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Basra Mess Proves Surge Success!

The Mahdi Army controls Basra and four days of intense fighting there has been punctuated with the bombing of one of Iraq’s two main oil pipelines.* U.S. officials are painting this is a success story.

Basra Mess Proves Surge Success! Tires burned in the city center, gunfire echoed against shuttered stores, and teams of fighters in pickup trucks moved about brandishing machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Photo: Karim Kadim/Associated Press
Karim Kadim/Associated Press via NYT

The Pentagon on Wednesday said an eruption of violence in southern Iraq, where US-backed government forces were battling Shiite militias, was a “by-product of the success of the surge.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said it showed that the Iraqi government and security forces were now confident enough to take the initiative against Shiite extremists in the southern port of Basra. “Citizens down there have been living in a city of chaos and corruption for some time and they and the prime minister clearly have had enough of it,” he said at a Pentagon press conference.

At least 20 people were reported to have been killed in two days of fighting in Basra and another 20 in clashes in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, a bastion of Shiite militias that follow radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The violence raised fears that a unilateral ceasefire called by Sadr last year, which US military officials have credited with helping to bring down last year’s high levels of violence in Iraq, was coming apart.

Madhi Army Basra Photo Morrell, however, disputed suggestions that the fighting showed the risks of drawing down US “surge” forces. “This has just begun this week,” he said. “But I think at this early stage, it looks as though it is a by-product of the success of the surge,” referring to the sharp hike in US troops in Iraq from earlier last year to quell violence. He said it was a success “in the sense that the Iraqi government has grown and increased in capability to the point where they now feel confident going after Shia extremists in a part of the country that they had not exerted great influence over.”

Morrell said US forces were supporting the Iraqi crackdown, mainly from the air, but it was an Iraqi operation. If there is a violent reaction, he said, “that is the consequence of what we believe to be the right posture by the Iraqi government: to aggressively go after terrorists and extremists, Sunni or Shia alike.” “I do not think, at this stage, which is mere days into this operation, anyone is prepared to stand here and tell you that they feel as though that the gains we’ve made over the past several months are in jeopardy,” he said. “I think they would tell you just the opposite: that this is a sign that the Iraqi security forces are now capable of confronting, fundamentally, their problems,” he said.

The problem with this analysis, at least from the vantage point of what has happened thus far, is that the operation has been a disaster. Reports on NPR this morning say the Iraqi Army is vastly outmanned and outgunned. Further, there have been cases — how many is unclear — of Iraqi soldiers taking off their uniforms and joining the enemy. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

More from NYT:

American officials have presented the Iraqi Army’s attempts to secure the port city as an example of its ability to carry out a major operation against the insurgency on its own. A failure there would be a serious embarrassment for the Iraqi government and for the army, as well as for American forces eager to demonstrate that the Iraqi units they have trained can fight effectively on their own.

During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out.

Still, there’s a sense in which the “success” claims aren’t laughable. At some point, the central government has to have the strength to take on the outlaws and its authority over all of Iraq.

A Basra newspaper editor who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals said most residents despised the Mahdi Army and welcomed the assault. But he said it was obvious that the central government had not consulted with local commanders in planning the assault, citing the inability of the armored vehicles to fit through city streets. But support for the assault already seems to be eroding in several neighborhoods, as militiamen retained control of their strongholds and residents were confined in their homes. “The Mahdi Army is still controlling most of these places,” the editor said. “The result is negative.”

Perhaps this is a case of it being darkest before the dawn, having to break some eggs to make an omelet, or whatever similar cliché one might favor. Right now, though, it looks like the operation will backfire.

UPDATE: Phil Carter observes:

It’s difficult to see how this ends well. This is some of the nastiest intra-sectarian fighting we’ve seen in Iraq. Second, it looks pretty clear that Maliki is using the Iraqi security forces to consolidate his own power and eliminate his rivals. Third, I can only imagine the trepidation being felt by Sunni leaders who are watching this and wondering whether they’re next on Maliki’s hit list. For now, the heavy fighting remains limited to Basra, although skirmishes have erupted throughout the country. If this clash in Basra lasts longer than a week, that’s going to be really bad for the Maliki government. If the heavy fighting spreads, that’s going to be even worse.

It’s hard to see how this gets wrapped up in a week.

