Military Affairs


Well, gotta love this:

Some faction of the Kurds have revealed their own strategic goal by dissassociating themselves from it.  That is, some diaspora groups are protesting in the United States that Turkey wants to invade Kurdistan for Kirkuk.  It doesn’t have anything to do with PKK depredations on their soil, of course–or the incipient threat of destabilization throughout Iraq, spreading north, and compromising Turkey’s security in general.  Oh, no, it’s that oil again.

Let’s go for that conspiracy scenario, just long enough to kill it For Ever:
1. Turkey, with, uh, WAY MORE military capability than the U.S., has decided that they could conduct war with Iraq in a far more efficient fashion than the U.S. ever could. 

Nah.  The paranoids may have a point with that efficiency thing: on the other hand, seeing that the U.S. actually has the capability, and can’t guarantee security, it seems past ridiculous to think that Turkey would go flying, marching, and tanking on in to the same revenue-threatening and life-threatening black hole of Iraq in order to take on a town that is primed for resentment and strife.

2.  One protester stated that Turkey is not afraid of the PKK, but rather afraid of a Kurdish state.  And of course this makes, yes, perfect sense. 

Nope: The PKK wants to bomb Turkish towns and resorts, killing innocent people and being sneaky about it, disrupt the economy and create conflict and strife.  The Kurdish state wants to ship oil through Turkey and get on with making money.  Uh, I know Turkey is completely unfavorable to the idea of generating income, preferring instead to foment domestic instability and gleefully hailing each incident of lost infrastructure.  It’s just this attitude that makes Turkey a force for good in the international system–

Personally, I believe that Kurdish-Americans would go a lot further by deprecating the PKK and trying to help Turkey provide goods and services for its own ethnic Kurdish residents.  Oh, and building partnerships to keep those pipelines in northern Iraq in good order: for the good of Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey–heck, the world at large.  Hope you’ll think about it–and then do something constructive. 

Kirkuk is a mess, but not Turkey’s mess:
Consider the machinations, forced importations and deportations that have been occurring in Kirkuk: the blame doesn’t rest with Turkey: a history of forced Kurdish deportations from the Kirkuk area has been rectified with new human rights violations–forced non-Kurdish deportations from Kirkuk. 

The stratagems may be based upon history, but history has not taught compassion.  Right now, the paranoia of the non-Kurdish Kirkuk residents is the justifiable paranoia: because they’ve been had.  It’s a bad business, and Turkey’s got nothing to do with it.

Pakistan soldierNot so long ago, the United States looked at Pakistan as a “valuable ally in the war against terror” and relied upon Pakistan’s military and security forces for intelligence and aid in capturing Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects.  Prior to the Twin Towers Massacre, Pakistan, like Afghanistan, was not much on U.S. diplomatic radar.  Recently, Daniel Markey wrote an article in Foreign Affairs (see reference below) that essentially says we need a broader approach–and not reproach–when talking to Pakistan.

College of Family MedicineMr. Markey notes that many U.S. officials, legislators, (and Presidential candidates) have become disenchanted with Pakistan’s contribution to Afghanistan’s security.  They have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to counter-terrorism in the wake of rising trouble in Afghanistan, the near-anarchic rule in the Pakistan’s northwest territories, and incidents such as the Red Mosque confrontation, which, from our vantage point, never should have been allowed as long as it had been.  Wedding Guests, PakistanIn essence, U.S. observers see Pakistan as a beneficiary of U.S. aid and trade ties, but with no effect on terrorism.  Over at Registan.net, Dr. Azari writes that Afghanistan’s delegates to the Peace Jirga seemed to feel that Taliban depredations were either permitted or aided in some way by the military. Most recently, on August 21, the NYT reported that Pakistan had released an al-Qaeda suspect that it had held in detention for the past three years.  The release was determined by the Supreme Court, who said that his detention without trial was unlawful.  

Pakistan missileLeaving U.S. negligence and mistakes aside, as these arguments surely do, Markey notes first that Pakistan left U.S. diplomatic orbit in much the same way and at the same time that Afghanistan did: when the Soviets left Afghanistan.  Post 9/11, Bush II’s U.S. diplomacy has not extended past the military and security apparatus in Pakistan.  Civil society, poverty reduction, the rule of law and democratization have not been on the U.S. agenda for Pakistan, which gives its diplomacy a one-note character.

