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Old 07-24-2008, 09:53 PM   #1
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--> All discussion of candidates' Iraq policies here

*** Please use this thread, rather than the general campaign discussion thread, for all discussions of McCain's and Obama's Iraq policies.

The first 20 posts have been split off from the general campaign discussion thread. ***
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Originally Posted by Strongbow View Post
Ok, can you name another leader of a country in 2003 that had previously invaded and attacked FOUR different countries unprovoked, threatened the planets vital energy supply with siezure or sabotage, used WMD more times than any other leader in history, had failed to account for 1,000 liters of Anthrax, 500 pounds of Sarin Gas, 500 pounds of mustard gas, 20,000 bio chem capable shells, was in violation of 17 different UN Security Council Resolutions, in violation of the 1991 Gulf War Ceacefire Agreement, was withholding important WMD related research and programs from the world, had a military force of 430,000 troops, 3,000 tanks, over 2,000 armored personal carriers, over 2,000 artillery pieces, over 300 combat aircraft, in possession of short range ballistic missiles with ranges that were in violation of the 1991 Gulf War Ceacefire agreement and was continuing to not cooperate with the rest of the world on these serious matters?
My god, and we actually went to war with this nation-TWICE? I can only imagine the gruesome bloodbath the Iraqi military must have inflicted on us when the US decided to invade such a dangerous, armed nation.
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:07 AM   #2
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Senator Obama's own failed legislation wanted a firm 16-month withdrawal beginning in early 2007, with no Surge, when things were looking particularly dark for the U.S. and Iraq. He still wants that same 16 month withdrawal today, post Surge, when things are looking quite a bit brighter for the U.S. and Iraq.

Consistency? I suppose. Obama's nuance reigns supreme!


you're right.

let's ignore the Iraqis, and go for a general time horizon instead?

but, really, is this all you guys have? that McCain was "right" about the surge? fully 65% of the American public thinks going to war in Iraq was a mistake. the Iraqi government wants a timetable to get out and they have, effectively, endorsed Obama. the American public wants to get out of Iraq. is there anything to say about Afghanistan? Pakistan? the future of Iraq? and being "right" about the surge totally ignores the militia ceasefires and the Anbar Awakening and the fact that Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed and 20% of the population are refugees (which will come back to haunt Iraq in the future) and the fact that AQI overplayed it's hand and the population got fed up with it's gratuitous violence. it's all very little to do with "clear and hold."

and this gets to an important point. what has really made the difference in Iraq, the Anbar Awakening, the role that US troops have played in that particular aspect has been to get the tribes to talk to one another, and then to pay them to stop killing our troops. is this what McCain was advocating in 2005/6? what did he actually say back then?

and if anyone actually reads Obama's statements about the Surge in January 2007, he is pessimistic about just adding new troops, but it's not "let's just leave." he wanted to do then what he wants to do now -- encourage Iraq to step up, and have provisions for residual forces and adjustments based on political progress.
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:54 AM   #3
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Chuck Hagel: Quit Talking About The Surge, Focus On War's Future

ANNA JO BRATTON | July 24, 2008 05:21 PM EST | AP


OMAHA, Neb. — Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, fresh from an Iraq trip with Democrat Barack Obama, said the presidential candidates should focus on the war's future and stop arguing over the success of last year's troop surge.

Hagel mentioned both candidates, but his comments seemed directed at Republican John McCain. McCain, while Obama traveled the Middle East, attacked Obama for opposing the military escalation last year that increased security in Iraq.

"Quit talking about, 'Did the surge work or not work,' or, 'Did you vote for this or support this,'" Hagel said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.

"Get out of that. We're done with that. How are we going to project forward?" the Nebraska senator said. "What are we going to do for the next four years to protect the interest of America and our allies and restructure a new order in the world. ... That's what America needs to hear from these two candidates. And that's where I am."

Hagel, too, opposed the troop increase strategy, though he acknowledged Thursday it brought about positive changes. "When you flood the zone with superior American military firepower, and you put 30,000 of the world's best troops in a country, there's going to be a result there," Hagel said.

Whether the surge worked, though, can't be measured, Hagel said, arguing the small gains came at a high price. He said President Bush's decision last year to dispatch an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq has cost more than 1,000 American lives and billions of dollars.

Though Hagel is a Republican, his name has been floated as a potential vice presidential running mate for Obama. Like McCain, he is a Vietnam war veteran, but Hagel is a fierce critic of the war in Iraq. He has said he would consider running with Obama on the Democratic ticket but that he doesn't expect to be asked. He is not running for reelection.

Hagel joined Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island in traveling with Obama to the Middle East. Reed said the trip was productive. "It wasn't just a photo op and social chit chat," Reed said in a telephone interview.

Reed said the group pressed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to have the Iraqi government do more.

"Unless the government of Iraq can start delivering _ delivering jobs, delivering funds, performing _ then the gains that have been made will be quickly erased," Reed said. "I think that is a point that we all stressed, particularly Senator Obama, with the prime minister."


VP?
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:00 AM   #4
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VP?
conventional wisdom says
not a chance
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mobvok View Post
Non sequitur.

What does Obama's plan of immediately planning to withdraw, with respect to ground conditions mean? How long certain troops remain will vary slightly- for example, soldiers in a secure region of Iraq would be pulled out sooner then soldiers in a more volatile area.
Obama's said in both the Foreign Affairs Article, by voting for certain spending bills, and on his website, that he would start withdrawing US troops immediately! The point here is there are no prerequisites or conditions for starting the withdrawal.

