“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Awaiting the big surge or whatever next.

Unless George Bush says "damn public opinion and damn the party, full speed ahead", a surge in US troop strength is looking more and more unlikely. Aside from possibly a few readers of the EB and BC, there's no public support for the idea.

Robert Novak reports that:
I checked with prominent Republicans around the country and found them confused and disturbed about the surge. They incorrectly assumed that the presence of Republican stalwart James Baker as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group meant it was Bush-inspired (when it really was a bipartisan creation of Congress). Why, they ask, is the president casting aside the commission's recommendations and calling for more troops?

Even in Mississippi, the reddest of red states where Bush's approval rating has just inched above 50 percent, Republicans see no public support for more troops. What is happening inside the president's party is reflected by defection from support for his war policy after November's election by two Republican senators who face an uphill race for re-election in 2008: Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Coleman announced his opposition to more troops after returning from a trip to Iraq preceding McCain's.

Among Democrats, Lieberman stands alone. Sen. Joseph Biden, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, leads the rest of the Democrats not only to oppose a surge but to block it. Bush enters a new world of a Democratic majority where the big microphone he talks about is smaller because he must share the stage.

Just as the president is ready to address the nation on Iraq, Biden next week begins three weeks of hearings on the war. On the committee, Biden, Christopher Dodd, John Kerry, Russell Feingold and Barack Obama will compete for intensity in criticizing a troop surge. But on the Republican side of the committee, no less probing scrutiny of Bush's proposals will come from Chuck Hagel.

Here's another 2007 prediction:

The Bush Administration will announce that "Iraqi Military Forces have shown remarkable improvement and will assume complete responsibility by the end of the year. Faced with the withdrawal of US forces, the Iraqis have vastly improved and no additional US troops will be sent to Iraq."

As I see it, there's no support for "Stay the Course" and no support for "Surging Troop numbers." There is support for withdrawal. Some, (over 70% of Democrats) want it now, and some are more patient. For them, next month will do. They're thinking, we broke it, we bought it, we tried to fix it but we don't have to keep it. As we say in the south, "We didn't take Iraq to raise."

One more prediction, re: a larger military - Forget about it! After we get out of Iraq, we won't need it. Remember who controls Congress now?


  1. Since I have been advocating that the US could announce "Mission Accomplished" based upon US Law for quite awhile now, we still could.

    A short term surge, extended and early deployents will send the "Enemy" to ground. Most agree to that premise.
    If Iraq were "locked down" Elction Day style for 60 days, the civilian death toll will drop. Security would be seen and achieved, at least in the short term.

    As those US troops that had extended deployments leave, Iraqi fill their slots, the US and Iraq reassess the situation in July, per the UN Treaty, and begin a mutually agreed scheduled handover of Responsibility, with full Iraqi control in November '07 timeframe.

    The US units would depart Iraq on schedule.

  2. All they have to do, is do it, rufus.

  3. Big Surge?

    Right now there's 152,000 troops in Iraq, of which 10% (15,200) are on the road at any given moment providing manpower for "Presence Patrols" (ie. being targets for IEDs). The rest of the troops are handing out soccer balls to Iraqi kids and buffing the hallways inside the madrasses to "Win Hearts and Minds to Our Democratic Way of Life". If we "surge" 20,000 additional troops (assuming the budget for the surge survives a filibuster) and use the current op tempo, then we'll bring our total active force at any given instant up to 17,200 troops. Bush is telling us that putting 2,000 more troops into a country the size of California will turn this quagmire around and give us a "W".

  4. Sure,
    Because we do not have to provide security in the entire country just in Baghdad for 180 days.

    Not at all the same mission.

    We would not destroy the Insurgent or militia forces, just suppress them as we handed ff to the "capablee" Iraqi.

    This presupposes that Mr Bush really wants to find a way out that can be presented as Victory.

  5. All they have to do is follow the shining path.

    Basket case of bread in hand, Woo Woo prances ahead of the pack, dropping a crumb and a morsel hither and thither, lest we lose our way.

    "To me, bloggers!" he proclaims, tossing a handful over his shoulder.

    A gingerbread house awaits the faithful, and once found, the dumbfounded and unimaginative will hastily trace the wake of the intellectual trailblazers.

    Some will ask Woo Woo, "Why did your crumbs runoft when my ideas needed you most?"

    Woo Woo will reply, "It was then that my vision carried you."

  6. Given the lack of political will for a meaningful escalation, it looks like checkmate for Iran against both us and the Sunnis. Now we're just fighting over who's going to take credit for the loss and when it is going to happen.