 Pakistan's Agosta-3 SubsIn the intervening years between Soviet pull-out and U.S. entry,  Markey says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retains ties to militant groups and recruits personnel from them.  This was not in support of terrorism, but in support of Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir.  To me, this is somewhat of a stretch, but it does serve to remind policymakers that Pakistan has more than one issue as part of its foreign policy.  Just this week, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr. Khursid Mehmood Kasuri stated in Parliament (during debates occasioned by disparaging remarks from the U.S.) that Pakistan could not afford to be isolated, that it desired good relations with the U.S., with the EU, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and Asian states in general. 

Pakistan WinsU.S. arguments against Pakistan’s commitment also ignore the risks that Mr. Musharraf has undertaken, with several assassination attempts against his life.  (The third attempt was in September of 2002; another in December 2003; another this year).   Furthermore, numerous terrorist suspects apprehended in Pakistan.

The rest of Mr. Markey’s article suggests ways to broaden U.S. diplomacy.  He cautions that engagement in Pakistan’s civil society cannot be at the expense of the military diplomacy, but that ensuring Pakistan’s good will has to extend to the people.  Elections, for instance, are widely expected this fall in Pakistan, and giving fodder for isolationist candidates would be foolish and without utility for U.S. interests.

Karachi Golf CourseThe rest of his solutions also recommend a balanced approach, remembering that Pakistan is diverse and complex.  The illustrations throughout this post are intended to convey that diversity.  Mr. Markey’s article can be found at:

Daniel Markey’s  A False Choice in Pakistan.  Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, pp. 85-102; or at the Council of Foreign Affairs Web site

Photos: Defenselink of USDOD; Global Family Doctor.com; Graham Hays of Australia; The Hindu; Warships IFR.com; Tribune India; Answers.com. 

Africa:
♦ I don’t usually cover Africa in the RI, but this article about Darfur cannot be passed by.  As usual, Dan Graeber hits the essentials in this brutal, piteous world.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ The China-U.S. trade quality war Escalates again: now it is U.S. soybeans, with considerable dirt, pesticide, and weeds.  The latter conditions would allow for perhaps large changes in Chinese biomes–sort of like the kudzu vine that took over the South.  Also U.S. oil-seed.  Best-case scenario? All of this ends up increasing quality in the long term.  In the short term: heck, no.  In the meantime, the toy-and-dog-biscuit inspections in the U.S. proceed apace.
♦ The increasing importance of relations between India and Japan.  India’s maritime might, now and in the future.
♦ Australia’s military defense strategies and the debate over economic v. military security at The Strategist.
♦ In India’s Hyderabad, 34 people die because of bombing. 

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Italy’s ENI is re-negotiating in Kazakhstan over delayed extraction and environmental issues.
♦ Little beef-kiev-cake for ya.  Holy Samovar!!
♦ Mr. Saakashvili of Georgia on living next to Russia at Robert Amsterdam.  Russia denies all.
♦ Russia’s LUKoil cuts supplies to Germany by 30% over the last two months.

Latin America:
♦ Hurricane Dean in Mexico: at least 26 have died from the storm.
♦ Peru’s earthquake: at least 510 are dead, with more casualties being found.  Quisiera expresar mis condolencias al gente de las dos paises.
♦ The FEALAC symposium met this week this week in Brasilia, as reported by Boz. According to AFP, the Forum for East Asian-Latin American Cooperation includes: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and from Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
♦ Venezuela–now cutting bus fares for the indigent in London.  Now buying 98 Ilyushin aircraft from Russia, for cargo or passengers . . . or, not.
♦ According to an extract provided from this post, Castro is in no way dead.  So there you are.
♦ Pollution from blue jeans in Mexico.

Middle East:
♦ Afghanistan:  Just three out of many from FPA Central Asia’s Afghanistan Aggregator, plus one update:
◊ Afghanistanica has a great post on Afghanistan scholars to watch, read, and study.
◊ Another article on the mystery of not-enough translators for Afghanistan, also at Afghanistanica.
◊ Mr. Foust at Registan.net on basic flaws in reconstruction aid .  A good start on the issue, with links for more.
◊ Friendly fire (what a term) from U.S. aerial bombardment kills 3 British soldiers and injures two more in Helmand Province. 
Iran:
◊ New in-the-works U.S. intelligence report is pessimistic about Iran, as reported by AP.  More nukes, no overthrow of Ahmadinejad, more weapons traffic. . .
◊ Iran plans to continue developing a 2,000 pound ‘smart bomb’.  Great.
♦ Iraq:
◊ Iraq’s elites are still leaving as fast as possible. 
◊ A Berlin study says Iraq will disintegrate soon.  The new U.S. NIE  on Iraq is not hopeful. 
◊ The Brits are leaving Basra any day now.