Tell, me, which Iraqi provinces did Barack Obama actually feel were secure enough to start immediately withdrawing US combat Brigades from in 2007? Tell me just one Iraqi province where a US combat brigade was stationed in early 2007, that was secure enough for the combat brigade there to be withdrawn?

Quote:
Or, if a province needs security in the run up to an election, troops might stay there until the election passed.
Well, national parlimentary elections have been scheduled for the end of 2009 since the last ones in 2005. But Barack Obama's plan in January 2007 has all US combat brigades withdrawn by March 31, 2008, nearly two years before those national parlimentary elections. Not much flexibility with that plan at all.

Quote:
If Obama's plan was solely time based then he would simply ignore that circumstance and pull the troops out because their time on the Master Cheat Sheet of Troop Withdrawal was up.
Well, that is precisely what a 16 month withdrawal would be. There have been multiple military logistical officers who have questioned whether it is even possible for the US military to move all 15 non-surge US combat brigades out of Iraq in that time, assuming that leaving was their only mission.

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Versus George's. Less violence? Good, most troops should stay to keep it that way. More violence? Good, that's why we have troops there! Iraqis don't want us there? Uh...permanent bases?
George's plan is "as they stand up, we'll stand down". Its a conditions based plan. Its conditional on the capability of the Iraqi military to be able to take the place of any non-surge brigade that is withdrawn from Iraq. Barack Obama has NO prerequisites or conditions for Iraqi military capabilty in order to start his withdrawal. Iraqi's, especially those in the Iraqi military and police force, do not want to see the United States start withdrawing before they are ready to take the place of US forces. People in Afghanistan in general don't want the United States to be there either, but like most Iraqi's, they understand that a pre-mature withdrawal would be a mistake.

The United States is not after "permanent bases" in Iraq anymore than it wants them in Afghanistan.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:40 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by mobvok View Post
If Obama's plan was solely time based then he would simply ignore that circumstance and pull the troops out because their time on the Master Cheat Sheet of Troop Withdrawal was up.
But don't you see: That's EXACTLY what Obama WOULD do, right Strongbow?



The suggestion that Obama would just yank the troops out irregardless is as nonsensical as suggesting that Bush is a terrorist. . .Just way, WAY overstating things.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:17 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mobvok View Post
My god, and we actually went to war with this nation-TWICE?
How many troops did the United States have to deploy to Saudi Arabia in 1990? Over 500,000 , the largest US military troop deployment anywhere since World War II. But somehow, Saddam and his forces are not considered a threat, despite the fact that they inflicted over a 1 million casualties on the Iranians and overrun Kuwait in less than 48 hours. They lobbed dozens of ballistic missiles that could have been filled with Sarin gas into Israel and Saudi Arabia, but were supposed to think Saddam not a threat. Do you know why millions of Israelis were huddled in their basements with gas mask on? Look up Iraqi Sarin and Mustard Gas attacks during the Iran/Iraq war and you'll understand.


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I can only imagine the gruesome bloodbath the Iraqi military must have inflicted on us when the US decided to invade such a dangerous, armed nation
How high do US military casualties have to be for you to feel that military action was necessary?

I suppose the United States had nothing to fear from the Taliban in Afghanistan because only 1 US soldier was killed in combat in the fall of 2001 when the Taliban was removed from power there?

Operation Iraqi Freedom was a difficult and risky operation. US casualties were kept low because Saddam did not actually believe the United States was going to invade, and Iraqi defensive military preperations were not as extensive as they could have been and were more about absorbing a limited air attack like Desert Fox in 1998, rather than a full scale ground invasion. The United States was invading not to long after the sanctions and weapons embargo on Iraq had started to fall apart which meant Iraq had not had much time to start rearming with newer more advanced weapons. The United States was able to deploy a sufficiently large force in Kuwait before the war that it would not normally have stationed there indefinitely because of political restraints on the size of US deployments in the region. US defensive operations had previously required for forces to deploy as quickly as possible from the United States to defend Kuwait, but your at a big disadvantage when the enemy just has to walk across the border and you need to rush some forces half way around the world. The CIA estimated in the mid-1990s that if Saddam put all his forces into it, he could likely still overrun Kuwait although he would most likely not get much further than that. But with the collapse of containment with the essential end of effective sanctions and the weapons embargo, Iraq could begin to rearm with newer weapons as well as sell oil to finance another military build up that would upset any security balance the US was depending on in order to defend the Gulf States with such a light military presence because of political restrictions. Much of the US plan involved pre-positioning equipment and then rushing the troops over by air, much like the plans to defend Europe in the Cold War. The problem with that plan though is that the enemy can find ways to interdict the deployment or sabotage the pre-positioned equipment before the two meet up. Iraq may have been years away from many of these capabilities, but why wait until then to do what needs to be done? Why wait until heavy casualties will definitely be unavoidable and you risk not being able to accomplish the mission, at least initially, which could have even more unpredictable consequences.

A bloodier invasion would only lead to a more costly and difficult occupation and rebuilding phase. Waiting for Saddam to improve his defensives so he could increase the cost of any invasion and post-invasion occupation phase does not make any sense at all.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:27 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by maycocksean View Post
But don't you see: That's EXACTLY what Obama WOULD do, right Strongbow?



The suggestion that Obama would just yank the troops out irregardless is as nonsensical as suggesting that Bush is a terrorist. . .Just way, WAY overstating things.

