Thursday, September 14, 2006

Worse, and worse, and worse... and where it all ends is anyone'g guess 

Sometimes I feel like I should take Iraq out of the description of this blog given that I discuss it so little. With so many other sites that cover it so well and with what is at this point the monotony of an ongoing meat grinder why bother? Especially when there are so many GOOD things happening in Venezuela. Blogging goods news is a lot more fun than blogging death and mayhem and just plain bad news as is the case with Iraq.

However, yesterday there appeared an article in the Wall Street Journal that needs to be brought up because it clearly showed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going worse than the U.S. government and media have let on. In fact, it seems the U.S. will face a decision within the next year, or two at most, to either retreat in defeat or significantly expand the wars.

First some exerps from the article:

Mideast Peril Growing Concern: Terrorist Havens In 'Failed States'
Instability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon Raise Risk That U.S. Seeks to
A Province's 'Execution Unit'

In April, Saudi Arabia disclosed plans for an unusual and hugely
expensive project: a multibillion-dollar electrified fence along its
560-mile border with Iraq.
The move angered U.S. and Iraqi officials, but Saudi officials said
Iraq's growing instability left them little choice. They said they were
concerned about militants infiltrating from Iraq to carry out attacks
aimed at either toppling the ruling family or inciting Saudi Arabia's
restive Shiite minority to seek independence.
Concern about extremism seeping out of Iraq underscores a painful irony
in the five-year-old war against terrorism: The U.S. and its allies now
face the distinct possibility that the same kind of "failed state" that
gave terrorists a haven when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan -- leading
to Sept. 11 -- could be forming again, in more than one place.
Both Iraq and Lebanon are threatening to degenerate into states with
weak central governments where extremists can thrive. Iraq already
appears to serve as a kind of finishing school for young radicals
seeking battlefield experience. In Lebanon, Hezbollah's war with Israel
this summer both destabilized the country and enhanced the reputation
of Hezbollah extremists, who in the past have demonstrated a desire to
extend their reach beyond Lebanon's borders.
To make matters worse, Afghanistan itself now appears to be sliding
backward so much that it could again become an international terror
breeding ground.
Forces from the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are
locked in the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan since late 2001. U.S.
casualties are running at more than twice last year's rate. U.S.
military commanders speak openly of an "Iraq-ification" of Afghanistan:
Once-rare suicide bombings and roadside bombs have become common, and
both arms and militants flow over mostly undefended borders. Much as in
Iraq, the bulk of the Afghan insurgency is local, but there are signs
al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters are participating.

This unwelcome picture is forcing changes in America's posture across
the region. Most significantly, the U.S. in midsummer abandoned a plan
that Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, had crafted
that would have had the U.S. withdrawing some of its forces beginning
this month.
Instead, the number of American forces in Iraq is increasing. In recent
weeks the U.S. has shifted thousands of troops to Baghdad as part of an
effort to secure the city, which means the U.S. has had to increase the
overall number of troops in Iraq. Last week, the Pentagon said there
were 145,000 troops, or 18,000 more than in late July and the highest
level since the start of the year.
Senior military leaders say their top priority is to ensure that Iraq
doesn't become a failed state. That has caused shifts in how U.S.
forces operate on the ground. In places such as Tal Afar in northern
Iraq and Tarmiyah, a Sunni stronghold northeast of Baghdad, U.S.
military forces are reaching out to insurgent leaders in search of some
sort of compromise that would get them to participate in the political
process and move away from terror groups. As a result, American
officers today are negotiating with Sunni leaders who only a couple of
years earlier had been in jail.