Iraq / U.S. Politics:  I tried to cover this in the op-ed war posts that I wrote yesterday.  Here is one post on Mr. Allawi, and here is one on a must-read editorial from staff officer veterans of Iraq.

Energy:
♦ Storm damage notwithstanding, Pemex is back in business, bringing oil to the U.S.
♦ Storm damages notwithstanding, Energy Prices a little more stable overall.  As of August 23rd: Brent crude, USD 69.58; West Texas intermediate, USD 69.68. 
♦ Rounding out the North American picture on U.S. energy imports, The Oil Drum has started a series on oil sands extraction, which does not look attractive. 

Overall, the message this week to me is two-fold: we need to plan international endeavours so carefully, in terms of both physical and energy security. 

Have a great week, everyone!

The op-ed coup d’etat between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Allawi is only part of the juxtapositioning over the September Benchmark report and the non-progress it will be required to present:

Op-ed war of words no. 2: Quality and quantity
On July 30, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that Iraq was “A War We just might Win“, something that every Republican Presidential candidate has found interesting for the wrong reasons: that a so-called liberal paper would hold an editorial favorable to Mr. Bush’s goals.   

Immediately afterward, a long-time Iraq correspondent, Jonathan Finer, wrote in the Washington Post that these two, and indeed all, Green Zone Investigators (which includes Congresspersons, pundits, national security advisors, Presidential candidates, etc) never get out to see anything and their epiphanies are at best, suspect.   Like so many, Mr. Finer focussed on location, (ie, the Green Zone) but he also (at last) included the element of time, calling these “snapshot tours”.  No fact-finding mission of a week will tell you what is going on in Iraq, whether surrounded by BlackHawk helicopters and handlers or not. 

I’m sure of four things: a. that trips to Iraq serve as legitimizers to all who go, even for that three-day weekend.  b. that the feeling of fear that all of these day-trippers have as they go back and forth from the Green Zone feels real enough to introduce a kind of reality to the trip.  c. that people such as Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack get information that we don’t get, study Iraq often and with numbers. and d. I’ve also heard with my own ears Mr. Pollack talk publicly about this war as a debacle.  The editorial they cited was hedged: failure was still exceedingly possible, and despite the title of the op-ed, it did not really sound like a “win”.  And despite Mr. Finer’s characterization, it sounds as if the two Brookings trippers went past the Green Zone, to Mosul, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and the “Ghazni neighborhood of Baghdad.”  Of course, they did this in eight days, and I doubt even the complexity of the Ghazni neighborhood could be adequately assessed in that time.  But this is their view:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high.

I have a little sympathy for Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Pollack because it’s just horribly risky to write a positive-sounding op-ed, especially when there’s so much data to the contrary.  I’ve done it myself, and if you’re not a pessimist you look like a fool.  But unfortunately, this week the NYT ran an editorial from non-GZ Trippers, i.e., staff officers that have been hip-deep in Iraqi dust and sweat and blood for 15 months with the 82nd Airborne.

Being there, and being there:

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)  

One of these NCO’s, SSgt. Murphy, currently has a head wound, and this underscores that sympathy ultimately should not go to the optimistic op-ed writer but to the practitioner.  And these practitioners slam the ivory-tower, marble-halled view:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Thus, according to this last op-ed, the splintering in politics is well-represented with continued splinters in security.

More, and more:
Yesterday, John Warner R-Va, came back from a four-day trip to Iraq and said it’s time to start withdrawing troops, about 5,000 this year, in the hopes of prodding Iraq’s politicians to get going. 

The new August National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, that part of it which we are privileged to see, anyway, (10 pages, give me a break) is against troop withdrawals and yet offers not too much in the way of encouragement.   It is a supplement to the National intelligence Estimate from January/February 2007.

The op-ed wars continue. . . . .  the Benchmark Report will be presented on September 11, yes, 9/11.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. 

War of Wards: Mr. Allawi v. Mr. al-Maliki
Who has Iraq in charge, and who wants to be there?  The last hope of reaching political consensus within Iraq’s political factions came and went two weeks ago, when the Sunni boycotted the legislative special session all the way to recess.  That has ended the most important benchmark indicators for Bush in his upcoming fight with Congress–not to mention the fact that it’s not good for Iraq to have a non-functional, over-factionalized government.  Also, the two sets of Kurdish politicians cannot decide between Iraq and Kurdistan as national entities.  And more.