I agree that Obama's plan is nonsensical. His plan is not a conditions based one unless of course you can show us what Obama's conditions and prerequisites for the Iraqi military capability were prior to withdrawing any non-surge US combat brigades? Obama is very clear that he would immediately begin withdrawing 1 to 2 combat brigades every month with all US combat brigades to be out in 14 to 16 months. In January of 2007, he wanted to have all US combat brigades out by March 31, 2008. No conditions or prerequisites were attached to the withdrawal plan except saying you might suspend the withdrawal if the Iraqi government achieved all 18 benchmarks in less than 16 months. There is no condition for stopping the withdrawal if violence increases, no condition for insuring that the Iraqi military is ready prior to the withdrawal of any US combat brigade.

Any plan that would have removed all US combat brigades from Iraq from January 2007 through March 31, 2008 is nothing more than the swiftest removal of US combat forces from Iraq without any consideration for conditions there. Many military logistical officers doubt you can remove a force that large in that amount of time that has been stationed there for over five years even if that was your only mission.
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Old 07-25-2008, 03:38 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
you're right.

let's ignore the Iraqis, and go for a general time horizon instead?
The Bush administration has worked extensively with the Iraqi's over the past 5 years to rebuild the country in contrast to the Democrats who have done everything they can to force the United States to abandon that mission and ignore the Iraqi's and their "Civil War".


Quote:
but, really, is this all you guys have? that McCain was "right" about the surge?
No, he has been right about ever policy decision in regards to the Iraq war and the war on terror. He will provide the military with the funding it needs in the years to come, while Obama thinks of the defense budget as something to be raided for pet domestic projects like most liberal democrats.

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fully 65% of the American public thinks going to war in Iraq was a mistake.
The majority of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq, continued to support the occupation phase of the war, re-elected George W. Bush in November 2004 after a summer of rubbish movies by liberals to try and turn the public against the war and Bush. It was not until the end of 2005, that the majority of the public actually turned against the war, nearly 3 years after it began which is not a surprise given the length and difficulty of rebuilding a country in the middle of a strongly supported insurgency. But opinion polls do change, and the opposition is already dropping below 60% in several polls, and the more successful the situation continues to be in Iraq, the number of Americans who feel the war was a mistake will continue to grow smaller. Its not the first time that Americans have changed their opinion of a war after success came and there was more time to reflect, as in the case of the Civil War and the Korean War.

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the Iraqi government wants a timetable to get out and they have, effectively, endorsed Obama.
The Iraqi's would like to see a withdrawal work within Obama's time frame, but they are first for a conditions based withdrawal and are not going to accept anything that is not conditions based, which means they actually have very little in common with Obama until he decides to "refine" his plan.


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is there anything to say about Afghanistan? Pakistan? the future of Iraq?
He has said plenty and would dedicate more resources than Obama would to all these area's.


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about the surge totally ignores the militia ceasefires and the Anbar Awakening
Your totally ignoring the impact the surge had on both of these things but more importantly that US casualties and Iraqi casualties did not start to decrease until US surge Brigades started to arrive on the ground and successfully disrupt insurgent and Al Quada groups.


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the fact that Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed
Baghdad in 2008 is still a multi-ethnic city. Sebrenicia Bosnia in 2005 is an example of an ethnically cleansed city. All the muslim men and boys were marched into the woods in one day and shot, 7,000 of them. The remaining Muslim women and small children were put on buses moved out of the City. Only Serbs remained in the town. That is what ehnically cleansed means.

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20% of the population are refugees (which will come back to haunt Iraq in the future)
Actually its 12% to 13% of the population. Iraq has had to deal with refugees multiple times over the past 3 decades, often in far worse and more extreme circumstances caused by Saddam's wars, or internal slaughters and executions of Kurds and Shias.


Quote:
and the fact that AQI overplayed it's hand and the population got fed up with it's gratuitous violence. it's all very little to do with "clear and hold."
You may wish it has nothing to do with US counterinsurgency policy, but if you would objectively take a look at the evidence, especially casualty figures and the deployment levels of US troops, you'll see the key factor in reducing violence in the country over the past 18 months has been US forces. Your also ignoring the role that the US military plays in developing relationships with different tribes, resolving differences between different tribes, helping with poltical and economic development, training Iraqi troops, training Anbar Awakening forces, protecting the civilian population, and successfully getting new intelligence because of the above which is the most important and difficult thing to get in successfully defeating and insurgency.

Its rather ironic, but if you really believe the US military played such an insignicant role, you shouldn't be asking it to surge in Afghanistan either.




Quote:
and this gets to an important point. what has really made the difference in Iraq, the Anbar Awakening, the role that US troops have played in that particular aspect has been to get the tribes to talk to one another, and then to pay them to stop killing our troops. is this what McCain was advocating in 2005/6? what did he actually say back then?
The Anbar Awakening started in the middle of 2006, some would say earlier. But US casualties and Iraqi civilian and security force casualties did not start to significantly fall until most of the US surge brigades had arrived on the ground in Iraq nearly a year after that point. In addition, the US military had been talking to Iraqi tribes, militias, and insurgents ever since 2004. Its basic counterinsurgency doctrine. It takes time to work, but eventually succeeds in peeling off the less committed elements of the insurgency, while turning the population that originally supported it(either out of fear or genuine feeling) against it. It requires the full commitement of military, economic and political resources in order to succeed.