__________
*See “Crude oil surges after Basra pipeline bombing” (Times Online) and “Gunmen blow up another Iraqi oil pipeline“(USAT) for details.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    This sounds eerily similar to Neil Sheehan’s description in “A Bright Shining Lie” of the Battle of Ap Bac. “A pig wearing lipstick is still a pig.”

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  2. Right Voices says:

    There Is No Shortage Of Useful Idiots in the Democrat Party…

    Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
    From a Weekly Standard article at the time:
    The controversy ignited on September 29 whe…

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  3. Anonymous says:

    SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE & EVERY OTHER GOVERNMENT FAILURE…

      Our government was perfect.  What it has become by the hand of self serving politicians is a freakin’ mess.  Finished.  Doomed.  FUBAR.
    WASHINGTON (AP) – Trustees for the government’s two biggest benefit programs warned Tuesday that …

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  4. Anderson says:

    JJ, this is really very simple.

    “____ demonstrates the success of the surge,”

    where “____” is “anything whatsoever.”

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  5. […] James Joyner has a sobering commentary on the operations in Basra and notes (in reference to this as the next step in securing the country): The problem with this analysis, at least from the vantage point of what has happened thus far, is that the operation has been a disaster. Reports on NPR this morning say the Iraqi Army is vastly outmanned and outgunned. Further, there have been cases — how many is unclear — of Iraqi soldiers taking off their uniforms and joining the enemy. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. […]

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  6. Beldar says:

    The cliché I’d favor (after fixing the typo, “on might favor” should be “one might favor”) is: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    If this operation were being run primarily by American boots on the ground, we would and should have different, and higher, performance expectations. The political consequences would be very nasty indeed, however, both from the standpoint of embarrassing the nominal national government of Iraq and in terms of stimulating more direct anti-American resentment among Shia who aren’t actively connected with the Mahdis but nevertheless tend to sympathize with them (at least in a firefight with American firepower).

    But the window is shrinking within which internal Iraqi forces, be they army or police, can undertake something of this magnitude while U.S. forces are still present in large numbers to back them up. The risks from a possible (some say probable) change in American leadership come next January require that the Iraqis be stress-tested sooner rather than later.

    If they’re not yet up to the job of going head-on with the Mahdi Army, that’s something we need to know in March rather than waiting to find out in August. And you don’t find out whether they can and will fight by watching them parade in dress uniforms.

    I’m also inclined to be very, very skeptical of initial press reports (are the NPR reports you’re hearing really from the BBC?). Even putting aside bias, I question their competency to make an accurate, balanced assessment of the progress and the potential being demonstrated (or not).

    Our forces involved in training may look at that same squad from which six guys have just bugged out and say, “Hey, the other six guys hung tough, we can work with that!” Next time (which might be in July), it may only be two guys who bug out, and they may do so in disgrace. The next time, it may be zero bug-outs, because the six who stayed this time became the core of an effective fighting force that developed the self-respect and mutual respect we’re trying to instill (in part through example).

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  7. Beldar says:

    Put another way, for history buffs: This operation may be the 21st Century Iraqi Army’s Kasserine Pass. Let’s hope so, anyway.

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  8. Michael says:

    Reports on NPR this morning say the Iraqi Army is vastly outmanned and outgunned.

    When I listened to the NPR report this morning, they said the Iraqi Army was “in some cases” outmanned and outgunned. Perhaps we listened to different reports?

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  9. Beldar says:

    [Off-topic: I guess if your blog software is going to insert commercial advertisements as tool-tip hyperlinks within my comments here, I should be glad that my phrase “performance expectations” didn’t attract an advertisement more salacious than one from Intel.]

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  10. Michael says:

    I guess if your blog software is going to insert commercial advertisements as tool-tip hyperlinks within my comments here

    I don’t see any hyperlinks in any of your comments, except for the Kasserine Pass link to Wikipedia. No tooltip advertisements.

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  11. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Beldar: “Our forces involved in training may look at that same squad from which six guys have just bugged out and say, ‘Hey, the other six guys hung tough, we can work with that!’ Next time (which might be in July), it may only be two guys who bug out, and they may do so in disgrace. The next time, it may be zero bug-outs, because the six who stayed this time became the core of an effective fighting force that developed the self-respect and mutual respect we’re trying to instill (in part through example).”

    As an exercise in Pig Makeup, this is unsurpassed. At the end of the process he describes, that Iraqi Army Squad will have exactly 1/3 of the members it started out with — and it’s a safe bet that a substantial fraction of the 2/3 Bugouts will not only have bugged out, but joined the opposite side.

