Al Qaeda: Democracy's best friend in Iraq?

How much money do you have to give an Iraqi before he’ll forgive you for killing his family with a “smart” bomb that went awry?

We were never out in that kind of force before. It takes a hell of a lot to put that many troops in the field simultaneously, to have the air assets up and going. Its not something even we could do 365 days/24 hours RM. We did it because we KNEW they would try and disrupt the elections.

Of course it won’t stop suicide bombers…in fact, it didn’t. As Tam said, 40 people died, and these hero’s of the people even managed to strap a bomb on an impaired child. What the added security did was to make the insurgents aware that though they could attack they would pay a price for doing so…that it wouldn’t be for free. In other words, it acted as a disincentive, or to discourage the insurgents. It wasn’t 100% successful, though it did (IMHO) prevent the wide scale carnage that a lot of folks thought was possible.

No, they don’t exist in a vacuum in Iraq, and I never said they did. They are, however (and IMO again) a fringe element and don’t represent the majority of Iraqi’s. I think that if they COULD have disrupted the elections they would have…and in fact, they did try. I think they did what they could considering the massive amount of force that was arrayed against them. But I think you are underestimating the effect that the insurgents believed this election is going to have if you think they just blew it off and await lower security.

I don’t think the MAJORITY of ‘common Iraqi’s’ as you put it sympathise with the insurgency…where are you getting that? Why would they vote in such numbers if they felt that the insurgents were right??? I don’t think that the MAJORITY of ‘common Iraqi’s’ feel that blasting IRAQI policemen (and lets not forget the other civilians that just happened to be strolling through) is acceptable…and, though I’m less sure of this, I doubt that the MAJORITY of ‘common Iraqi’s’ even feel its acceptable to wack American’s/British troops either. Its a fringe group that thinks this is an acceptable way to fight for power…the majority obviously think that there are better ways, i.e. voting.

This is pretty much what I’ve read as well, as far as the raw numbers goes. There are some that estimate it lower, and others that estimate it higher, but this seems to be pretty close to the accepted numbers. I’ve heard more foreign FIGHTERS, though I have seen a separate ‘jihadist’ category so maybe thats different. I had heard something like 4-8k ‘foreign fighters’ in a few quotes. The majority of the insurgents, according to what I’ve read, are either ex-Ba’athist or old Saddam loyalists types, or other Sunni factions, with sprinklings from a stunning variety of other groups (who knew there were so many factions in Iraq? You probably did but it surprised me).

Using those numbers (240,000) its still not even 1% of the total Iraqi population though…not exactly a representative percentage of Iraqi’s. Even if we bump it up an order of magnitude (which even the highest estimates I’ve seen don’t do…most I’ve seen is something like 500k total insurgents, part time and hard core) its pretty well short of the number of Iraqi’s that voted in this first election. I think thats significant.

I think a massive ‘Tet offensive’ type operation (even if it wasn’t beyond the capabilities of the currently insurgency) would have been suicide also. But that doesn’t mean they might not try it…some folks think the Vietcong won that, and politically they did I suppose.

It certainly wasn’t a calm day in Iraq though, even if there was no massive and coordinated attack. It was simply calmer than the worst case scenerios were predicting, and I think THAT was the expectation…so it SEEMED calm in that light.

It doesn’t take all that many people to cause a lot of damage RM. If you aren’t stupid enough to try and stage large confrontations, but are content to use suicied bombers or car bombs, or mines, or simply hit and run tactics, it takes a surprisingly small number of folks to do this. Its not a matter of this insurgency ever actually gaining major traction…its a matter of if they can break the US (and the UK also) will to continue, can force us to cut and run and leave a weak Iraq ripe for the picking. The insurgents obviously believe that they can do this with simple guerilla and terror tactics, and so far, at least politically, they have been right…they HAVE caused many in the US to seriously consider leaving the Iraqi people hanging in the breeze over a very deep cliff.

Well…yes and no. First of all I don’t think you can look at the numbers like that. 240,000 fighters does not equal 240,000 in support of the insurgency. Even given that a sizeable chunk of that 240,000 includes non-combatant logistics support ( safe houses, weapons smugglers, etc. ), the actual populace wide ( including old men, men not willing or able to participate fully but secretly rooting for them, women and children ) political support has to be much broader to pull that many folks into active roles. A more reasonable estimate ( still a WAG, I grant you ) would be to multiply that number by 10x to 2.4 million. That, as it happens, is not much smaller than the total Sunni Arab population from which most of the insurgents seem to draw their numbers. Now not ALL Sunni Arabs are supporters of the insurgency by any means, but more than a few appear to be. Add in disaffected Sadrist Shi’a in the Baghdad ghettos and other small groups ( Jihadist Kurds, for example ) and that estimate might not be that far off.