Half of the Anbar Awakening had no previous ties to insurgent groups. Those that did, did more than simply stand on the sidelines. They provided US forces with intelligence and operatives to help role up, uncover and defeat insurgent and Al Quada groups. They fought and engaged groups in their neighborhoods that had previously been their allies.



Quote:
and if anyone actually reads Obama's statements about the Surge in January 2007, he is pessimistic about just adding new troops, but it's not "let's just leave." he wanted to do then what he wants to do now -- encourage Iraq to step up, and have provisions for residual forces and adjustments based on political progress.
Many of us have gone over Obama's statements multiple times and pointed out that he had no conditions or prerequisites that the Iraqi military had to meet BEFORE he would start withdrawing US combat brigades. His plan is just leave when it comes to US combat brigades, and he said he would only suspend that plan IF Iraq achieved all of its political benchmarks within a 15 month time frame. He stated in January of 2007 that he would have all US combat brigades out of Iraq by March 31, 2008, at a time when Iraq was going through its worst sectarian violence and did not have a military capable of acting independent of US forces and no logistical capablity to sustain its own forces.

The Iraqi's have stepped up and made far more progress than the Afghani's have in many area's, yet Barack Obama is not proposing a withdrawal there to get Afghanistan "to do more".

In order for political progress to be made, violence had to be reduced, and Barack Obama's plan in January 2007 would have made violance far worse and would have potentially doomed the new Iraqi government and military. Withdrawing US combat brigades before the Iraqi military had sufficient forces to take their place would simply be helping Iraqi insurgents and militia's take apart the political, economic and military structures that the US military had been working so hard to build.

Progress on the poltical benchmarks would have ground to a halt, and as more US forces left from such a growing unstable environment, those that remained behind would become more vulnerable. Eventually the choice would be between re-invading the country, or removing literaly all remaining US forces before the situation grew even worse.

This is why sticking with sound counterinsurgency and nation building operations is vital. Eventually this can produce a government and military that will be able to sustain economic development, political development, security gains, and stability allowing US ground forces to leave. But any decision to withdraw any US brigades must be based first on conditions on the ground, and not some arbitrary time table.
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Old 07-25-2008, 10:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Strongbow View Post
Many of us have gone over Obama's statements multiple times and pointed out that he had no conditions or prerequisites that the Iraqi military had to meet BEFORE he would start withdrawing US combat brigades. His plan is just leave when it comes to US combat brigades, and he said he would only suspend that plan IF Iraq achieved all of its political benchmarks within a 15 month time frame. He stated in January of 2007 that he would have all US combat brigades out of Iraq by March 31, 2008, at a time when Iraq was going through its worst sectarian violence and did not have a military capable of acting independent of US forces and no logistical capablity to sustain its own forces.




Quote:
"Let me be clear: Ending this war is not going to be easy. There will be dangers involved -- just as there would be dangers involved with staying indefinitely. We will have to make tactical adjustments, listening to our commanders on the ground, to ensure that our interests in a stable Iraq are met, and to make sure that our troops are secure."

Quote:
"The precise size of the residual force will depend on consultations with our military commanders and will depend on the circumstances on the ground, including the willingness of the Iraqi government to move toward political accommodation."


Quote:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Right behind you is the word "change." When General Petraeus comes back in a month, if he talks to Barack Obama privately and shows you what we're doing over there, is there anything that would change your position about pulling out troops if he's convinced -- if he convinces you that we're on the right track?

OBAMA: Well, what I've been very clear about is that I will always listen to commanders on the ground, but ultimately the commander in chief sets the mission. And my strong belief is that we have to send a signal to the Iraqis that we are not going to be in Iraq permanently. I mean, I have a fundamental disagreement with John McCain on this.


Quote:
SMITH: -- "you can't be pulling these people out. We're going to create a civil war and a blood bath." What would you do?

OBAMA: My job as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe. But I firmly believe that we have to send a signal to the Iraqis that it is time to withdraw. We will not have a permanent base there. We will not have a permanent occupation there.

SMITH: Even if it --

OBAMA: Within those constraints --

SMITH: Even if it meant the beginning of civil war?

OBAMA: No, no, no, no. Within those constraints, I think there is going to be some flexibility and, obviously, I would consult with commanders. We have to be mindful of the situation on the ground and what the commanders say. Having said that, what we can't do is simply say we are going to leave it open-ended, the way John McCain, for example, suggested. We might be there 50 years or 100 years. That is not going to make the American people safe over the long term, not only because of the loss of life, not only because of the anti-American sentiment that it fans and the constraints it places on our diplomacy, but also because we can't afford it. It's costing us $9 billion per month. I have not ascribed particular numbers to that and I won't for precisely the reason I was just talking to Michael about. I want to talk to military folks on the ground, No. 1. No. 2, a lot of it depends on what's happened on the political front and the diplomatic front. Even something as simple as protecting our embassy is going to be dependent on what is the security environment in Baghdad. If there is some sense of security, then that means one level of force. If you continue to have significant sectarian conflict, that means another, but this is an area where Senator [Hillary] Clinton and I do have a significant contrast.

Quote:
MICHELE NORRIS (host): So, in trying to determine what the U.S. footprint in Iraq would look like -- say you're in office, and your commanders, your military commanders, are telling you that progress is being made. If they're saying, "We can win this," are you still going to draw down forces? As a commander in chief, who does not have personal military experience, are you willing to look someone like David Petraeus in the eye and say, "You're wrong. We're going to do it my way"?

