Monday, November 27, 2006

Reality and Fantasy

This paragraph sums up why I hold out little hope for the Iraq Study Group.

Mr. Bush spent 90 minutes with commission members in a closed session at the White House two weeks ago “essentially arguing why we should embrace what amounts to a ‘stay the course’ strategy,” said one commission official who was present.

Democrats on the panel are urging a timetable for withdrawal. Bush is not likely to support that idea. An anonymous commission member said, "It’s not at all clear that we can reach consensus on the military questions." The short answer is James Baker does not want to hand the President a report he knows will be rejected.

Instead, we hear more ideas of fantasy. The extra 20,000 troops idea is being floated again. Senator Chuck Hagel said, "General Abizaid noted that when he was here last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. We don’t have the troops." It all sounds tough. Just has nothing to do with reality. Much like President Bush's Iraq policy.

In other news: NBC News will now be calling Iraq a civil war.

"For months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into a civil war. And, for the most part, news organizations like NBC have hesitated to characterize it as such. But after careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas -- can now be characterized as a civil war."

The White House is continuing to shed the credibility of military officials such as Major General William Caldwell by having them say Iraq is not a civil war. Harvard public policy professor Monica Toft states why Iraq is a civil war.

The first criterion centers on the notion of sovereignty and governance. In a civil war, the main struggle is over who will govern, with each side rejecting the legitimacy of the other to take control of the government.

The second indicates that each side has to be organized and armed for the war. This criterion therefore excludes spontaneous mob actions or riots, as, for example, in the Albanian pyramid scheme crisis in 1997.

The third criterion holds that the state must be formally involved in the war, which allows for the exclusion of communal conflicts where there are two warring identity groups.

The fourth tries to capture the intensity of civil war as opposed to other types of violence such as crime, riots, and smaller-scale insurgencies. This excludes such cases as the fight for Northern Ireland (although the costs of that long conflict have been tragic).

The fifth captures the idea of a minimal capability of each side to conduct its military operations by inflicting casualties on the other side. This ratio criterion excludes massacres and genocides.

The sixth excludes wars between two sovereign states.

Iraq has met all of the criteria. The main one that has been contested is "the state is one of the combatants." Until recently, the argument put forward was that most of the violence was fomented by foreign insurgents. Although there is no denying that the foreign insurgents were involved in quite a bit of the violence, they were and are not alone. Organized groups of Sunnis (former Baathists in particular) have been waging violence as have Shiites (e.g., the Badr brigade/Mahdi Army) since at least Spring 2004.

Short answer: a bunch of people living in the same country are trying to kill each other.

Update: The Carter administration is in the house.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, said it would be ``a gimmick'' for the Defense Department to increase the number of troops in Iraq temporarily before beginning to withdraw them.

``I wouldn't be at all surprised if that actually happens,'' Brzezinski said on ``Political Capital with Al Hunt,'' to air on Bloomberg Television this weekend.

``It's a gimmick because it satisfies McCain, it satisfies the hardliners,'' Brzezinski said, referring to Senator John McCain. The Arizona Republican, who is exploring a run for the presidency in 2008, said Nov. 19 that U.S. troops are ``fighting and dying for a failed policy'' in Iraq unless they get enough reinforcements to ensure a military victory.

The Man himself weighed in on how Bush would handle the Iraq Study Group findings.

On "Good Morning America," former President Jimmy Carter said to ABC News' Robin Roberts that everybody is waiting for the report and that his "guess is that President Bush will take their advice as much as he possibly can."


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