Iraq Government Misses All Targets

The headline says it all. At the start of this year, Bush and his various mouthpieces explained that the surge would coincide with certain targets for progress by the Iraq government. They promised that this time they would produce success, in contrast to all of that government’s previous failures. Now the results are in.

So that settles the question of whether or not the surge and the associated pressure on the Iraqi Parliment will work. It has already failed.

Now we’ve all heard about the increasing number of Republican Senators speaking out against the administration’s Iraq policy, but the truth is that they’ve been few in number thus far. Will this be the bursting of the dam? Specifically, Congress is about to consider an amendment to the next spending bill that will require that the troops start coming home this fall. Other possible amendments–some authored by Republicans–limit military action in Iraq in various ways. Will enough Republicans abandon this sinking ship that the war opponents will be able to override Bush’s inevitable veto?

I don’t expect troops to start being withdrawn by the fall. Speaking out against the Iraq war and actually backing it up casting a vote to override a veto are two very different things. I don’t think enough Republicans are convinced that there is no path to victory left, yet.

I’m more worried about what will happen in Iraq when we leave, actually. There’s no way that government will be able to stabilize the country without any foreign intervention. I’m actually kind of hoping that Iran’s influence can be a politically stabilizing factor in Iraq after we’re gone.

Well, for one thing we won’t be spending $3 billion a week in there just to maintain an unnaceptable status quo.

Undoubtedly true. But for some Republicans, the more relevant question is whether there’s a path to victory in 2008. Some seem to think, quite reasonably, that staying the course with Bush isn’t their ticket to victory. That could be the deciding factor.

Currently it seems that we can count on anti-war votes from Snowe, Collins, Lugar, and Dominici (plus Hagel and Smith, who voted anti-war already.) In addition, there seem to be about a dozen Senators who are leaning against the war. It’s only a matter of time before they agree to put their votes where their mouth is.

Its still a daunting choice for them. The nightmare scenario number one is that they leap overboard and then the Surge Miracle takes effect, the Sunni and Shia are dancing around the oil derrick, holding hands and singing the praises of The Leader, pausing only for moments to hang garlands of flowers around the necks of Our Heroes…

The Dems theme of “responsible redeployment” offers them cover. From one side of their mouth, they can claim to have voted for withdrawal, out of the other, they can deplore the Dems for advocating “cut and run” policies. Which, I suspect, is why the WH is pressing so hard on the AlQ aspect to all of this: “Sure, we’re for withdrawal, just as soon as we defeat AlQ, then we can go…”

Their problem is primaries.

Suppose you’re a GOP Congresscritter. Start voting against Bush, and you get a primary challenger next spring who is more of a true believer than you are. You’ll probably win, but there’s a real chance you could lose, so you’ll have to spend beaucoups of bucks fending off the challenge, and having to emphasize your conservative credentials to do so. If you win, it’ll be after a bruising primary battle, you’ll be low on cash, and you’ll have had to put on your most conservative face - which won’t play well with the electorate in the general election.

So you keep voting for Bush for now, avoid the primary challenge, and once the filing deadline passes, you might or might not change your tune; who knows? But I doubt that very many GOP Congresscritters will change their tunes before the possibility of a primary challenge next year has receded.

We’ve heard a lot of negative talk by GOP Congresscritters about the war, but with only four exceptions to date (two in each house), their votes haven’t corresponded.

I don’t think we can count on any Pubbie’s vote on anything until they give their word that they’re voting our way.

This will give some of the Republicans a “reason” to vote contrary to Bush’s desires and to explain why they changed their position. Actually, it’s not a bad “reason” at all-- it’s a pretty good one. But I think many of them have wanted to vote differently for awhile and have been waiting for a good excuse.

Keep in mind, though, that a resolution for complete withdrawal isn’t going to go anywhere. None of the top Democratic presidential contenders, for instance, is calling for a complete withdrawal. “Strategic redeployment” usually means some troops (maybe as many as 60k) will still be left in Iraq to “defend America’s interests there and to fight al Qaeda”. One might argue that 60k troops in Iraq will be more vulnerable than 150k-- I’m not really sure which side is right on this point.

I’m afraid that we’re still going to be asking 5 years from now when we’re going to get all of our troops out of Iraq…

I would bet that way in the back of Bush’s mind he is hoping that they will be able to override the veto. Then he will be able to say, for the rest of his life, that he was on the verge of victory in Iraq when those traitorous democrat surrender monkeys forced him to cut and run, and just when the insurgency was in its last throes too.