    My fears, at least.

  7. "I think that's exactly how it's going to come down, Rat.

    It will, of course, be obfuscated by language, but that's what's going to happen."

    I think there's too much inertia in the system to allow such a clean break and abrupt change of direction.

    Any such change is going to be sluggish, ugly, and as a result, very indicative that we're losers. You don't go overnight from "we owe the Iraqis Democracy and damnit we're going to do it" to "we never even had to try."

    Supporters don't ditch causes all at once.

  8. "Should have began executing them on 9-12, and then perhaps negotiated downward small steps from there, after taking our own price for doing so all along the way. "
    Talk about a kick the can Administration.
    ...accompanied by a Concert Pianist and retinue of young Barbies.

    (That makes me a "misogynist" baiter to WC,
    as if calling young male Airheads to task
    makes me a hater of men.)

  9. That's Better!
    Harmonic Balance Achieved.

  10. That's no dream,doug ...

    Everyone is reporting something.
    The "Speach" date keeps falling back. Waiting upon events or ...

    On FOX they reported that friday night chow, where O'Reilly and the Col visited, was Lobster and Steak.
    Jr confirms surf & turf at Camp Fallujah, on fridays.

    Not an "old school" hardship tour.

  11. One of the milbloggers on hewitt described the living cubes some enjoy:
    7'x19' air conditioned, acessorize as wanted.
    2 people unless one gets moved or some such, then you get it all to yourself.
    The more you learn, the easier to see how the bang for the buck is the lowest in history.

  12. GWB - The Free Lunch For All
    New Deal Conservative, with liberty and Pork for all Contractors.
    The Military Contractor Complex.

  13. Is that the Boise State Head Cheerleader, Bobal?

  14. If I were a bettin' man, I would say that the surge is going to happen at this point; what surprises me is that no one has sent the attack dogs out to the talking head circuit to build the case; that is probably a mistake, but I believe nonetheless that the surge is coming.

    Woman Catholic, I think our tooth to tail ratio is significantly lower than you portray in your comments; the addition of 5-7 additional brigade combat teams in and around Baghdad would significantly increase the amount of combat power on the ground there; what the enemy would do is anyone's guess at that point.

    However, if a surge is part of a synchronized plan to establish security, repair infrastructure, build institutions, and disrupt insurgent command and control/enablers, I would say that an endeavor like that has a decent chance of succeeding.

    The enemy has a vote, of course. However, if the insurgents/militias simply "go to ground" for several months and reduce their signature/activity, AND the surge is accompanied by a significant repair of infrastructure, development of a national economy (increased employment/improvement of quality of life for a large number of iraqis, particularly in and around Baghdad), AND the U.S. makes headway in developing sustainable national institutions there . . .

    Yes, there are many big "ifs" in the above paragraph; nonetheless, I truly believe it is not too late to develop a campaign plan, one that brings us from where we are right now to something resembling success in the next 12-18 months.

    I think that if competent, experienced planners from State and DOD sat down, they could develop said campaign plan and truly synchronize all the elements of national power.

    Of course, a serious strategic messaging effort needs to accompany these actions, from proposal all the way through implementation; the fact that we haven't seen the administration out in force on the talk circuit is a bit disconcerting this late in the game; my guess is that we will see something by the end of the week, though.

    Yes, I remain optimistic despite all of the setbacks, mistakes, and failures I have seen thus far in our iraq policy. I believe the ship needs a better rudder and a steady captain to set her on course; she is, in my humble opinion, far from sinking.

  15. No school remodeling or sewer construction here:

    Ethiopian Troops May Leave Somalia Within a Few Weeks
    By VOA News
    02 January 2007

    "Ethiopia's prime minister says his country's troops may leave Somalia within a few weeks.

    Meles Zenawi spoke Tuesday, a day after Ethiopian and Somali government forces drove the rival Islamist movement from its last stronghold in Somalia.

    The Ethiopian leader said his troops would help Somalia's transitional government stabilize the country. But he urged the international community to send peacekeepers to Somalia quickly."

  16. "I think that if competent, experienced planners from State and DOD sat down, they could develop said campaign plan and truly synchronize all the elements of national power. "
    I'd take Boise State over US Dept of State.
    Where the WOT is being conducted with some INTELLIGENCE, via CIA/Special forces:
    Roger Hedgecock reports that his sources in San Diego relate much work has been done by Navy and CIA around the Horn to help along the Saudi Funded Islamist DEFEAT.

  17. Deuce:
    Roger quoted a WaPo article saying they left their "Heavy Weapons" behind, so quick was their retreat.
    La Times is concerned about disruption and lost jobs!