Then there are more splits.  Today, Ayad Allawi’s INP party, which holds 25 of 275 seats and 5 ministerial positions, announced it would be leaving al-Maliki’s government.  On April 18, Allawi wrote an editorial in the Washington Post that stated, among other things, that:

Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.

On August 20th, Iraqslogger.com broke the story that Allawi has retained a Bush-insider’s  lobbying firm, BRG, to represent Allawi’s interests and put down al-Maliki’s pretensions to office within the White House, Congress, and staffers in both places.  It only costs USD 300,000. for six months, part of which was a mail-out of this made-for-U.S.-egos editorial.  While certainly Iraq’s politicians have a long way to go, one needs only look at the poor politics, poor planning, and massive waste on this end to realize that Mr. Allawi has concocted the perfect set of excuses for the U.S. administration: some people haven’t gotten with the plan.  The funadamental problem with this view is that there was no plan. 

According to the same IraqSlogger article, BRG also represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Washington.

The Allawi Memos seem to have been having an effect.  Mr. Bush II distanced himself from Mr. al-Maliki just this week, prompting an angry response from the Iraqi Prime Minister.  Bush then tried to retrieve some lost ground at a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention the next day.

However, there are other rifts besides those manufactured by BRG.  Last November, Mr. al-Maliki snubbed Mr. Bush II over leadership issues.  In late July, the London Telegraph published an account of General Petraeus’ rocky relationship to Mr. al-Maliki, which apparently includes shouting matches with Ambassador Crocker looking on.  At the same time, an article in the NYT detailed the close coordination between the two leaders via teleconferencing and other means, which have led to limited results.

This is the more recent news than part 2, on the benefits/costs of the Surge as noted in the op-ed wars.  However, both are significant.  This particular war of words shows that political solutions are far away in Iraq, and also in the U.S. when discussing Iraq.  And that lobbying here interferes there.

Sorry I scamped out on you last week.   I missed you all, and I hope to do bettah.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ China suffers another product recall, and the WSJ says it is at least partly a design flaw that has nothing to do with China.  I have already blogged that it is partly a management failure that has nothing to do with China.  But now it’s also baby bibs.
♦ Highly contagious swine virus in China, international community on alert.
♦ One thing I missed last week and is beautiful for covering a region we don’t know well: The Strategist keeps on with some in-depth study of Melanesia, this time resource wars.
♦ Kevin Rudd on Australia’s campaign trail.  I heard Mr. Rudd speak at Brookings Institution this past April and I wish him well. 
♦ The ADB again announces inroads against extreme poverty in Asia, but a widening income gap.
♦ Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference in Jakarta is well-attended.
♦ A large amount of my attention this week has been the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek and military games in Xinjiang & Chelyabinsk.  Check out the FPA Central Asia blog for the latest.  This is all so important, whether you are a Central-Asia watcher or not.  To wit, next entry:

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Russia’s new military budget: fat–means Russia’s new military might: formidable.  More on buzzing NATO.  More on Russia bombing Georgia.  More
♦ Kazakhstan has Parliamentary elections Saturday, August 18th.

Latin America:
♦ Peru’s earthquake has killed hundreds.
♦ Venezuela, the new Central Asia: Mr. Chavez wants to be perpetually re-elected.   Umm, can’t he find anyone in Venezuela who thinks like he does?
♦ Venezuela buys AK-47s . . . and we want to know why.
♦ Help for Argentina in procuring energy resources.
♦ Boz covers the stuffed suitcase that is getting attention everywhere better than anyone. . . in Bags o’ Cash series, 4 parts, easy read, gracious!

Middle East:
♦ Two respected foreign policy professors expand a controversial article into a soon-to-be controversial book about U.S.-Israeli relations.  This NYT article has links to the original piece and some background.  Whatever you might think of their opinion, one has to admire the courage of their convictions.  I’m glad that they have brought this to examination: everything important deserves scrutiny.
♦ FPA War Crimes reports on the verdict in the Padilla detention/terrorism case.  For more background, you can stay with that blog, because Daniel’s been covering it thoroughly.  The Conjecturer also analyzes it, by taking a look at the limits and mandates of the DIA in re: Padilla.