    We really ought to remember that what we laughingly refer to as “the Iraqi government” is actually controlled by SCIRI, the pro-Iranian Shiite militia whom the Bush Administration is currently backing because they’re slightly less transparently anti-American than the equally numerous Sadr Shiite faction who hate both Iran AND the US.

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  12. Bruce Moomaw says:

    For an additional news source besides the BBC, see Juan Cole’s translation of Al-Zaman from the original Arabic. It’s absolutely full of jolly news:

    http://www.juancole.com/2008/03/dozens-dead-in-basra-clashes-mahdi-army.html

    Really, though, what does anyone expect Pentagon spokesmen to do? When you have no ingredient whatsoever but chickenshit to try to make a lunch out of, you do what you can with the ingredients you have. (I can’t help being amused, though, by our sudden discovery of that unbearable “chaos and corruption” in Basra, given that we didn’t utter a peep about it so long as Sadr was keeping his cease-fire.)

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  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    When I listened to the NPR report this morning, they said the Iraqi Army was “in some cases” outmanned and outgunned. Perhaps we listened to different reports?

    Dude you listen to NPR, lol.

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  14. Bruce Moomaw says:

    For still more jolly news, see Anthony Cordesman’s appraisal ( http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/03/expert_current_iraq_fighting_n.html ) — in which he says flatly not only that the “Iraqi government” is just another name for the SCIRI faction, but that al-Sadr has MORE popular support than the SCIRI faction and would almost certainly win any election in the Shiite portions of Iraq right now: “Much of the current coverage of the fighting in the south assumes that Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr militia are the ‘spoilers,’ or bad guys, and that the government forces are the legitimate side and bringing order. This can be a dangerous oversimplification… The south may be more secure, but Shi’ites only receive marginally better treatment from the central government than Sunnis.”

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  15. anjin-san says:

    James! You dare to question the success of the surge? Why do you hate American??

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  16. Michael says:

    Dude you listen to NPR, lol.

    Thanks for posting, you sure boosted the informational content of this thread with that thoughtful and articulate insight.

    Now go outside and play, the grown ups are talking.

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  17. Jon H says:

    “When I listened to the NPR report this morning, they said the Iraqi Army was “in some cases” outmanned and outgunned. Perhaps we listened to different reports?”

    I think NPR sometimes edits tape between the first airing and later replays.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Cokie Roberts mess something up early in the morning, and when replayed two hours later the mistake is gone.

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  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    JJ, when you question the surge you encourage the terrorists and undermine our troops. If you support the troops, you support the surge.

    The surge is obviously such a great success that what we need now is an even bigger, better, new, improved surge. And while we’re at it, we might as well surge right into Iran.

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  19. Michael says:

    I think NPR sometimes edits tape between the first airing and later replays.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Cokie Roberts mess something up early in the morning, and when replayed two hours later the mistake is gone.

    Yeah, but changing “in some cases” to a general “vastly” changes the story, not just fixing a flubbed line. I’d be highly disappointed if NPR did this instead of just listing it as a correction as they usually do when they get something wrong.

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  20. Wayne says:

    Too many people are trying to oversimplify this. Using that type of logic, the surge worked. It was only when they prematurely withdrew troops that violence broke out, in this case five combat brigades. Imagine what would happen if we withdrew all or most of our troops.

    Personally, I believe it is due to actions taken by the Iraqi National forces during the cease fire. When a side fudges on a ceasefire the other side gets piss. Tough situation though. It would be unwise for Iraqi National forces to set there and let the other side build up as well as needing to enforce the rule of law but they also need to honor the ceasefire agreement. Without good Intel it is hard to know what is going on and we don’t get good Intel from the MSM.

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  21. Michael says:

    It was only when they prematurely withdrew troops that violence broke out, in this case five combat brigades.

    Those brigades were never in Basra.

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  22. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    Why not join the mission yourself dude? You can show your commitment to Iraq by risking your own life. And getting your ass shot as opposed to just reading about someone else doing it at will provide you with the kind of insight you just can’t get from the MSM.

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  23. 03/27/08: Hands On…

    The essence of conservatism is skepticism. The essence of liberalism is control…….

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  24. Wayne says:

    “Those brigades were never in Basra.”

    The “surge” was countrywide which affected Basra. Saying that all the surge troops wasn’t in Basra therefore it doesn’t count would admit the situation in Basra has little reflection on the “surge” effort accomplishments.