Meanwhile, amid mounting concerns that Lebanon and Iraq are becoming
terrorist havens akin to Afghanistan under the Taliban, Afghanistan
itself appears to sliding back toward disarray.
U.S. and NATO commanders cite three big problems there. The Hamid
Karzai government is deeply unpopular in many rural areas, seen as a
U.S. puppet. Opium-poppy production is skyrocketing, with Afghanistan
now supplying 92% of the world's supply of the heroin ingredient,
according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. The biggest threat is
a military one: A resurgent Taliban has triggered the heaviest fighting
since the U.S. toppled the fundamentalist Islamic group's rule in 2001.
Taliban offensives have left more than 1,000 people dead in the past
four months and greatly complicated reconstruction efforts. In just the
past few days, a suicide bomber killed a provincial governor, and then
another suicide bomber attacked at his funeral.
NATO commanders in southern Afghanistan have been surprised by both the
intensity of the Taliban attacks and the tactics used. They say the
Taliban have shifted from ambushes to larger-scale ground assaults, in
which the militants stand and fight rather than melt back into the
countryside. On Thursday, NATO's top commander, Gen. James Jones, asked
the alliance's 26 member states to send more soldiers, warplanes and
helicopters to reinforce the allied forces battling the Taliban

So lets see what we can glean here: In Iraq rather than troop draw-downs the troop level there is the highest it has been since the invasion (talk about keeping things hush hush you sure don’t hear about that on the evening news). Yet even with these ever higher troop levels Iraq is having both an insurgency and a civil war at the same time and they can’t even control the capital city.

In Afghanistan the U.S. tried a totally different approach from Iraq. Rather than trying to control the whole country, like the Soviets tried to do, they settled for only controlling major population centers and letting the rest of the country suffer “benign neglect” for lack of a better term. For a while it seemed as though that was an effective strategy. Now that it has blown up in their face it’s a policy only a heroin addict could love.

Worse still, the U.S. leadership seems to have no clue. So much so that it takes a whacky business pundit to state the obvious – that in an insurgency time doesn’t favor the occupier, it favors the insurgents. If the Iraqi insurgents can keep this level of violence up for a number of years more they win, guaranteed. It’s not just that the U.S. isn’t winning, it’s actually losing. Yes, it may be a military stalemate with neither side able to impose its will militarily on the other but in such situations, as even Lou Dobbs can see, the insurgents are clearly winning.

Where does this leave everything? In a very bad way I’m afraid. I’m not big on offering predictions as I don’t have a crystal ball anymore than anyone else does. But I will venture this guess. The U.S. ruling class is not willing to admit defeat. The American public may have turned against this war but I think the U.S. rulers still view this as a must win war. And I don’t mean just Bush and Cheney. If John Kerry were President I’m quite sure he would be equally committed to the U.S. continuing to prosecute this war. I think it is universally accepted by the powers that be that to lose this war would be an unacceptably large blow to their power, their standing in the world, and their interests in the Middle East.

For that reason I think they will yet do more to escalate the war in hopes of winning it militarily. That manifests itself already on the rhetorical level. Witness Bush’s recent use of the term “Islamofascist” which had previously been used only by fringe elements. Witness his whole foreign policy team saying that either we “fight them there, or fight them here”. Their propaganda about WMD and democratizing the Middle East may have gone out the window but they remain undaunted. Hence the new and even more extreme rhetoric.

That intensified rhetoric may well soon move to intensified actions. One scenario that I think is quite possible is the following: Once the upcoming congressional elections pass Bush will enter the lame duck phase of his Presidency. Historically a lot of unpopular policies have been implemented by lame duck presidents to relieve a new incoming of President of having to expend political capital on them. For that reason I think there is a very good chance that starting in 2007 the U.S. will start increasing its military forces in the Iraq and Afghanistan significantly. One way they can do this is just to stop this rotation non-sense and leave military units in Iraq for multiple years – say keeping units there two years at a time as opposed to one. In that way they could get well over 200,000 troops in Iraq which is probably what they are going to have to do.

This is all speculative on my part of course. But I do think it is more likely than not to happen. Mainly because with things clearly deteriorating rapidly the only alternative is to pull out. They really are in a “fish or cut bait” situation and I just don’t seem them cutting bait yet.

So like Credence Clearwater Revival I see “A bad moon rising”


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