Afghanistan: [ edited down from FPA Central Asia ]
♦ Now that Britain is pulling out of Iraq, they plan to focus more on Afghanistan.
♦ An AP article that titularly is about Barack Obama is actually a report on civilian deaths in Afghanistan.  Though the U.S. or NATO does not keep figures on civilian deaths (either a mistruth or a mistake) AP does: 231 civilians were killed by militants; 286 by troops; and 20 in crossfire, unattributable to either party. 
♦ On August 15th, a New offensive started against the Taliban in Tora Bora. 
♦ Two S. Korean hostages released.  That means there’s 19 left.
♦ New Counternarcotics strategies sound the same as old counternarcotics strategies.  This is a must-read article by Mr. Weitz over at World Politics Review, complete with maps, and, new UNODC figures estimating another rise in opium production, this time by 15%.
♦ U.S. would certainly take out al-Q targets in Pakistan, but not in a way that would make Pakistan angry.  But Pakistan seems to be already upset at the prospect: a highly literate editorial at Pakistan Daily.
Australia’s work in Uruzgan, at My State Failure blog.

Iran:
♦ Is it semantically correct? I don’t know, but the Quds Force is going to be designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. of A.
♦ Mr. Ahmadinejad in Turkmenistan and Bishkek for SCO meetings.

Iraq:
♦ Targeting the Yazidi sect in Nineveh near Mosul.  Four hundred are dead.  Do we call this genocide?  As Iraq increasingly settles in sectarian patterns, every bombing will be a kind of genocide or sect-killing; yet Yazidis have been a deliberate target since at least April.  al-Q is blamed immediately, but the reasons haven’t been divulged.
♦ Abu Aardvark’s Marc Lynch reports that the last-ditch political rapprochement for September’s Benchmark Report and ultimately for Iraq’s political viability is dead in the dirt.  h/t: FP Passport. RFE/RL has a slightly different take, citing Mr. Talibani: “Sunni are welcome to join our coalition.” It ends up the same, however: Sunni have not joined the coalition.  In my newsletter this month, I’ve discussed the way Sunni concerns have been sidelined. . . in the oil law. . .
Iraq-Iran pipeline deal signed.
♦ Iraq Slogger special report on the Bridges of Baghdad.

U.S. Politics:
♦ Mr. Rove waltzes on out of the White House, ostensibly to avoid Congressional investigation.  No doubt he will write a book that exculpates him from all wrong decisions, minimizes his impact on poor outcomes, and maximizes his genius in those extraordinary outcomes, and dishes against all those who tried to block his progress.  uh, sure.  . . Can’t wait.  They store a lot of extra, non-partisan, all-purpose whitewash in the White House, and I’m sure he took a bucket of it with him.
♦ Candidate Romney says the way his sons support U.S. efforts in Iraq is by campaigning for Dad.  Oh, Bleah.  Vanity to the max.
♦ U.S. military suicides are running very high.  Twenty-eight soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan this year.  Such deaths denote despair, and that despair radiates outward into the military community: their close associates, who also must deal.  ♦ Related to my many comments on the U.S. Farm Bill: CARE International is finding USDA aid too much trouble, too expensive, and way counterproductive in meeting famine in poverty-stricken countries. 

Political Economy:
Selling to Islam at the Public Sector Development blog.

Energy:
♦ Oil prices: USD 69.84 for Brent crude, USD 71.76 for West Texas Intermediate, as of August 16th. 
♦ The EBRD pulls out of Sakhalin-2 investment.

This is from Anthony Swofford’s memoir, Jarhead, first published in 2003 by Scribners.  Like many accounts of war, it details the problems of sleep disturbance, and how sleeping pills and extra physical activity don’t have the same effect on sleeplessness as they would away from a battle zone.

Once the air campaign begins, I never sleep through the night.  Three hours is the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep I experience, and this occurs during a bogus patrol when Johnny says, “Let’s get some sleep,” and we take off our helmets and flaks and sleep in wet sand.  If a Scud altert doesn’t interrupt our sleep, someone screaming from a nightmare or wide-awake anger and fear will awaken the entire hootch.  Doc John Duncan passes out sleeping pills to those who want them, but I’m afraid of sleeping through a valid alert, and anyway, the guys who take the pills wake up just like those who don’t.  The synthetic chemical for drowsiness is not as strong as the naturally occurring chemical called fear. (pp. 185-186)

Mr. Swofford describes young people doing the best they know how with the situation they are given:

Another night, after we return to the hootch from a Scud alert, Dettmann starts weeping and won’t stop.  We tell him to stop, but he won’t or can’t.  Combs, near the breaking point himself, takes [him] outside and thrashes him for a good hour, but throughout the exhausting cycle of bends-and-thrusts and push-ups and bear crawls, he continues to cry.  Goerke, a bit of a humanist, joins Dettmann outside and insists that Combs thrash him as well, because even though Goerke isn’t crying, he wants to cry, and isn’t it the same thing? he asks.  (p. 186).

