Friday, August 17, 2007

Remember The Surge

If the White House and General Petraeus are in agreement, then the report to Congress to be delivered on September 15, 2oo7, may cite that the surge in troop levels is working just as expected. That is not a very large 'if'; both President Bush and General Petraeus have a large stake in assuring the public that their actions are finally having the intended effect as opposed to all prior actions and shortfalls experienced in the previous four years. It is not even surprising that instead of a detailed report coming straight from the military, the West Wing will cobble together the relevant details Congress may need.

But at least they will be able to speak directly, frankly, and publicly with the architect of the escalation in occupational forces.

Well, maybe not.

From the Washinton Post article above by Jonathan Weisman and Karen DeYoung from August 16:

"Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. "The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday."

Even if there is something positive to be had from there reports and interviews, why limit it to private conversations? With this issue being the most prominent point on the public mind in America, wouldn't it serve the interest of the public to have the most forthright report possible out of the commanders themselves, and have it delivered to the country in an open forum where concerns and worries of the people can be expressed through the conduit of Representatives and Senators?

Maybe there could be answers to questions such as what Iraq and the U.S. will do for cities like Basra, which at one point were calm and secure but now are finding in-fighting among the various factions a serious destabilizing effect. Ben Lando of UPI notes that this oil-rich region is almost the sole source of Iraq's revenues currently, and that stability there means that Iraq still has the chance to tread water for the time being while the northern pipelines continue to suffer attacks and disruptions.

In a telling passage, Lando writes how three Shiite factions have set themselves up to establish control over this vital region:

"In Basra, three Shiite parties, powerful in their varied own right, swap allegiances and gunfire and jockey for position: the Fadhila Party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), and the Sadr Movement, led by cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The Fadhila Party gained control of the province in the 2005 elections, but only with 21 of 41 seats, and with a coalition of other parties and independents. SCIRI took the rest. Sadr has no official seats but loyalists.

All three began their power play, infiltrating the police and the bureaucracy. The Fadhila Party grabbed control of the oil facilities protection service, which put it “in a position to really control how much is or is not smuggled,” said Ken Katzman, Middle East expert at the Congressional Research Service. “You can do whatever you want … it’s control over the proceeds of the smuggling.” "
That isn't the strong arm of Iran working, that is outright factional dissension seeded by a toothless central Iraqi government that has little control over the country at large. It wouldn't be fair to target the troop increase as a fault for the instability in Basra, but it is worth mentioning that when one area becomes more secure, there are many other areas in Iraq that are quite susceptible to civil war and terrorist acts. The incredibly massive attacks against the Yazidi people in Nineveh province on August 14th is another example.

As a last ditch effort, the U.S. military surge may probably be viewed as a stalemate. It can lock down neighborhoods, it can sweep villages for suspects with dubious results, but it will not make a civil war go by the wayside. A strong-arm military occupation cannot even produce real political results in the Iraqi Parliament. To the extent that Prime Minister al-Maliki had to form a new coalition in Parliament that doesn't even comprise a majority in the body lends credence to the mixed results of a show of force in Iraq this late in the game.

Occupations aren't won by military tactics. The people and the government of the occupied country either boot out the occupier or come to terms with themselves and grow a sustainable country whereby the occupier is no longer needed. In terms of Iraq, there is little if any chance that a duly elected government containing all of the various fractious elements inside the country can produce a sustainable government - anyone could have seen that coming nine years prior to the invasion. If that is the case, then what is left is a country which will be severely damaged for many years to come with or without the help of American soldiers and Marines.

Expect the surge to be polished nicely come mid-September, but do not expect the news to be any better for a very long time.

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