OBAMA: If commanders came to me and said, "We are making progress in reducing violence," and I see continuing political progress taking place, then obviously that's going to be weighed against the need to, I believe, have some additional troops in Afghanistan. That's going to be weighed against our homeland security needs in the United States. I think that the overarching question is: What is going to be needed to make the United States more secure, meet our strategic interests around the world, and make sure that we are meeting the obligations that we have towards the Iraqi people?

But that is all part of a decision that the president makes in consultation with his generals, but not in deference to them. And I think one of the unfortunate aspects of the last several days and General Petraeus' testimony is the illusion that, somehow, General Petraeus has been setting policy and the president has simply been accepting those recommendations. That is not what has been taking place. The president has been laying out a mission of continuing this failed course in Iraq and General Petraeus and Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker have been trying to carry out that mission as best they could.


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Old 07-25-2008, 10:33 AM   #11
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finally, instead of taking an hour to write it all out myself, i'll just post this instead. quicker, easier, and more accurate than i could be. in regards to "The Surge":



Quote:
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A Social History of the Surge

I want to weigh in as a social historian of Iraq on the controversy over whether the "surge" "worked." The NYT notes:

Quote:
'Mr. McCain bristled in an interview with the “CBS Evening News” on Tuesday when asked about Mr. Obama’s contention that while the added troops had helped reduce violence in Iraq, other factors had helped, including the Sunni Awakening movement, in which thousands of Sunnis were enlisted to patrol neighborhoods and fight the insurgency, and the Iraqi government’s crackdown on Shiite militias.

“I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened,” Mr. McCain told Katie Couric, noting that the Awakening movement began in Anbar Province when a Sunni sheik teamed up with Sean MacFarland, a colonel who commanded an Army brigade there.

“Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others,” Mr. McCain said. “And it began the Anbar Awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.”

The Obama campaign was quick to note that the Anbar Awakening began in the fall of 2006, several months before President Bush even announced the troop escalation strategy, which became known as the surge. (No less an authority than Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, testified before Congress this spring that the Awakening “started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge.”)

And Democrats noted that the sheik who helped form the Awakening, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, was assassinated in September 2007, after the troop escalation began.

The National Security Network, a liberal foreign policy group, called Mr. McCain’s explanation of the surge’s history “completely wrong.”

But several foreign policy analysts said that if Mr. McCain got the chronology wrong, his broader point — that the troop escalation was crucial for the Awakening movement to succeed and spread — was right. “I would say McCain is three-quarters right in this debate,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. '


The problem with this debate is that it has few Iraqis in it.

It is also open to charges of logical fallacy. The only evidence presented for the thesis that the "surge" "worked" is that Iraqi deaths from political violence have declined in recent months from all-time highs in the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007.
(That apocalyptic violence was set off by the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in February of 2006, which helped provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war.) What few political achievements are attributed to the troop escalation are too laughable to command real respect.

Proponents are awfully hard to pin down on what the "surge" consisted of or when it began. It seems to me to refer to the troop escalation that began in February, 2007. But now the technique of bribing Sunni Arab former insurgents to fight radical Sunni vigilantes is being rolled into the "surge" by politicians such as John McCain. But attempts to pay off the Sunnis to quiet down began months before the troop escalation and had a dramatic effect in al-Anbar Province long before any extra US troops were sent to al-Anbar (nor were very many extra troops ever sent there). I will disallow it. The "surge" is the troop escalation beginning winter of 2007. The bribing of insurgents to come into the cold could have been pursued without a significant troop escalation, and was.

Aside from defining what proponents mean by the "surge," all kinds of things are claimed for it that are not in evidence. The assertion depends on a possible logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. If event X comes after event Y, it is natural to suspect that Y caused X. But it would often be a false assumption. Thus, actress Sharon Stone alleged that the recent earthquake in China was caused by China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters. That is just superstition, and callous superstition at that. It is a good illustration, however, of the very logical fallacy to which I am referring.

For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra US troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.

As best I can piece it together, what actually seems to have happened was that the escalation troops began by disarming the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad. Once these Sunnis were left helpless, the Shiite militias came in at night and ethnically cleansed them. Shaab district near Adhamiya had been a mixed neighborhood. It ended up with almost no Sunnis. Baghdad in the course of 2007 went from 65% Shiite to at least 75% Shiite and maybe more. My thesis would be that the US inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge). Rates of violence declined once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods.




As Think Progress quoted CNN correspondent Michael Ware:

Quote:
' The sectarian cleansing of Baghdad has been — albeit tragic — one of the key elements to the drop in sectarian violence in the capital. […] It’s a very simple concept: Baghdad has been divided; segregated into Sunni and Shia enclaves. The days of mixed neighborhoods are gone. […] If anyone is telling you that the cleansing of Baghdad has not contributed to the fall in violence, then they either simply do not understand Baghdad or they are lying to you.'


Of course, Gen. Petraeus took courageous and effective steps to try to stop bombings in markets and so forth. But I am skeptical that most of these techniques had macro effects. Big population movements because of militia ethnic cleansing are more likely to account for big changes in social statistics.

The way in which the escalation troops did help establish Awakening Councils is that when they got wise to the Shiite ethnic cleansing program, the US began supporting these Sunni militias, thus forestalling further expulsions.

