There Never Was “Success”

Iraq.  It’s been a long stretch since I’ve written extensively on our occupation in that country, a combination of horse race (one of my primary fields of interest) becoming much more prominent in the public eye and the months-long lull in violence contributing to my dry spell.

But it seems as though that all may be coming to an end.

Contrary to popular neoconservative belief, I,and many other friends of mine on the left, have been hoping that the peace would maintain.  You’re not going to find a lot of liberal bloggers out there saying that 4,000 dead soldiers is an awesome milestone and we would actually like to see things picked up.

The only problem is that there is more reason to be skeptical than there is to be hopeful, especially if you’ve never been burdened with the constant rose-colored goggles and goal-post shifting that those who continue to support the Iraq war must contend with.

For instance, we are perhaps more likely to realize that Shia extremists and the Mahdi Army were among the most prominent causes of violence in Iraq, not al Qaeda in Iraq.  Nor have we ever forgotten that the true goal of the surge was to facilitate political reconciliation that never actually got off the ground.  This political reconciliation more than peace on the streets was far more vital to a stable future in Iraq as it would go directly to the root causes of much of the violence there.

This view goes beyond the later modeled “bottom up” reform that was used to indicate surge success because the kind of local neighborhood by neighborhood improvements are far from structured and rigid enough to maintain a kind of foundation for lasting peace.  Like fluid, violence, or the proper environment for violence, simply shifts from one neighborhood to another, especially given that much of the time these bottom up improvements also seemed closely tied to ethnic cleansing on a local scale.

The short of it all is that when McClatchy reports that the so-called successes of the surge may be falling apart, I’m not exactly surprised.

Nor do I find myself shocked at the cause for alarm.  Back in August, Mouqtada al Sadr ordered a cease fire of the Mahdi Army, one that was to last six months.  Pretty quickly, the violence in Iraq did seem to quiet down quite a bit.  Proponents to our adventure in Iraq lept in and claimed victory for America, while the Iraqi government continued to remain stuck in a logjam.

This didn’t matter because there were bottom up reforms being made.  These bottom up reforms like that displayed in Anbar province were unexpected but far from unwelcome especially considering that they provided at least a snapshot of peace and improvement.  But what these bottom up reforms really lacked was a centralized nationwide structure, and in some instances, they came at the cost of exiling families outside the core constituency or worse.

But that’s where things have been.  Many of us had been awaiting the end of the six month cease fire with apprehension, but thankfully Mouqtada al Sadr extended it for another six months in February.  But as the McClatchy report informs us, this cease fire appears to be breaking down.  This makes sense if political attempts to address needs go unheard or fail.

Further, as NPR reported weeks ago, there has become some unrest amongst members of the Mahdi Army, and Sadr finds himself in a precarious position.  The continued cease fire increasingly makes him look soft against the US and the Mahdi Army’s enemies, and if he begins to look too weak, he risks losing control over the thousands strong organization.  Considering that he’s the one holding the cease fire together, his loss of control would almost certainly result in a surge of violence.

As McClatchy further reports, the recent uptick in violence has given Bush administration officials cause to possibly slow down or even freeze troop draw-down to pre-surge levels in order to curb the violence.  But this decision shows an inherent contradiction in the Bush policy with Iraq.  “Winning” the war in Iraq means keep troops there in high levels, but not winning the war does the same thing.  If you’ll remember,last year I made the case that what Bush proposed was not a draw-down in the slightest.

This makes clear a few things.  For one, there is still folly in selling al Qaeda in Iraq as the prime threat when it isn’t.  This isn’t just a matter of employing fear politics tactics that are harmless, there is still the fact that other factors play larger roles in the dynamics.  It also indicates that despite the victory laden rhetoric of those who continue to support the war, for some reason I can’t fathom without delving into invective, winning and losing doesn’t really matter.  The endgame continues to be a long-term high profile presence in Iraq.

At this point, I would be willing to bet money that if the Iraqi government created perfect reconciliation, if all factions warring in the country laid down arms, and if the nation itself became a beautiful paradise, Bush would still come up with an excuse to keep 100,000+ soldiers there.

2 Responses to “There Never Was “Success””

  1. opit says:

    I was impressed with Raed Jarrar’s assessment of the situation
    http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5078
    It still doesn’t show the way to peace. It may be time to consider that weapons vendors have little interest in that.
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB207/index.htm has predicted events for a while now.

  2. I’m really sorry opit, I didn’t see your comment in moderation until way late (I’m guessing). This happens when people put links up in their post, our site’s spam filter puts them in a holding pattern. nine times out of ten it’s just porn spam, but occasionally one of the relevent comments gets caught up too.

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