Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We're Still Winning!

Rich Lowry, who back in May of 2005 brought us this memorable cover - and cover story - about how "We're Winning" in Iraq, is back with a bag full of crackers for pollyanna and the Bush administration parrots:

The surge has succeeded in reducing sectarian killings in Baghdad and civilian casualties overall, but at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and without the Iraqi legislative accomplishments that were established as “political benchmarks.” Those benchmarks shouldn’t be fetishized. The reason that they were considered so important is that they were thought necessary to entice Sunnis away from the insurgency. Instead, the Sunnis have swung our way anyway, in reaction to al Qaeda brutality and to our strength.

By any measure, this is significant political progress — so significant, in fact, that no one even considered making it a “benchmark” at the beginning of the year. [emphasis added]

Here, Lowry gets the overall strategy considerably jumbled.

The "benchmarks" - to use his shorthand - are "considered so important" because they represent political concessions that could, potentially, woo Sunnis away from the civil wars and insurgencies that are rendering Iraq a failed state. They are supposed to offer a vehicle for political reconciliation that will bring combatants into the political process and away from violence, and help to forge a tripartite modus vivendi between the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. Without such a political reconciliation, there is no hope for any "victory" in Iraq. General Petraeus has said as much repeatedly.

However, instead of discussing The Surge (and associated political developments) using these criteria, Lowry focuses on how certain Sunni insurgent groups have "swung our way" - meaning they have been willing to work with us in targeting our mutual enemy: those groups that identify themselves using the "al-Qaeda" franchise.

The problem is - and this is why this development does not represent "significant political progress" - that the same Sunni groups that are willing to work with us to go after al-Qaeda are still committed to waging war against the current Shiite/Kurdish dominated government, and to eventually rejoining the fight to eject us from Iraq. They are partaking in a temporary marriage of convenience with us, but the alliance is not a lasting one, and it does not accomplish the goal of bringing the various Iraqi factions together.

Lowry goes on:

The U.S. political argument over benchmarks is shot through with bad faith anyway. Would the advocates of retreat really have a different position if the Iraqi parliament had managed to pass an oil-revenue-sharing law already? Unlikely.

That depends. The current petroleum law being discussed is bitterly opposed by the Sunnis. So, if it were passed over unified Sunni objections, no, that wouldn't help the political reconciliation process. Passing laws that Sunnis vehemently oppose won't encourage them to opt for the political process over the military one, but rather push them further into armed resistance.

Along these lines, the various benchmarks should not be viewed as course-changing phenomena on their own. There is no magical, intrinsic quality that makes their enactment redemptive. The only worth of the various benchmarks is in their ability to deliver the desired end-game of a peaceful modus vivendi.

Now, if the political benchmarks can be implemented and the implementation can lead Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to forge a political bond and cease fighting, then at least this advocate of withdrawal would have a different position (assuming our continued presence would be required after such a political resolution, which is not entirely clear).

Those are two enormous "ifs," though, and neither has a very good chance of breaking the right way, let alone both. Faced with those prospects, it's no surprise that Lowry would rather talk about some unrelated event that has actually occurred, and pretend that the deus just exed from the machina.

(via this somewhat popular guy)

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