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

Monday, February 20, 2006

Stamping Our Wittle Feet

It certainly is a lot easier in a dictatorship, ain't it, guys?

From the NY Times:

The American ambassador to Iraq issued an unusually strong warning today about the need for Iraq's political factions to come together, hinting for the first time that the United States would not be willing to support institutions plagued by sectarian agendas.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, spoke as a fresh wave of violence swept the country. A string of bombing attacks, including one inside a crowded commuter bus in Baghdad and another in a restaurant in northern Iraq, left at least 26 people dead and more than 60 wounded, the bloodiest day in Iraq in almost two months.

Mr. Khalilzad, speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, underscored the hope of American officials that Iraqi political leaders, who are deep in negotiations over the formation of a new government, would choose new cabinet ministers who would place the interests of their country over those of their political party and sect.

More than two months have passed since Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections, but signs of serious disagreement over the shape of the government persist. The new parliament is required by law to meet for the first time on Saturday.

"The United States is investing billions of dollars" into Iraq's new police and army forces, Mr. Khalilzad said. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian."

See, imposing democracy and defining democracy as "elections" rather than actual democratic institutions necessarily winds up with sectarianism. What the hell else were Iraqis supposed to vote for? Candidate names were basically held secret, positions on the issues were vague and unformed, and campaigning was pretty much nonexistent. When the leader of the Shi'a issues a fatwa declaring that all his followers vote, how do you think it's going to turn out?

Add to that stew the decades of animosity and suppression between the factions, that has exploded into revenge killings and death squads on both sides. This is not the milieu for reasoned diplomacy. And the US Ambassador saying "you guys better get along or else we'll take our ball and go home" doesn't provide a whole lot of help. It may be why we've lost the Iraqi public so rapidly.

This ICG report I mentioned in an earlier post is pretty fascinating for those who actually think profiling and understanding an enemy is central to defeating them (like the FBI with serial killers, for example). The report looks at the insurgency "in their own words" and shows how they use Information Age elements to try to further their goals. Nightline has a story out on the report which goes deeper into the recent history of the insurgents:

Early on in the war's aftermath, there were myriad insurgent efforts. Based on Internet communications, there has been much consolidation. The four major groups are, according to ICG: Tandhim al Qaeda fi Bilad al Rafidayn (al Qaeda's Organization in Mesopotamia), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna (Partisans of the Sunna Army); Al Jaysh al Islami fil Iraq (the Islamic Army in Iraq); and al Jabha al Islamiya lil Muqawama al Iraqiya (the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance).

ICG says these groups have monthly magazines, professionally designed PDF files that are distributed via e-mail.

They use what we in the United States might call "synergy," providing information and links to relatively sophisticated movies -- like one mythologizing the so-called Baghdad Sniper who claims to have killed more than 140 U.S. troops.

"It gives the impression that the Iraqi insurgency can kill Americans wherever they are," said Peter Harling, an ICG senior analyst.

The ICG says that these productions not only bolster the insurgency's confidence and image, but also help recruit new fighters for the cause with biographies of suicide bombers and movies that document terrorist operations...


The insurgents also deploy what in politics is called rapid response. In one instance, they took a New York Times article about the U.S. military secretly negotiating with some insurgent groups, translated it into Arabic, and rebutted it in a signed letter from those groups.

"They're very quick at this. They come back, show the allegation, deny it -- the group itself denies it, every group denies it," said Malley.

The ICG worries U.S. forces are not doing enough rapid response themselves. Though the United States shuts down many insurgent Web sites, the crisis group worries U.S. officials still allow insurgents to spread allegations of U.S. atrocities by not disputing them until it's too late and they've taken root in the Iraqi consciousness.

"They were reaching Iraqis for a long time before we," said Malley.

Having no interest in nation building to begin with, this Administration had no plan for how to do it when they radically changed their ideological course. Rumsfeld was whining about this at the end of last week, and it boggles the mind. An enemy hiding out in bunkers is more technologically sophisticated than the most advanced country on the planet? I agree to an extent with Anthony Cordesmann, who later in the article explains that the realities on the ground - massive unemployment, a fractured government, power and water supplies below pre-war levels - are far more important factors fueling the insurgency. Still, if our idea of bringing about any kind of harmony in Iraq is through threats of pullout, we only play into the hands of the sectarians, not to mention the Iranians and the Muslim world, who could then point to another area for martyrdom ("The US has starved our brothers in Iraq!").

Grand Moff Texan has some very interesting things to say about this, including this:

The fact that information is propaganda does not make it useless, it makes it useful, if your goal is defeating the enemy who produced the propaganda.  You have right in front of you the things they value, how they want people to think about them, etc.  They're showing their hand.  IF you have the sense to read it.

Strategically, we gain nothing from the readily available intel smack in front of our faces. We continue the same tired strategies of Iraqization (like Vietnamization). We can stamp our little feet that things haven't gone our way in Iraq, that our handpicked leader Ahmad Chalabi didn't win a single seat in the elections, that a Prime Minister was elected who's laid wreaths at the grave of the Ayatollah Khomeini, that the insurgency has, amazingly enough, gained the kind of credibility to get a seat at the bargaining table, but we're not prepared to do a goddamn thing about it.