    I would agree that a local peace or disturbance is only a small peace of the whole picture and the country as a whole should be look at. It should be needless to say that the militias in Basra knew there were five more combat brigades in the area and knew even if the brigades weren’t in the immediate area that they easily could be.

    anjin-san

    Been there done that. Try to volunteer to go over with my friends unit. The commander decided it would be easier to acquire fill-ins from other units then do reappointment paperwork on me since I was discharge for not being promotable due to lack of military schools when I return from my last overseas duty. It was a transportation unit anyway and I’m an Infantry Officer.

    How long did you serve?

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  25. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    Never did serve, I was at military age at the end of the Vietnam war, and I did not have confidence in the governments wisdom when it came to sacrificing the lives of young men in uniform, a feeling I have now as well. Vietnam did not attack America, nor did Iraq.

    I did contact a recruiting center the day after 9.11 and was pretty much told “run along pops”.

    I do find it a bit of a stretch that an experienced solider can’t get into combat in Iraq because the paperwork is a hassle, but I could be dead wrong on that issue…

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  26. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    It is also I think, worth noting, that while I never served nor am I cheering for a war we started against a country that did not threaten us. A war which is bleeding our military and our economy, as well as doing harm to legitimate national security efforts such as the battle in Afghanistan.

    Oh yes, and killing a lot of innocents in Iraq who did us no harm and simply wish to try and go about their business.

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  27. DC Loser says:

    The “surge” was countrywide which affected Basra. Saying that all the surge troops wasn’t in Basra therefore it doesn’t count would admit the situation in Basra has little reflection on the “surge” effort accomplishments.

    Wayne – you forgot that Basra was in the British sector, and no American troops were operating there. In fact, the British pulled all their troops out of Basra proper and into garrisons outside of town a few months back. This was, at the time, heralded as a coalition success story of the first major city being returned to Iraqi control.

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  28. Michael says:

    The “surge” was countrywide which affected Basra.

    No, and no. Go back and try again.

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  29. Lindsey’s Dos Centavos on the VP Search…

    SANFORD NO GO FOR VPI thought I would throw a little bit of Spanish in for all my anti-immigration readers.  Brad Warthen interviewed Lindsey the other day.  The Palmetto Scoop has the video.  What fascinates me is the fact that Lindsey …

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  30. Wayne says:

    anjin-san
    Then military has an operation side and a personnel side. The seldom are on the same page. Anyone who has dealt with the personnel side knows it is a strange beast. Someone can jumps through a great deal of hoops to get something done and end up with nothing then the next day someone walks in and is rush right though. Never did get their system down. Also your deep bias is obvious.

    DC and Michael

    Dc I will assume you were just over generalizing when you said “no American troops were operating there”.

    The surge had countrywide effect. Some areas more than others of course but to deny that is asinine. Now my contention was that Basra situation is of little reflection on the surge success. Now DC and Michael want to say the surge didn’t evolved Basra .How then can they not agree that the Basra situation has little or no reflection on the surge.

    Also in the future when we turn control over to Iraqis, we can expect them to make more mistakes than the US. The real world is full of people making mistakes. We should try to minimize them and correct them as much as possible but to expect a perfect world is worst than asinine. One has to make mistakes if one wants to progress.

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  31. DC Loser says:

    Wayne – please tell me in a general sense the disposition of US forces in the Basra area.

    From the MNFI website:

    Multi-National Division – South East
    MND-SE operates in the southern most part of the countries including the cities of Basrah, An Nasiriyah, Al Amarah. The division is headquartered by elements of the British and Australian militaries.

    I don’t see any mention of US forces there. It may be a technicality, but if there are no US forces, how exactly did the surge affect the numbers of troops in the sector? Prior to the surge, Basrah was considered a very safe area, and the Brits made a point of never wearing helmets nor body armor while patrolling on foot.

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  32. Wayne says:

    DC Loser |
    I knew better then to bring that point up and it wasn’t meant as a slam. The U.S. turn over operational command of that area to the British which in turn it over to the Iraqis. That doesn’t mean that the personnel in the area were all British or are now all Iraqis. Often there will be units outside of their command operating in the area as well as attach personnel. Also logistic units and aircraft will operate in their area. Fortunately the military has become much better about giving out units’ locations and disposition. Even when they did, generally only the ones dealing with day to day operations would know when and what units was attach to or operating at during any specific time. Do I have that information? No. but I will give you 100 to 1 odds that there are U.S. units and personnel in that area. A British soldier was just killed there today and they have already turned it over to the Iraqis. Like I said, I was assuming you were over generalized, from the sound of it maybe not.

