathist military and intelligence leadership who headed north at the outest of the war and set up the insurgency. Turkey's democratic decision, I believe, cost a lot of American and Iraqi lives, but at least they came by it democratically, unlike, say the positions of the Lebanese and Syrians governments. What do antiwar folks make of Turkey's decision, in hindsight?


Posted by: Peter K. | Mar 21, 2005 9:34:41 AM

mw,
I think you are confusing the point of my post -- it should be read more a long the lines of the 'why not give them a pony as well?'
The southern accent comment was not well considered, although, I think we would not be in the situation we are in now if it were not for the south, we would not have the votes for this kind of misleadership. Flatly impossible? Perhaps not, but highly unlikely, and I think you are glossing over some of the more difficult issues, such as theocratic democracy? Or, say some one like Chavez.
There are a few hawks that believe what you claim, but I think they are in the minority of those that supported this war.

Posted by: theCoach | Mar 21, 2005 9:47:40 AM

"Even though there are many types of antiwar positions, two seem to dominate. One sees America as the source of all evil in the world and often engages in the sort of petty and mean-spirited ad hominem you'll find in this thread. "

Pot calling kettle.

Why at this point anyone would give any credence to another Rumsfield alibi is beyond me.

Posted by: Tim H. | Mar 21, 2005 9:54:10 AM

Well, Rumsfield's is, of course, being absurd. But let's say for the sake of argument that Turkey's decision did cause the war-planners some inconvenience.

So, what exactly is the question for Saddam-loving America-haters here?

I'd say the Turkey parliament was correct to reject the bribes and threats and comply with the will of the people there - unlike British, Italian, Spanish and quite a few other governments.

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 21, 2005 10:09:24 AM

I think Rumsfeld's statement is grotesquely self-serving, and is an idea that has been shopped by men such as Wolfowitz and Woolsey in the past, and that there is no reason to suspect that the insurgency--if it was being run by men who 'disappeared' into the maquis--would have "disappeared" any differently because of troops entering Iraq from the north. And, if having an additional infantry division was so very critical to the war plan, why wasn't the execution delayed until it was re-routed to enter Iraq from Kuwait? Or why wasn't Turkey's cooperation assured, rather than assumed, before the supply ships embarked for the Mediterranean?

Initially, Rumsfeld thought that "Bagdad Gone Wild" was just a demonstration of "freedom" and we had plenty of troops on the ground to do the job that needed doing. Only now does he suggest the chaos was something other, something maybe that should have been avoided, but unfortunately, something that was beyond Rumsfeld's control.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Mar 21, 2005 10:10:58 AM

Rumsfeld's comment should give pause to anybody who seriously believes the Administration cares about democracy in the Middle East. Remember, in a democracy the people decide. Over 90% of the Turkish people opposed the war. If the Turkish government had decided against the will of 90% of its people then it would have some serious questions to answer - unless of course it wasn't a democracy and didn't have to answer questions to anybody. The fact of the matter is: if we are serious about democracy in the Middle East then we have to be willing to accept decisions that go against US interest in the region. Rumsfeld just proved how fundamentally unserious the Bush Administration is about democracy.

Posted by: Elrod | Mar 21, 2005 10:22:14 AM

Rumsfeld's comment should give pause to anybody who seriously believes the Administration cares about democracy in the Middle East. Remember, in a democracy the people decide. Over 90% of the Turkish people opposed the war.

That's silly--one may criticize the decision of a government and a country even (or perhaps especially) when that decision was made by a democratically elected government. Has anyone argued that Rumsfeld didn't care about French or German democracy because he criticized their actions leading up to the Iraq war?

Posted by: mw | Mar 21, 2005 10:39:20 AM

One of Matt's analytical strengths is his attention to rhetorical strategies. The responses on this thread to his discernment of the opportunity there would be in the case of a a rhetorical flip flop are by and large disheartening. So long as bad news in Iraq is good news for so many people on the left, the left itself is going to be preceived as bad news to the majority of American people. Even if that position turns out to be right. Anyone remember McGovern?

Rhetorical strategies, according to Robert Reich's new piece in TNR, are exactly where Dems need to make the most improvement. Wake up people!

Posted by: John | Mar 21, 2005 10:52:20 AM

Why is it spelled "lede"? This time, at least, I know it's not your notoriously bad spelling, but I'm curious about why it isn't "lead." Does it have something to do with avoiding confusion with the homonym "lead," the metal and a typesetting measurement unit used in printing?

Posted by: C.J.Colucci | Mar 21, 2005 10:52:31 AM

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