Now that is still only ~10% or less of the population actively supporting the insurgents, so in that sense you’re correct. I think it would be highly inaccurate to say most are in favor of the violence. That said it is still a large enough number to be an immense obstacle ( especially with leading Sunni voices declaring the election invalid and refusing to participate in the constitutional - hopefully that can be finessed or defused somehow ). Even if we cut that in half it is pretty bad. As you said just a few can create big disturbances.

Further, while I think it is fair to say that only a smallish minority favor violence, recent noises coming out of the UIA camp and such notables as the current President and chief of the huge Shammar tribe seem to indicate that it is also only a minority that is in favor of any lingering U.S. presense. This has always been an ongoing issue, because on the one hand the U.S. presense is likely necessary to maintain order for the near-term. But that very unwanted presense is always an incitement to add to that ~10% figure.

Arguably strategically as well, as the NVA was capable of making good the loss in men and material and it pulled most of the available U.S. mobile forces out of the countryside and into the towns, where many of them stayed.

It is doubtful the Iraqi rebels could duplicate that sort of recovery, lacking another large army or equivalent source of mass supply to back them. But really I imagine the main difficulty is organization - the Viet Cong and NVA leadership were centralized and unified - Iraq is much closer to mid-1970’s Lebanon.

  • Tamerlane

Actually, duh, the Sunni Arab population is probably closer ~5 million. Which on further thought makes me a little more, rather than less confident in my WAG :).

  • Tamerlane

Ok…but even if we accept an order of magnitude of folks who just support the insurgency over the part time fighters/full time fighters figure of 240k, you are still talking about less than 10% of the population. I think the insurgency so far has gotten what traction it has because the majority of the population, those who don’t like the American’s much but don’t like the insurgents either, have kind of been sitting back on the fence waiting to see whats going to happen. With good reason IMO because I think a lot of them haven’t wanted to stick out their necks in case the Americans got a sever case of the 'its time to pull the troops out and bring them home’s…and from their perspective listening to the news you can’t blame them really. However, now that this first election has taken place I think that more folks are going to start looking to come down off that fence. Just the amount of turn out (something like 55-60% I think) encourages me.

Oh, I have no doubt that the majority of Iraqi’s would like to see our backsides as we go home. I can’t blame them a bit in fact. However, I think the majority see the best way to do that, that gives them the best chance for some kind of stability, is to do it via the election process and by minimizing or marginalizing the insurgency. This can only be achieved with a strong Iraqi government and more importantly a strong Iraqi military. In theory anyway, every month that goes by increases the size and capability of the Iraqi military. I have doubts that every month that goes by increases substantially the size (though perhaps not the capability) of the insurgency.

Do you really think our continued presence will add to that ~10% figure? Even after the elections? I don’t see it that way. I think that our presence there, while annoying, is unlikely to substantially add to that figure (i.e. those who are pissed or would rather sieze power through violence have already joined the fighting, or already support the insurgency), while the elections are likely to lower that ~10% figure in the medium and long terms.

Well, I’m no Vietnam expert, but my understanding is that after Tet the Vietcong were never really a major factor again. Certainly the NVA COULD have made good the losses of men by inflitrating troops in, but it would have been more difficult to do than simply sending in warm bodies…after all the Vietcong were familiar with their local territory, knew the terrain and the situation, and I suppose had local ‘cover’, which fresh troops from North Vietnam would have lacked. It was a moot point of course as within a few years the US pulled out and the regular NVA moved in to finish the job.

I agree though that the Iraqi insurgents are unlikely to ever attempt such a thing, and if they do they will be screwed as they won’t even have the option of replacing such losses from an outside force…said force not being in existance. Besides, all they really have to do is what they are already doing (assuming the situation remains the same of course, that the regular Iraqi military stays weak and mostly ineffective, that the government is weak or factionalized, ect)…just hit and run and make spectacular, news worthy attacks to keep up the impression tha the entire nation is one big battle zone, constantly under attack.


I don’t know… How much do you have to give them to forgive you for being an aid worker? Or for helping to rebuild power plants? Or for having the audacity to vote? Or for volunteering to be a police officer?