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  33. Wayne says:

    DC Loser |
    Troops do not need to be in a specific area to have influence in that specific area. It like being at bar and the police show up at a bar down the street and start busting underage drinkers. It will have a affect on the bar you at when the word gets out regardless if the police show up there. Now if you really want, I can explain how having five combat brigades down the road from you could influence some of your actions, granted not as much as if they were physically in your area.

    Like a said before, if you want to believe the surge had no influence whatsoever on Basra, fine. Just don’t claim the surge fail in Basra. That would be like saying violence erupting in Afghanistan signifies that the surge failed.

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  34. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    To quote myself:

    “but I could be dead wrong on that issue…”

    I am pretty upfront that I don’t know jack about military staffing issues. What deep bias of mine are you referring to?

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  35. Beldar says:

    The question here is whether the reconstituted Iraqi army — in the most controversial and militarily challenging role it has yet been called upon by its government to undertake — can show significant promise.

    Mr. Moomaw, I’m sorry that my hypothetical involving a 12-man squad was too difficult for you to follow with your shoes on. Take one shoe off. The six who don’t bug out now become the core; they stay, and are present at the end (50%). Of the six replacements for the first six who bugged out, two leave, this time in shame, in the second engagement. In the third (and ending) engagement in the hypothetical, there are no more bug-outs. I believe there are historical antecedents, including American ones (e.g., during the Revolutionary War, and even during WW2, as at Kasserine Pass and afterwards in North Africa) for just this sort of improvement in untested armies’ ability and willingness to stand and fight in difficult situations. You can attempt to insult me by accusing me of putting make-up on a pig, and in the process you can insult the Iraqis who are trying to build a professional army and a democratic government, but your attempts are frankly no more convincing than your math.

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  36. sam says:

    This operation may be the 21st Century Iraqi Army’s Kasserine Pass. Let’s hope so, anyway.

    Uh, could you clarify? We got our asses kicked at the Kasserine Pass.

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  37. anjin-san says:

    This operation may be the 21st Century Iraqi Army’s Kasserine Pass. Let’s hope so, anyway.

    Uh, could you clarify? We got our asses kicked at the Kasserine Pass.

    We did get our asses kicked a Kasserine, but Patton subsequently solved the puzzle presented by Rommel and it was the only major battle we lost with German forces in the war.

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  38. […] to Outside the Beltway, Rosemary’s Thoughts, third world county, McCain Blogs, Adam’s Blog, Shadowscope, […]

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  41. Leinad says:

    Why do people keep trying to mangle WW2 analogies into suiting a completely different situation?

    Maliki picked this fight with Sadr, has ordered troops into pitched urban battle on the opponents home turf three months before their commander said they would be ready. This is Shia faction trying to marginalise another before provincial elections.

    How is that like the US in the Kasserine pass?

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  43. Beldar says:

    Uh, could you clarify? We got our asses kicked at the Kasserine Pass.

    If you judged the combat effectiveness and likelihood of future success of the American military based on the results of the Battle of Kasserine Pass, you would have concluded (as did many Germans at the time) that the Americans were hopelessly ill-led, badly trained, poorly equipped, likely to run away from any real fight, and entirely unable to pose a genuine threat to the Nazi empire.

    If (as the Soviets were demanding, and some Americans wanted) we’d thrown those same troops onto the Normandy beaches in 1943, it would have been a catastrophe.

    As it happened instead, Kasserine Pass turned into a wake-up call and led to badly needed improvements in every one of these aspects. Because it highlighted how far our military had yet to go in order to fight toe-to-toe with the Wehrmacht, it became the “defeat” from which grew the seeds of ultimate victory.

    If the Iraqi army puts in a very mixed performance against the Madhis, that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be improved. It may have been rushed into combat sooner than would have been ideal, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ultimately prevail.

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  44. anjin-san says:

    After Kasserine, America had military leaders like Patton & Bradley… who does Iraq have?

    For that matter, who do we have… Bush’s pet general?

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  46. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Ah. My apologies for misunderstanding Beldar’s fuzzy language regarding “bug-outs”. Of course, my statement about a lot of those “bug-outs” actually bugging into the other side remains — especially given what we’re now hearing about a numerical majority of the Iraqi “troops” supposedly trying to control the Sadrists actually being members of the Iraqi police, who have already been very extensively infiltrated by the Sadrists.

