Friday, January 12, 2007

Dean Barnett Schools Me:
Mr. Barnett has an excellent FAQ on the President's surge plan. I admit, I'm one of those bloggers he mentions who did not realize how relatively significant 21,500 additional troops are, considering "the current troop level in Baghdad is only 13,000."

However, Mr. Barnett also acknowledges that there "will be a lot more killing" and that "the Shiite militias will be targeted for destruction". I guess he doesn't share my concern that this kind of action will galvanize the Iraqi population against us.

F'ed Up Fridays - VII
Sorry folks, it's got to be a short one this week, with no pictures. I've been swamped at work, and trying to keep up to date on the Baker's Dozen developments. I hope you can still muddle through and find at least something of worth.

Does CNN have any idea what a "money shot" is? Also, I'm pretty sure you can get Paris by taking a screen shot of a certain video.

Sounds like the same kind of diversity of thought that I experienced at Yale.

Yay for science. 2007 may prove interesting.

My first guess was that the Statue of Liberty passed gas, but didn't want to admit it.

Dog bites man.

I hear it's very "safe" six feet under ground. Let's put this guy there.

Seriously? This sounds like the kind of thing you'd want to keep in sight.

God bless the unions. They constantly give us perfect examples of their selfish shortsightedness.

Banning pillow talk? Fascists.

Oh my God, this is made for me.

In legal marketing (what I do) this would be called identifying conflicts.

"Hi, Mrs. Air. Is Clean home?"

I think this is a mistake, disregarding years and years of significant branding effort. After all, I hardly think I'm the only one who thinks that the word "singular" looks weird now.

I think this is another mistake. Tanstaafl has additional thoughts.

So, now we're going to have to pay Microsoft to prevent them from giving us stuff we don't want and they don't manufacture?

What do you want to bet it's one kid with a slingshot?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So much for Iraq siding with moderates against the extremists
From Yahoo News:

The regional Kurdish government condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the Iranians. It added that the government "was not aware in advance of the raid."
What makes us think that a democratically elected Iraqi government would be a US ally instead of an Iranian one?

A New Way Forward?
I watched the President's speech last night and have a few thoughts.

I was encouraged by several points:
1) Distributing oil profits to the Iraqi people. I still wonder how they expect to administer this plan, but if it goes well it could help turn popular support against those who disrupt the flow.
2) Cutting off Iran & Syria's suppport for terrorists in Iraq. Again, I'll believe it when I see it, but it's worth the effort.
3) His solicitation of other ideas from Congress and his admission that any mistakes were his fault. The Dems in Congress will still scream that he doesn't listen, but both points were rare and overdue bits of humility from this administration.

My problem with the speech, however is that we are still inadequately defining what our strategic goals in the country should be. It's hard to measure our progress if we don't know what the correct direction is. As a result, I discount any claim that victory is critical or that we can't afford to fail in Iraq because I don't know what constitutes victory or failure.

I've complained about this before, so I've decided to lay out what I see as the most important strategic goals.

1) A sustained and aggressive offensive against Al Qaeda. From what I can tell, we have had only moderate success on this goal in Iraq. It took us far too long to get Zarqawi and we allowed his groups to bomb the Mosque of Samarra. However, the fly-paper strategy has seemed to have some success. Many people talk of "draining th e swamp". I think we're better off trying to attract foreign jihadists to Iraq, as I continue to believe that the Marines and GI's in Iraq are better equipped to deal with these terrorists than the Sheriff in Yuba City, CA or the beat-cop in Boston, MA.

2) Depriving Iran of control of Iraq's oil. We are slipping on this goal. While Iran has not marched across the boarder and seized the oil fields, I worry that they pull the strings with Muqtada al Sadr and that he will emerge as Iraq's leader, whether he is popularly elected or he takes over by force. Based on the fact that Saddam's guard's were shouting "Muqtada" when they put the noose around Saddam's neck, I would not be surprised to see a military coup in support of the Shiite leader. As I understand it, many of the death squads are manned by members of the new Iraqi army anyway.

3) Do not allow our troops to become involved in a Shia vs. Sunni (vs. Kurd) civil war in Iraq. There is pent up hostility between these groups that predates but was exacerbated by Saddam's rule. I still worry that this is a powder keg, and right now we are just seeing the sparks.

So is a "surge" of troops the best way to achieve these goals? I doubt it.

I still believe that redoplying our troops to bases in the desert will help them protect the oil infrastructure, stage special forces operations against Al Qaeda, deter Iran from invading, and remove our troops from the middle of the sectarian violence in the cities.

If we try to impose security in Baghdad with extra troops, then we will find ourselves fighting both the Sunni Insurgents and the Shiite militias. When that happens, it means that the Iraqi people, not Saddam's forces, have become our adversary, and that will be a road to disaster.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Not Ready?
Arnold Kling has an interesting interpretation and application of a couple papers written by North, Wallis, and Weingast (NWW), in today's Tech Central Station.

Iraq was never on the "doorstep" of becoming an open-access order. The major factions are not willing to give up their weapons and concede military power to a central coalition. There are no perpetual-lived organizations that can make long-term contractual commitments. There is not even a willingness among factions to grant one another rights under the rule of law.

Accordingly, I would say that there is no chance that the United States will succeed in its objective of establishing an open-access order in Iraq. The best we can hope to do is restore Iraq to a natural state, meaning a limited-access order where rights and power are exclusive to certain elites, who will be subject neither to economic nor political competition as we know it.
If you accept this premise, the US is now in a very difficult spot. We would essentially need to choose some strongmen to run the country and then help them hunt down and kill their opponents. Unfortunately we've probably made enemies of any strongmen capable of keeping a lid on Iraq, and I doubt the American people would look favorably on the US Army essentially supporting a coup.