Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Shell Game

I finally understand what President Bush has been up to. These guys are good. When everyone was calling for a reduction in troops, Mr. Bush chose to increase troops. Why? So that he can reduce the troop levels without reducing the troop levels. Let’s say that he agrees to reduce the levels by the 30,000 increase for the surge, he still maintains the same number of troops prior to the surge. He can appear to be following the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and yet keep the same number of troops, brilliant. Let’s say that he reduces it by a more modest number than the 30,000, he will actually have a net gain and still appease the growing uneasiness of the American public. He gets the best of both worlds, he can seem to be heeding the advice of other experts and the American people and yet keep the same number of troops indefinitely. He can argue I reduced the force by X number of troops didn’t I?

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has told President Bush that he wants to maintain heightened troop levels in Iraq well into next year to reduce the risk of military setbacks, but could accept the pullback of roughly 4,000 troops beginning in January, in part to assuage critics in Congress, according to senior administration and military officials.

General Petraeus’s view is considered overly cautious by some other senior military officials and some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officials said. But they said it reflected his concern that the security gains made so far in Baghdad, Anbar Province and other areas were fragile and easily reversed.[1]

This is the same strategy used by marketers for years, increase your prices before a sale and then reduce them modestly. The customer thinks they are saving 50% when they are actually paying more than they would if it were not on sale.

General Petraeus is considering making some troop reductions to relieve Congressional pressure. How about making troop reductions because the surge is not working? Despite the coming dog and pony show the surge has not been the success being touted. I read an article in the McClatchy News discussing the figures being used to claim the success of the surge. There is talk that because there are fewer US casualties then the surge is working, even though they had predicted that there would be more casualties if the strategy was working. There are those that argue it isn’t the surge it is the normal summer reduction in casualties that has been there since the beginning, it appears the insurgents also need a summer vacation. Then of course there is the argument that the insurgents have just decided to wait us out, they have decided not to engage the US troops. To me this seems the more sensible argument and can be easily proven by the number of insurgent casualties, but also by the number of insurgents captured.

It would seem pretty obvious that if the number of insurgent encounters is lower, then either one of two scenarios is true, that we have in fact defeated the insurgency or they have gone underground. The thing about fighting a war of this type is that progress is next to impossible to gauge. The ordinary benchmarks of a conventional war do not apply, the objectives are completely different. Why we are spending time with these progress reports is a mystery to me.

Our goal in Iraq is complete; it was complete when Saddam Hussein was dethroned. To ask anymore of our military personnel is suicidal, because now it becomes an international mission. Rebuilding nations belongs to the international community and rightly so. You cannot expect to destroy a society, even for humanitarian reasons and then not expect the people to resent it. It will always change from liberation to an occupation in the minds of many of the people. Iraq has shown that there is a fine line between freedom and tyranny. So far in the mind of many Iraqis we have not been able to distinguish the two. We have replaced the tyranny of a dictator with the tyranny of occupation.

We of course may not believe that, but it doesn’t matter what we believe or what our motives were. What matters is what the Iraqis believe and right now they believe we are more of a hindrance than a help. The thing about the shell game is that it is rigged and so are these progress reports. The real progress can’t be measured until we leave and many years down the line from then. It is foolishness to set these arbitrary timelines that are not connected to reality.

Democracy and nation building is a process and it cannot be accomplished by outsiders. Look at America we have been at it a lot longer than the Iraqis and we still have a lot to learn. To expect the Iraqis to overcome their fears and prejudice is not realistic. All one has to do is look at the current climate in America; we still have black and white shade trees for God’s sake.


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