So, same place, different decade: longer tours, a more differentiated battle environment.  Yet military personnel in the U.S. are being asked to serve longer tours with less rest and relaxation.  And there is no really good program for PTSD treatment at the VA, nor is the existing program ramped up to meet a new demand.

Write your Congressional Representative . . .

Note: Last week, I examined each of the eighteen benchmarks which the Bush Administration is using to document the effectiveness of The Surge, on its own terms and in its own words.  I re-organized these benchmarks and have been analyzing the results noted in July’s report and trying to form a basis for analyzing progress for September’s progress.  
Links for fast access to this
Iraq Primer:
Benchmarks 1-6 — Benchmarks 7-12 — Benchmarks 13-18.
Links for access to July Benchmark Report review: Overview — Politics/Amnesty — Oil Law/Reconstruction.

Quite appropriately, there are more security benchmarks than any other: 10 out of 18.  Benchmarks 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 18.  Many of them build upon each other, so rather than separate them by benchmark, I am going to group them according to the initiatives they represent. 

Political-Security Benchmarks:
No. 8: Establishing institutions in support of the Baghdad Security Plan, including media support;
No. 10: Providing Iraq commanders with the authority to execute plans without political intervention; and
No 18: Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining Iraq security forces or making false accusation against ISF.

Two comments only: first, number 8 should of course extend past Baghdad; and number 18 should extend past the ISF, especially in the matter of de-Ba’athification reform and other hot issues.  Factions should keep people informed, but instead of talking poorly about opposing factions, they should state these within a framewok of future cooperation.  Of course, we don’t do that where I live, either.  But it would be an improvement.

Security Benchmarks:
Security in the hands of the state:
No. 7: Militia disarmament, and
No. 13: Reducing sectarian violence.

State able to provide security:
No 9: Developing national military to support Baghdad operations.
No. 11: Ensure that Iraq security forces provide even-handed law enforcement.
No 14; Setting up local joint security stations (JSS) across Baghdad
No  15: Increase number of ISF able to act independently.

The Ultimate Benchmark:
No. 12: Ensuring that Iraq does not become a safe haven for terrorism.

For people tracking the Benchmark report, it should be remembered that number 12 matches most closely the only legitimizing reason we had for going into Iraq.  While it might not have been true then, it is the dangerous security situation that most nearly approximates it.  It furthermore defines the U.S. interest most succinctly.  Last of all, it is the underlying question of morality for a withdrawal.  If the U.S. withdraws without guaranteeing at least this much, Iraqi citizens and Iraq’s neighbors will be plunged into catastrophe: unremitting hell with no signs of relief.

Bait and Switch?:
 In today’s New York Times, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are moving away from the benchmarks as a way to analyze progress in Iraq.  This could be good or bad, but what it really means is that both of the administrators of U.S. oversight within Iraq believe that there will be no measurable progress on the benchmarks by September 15th. 

Nobody appears to have a clue as to what progress they can offer in its stead, either. 

Head-scratching:
Military leaders, political leaders, and experts are doubling back and trying to cover all the bases, and donning that political body-armor.  Just recently, three different experts have weighed in with even more confusing news for us news-consumers: one testified to Congress that he “reluctantly believed” we should withdraw; another two co-authered a much-blogged article in the NYT saying “it’s possible that we can win.”  Later, after this week’s word-storm, one of them has hedged a little, saying that security progress was the most notable, but this was not being enhanced by political progress.  The lack of political progress appears to be driving Mr. Crocker and General Petraeus’ concerns as well. 

The experts mirror the public at large: no news means speculation, finger-pointing, and the desperate search for portents.  All of this hedging is preparatory to the political hurricane that Bush appointees are apparently expecting come September.  The reason: political benchmarks have not made progress, especially since the Sunni bloc has boycotted proceedings in the Council of Representatives.

No subtlety:
The problem is not the benchmarks per se, or that there are benchmarks, or even that a report is due in September.  The problem is that the benchmarks have been given the status of a list, rather than a number of factors to be considered under a broader set of initiatives.  The initiatives as set forth in the Iraq Study Group Report did not give enough detail on security, but in every other way, they set context.  Context has been removed; only the list remains.  And it fits with the unhappy history of U.S. intervention so far: that quantity of goals met equaled quality in achievement. The blame belongs to us all.