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The Shiitization of Baghdad was thus a significant cause of falling casualty rates. But it is another war waiting to happen, when the Sunnis come back to find Shiite militiamen in their living rooms.
In al-Anbar Province, among the more violent in Iraq in earlier years, the bribing of former Sunni guerrillas to join US-sponsored Awakening Councils had a big calming effect. This technique could have been used much earlier than 2006, indeed, could have been deployed from 2003, and might have forestalled large numbers of deaths. Condi Rice forbade US military officers from dealing in this way with the Sunnis for fear of alienating US Shiite allies such as Ahmad Chalabi. The technique was independent of the troop escalation. Indeed, it depended on there not being much of a troop escalation in that province. Had large numbers of US soldiers been committed to simply fight the Sunnis or engage in search and destroy missions, they would have stirred up and reinforced the guerrilla movement. There were typically only 10,000 US troops in al-Anbar before 2007 as I recollect (It has a population of a million and a half or so). If the number of US troops went up to 14,000, that cannot possibly have made the difference.

The Mahdi Army militia of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr concluded a cease-fire with US and Iraqi troops in September of 2007. Since the US had inadvertently enabled the transformation of Baghdad into a largely Shiite city, a prime aim of the Mahdi Army, they could afford to stand down. Moreover, they were being beaten militarily by the Badr Corps militia of the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and by Iraqi security forces, in Karbala, Diwaniya and elsewhere. It was prudent for them to stand down. Their doing so much reduced civilian deaths.

Badr reassertion in Basra was also important, and ultimately received backing this spring from PM Nuri al-Maliki. There were few coalition troops in Basra, mainly British, and most were moved out to the airport, so the troop escalation was obviously irrelevant to improvements in Basra. Now PM Gordon Brown seems to be signalling that most British troops will come home in 2009.

The vast increase in Iraqi oil revenues in recent years, and the cancellation of much foreign debt, has made the central government more powerful vis-a-vis the society. Al-Maliki can afford to pay, train and equip many more police and soldiers. An Iraq with an unencumbered $75 billion in oil income begins to look more like Kuwait, and to be able to afford to buy off various constituencies. It is a different game than an Iraq with $33 bn. in revenues, much of it pre-committed to debt servicing.

Senator McCain was wrong to say that US or Iraqi casualty rates were unprecedentedly low in May.

Most American commentators are so focused on the relative fall in casualties that they do not stop to consider how high the rates of violence remain. Kudos to Steve Chapman for telling it like it is.

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The troop escalation has not been the complete failure Obama suggested it would be, but it has fallen far short of the triumph claimed by Republicans. The level of violence, though down from the very worst months of the war, remains at levels comparable with 2005, which were considered awful at the time.

Iraqi civilians died at a higher rate in the first four months of this year than in the same period of 2005. The number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces is about the same. Here is McCain's definition of success: returning to a pace of bloodshed that was once regarded as intolerable.

Even the progress made in the last 18 months is only partly attributable to the additional American forces. Equally important was the decision of Sunni militias to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

McCain insists this shift was only made possible by the surge—when, in fact, it happened several months before. Does he not know what really happened? Or does he not care?


I'd suggest some comparisons. The Sri Lankan civil war between Sinhalese and Tamils has killed an average of 233 persons a month since 1983 and is considered one of the world's major ongoing trouble spots. That is half the average monthly casualties in Iraq recently. In 2007, the conflict in Afghanistan killed an average of 550 persons a month. That is about the rate recently according to official statistics for Iraq. The death rate in 2006-2007 in Somalia was probably about 300 a month, or about half this year's average monthsly rate in Iraq. Does anybody think Afghanistan or Somalia is calm? Thirty years of North Ireland troubles left about 3,000 dead, a toll still racked up in Iraq every five months on average.

All the talk of casualty rates, of course, is to some extent beside the point. The announced purpose of the troop escalation was to create secure conditions in which political compromises could be achieved.

In spring of 2007, Iraq had a national unity government. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet had members in it from the Shiite Islamic Virtue Party, the Sadr Movement, the secular Iraqi National list of Iyad Allawi, the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the two Shiite core partners, the Islamic Mission (Da'wa) Party and the Islami Supreme Council of Iraq.

Al-Maliki lost his national unity government in summer, 2007, just as casualties began to decline. The Islamic Virtue Party, the Sadrists, and the Iraqi National List are all still in the opposition. The Islamic Mission Party of al-Maliki has split, and he appears to remain in control of the smaller remnant. So although the Sunni IAF has agreed to rejoin the government, al-Maliki's ability to promote national reconciliation is actually much reduced now from 14 months ago.

There has been very little reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite. The new de-Baathification law which ostensibly aimed at improving the condition of Sunnis who had worked in the former regime was loudly denounced by the very ex-Baathists who would be affected by it. In any case, the measure has languished in oblivion and no effort has been made to implement it. Depending on how it is implemented it could easily lead to large numbers of Sunnis being fired from government ministries, and so might make things worse.

An important step was the holding of new provincial elections. Since the Sunni Arabs boycotted the last ones in Jan., 2005, their provinces have not had representative governments and in some, Shiite and Kurdish officials have wielded power over the majority Sunnis Arabs! Attempts to hold the provincial elections this fall have so far run aground on the shoals of ethnic conflict. Thus, the Shiite parties wanted to use ayatollahs' pictures in their campaigns, against the wishes of the other parties. It isn't clear what parliament will decide about that. More important is the question of whether provincial elections will be held in the disputed Kirkuk Province, which the Kurds want to annex. That dispute has caused (Kurdish) President Jalal Talabani to veto the enabling legislation for the provincial elections, which may set them back months or indefinitely.

There is also no oil law, essential to allow foreign investment in developing new fields.