Fine. Whatever. Offer me the choice, get our people out of the goddam fever swamp, and it means that Americans pour out en masse to swear their undying love for The Leader and His Party, I’d say, go for it! Do it! I’ll go puke my guts out immediately after, for sure, but I’d do it.

Huh? No, it doesn’t. It’s like people are being willfully ignorant here. Maybe the surge is a guaranteed failure, maybe it isn’t. It’s still too early to see, have you guys not heard anything Odierno and Petraeus have been saying? They’ve both been very candid that the full effects of the surge just simply can’t be analyzed yet, and can’t be analyzed properly until September. The current spending bill has two dates in which Congress is supposed to get a progress report for a reason. Petraeus and Odierno have been saying pretty much since the surge started that its efficacy can’t be properly analyzed until the full report in September.

The specific goals that were set, were, in fact, optimistic and unrealistic crap. They weren’t goals set by professional military men like Petraeus and Odierno because they would have known better, the administration has to be criticized for a hilarious level of stupid optimism in agreeing to those goals.

However, if you guys have actually paid attention to any of the highly informative reports that Odierno has made thus far you’d see his assessment is that the current combat operations in Baghdad and the surrounding areas are going very well. They’re hitting insurgent groups in ways they’ve never hit them before, and they’re learning from past failures. In the past anytime we’ve successfully cleared insurgents out of an area, we’ve withdrawn combat forces or switched security responsibility over to the Iraqi Security Forces. What happens? The insurgents hide for a few months then come back. This time the military is making commitments to keep soldiers in an area for much longer periods of time. They’ve also had successes in destroying IED factories and disrupting supply lines all the way to other cities, where some insurgent groups operating in Baghdad have been getting supplies. The current approach has been the most successful operations in Baghdad since we drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of the city in 2003, it’s been a holistic approach that has involved forward deployments throughout the city, and most importantly surrounding areas where large weapons caches used by insurgents had until now been left unmolested.

So the surge may certainly fail, but the stuff Petraeus and Odierno have been saying is promising, although they both warn that it is too early to make a general assessment be it negative or positive. What is definitely certain is that you can’t judge whether or not the surge is failing right now. That’s the opinion of the military leaders in Iraq who are implementing the surge, and that has been their line for months now, that the surge could not be properly assessed at this stage. The final troops who were supposed to be sent over as part of the surge haven’t even been in theater that long at present. I understand the reasons for saying the surge has already failed though, people who oppose the Iraq war have reached a point where “Iraq = failure” is one of the core principles of their lives. It’s like creationists, they’ll always do everything in the world to convince themselves that evolution is tripe. Iraq defeatists will do everything to convince themselves that Iraq is failing, no matter the actual evidence. Someone with a true interest in intellectual honesty would analyze the situation in Iraq based not on pre-conceived biases but on what’s actually happening there. For several years, doing that would have lead one to the conclusion that things are doing badly. However each time you look at the situation you have to be primarily interested in the present tense as well as the future tense framing your entire opinion on Iraq based on past failures is the thought process that people who want to convince themselves Iraq is the worst thing ever engage in.

Edit: Here is a link to Odierno’s most recent press conference, in case anyone happened to miss it.

This is all from a Department of Defense press briefing, so I do not believe there are any copyright issues in copying some of it directly (the briefing in its entirety is available at the link above, I’ve omitted Odierno’s opening statement and several of the less interesting questions) to show the kind of questions Odierno has answered and how:


I think it is obvious from Odierno’s responses that he doesn’t know how well, in the grand scheme of things, the operation is going at present. For whatever reason I think that I will put the assessment of the military leader who is actually overseeing combat operations in Baghdad higher in credibility than I will the opinions of any individual poster on the SDMB. So while it looks like there’s a great deal of uncertainty, I think there have been some very promising developments. It is unfortunate that the news media does not report on these things very often or very prominently, but instead reports on how many dead bodies there are in a given week. It creates a very simplistic view of war in both the eyes of the public and decision makers who should know better. There are many ways to assess the success or failure of a military operation, strictly focusing on the number of casualties really isn’t a valid way to assess success or failure. You have to look at the number of casualties in the context of how many of the enemy have been killed, how much their efforts have been set back, and the size of the operation as a whole. I mean, if you have 7500 soldiers in a battle against 7500 enemy and you lose 6500 and they lose 4000, but you drive them out, that’s arguably a pretty Pyrrhic victory. However if you lose say, 5,000 out of 120,000, and you have achieved key strategic goals and done great damage to the enemy, then that’s an acceptable level of loss. Look at the casualty rate during the Normandy invasion, in some cases it was very high, sometimes high casualty rates are acceptable and sometimes they aren’t. You can’t make that determination without looking within the context of the actual battles themselves, just looking exclusively at the number of dead with no frame of reference is a terrible way to analyze things and it is a trap many people fall into because the mainstream media tends to report almost exclusively on the number of military dead on our side and civilian dead.

