Meanwhile, Iraq's going over the cliff

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  1. Polimom,
    It’s difficult to be optimistic about Iraq right now. Violence (organized and “spontaneous”) is rising. The Iraqi government does not seem to be gaining traction with the Iraqi people, and may well be losing it. Iraq’s neighbors are all stirring the pot as they see fit to serve their own interests. Basically, the mess is getting messier, and the cleanup is no where in sight.
    However, I believe it would be a mistake to read too much into a single (no doubt illegally) ‘leaked’ slide from a classified military briefing. It appears to be a summary slide for much more detail. Based on this slide alone, there is relatively little to learn. To me it says:
    1) Iraq is not in good shape, overall (closer to chaos than peace).
    2) The assessment of its situation is worse this week than the previous week.
    3) Both weeks’ assessment were worse than the “As Samarra” (February) week assessment.
    4) Sectarian conflicts between / within the ISF are up from last week.
    5) ISF refusals to take orders from the central government and / or mass desertions are down from the prior week.
    If one assumes the worst, i. e. that the trend of the “arrow” is sliding to the ‘right’ (chaos), week by week, with no weeks showing ‘leftward’ (peace) movement and projects the trend into the future, one is led to the conclusion that chaos and civil war is inevitable.
    However, I believe it is a mistake to project the trend-of-the-day into the future until it hits its end point, and declare that the future is now revealed. Surely the point of this chart, and the more detailed metrics that underlie it is to intervene in the causes driving the movement of the arrow so as to move it in a better direction.
    All wars have ebb and flow to them. All great projects, from wars, social movements (e.g. the emancipation of women in the USA) to political campaigns (e.g. Reagan in 1980 and Clinton in 1992) have momentum going for them for a time and against them for a time. To look at them during a down period and project the trend to a conclusion will not reveal the future.
    Similarly, projecting a favorable trend into the future is no more reliable (e.g. in February of 1991, President GHW Bush had a 90+% approval rating, and the leading Democratic presidential challengers all projected the trend and found reasons to “spend more time with their families”.
    If Lincoln had projected the trend of the Civil War to it’s logical conclusion in 1862, he would have recognized the Confederate States of America and negotiated an end to the war. If the Allies had projected the trend of WW II to it’s logical conclusion in May of 1942, they would have sued for peace. If Clinton had done what the Democratic front runners did in 1991, he would never have been President.
    The trend is not the future. The end can not be known from it. The trend only tells you what you need to change if you want to reverse it, or to reinforce if you want to sustain it. The key is to accurately assess the trend and the drivers of the trend and to take effective action in response.
    Whether this Administration, and in particular, this Secretary of Defense, can do that, remains to be seen.

  2. TM — if I thought this administration had even the slightest clue about what they’re doing, I might find some thimbleful of the optimism resonating in your comment.
    But in 3 1/2 years, they’ve consistently shown themselves to be ignorant, arrogant, and generally foreign-policy-fools.
    Meanwhile, dropping the cordon around Sadr City seems to be working well [/sarcasm] Link. That cordon, btw, is a great example of the Catch-22 situation we’ve placed ourselves in… or rather, that our leadership has placed this country, its soldiers, and the Iraqis in.

  3. If the rate of 1,000 soldiers lost a year in Iraq is what has happened so far…do I take it correctly that you think this will continue essentially as long as we are there? Not that we would really see the 100,000 mark, I am guessing.
    Exact numbers aside, I have a feeling that when the number lost in Iraq matches the number lost in Vietnam, well below 100,000…there would be enough people emotionally tied to that mark that it would bring our troops home from it due to that alone.

  4. Jack — no, I’m not worried about a slow-attrition to attain 100,000. Rummy’ll be long gone by the time 1,000 / wk has that kind of impact.
    I’m worried about 140,000 Americans caught in the middle of a full-blown civil war.

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