Mr. Pollack and Mr. O’Hanlon made this point somewhat in the first paragraph of their NYT op-ed:

The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Posts here at Ramblin’ Gal are supposed to help us all (including myself) figure out what would be meaningful progress.  And yet, to be fair, even the idea of meaningful progress needs to be examined critically. Many times progress is illusory.  Other times, progress takes place out-of-sight and then rapidly appears in public.  But it’s only going to infuriate us all if only rationales are offered and previously-agreed upon signs are cast aside in favor of some new understanding of progress that we haven’t had a chance to view in advance.  

And, if we are not going to look at benchmarks mid-September, then we can look at a myriad of other things.  What other progress would be useful?  How about other diplomatic efforts in the region, with Syria, and Iran?  How about progress in Afghanistan?  In re-building our own military?  The truth is, switching from the benchmarks to some other standard opens up a discussion on standards all over again.  I don’t think that the Bush Administration can take that heat–unless Congress screws up again by arguing on Bush’s own terms.

All in all, I think that Mr. Bush, Mr. Crocker, and General Petraeus better stick to what has already been agreed upon.

Note: Last week, I examined each of the eighteen benchmarks which document the effectiveness of The Surge. I then wrote an overview (part I) of the July Benchmark Report.  This post covers Six Benchmarks: numbers 1 and 2; 4 through 6; and 16.  Links for fast access to this Iraq Primer (should open in new window for reference):  Benchmarks 1-6Benchmarks 13-18

What follows is a look at July’s status on Economic Benchmarks, or, more properly, two Political-Economic Benchmarks.  I try to analyze what we should consider ‘significant progress’ in September’s report, based upon close reading and constant attention to the subject.  Quotes by Stanislaw Lec, who lived during World War II, are only meant to provide some humor and perspective.

Optimists and pessimists differ only on the date of the end of the world.                                                           –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

The Oil Law, Benchmark Number 3:
As noted in the July Benchmark report, the oil law has made ‘unsatisfactory progress’ despite continued focus and considerable effort on the part of Iraq’s Council of Ministers.  Once it leaves this Council, (after the substantial negotiation toward an agreed format) it is submitted to the Council of Representatives.  The intricacy of the negotiations, also as noted by the report, remains somewhat opaque to onlookers, including U.S. advisors and consultants most directly involved. 

Three camps negotiating the law, two camps observing
The received opinion about passing the oil law generally falls into two extreme and irreconcilable camps.   The first, which includes the Iraq Study Group, maintains that the oil law is essential to Iraq’s progress; and a second camp believes that the U.S. should back off of this process. 

The essentialists are correct in that the oil law is  Iraq’s budget-maker; it will fund all government activities.  Oil is expected to make up 93% of Iraq’s state budget, and therefore all programs for reconstruction, social services, education, and so forth hinge upon this keynote bill for the budget.  Until this bill is passed, semi-autonomous regions, provincial governments, and even the state at large cannot plan or fund future government functions.  Furthermore, once it is passed, it sets up the conditions for future interest in the state by development banks, outside investors, and foreign states. 

Yet “the backing off” contingent has some points.  First, Iraq has money to fund programs now (that’s Benchmark 17–see below), and it is better to get this law right than to pass just any law. 

Three strikes, Sunnis out
The way this law is being discussed and framed obviates many of the roads to national unity; in particular, it fails to meet any Sunni faction demands.  1. Western Iraq, without oil, is predominantly Sunni.  2. Abolishing the national oil company removes what once was a primarily Ba’athist/Sunni institution.  3. Abolishing the oil union also removes a formerly Ba’athist/Sunni institution. 

Under the current arguments, there is little offered to the Sunni minority population (who also has the most experience in oil development).  Therefore, the oil law needs to be backed by a completed Benchmark No. 2, reform of de-Ba’athification law, which will specify who will be able to participate in oil economics; and a completed Benchmark No. 1 (constitutional reform) including Benchmark No. 16 (minority rights equal to everyone’s rights) before this can be settled with the (understandably) obstreperous Sunni legislative contingent.

Following a more natural step-progression
I would further suggest that its placement in the benchmark scheme is out of order.  Until provincial and regional governance structures are achieved (Benchmarks 4 and 5), the advocacy for this bill continues to be amorphous and theoretical in design.  Local projects are managed by local governments, and there are, as yet, no governments to administer these theoretical budgets.  That does not contradict the reality of a raging parochialism in negotiations: Kurdistan ripe with new discoveries; Southern Iraq filled with mismanaged and underinvested older fields; and thus far, no resources found in Western Iraq.  But this is again a theoretical parochialism, of a “wish list” variety, uninformed by local assessments.  While a group of provincial governors will certainly add more voices to the law’s discussion, if handled properly this will be a means to greater local representation and therefore, local satisfaction.  Provision of services and oil income around the state of Iraq will add to state unity, and the precedents and procedures for these services are best taken from the shape of Benchmarks 1, 2, 4, 5, and 16.

