Sunday, November 28, 2004

Iraq Update: 11/28/04

On November 26, several Brookings Institution specialists described the overall situation in Iraq in sobering terms, based on an analysis of the available statistics:

On balance, the data show that security trends in Iraq are generally poor, economic trends are promising but glacial in pace, and political trends are hopeful but fragile.

Go to the Brookings Iraq Index Web site for full data and additional research.

Of course, it is possible that much of what is taking place in Iraq is not adequately conveyed in statistics. This past Monday, Arthur Chrenkoff produced his latest biweekly update on the overlooked progress being made in rebuilding Iraq. Once more, I recommend giving it a read:

Beyond Fallujah


What Chrenkoff's reports show is that, despite all the difficulties, progress continues to be made. As Thomas Friedman noted in a November 21 New York Times column, there are reasons for optimism:

Cultures can change, though. But it takes time. And, be advised, it is going to take years to produce a decent outcome in Iraq. But every time I think this can't work, I come across something that suggests, who knows, maybe this time the play will end differently. The headlines last week were all about Falluja. But maybe the most important story in Iraq was the fact that while Falluja was exploding, 106 Iraqi parties and individuals registered to run in the January election. And maybe the second most important story is the relatively quiet way in which Iraqis, and the Arab world, accepted the U.S. invasion of Falluja. The insurgents there had murdered hundreds of Iraqi Muslims in recent months, and, I think, they lost a lot of sympathy from the Arab street. (But if we don't get the economy going on the Iraqi street, what the rest of the Arab world thinks will be of no help.)

Readers regularly ask me when I will throw in the towel on Iraq. I will be guided by the U.S. Army and Marine grunts on the ground. They see Iraq close up. Most of those you talk to are so uncynical - so convinced that we are doing good and doing right, even though they too are unsure it will work. When a majority of those grunts tell us that they are no longer willing to risk their lives to go out and fix the sewers in Sadr City or teach democracy at a local school, then you can stick a fork in this one. But so far, we ain't there yet. The troops are still pretty positive.


Postcards From Iraq

Despite all the problems, things continue to move forward in Iraq, however slowly. As Friedman points out, our troops remain committed to the mission of building a pluralist democratic Iraq. It will not be quick or easy, but we cannot afford to fail. We owe it to our troops, the Iraqi people, and ourselves to see the mission through.

2 Comments:

Blogger Simon W. Moon ksc said...

As the Pentagon's report by CSIS (the Center for Strategic & International Studies)from July 2003 noted
"The next 12 months will be decisive; the next three months are crucial to turning around the security situation, which is volatile in key parts of the country. All players are watching closely to see how resolutely the coalition will handle this challenge. The Iraqi population has exceedingly high expectations, and the window for cooperation may close rapidly if they do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity. The “hearts and minds” of key segments of the Sunni and Shi’a communities are in play and can be won, but only if the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and new Iraqi authorities deliver in short order.

"In our travels throughout the country, Iraqis uniformly expressed the view that the window of opportunity for the CPA to turn things around in Iraq is closing rapidly. The following factors coalesce to make the next few months particularly crucial.

• The coalition has not addressed the heightened sense of expectation among the Iraqis as to how quickly the coalition can produce results, and frustration levels are growing.
• There is a general sense of steady deterioration in the security situation, in Baghdad, Mosul, and elsewhere.
• The coalition forces and the CPA have set up a skeleton infrastructure under extremely difficult circumstances. The CPA must now become increasingly operational, but it lacks the resources, personnel, and flexibility to move into the next stage of the mission.
Have you given the Pentagon's recent Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication a glance yet?
It's all "Global Test" and "sensitive war" crap.
“Strategic communication requires a sophisticated method … … [it] will build on in depth knowledge of other cultures and factors that motivate human behavior. It will adapt techniques of skillful political campaigning … It will engage in a respectful dialogue of ideas that begins with listening and assumes decades of sustained effort.

“[Global] opinions must be taken into account when [US] policy options are considered and implemented.

“The Task Force recommends that the President issue a directive to: (a) strengthen the U.S. Government’s ability to understand global public opinion, advise on the strategic implications of policymaking, and communicate with global audiences ...

“The strategic environment has changed radically since the October 2001 Task Force report. We face a war on terrorism, intensified conflict within Islam, and insurgency in Iraq. Worldwide anger and discontent are directed at America’s tarnished credibility
[!] and ways the U.S. pursues its goals.

"The information campaign — or as some still would have it, “the war of ideas,” or the struggle for “hearts and minds” — is important to every war effort. In this war it is an essential objective ... But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.
American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists ...
• Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies.
• Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering.
• Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah ... to broad public support.
• What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Simon W. Moon ksc said...

The formatting got me again.
It's the 'convert line breaks' setting I think.
Hopefully this one willl work out better

Here's from one of us nay-saying nabob Realists

Don't Attack SaddamIt would undermine our antiterror efforts.

By Brent Scowcroft
Thursday, August 15, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT

But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence.

... it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists.

In sum, if we will act in full awareness of the intimate interrelationship of the key issues in the region, keeping counterterrorism as our foremost priority, there is much potential for success across the entire range of our security interests--including Iraq. If we reject a comprehensive perspective, however, we put at risk our campaign against terrorism as well as stability and security in a vital region of the world.



Iraq may become 'another Vietnam'Feuary 29, 2004 - 10:12am

"It could become a Vietnam in a way that the Vietnam war never did."
"Our exit from that country did not have grave consequences, while if we wanted to get out of Iraq today, the consequences would be very deep."
"Their plans are fantastic but very difficult to apply because it is very difficult to implant deep political alterations in a society."
"This is the problem we are facing in Iraq and we do not have a magic wand to create a democratic society, or create a group of people who aspire to democracy."

8:58 PM  

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