    As for the Iraqis “trying to build a democratic government”: this IS the al-Maliki government that you’re referring to with a straight face?

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  47. Bruce Moomaw says:

    In this connection, note James Glanz’s new piece on the fight ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/world/middleeast/27iraq.html?ref=middleeast ), which notes that:

    (1) Al-Sadr himself hasn’t even completely broken the cease-fire, and only some of the Sadrists are currently fighting the Iraqi Army — but, by themselves, they seem currently to be fighting them to a standstill.

    (2) As I noted above: “During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out.”

    (3) Regarding Beldar’s straight-faced tributes to the “democratic” nature of the current Iraqi government, Glanz’s decription of how said government is actually operating in Basra is instructive:

    “Although Basra is dominated by Shiite political parties and their militias, the landscape is one of enormous complexity. The Fadhila party, which split from Mr. Sadr’s party years ago, dominates the provincial council. But there is also substantial representation by the Dawa Movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The movement, previously known as Sciri, has changed its name and is now referred to as ISCI.

    “Mr. Sadr’s party has no council seats, having boycotted the elections, but its Mahdi Army is the most feared armed group on the streets. Still, it shares influence with the Supreme Council’s armed wing, called the Badr Organization, the Fadhila militia and others.

    “The division of the spoils among the armed groups is often quite specific. Fadhila controls the electricity sector and shares power with the Mahdi at the ports; Dawa and Fadhila have a strong grip in the lucrative southern oil operations, and a different branch of Dawa — the one to which Mr. Maliki belongs — holds sway at the Basra airport.”

    It’s nice that the current head of the Iraqi government is such a firm defender of Jeffersonian democracy, isn’t it? As for Beldar’s reference to my supposed willingness to “insult democracy”: my own view of the Iraq war is strkingly similar to that of such noted anti-Americans and democracy-haters as George Will (“this tribal stew masquerading as a nation”) and John Derbyshire. This war is virtually certain to end either as a defeat for us or as the mother of all Pyrrhic victories, given the amount of our military strength it’s managed to soak up for (at most) feeble benefits. Particularly, I may add, at a time when we are wide open to any sudden military crisis produced by the tiny facts that Pakistan and North Korea already have the Bomb and Iran is unquestionably trying to acquire it in the reasonably near future.

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  48. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Actually, the more I look at Beldar’s restated reasoning regarding “bug-outs”, the more peculiar it looks. If I understand his new formulation correctly, half the current recruits to the Iraqi Army will bolt as soon as they run into serious return fire — but there are legions of Iraqi civilians who as yet haven’t signed up with the Army at all, but will nevertheless leap eagerly to replace them in battle?

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  49. Bruce Moomaw says:

    While sending this many separate return responses to Beldar is almost certainly overkill given the importance of the target, I think it’s also interesting to note Phil Carter’s description of al-Maliki in that new item pointed to by Joyner: “I mean, it ain’t like Maliki is an Iraqi version of Dwight Eisenhower or U.S. Grant. He’s a 3rd-string kleptocrat whose political skills basically stop at the edge of the Green Zone.”

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  50. Global warming – this post is not a joke…

    It seems I have to explain what is a joke and what is an actual argument on this matter due to a particular twit who doesn’t understand the humor ……

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  51. DC Loser says:

    Wayne,

    My point is that there ain’t five, let alone one, American combat brigade down the road from Basra. The only American presence in the area are the convoys going back and forth between Kuwait and the American bases up north.

    Quote from today’s WaPo article:

    Maliki decided to launch the offensive without consulting his U.S. allies, according to administration officials. With little U.S. presence in the south, and British forces in Basra confined to an air base outside the city, one administration official said that “we can’t quite decipher” what is going on. It’s a question, he said, of “who’s got the best conspiracy” theory about why Maliki decided to act now.

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  52. Wayne says:

    DC Loser
    Just how long do you think it would take to move a combat brigade from Kuwait or Baghdad to Basra. Of course this would hamper operations in those areas but if we had five more brigades in Iraq we could easily send a brigade to Basra without decreasing the level of current operations.

    At the moment the Iraqis are trying to handle this task themselves. I would advise them to use their US advisors but understand if they want to try and stand on their own two feet. There could be other considerations as well.

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