As far as national oil companies go, I fail to understand why the U.S. is against the formation of an Iraqi national oil company.  Virtually every supplier state on the planet has a NOC, and it does not stop oil extraction or distribution.  It complicates that activity, but it is a standard operating condition in most oil commerce around the world.

Role of U.S. consultation is unclear
Yet the “backing off” contingent fails to realize that third-party consultation or intervention in this bill is to some degree necessary in order to inject some non-sectarian ice into the flaming controversy that appears to be taking place behind closed doors.  If the U.S. was getting all that it wanted, this bill would be done by now.  Some mediation is required, and since this bill has the potential to unleash further sectarian resentment, de-stabilize the national government, and fund the future of the country, it would be irresponsible not to consult.

However, consultation should promote, rather than a U.S. commercial wish list (no national oil companies, no unions, or whatever else the U.S. is advocating) some benchmarks for a. transparency, that oil revenues are audited regularly by outside auditors, and that the funds are publicly managed; and b. that some of those funds are earmarked for future development, in education, for instance, which increases national self-help in the long term.

I would not expect this law to be in effect by September or even January.  Significant progress toward an oil bill (which is the same as a budget bill) would require that local needs be assessed and a pattern of national distribution informed by the relationship of pressing needs of each locality.   To me, progress on this bill hinges upon the completion of the other major legislative benchmarks, and a settled, meaningful policy of de-Ba’athification reform.  Progress on this bill also requires that the U.S. both stay in the process but not to the extent of driving the kinds of institutions enabled–just their transparent and unifying character.

Do not ask God the way to heaven; he will show you the hardest one.
                                                                       –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Reconstruction, Benchmark Number 17:
Many of the statements above about the oil law also relate to reconstruction, but with one difference: this needs to be carried out now.  No reconciliation (Benchmark 6) or reduction in violence (Benchmarks 7, etc) can be obtained as long as the state is not carrying out some functions of economic security. 

A main problem with the July Benchmark Report is that it is another large benchmark with no staged implementation set in the benchmark framework.  The main problem for reconstruction is that all of it is undertaken under poor security conditions.  A lot of back-breaking work has been done to achieve utility service, enterprise development, and other features of economic reconstruction.  Most of this work continues to be subverted or destroyed, a dangerous, sometimes corrupt, and always disheartening and expensive result.  To just shout for reconstruction without acknowledging past efforts and current difficulties is unrealistic, and frankly, rude.  It is past time, however, to ask for staged planning within this benchmark goal.

There are clues in the Benchmark Report about what kinds of economic revitalization are working: cellular phone investment, for instance, has taken off and prospered.  And this is the clue for limitations of effectiveness as well: deciding what kinds of reconstruction will have immediate and lasting effect under current conditions.

If one looks at the character of cellular telephony, one can see the reasons that this essential service has prospered: a, it promotes security and access to information; b, it has minimal infrastructure; c, it is portable and moveable;  d, phones are easily replaceable; and e. has immediate personal use.  The task for reconstruction in this security environment then becomes, a matter of tailoring as many other required services as possible to this model.

1. The Iraqi government should create a program that allows it to disburse its long-held funds into a service provision that has an irregular locational and temporal distribution process, including to refugee populations.  2. In the meantime, they should solicit bids for other major work in areas currently less-wracked by violence, and advertise those bids.  3. Reconstruction funds should be disbursed to aid refugees in camps and set up services to non-official refugee camps in order to provide minimal services to the displaced.

However, like the oil law, reconstruction is complicated by a lack of regional and provincial officials to undertake a more nuanced assessment and program of providing social services, advertising for bids, or arranging a regular or irregular demonstration of services.  I predict that the reconstruction benchmark will still show ‘unsatisfactory progress’ in September, as security conditions will not allow the kind of distribution of reconstruction services required, and, 

because institutional methods of providing reconstruction do not answer in the security environment under which Iraq currently exists.

Progress on these two benchmarks is contingent upon the previously-examined political benchmarks, and the security benchmarks.

Next: Security benchmarks and public relations related to security

Further reading:
al-Jazeera, July 30: Half of Iraq in Absolute Poverty
Reuters, July 30: UN asks for education aid for Iraq refugees

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