As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, November 30, 2007

No Way Out

Kudos to the New York Times editorial board:

Without a serious effort at national conciliation, American troops are just holding down the lid on a pressure cooker. Iraq’s rival militias, the insurgents, the bitter sectarian resentments and the meddling neighbors haven’t gone anywhere. Consider this all too familiar horror: yesterday, police said they pulled six bodies from the Tigris River about 25 miles south of Baghdad. They were handcuffed and showed signs of having been tortured. And five, including a child, had been beheaded.

Perhaps 160,000 American troops could hold down the overall casualty numbers indefinitely, but they cannot wipe away that sort of hatred. That’s the job of Iraq’s leaders. Either way, the American military doesn’t have enough troops for such an occupation without end, and the American Treasury can’t keep spending $10 billion a month to maintain it.

Read the whole thing. And here's some more facts to add on to that informed opinion. First of all, these numbers being cited as a source of success are increasingly being generated by the unreliable Iraqi government.

And just as Iraqi forces have had a mixed record in fighting insurgents, they have been spotty at providing data from the regions where they have taken command.

Iraqi officials have been reporting far higher civilian death totals than those reported by U.S. forces, and aides to American commanders now acknowledge that the U.S. military probably had been undercounting such casualties.

We're also wearing out our welcome with Iraqi lawmakers, as treatment in the Green Zone and throughout the country becomes more violent and aggressive. At some point, the trade-off between providing security and humiliating the locals will become unsustainable. Plus, eventually there are going to be a lot of refugees flowing back into these ethnically cleansed areas, and there is absolutely no plan to deal with them.

The Iraqi government lacks a mechanism to settle property disputes if former residents return to Baghdad only to find that their homes are occupied, the officials said. Nor is it clear whether Iraqi authorities will be able to provide aid, shelter and other essential services to the thousands of Iraqis who might return. American commanders caution that if the return is not carefully managed, there is a risk of undermining the recent security gains.

“All these guys coming back are probably going to find somebody else living in their house,” said Col. William Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, speaking at a two-day military briefing on measuring military trends for a small group of American reporters in Baghdad.

“We have been asking, pleading with the government of Iraq to come up with a policy so it is not put upon our battalion commanders and the I.S.F. battalion commanders to figure it out on the ground,” he added, referring to the American and Iraqi security force commanders.

These conditions presage an eventual crumbling of a very fragile situation, and without political and diplomatic measures, we simply won't be able to keep that lid on.

NPR ran a very good piece this morning basically explaining that all the happy talk from Republican candidates about Iraq is almost completely irrelevant. They keep calling it a war against Islamofascism when it's actually a complex web of countervailing forces vying for power. Some think that Iraq will recede as a campaign issue, but that will only happen if the Democrats allow Republicans to get away with this blurring strategy. Iraq is still very dangerous, and we ignore that at our peril.

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