So did the "surge" "work"?

The troop escalation in and of itself was probably not that consequential. That the troops were used in new ways by Gen. Petraeus was more important. But their main effect was ironic. They calmed Baghdad down by accidentally turning it into a Shiite city, as Shiite as Isfahan or Tehran, and thus a terrain on which the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement could not hope to fight effectively.

It is Obama who has the better argument in this debate, not Senator McCain, who knows almost nothing about Iraq and Iraqis, and overestimates what can be expected of 30,000 US troops in an enormous, complex country.

But the problem for McCain is that it does not matter very much for policy who is right in this debate. Security in Iraq is demonstrably improved, for whatever reason, and the Iraqis want the US out. If things are better, what is the rationale for keeping US troops in Iraq?
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:08 PM   #12
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Obama's said in both the Foreign Affairs Article, by voting for certain spending bills, and on his website, that he would start withdrawing US troops immediately! The point here is there are no prerequisites or conditions for starting the withdrawal.
Non sequitur.

Quote:
Well, national parlimentary elections have been scheduled for the end of 2009 since the last ones in 2005. But Barack Obama's plan in January 2007 has all US combat brigades withdrawn by March 31, 2008, nearly two years before those national parlimentary elections. Not much flexibility with that plan at all.
Well, just an example I thought up. My other example about volatile provinces versus secure ones was directly from his New York Times op-ed, if it makes you feel better we'll just go with that.

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Well, that is precisely what a 16 month withdrawal would be.
Ah, the old "restate your premise" as a rebuttal.

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George's plan is "as they stand up, we'll stand down". Its a conditions based plan. Its conditional on the capability of the Iraqi military to be able to take the place of any non-surge brigade that is withdrawn from Iraq.
Tell me more.
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Old 07-25-2008, 12:35 PM   #13
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How many troops did the United States have to deploy to Saudi Arabia in 1990? Over 500,000 , the largest US military troop deployment anywhere since World War II. But somehow, Saddam and his forces are not considered a threat, despite the fact that they inflicted over a 1 million casualties on the Iranians and overrun Kuwait in less than 48 hours. They lobbed dozens of ballistic missiles that could have been filled with Sarin gas into Israel and Saudi Arabia, but were supposed to think Saddam not a threat. Do you know why millions of Israelis were huddled in their basements with gas mask on? Look up Iraqi Sarin and Mustard Gas attacks during the Iran/Iraq war and you'll understand.
Context matters, the US conclusively proved twice that your scary lists of x amount of soldiers and y amount of artillery shells was hollow because it was in the context of the worst troop morale, the most feeble organization, the most inadequate and obsolete equipment. I don't want to get into a debate about WMDs, but it seems fairly obvious that Saddam stopped being a serious conventional threat at least by his humiliation at the end of the Gulf War. With Israel and US troops in the area providing an overwhelming advantage and protecting Gulf states, any conventional actions would end in his demise.
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Old 07-25-2008, 01:12 PM   #14
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.

So are the following articles your way of telling us that Obama has always been for only withdrawing from Iraq based on conditions in the country and the capability of the armed forces? I think it would be great if he really was, but when he specifcally addresses the removal of US combat brigades, he talked about removing them all within a 16 month time frame with no conditions or prerequisites for their removal except that he might suspend the withdrawal if the Iraqi government were to achieve all 18 benchmark in the 16 month time frame.

Where has Barack Obama ever stated a single condition or prerequisite that the Iraqi military would have to achieve before he would start to withdraw any troops?

In one of the qoutes, Obama claims that Bush is making Pataeus and Crocker implement a failed strategy in Iraq. So Barack thinks that Surge failed. Perhaps Barack Obama would be better at playing Baghdad Bob than being the next President of the United States.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:05 PM   #15
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finally, instead of taking an hour to write it all out myself, i'll just post this instead. quicker, easier, and more accurate than i could be. in regards to "The Surge":

Well, here is what a Democratic Security Expert had to say about the McCain timeline on the Surge right from your own post:

Quote:
But several foreign policy analysts said that if Mr. McCain got the chronology wrong, his broader point — that the troop escalation was crucial for the Awakening movement to succeed and spread — was right. “I would say McCain is three-quarters right in this debate,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. '



You might want to check the date and accuracy of somethings before you post them like this little nugget:

Quote:
It is also open to charges of logical fallacy. The only evidence presented for the thesis that the "surge" "worked" is that Iraqi deaths from political violence have declined in recent months from all-time highs in the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007. (That apocalyptic violence was set off by the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in February of 2006, which helped provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war.) What few political achievements are attributed to the troop escalation are too laughable to command real respect.
Correct in showing that violence did decline as a result of sending more troops, but is outdated in that it fails to mention the fact that the Iraqi government has achieved 15 of the 18 benchmarks set out for it.


Quote:
Proponents are awfully hard to pin down on what the "surge" consisted of or when it began. It seems to me to refer to the troop escalation that began in February, 2007. But now the technique of bribing Sunni Arab former insurgents to fight radical Sunni vigilantes is being rolled into the "surge" by politicians such as John McCain. But attempts to pay off the Sunnis to quiet down began months before the troop escalation and had a dramatic effect in al-Anbar Province long before any extra US troops were sent to al-Anbar (nor were very many extra troops ever sent there). I will disallow it. The "surge" is the troop escalation beginning winter of 2007. The bribing of insurgents to come into the cold could have been pursued without a significant troop escalation, and was.
Do you have a link for this, I'd like to see who this person is making these absurd and ignorant claims?