As for the question about the political implications of this, I don’t think there are any, I think enough members of Congress are honest enough that they won’t try to effect major change until after the second report, they put in the two progress reports for a reason.

I also think it is either an act of wishful thinking or pure foolishness on behalf of the anti-war crowd to start postulating about a complete withdrawal. Congress has always had the power to force a withdrawal, your Democratic leaders have shown very clearly they are not going to exercise this power. You are just setting yourselves up for disappointment if you think any change in Iraq is going to change that stance, the Democrats have spoken, and they have spoken lightly and without force. They do not have the willpower to contradict the President and force a withdrawal, that isn’t going to change, for the duration of Bush’s Presidency.

It isn’t willpower that’s lacking, it’s votes. When enough Republican senators come to their senses this will all change. Snowe, Hagel, Lugar, Domenici are but the first of what will soon be a critical mass that will end this madness.

Yeah, the same shit we’ve been hearing for years. Over and over again, for the last several years, someone in the administration would say “the next six months are going to be critical.” Then, six months later, they would say “the next six months will be critical.” What they never said was “the last six months were critical, and they were a total disaster.” So now it’s just more of the same, kick the can down the road a little farther, and a little farther, and a little farther, until it’s no longer your problem and you can blame your successor for the failure.

I don’t know if Iraqi government has missed all targets…but this article on CNN seems encouraging.

Looking at a map, this seems to be in central Iraq…not northern Iraq. Thats sort of…interesting, no? Not that this makes everything all goodness and light…but perhaps something to think on when everything seems so gloom and doom these days.


Well gosh, now they tell us. It would have been nice if Petraeus had mentioned that the Administration’s stated benchmarks were “in fact optimistic and unrealistic crap” back when he was discussing them with the Senate Armed Services Committee after his nomination last January:

Hmmm. So since, according to you, the administration was in fact providing “false or misleading information” by telling us that a bunch of “optimistic and unrealistic crap” was a realistic set of goals for Iraqi progress, I wonder how come General Petraeus didn’t tell us so.

Credibility isn’t just about professional expertise and insider knowledge but also about trustworthiness. I have to say I’d rank General Petraeus’s credibility somewhat higher if he hadn’t shown himself willing to collude with the administration in deceiving Congress and the public about what constitutes a realistically attainable goal in Iraq.

While I share your pessimism over progress in the Iraq War, I think some stuff is being lost in translation here. The “goals” that were referenced in the OP are the goals of the Iraqi government that they set for themselves, not the US government. And just because Martin says he thinks they were unrealistic doesn’t mean that Petreaus thought they were. Nor does it mean that Petreaus is going to offer a bunch of BS when he next gives an update to Congress, although I would expect Bush to do so. Let’s give Petraeus a chance and see what he has to say.

I also don’t expect Petraeus to throw up his hands at this point and declare the surge a failure when the full compliment of troops has only been over there for 1 month, despite what the OP says on the matter.

I hear that coalition forces control nearly half of Baghdad these days, still some of that progress might be better directed towards securing important parts of the capital:

Shelling in Green Zone kills 3

I don’t get you. Both reports seem to be talking about the same set of so-called “benchmarks” that were agreed upon in January by the US and Iraqi governments.

From the OP’s link:

From the transcript of the January hearings that I linked to earlier:

This article lays out what the specified “benchmarks” are:

Sure. But we can’t have it both ways. If the benchmarks were in fact “optimistic and unrealistic crap” that Petraeus himself “would have known better” than to believe in, then why didn’t he blow the whistle on them back in January, as he promised he would do?

On the other hand, if the benchmarks were realistic within the projected timetable of the “surge”, then why haven’t any of them been achieved yet?

General Petraeus isn’t part of the Administration, he hasn’t been saying those things for years, he is saying them now.