Your view of the insurgency is twisted by your hatred of George Bush. These aren’t nationalists trying to kick out an occupying army. They are thugs and tyrants trying to take control of the country. They’re killing their own goddamn people for no reason other than to prevent them from expressing their desires at the polls. The only support they have is from a few Islamist nutbars and a whole bunch of people who got all the perks and money and power under Saddam and don’t want to lose it. The insurgency is basically the real war - this is what Saddam had planned for. The insurgents don’t care how many of their own people they kill, or how much of their own country’s infrastructure they destroy. They want to sow chaos and wear down the coalition so that they’ll depart and leave behind a power vacuum that the insurgents can fill, and we can get Saddam II.

I’ve seen rumblings ( no hard data, yet ) that some revised estimates are apparently drifting as low as 45%, but that’s still not that bad given everything. But this doesn’t enter it for me, as I expected a large Shi’a turnout ( who have everything to gain ) and good-sized Kurdish one ( who have nothing to lose ). It neither encourages nor discourages me ( though a really small turnout would have been discouraging as it would have been so unexpected ).

Personally I just don’t know, which I guess means that I disagree :). I can see it going either way. We’ll see soon enough, I imagine.

See above.

Correct. Or at least a steadily declining one.

Certainly the NVA COULD have made good the losses of men by inflitrating troops in, but it would have been more difficult to do than simply sending in warm bodies…after all the Vietcong were familiar with their local territory, knew the terrain and the situation, and I suppose had local ‘cover’, which fresh troops from North Vietnam would have lacked. It was a moot point of course as within a few years the US pulled out and the regular NVA moved in to finish the job.[/quote

Actually the NVA moved in immediately. Or more accurately they had always been present, as Viet Cong support and they participated in Tet. They knew the locale just fine - while the Viet Cong armed end declined, the logistic network was still there. After Tet the NVA increasingly dominated the combat ( which was also increasingly more conventional - culminating during the end of the U.S. period in 1972 with the Easter Offensive which involved 120,000 NVA troops, almost twice the force deployed at Tet ) and this was long before the U.S. pulled out.

  • Tamerlane

Actually this is not an either/or. I suspect more than a few are both. And some probably are pure nationalists ( of a xenophobic or Islamist strain ). I wouldn’t be so hard on the absolutes here.

  • Tamerlane

How do you know this stuff, Sam? How do you know that someone’s view of the insurgency is twisted by their hatred, while yours is the very light of objectivity? Who tells you what you tell us, with a straight face and unflinching certainty?

Might these be the same people who told you, with the same calm assurance that you told us, that yep, fer sure, those WMD are there, north, south, east and west of Baghdad, and so on and so forth? Since they already have a track record of relaying un-facts, how can you be so unquestioning?

I don’t hate GeeDuyba, but I’m damn sure leery of him when he tells me things, because…lets be charitable…he’s not very clear on his facts, tends to get things…wrong.

I wonder if its even occured to you that you are parroting a party line you know nothing about, other than what is spoon-fed to you. Granted, I don’t know any more than you do. Difference being, I admit it.

You don’t know who they are, or what they want, any more than I do.

Considering that you and the other Bush apologists were insisting up and down the aisles back in 2003 that Saddam was sitting on a huge cache of illicit WMDs that would be discovered Any Day Now™, I trust you’ll understand why I’m taking your assessment of the situation with a huge bag of skeptic salt. :dubious:

Iraqi Citizens Kill 5 Terrorists

Aren’t you jumping at conclusions ? Does voting necessarily mean aversion to the insurgency ? It’s much more about being fed up with the insurgency… with Americans… with the slow reconstruction… but not necessarily a vote against “terrorism” or whatever catchy expression. Voting = against Insurgency meme isn’t correct.

Notice that I said “sympathisize” ? Not support. I’d say many Iraqis don’t mind that much seeing GIs being blown up if an Iraqi doesn’t die. Even if they think things are better… I doubt many shed tears for their military occupiers death.

As for your 1%… the US military is around 500k ? Roughly 1,5% US population ? So are they irrelevant ? (Never mind that the US is quite militaristic) You don’t need 20% of Iraqis in arms to disrupt Bush’s marvelous adventure… its actually counter productive to have too much. Other have played with this figure… and these guys don’t live in a vacuum… so there is significant support or little significant aversion to many groups.

Naturally a point to be noticed is how the insurgents of whatever kind have made themselves more unpopular than before. I don't think they are widely viewed as "heroes"... the same way Americans aren't viewed as "liberators". The radical elements have certainly overstayed there welcome... and the way attacks have been more focused on civilian and police collaborators... I feel its the setup for "civil war" insurgent style. (not open war)  If US troops managed not to make themselves so unwelcome... the insurgency might actually bomb themselves into unpopularity.