Yes, the Anbar awakening began in mid 2006, but as you'll see from the following list, it had virtually no impact on casualty levels, either Iraqi or American in 2006. The drop in casualties occurs with the arrival of most of the Surge Brigades:


Combined Iraqi Security Force and Civilian Casualties July 2006 through July 2008 according to iCasualties: Iraq Coalition Casualty Count

Jul 2006 1,280 Start of Anbar Awakening
Aug 2006 2,966
Sep 2006 3,539
Oct 2006 1,539
Nov 2006 1,864
Dec 2006 1,752
Jan 2007 1,802
Feb 2007 3,014 Feb. 14 elements of first Surge Brigade start to arrive.
Mar 2007 2,977
Apr 2007 1,821
May 2007 1,980
June 2007 1,345
July 2007 1,690
Aug 2007 1,674 Early August, last Surge Brigade starts to arrive.
Sep 2007 848
Oct 2007 679
Nov 2007 560 Start of November, US military reaches peak surge number.
Dec 2007 548
Jan 2008 554
Feb 2008 674
Mar 2008 980
Apr 2008 744
May 2008 506
June 2008 450
July 2008 282


Coalition combat deaths July 2006 to July 2008:

Jul 2006 41 Start of Anbar Awakening
Aug 2006 59
Sep 2006 65
Oct 2006 102
Nov 2006 67
Dec 2006 98
Jan 2007 80
Feb 2007 75 Feb. 14 elements of first Surge Brigade start to arrive.
Mar 2007 72
Apr 2007 107
May 2007 123
Jun 2007 99
Jul 2007 73
Aug 2007 60 Early August, last Surge Brigade starts to arrive.
Sep 2007 44
Oct 2007 30
Nov 2007 30 Start of November, US military reaches peak surge number.
Dec 2007 14
Jan 2008 35
Feb 2008 26
Mar 2008 37
Apr 2008 42
May 2008 17
Jun 2008 24
Jul 2008 7



Ironically in Al Anbar province, 2006 when the Sunni Awakening began was the 2nd bloodiest year for US troops in Al Anbar province with 314 troops killed by hostile fire. In 2007 after US surge troops started to arrive, US casualties there dropped by more than 50%.




Quote:
Aside from defining what proponents mean by the "surge," all kinds of things are claimed for it that are not in evidence. The assertion depends on a possible logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. If event X comes after event Y, it is natural to suspect that Y caused X. But it would often be a false assumption. Thus, actress Sharon Stone alleged that the recent earthquake in China was caused by China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters. That is just superstition, and callous superstition at that. It is a good illustration, however, of the very logical fallacy to which I am referring.
Next time why don't actually read what your about to post so don't post someone that sounds like their on the view or some other day time talk show.


Quote:
For the first six months of the troop escalation, high rates of violence continued unabated. That is suspicious. What exactly were US troops doing differently last September than they were doing in May, such that there was such a big change? The answer to that question is simply not clear. Note that the troop escalation only brought US force strength up to what it had been in late 2005. In a country of 27 million, 30,000 extra US troops are highly unlikely to have had a really major impact, when they had not before.
Maybe its not clear to this person because they don't understand what US forces had to do to first break up insurgent and Al Quada cells that were deeply intrenched within the suburbs of Baghdad. 2nd, it was not until late August and early September that all the Surge combat brigades had arrived on the ground. At that point, they were able to finish removing insurgent and Al Quada forces from the more crowded population centers, and were able to move out more from Baghdad into the other provinces to find and catch Al Quada and insurgent forces retreating from the previous positions in the city. This reduced civilian casualties and started to heavily reduce coalition casualties as IED and bomb making networks that were hidden were found, destroyed or disrupted. IED's and VBIED's started to drop.

The number of COMBAT troops on the ground in late 2005 was still smaller than the 20 combat brigade total that the surge has put on the ground, and were mainly military police to help guard elections and were equiped and deployed differently that the Surge combat brigades were. They were also deployed for a much shorter length of time. Its not just a matter of comparing raw numbers of troops, but the type of forces that are on the ground and how they are deployed. In addition, the Iraqi military did not exist in 2005 in the way that it did in 2007. It was much smaller, and had far greater difficulty operating independently of US forces.



Quote:
Shaab district near Adhamiya had been a mixed neighborhood. It ended up with almost no Sunnis. Baghdad in the course of 2007 went from 65% Shiite to at least 75% Shiite and maybe more. My thesis would be that the US inadvertently allowed the chasing of hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad (and many of them had to go all the way to Syria for refuge). Rates of violence declined once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods.
Ethnic cleansing by itself does not reduce sectarian violence as Bosnia demonstrated to the world from 1992 to 1995. All that happens in such cases is that fighting occurs on the fault lines between ethnically cleansed groups of people. Where the fighting occurs shifts, but it does not reduce violence. If it did, there be no need to have built walls in Belfast in the 1970s, or in Baghdad over the past 18 months. These cities have walls because they still have significant multi-ethnic demographics and their mere segregation in to different area's does NOT stop violence.


Most of the ethnic cleansing occured in 2006, but civilian casualties did not start to significantly fall until well into mid 2007 and after Surge troops had arrived. The three maps that you put up help to show this. In January 07 with much of the city more segragated, violence continued at high levels and in some parts of the city even got worse. Its not until after many of the Surge Brigades arrive that you see a signicant decrease in violence levels in July 07.
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