  18. But, But, what about all those CRACKED VASES???

  19. But was there looting?

    For a number of varied reasons, some of which are to the credit of the Bush Administration, the Ethiopians took a big bite out of Mohammed's ass.

    Beyond that, Somalia will still be Somalia. And Iraq will be Iraq.
    It seems plain that any geographic area can be used for Mohammdan training camps, until they cannot.

    Ir takes force of arms to dislodge or destroy the Mohammedan infrastructure, where the Jihadists have taken charge.

    Our friend bob w believes there could be a chance, in a year or so, if we went to work, today. There are those amongst us that advocated the "stick figure" plan, well before it was ever drawn. Those of us that had seen the model used successfully, long ago and far away.

  20. That's really chicks.... of you Rufus!

  21. Good comments all around, folks.

    One train of thought I respectfully disagree with is the Ethiopians in Somalia/US in Iraq comparison, though. I believe it is largely irrelevant, and provides marginal use as we try to decide what is next in Iraq.

    First of all, the Islamic Courts Union fighters had fairly coalesced into a "regular force" (I use the term VERY loosely, of course), and were the de facto open law in Mogadishu.

    That force has apparently dissolved into the populace now, or retreated into Kenya.

    And what of U.S. forces in the two theaters where we are engaged in combat? Is the United States currently having a severe problem during combat engagements in either Iraq or Afghanistan? Not really. And if insurgents massed into a battalion or regimental-sized force to conduct a sustained operation, would there be serious issues in either theater? A resounding NO there as well.

    In fact, I would say that the average, run of the mill Brigade Commnader fervently hopes something like the latter scenario would happen on his watch.

    In MY opinion, how well or poorly the United States performs in conventional combat operations (ie conducting operations like raids, movements to contact, and the like) at the Battalion level and below are largely irrelevant in either theater at this point.

    Unlike what the Ethiopians faced, American forces are dealing with an insurgency, whose forces aren't the law of the land, and who only coalesce to fight when it suits them.

    And neither theater is running out of insurgents, despite the fact that units are readily killing them.

    In Iraq, a valid argument can be made that ROE is severely limiting the US' ability to deal with militias that are becoming THE threat to stability there. Less so in Afghanistan. Any shift in Iraq strategy MUST address dealing with the militias.

    I believe that addressing the tangible, root causes of the insurgency is where most of our efforts must be focused. Yes, we must fight and kill/capture insurgents as part of this war.

    But don't make light of the effects improving infrastructure would have, or discount the effect improving economic conditions would have on reducing the violence.

    Rufus, you made a great comment about NYC; however, how safe would you feel taking the subway at night there after three years of employment hovering over 40%, with rolling blackouts, a garbage strike, corrupt cops, et al? My guess is you would do a lot of online shopping!

    Improving the environment people live, work, and play in would make many people opt out of crime, insurgencies and militias for the honest life.

    There are people who will never disarm at any cost (the military refers to them as "total spoilers" in its stability operations joint operating concept), and they will have to be dealt with harshly; many people will opt not to stick their necks out if there are better opportunities, though.

    A surge that dramatically reduces violence over a period of one year, coupled with real improvements to the infrastructure/economy, would likely enable US Central Command to reduce forces in theater over time.

    Iraq does not have to turn into Kansas for a major victory of U.S. foreign policy. No one expects it to at this point, and the lowered expectations of virtually everyone (including yes, even me!) increases the information operation value of modestly succeeding there.

    "Winning" for the US is turning Iraq into CENTCOM's Colombia.

    That country faces a formidable insurgency, yet has a functioning (democratic) government. Robust U.S. aid, coupled with our interagency and DOD efforts there, help to reinforce the government's efforts to counter the narco-insurgency in that country.

    Yes, I know there are a multitude of serious problems in Colombia. Whether or not drug eradication is working or not is a serious issue, one worthy of multiple posts and tons of excellent comments, I am sure.

    But the fact of the matter is the average American knows nothing about Colombia, and one rarely reads about it in the paper or sees it on the news.


    The second issue with the Somalia comparison is this: I think it would be prudent to wait awhile before I call last week THE decisive defeat of Islamists in Somalia. While these are heady days for the UN-backed government, they must now administer the failed city-state of Mogadishu;
    those Islamists who slipped into Kenya or simply blended into the populace can and most likely will continue to make mischief, especially if they have some external backing.

    Thus, I believe it is too early for
    Meles Zenawi to land a jet on one of Ethipias many nuclear powered aircraft carriers and emerge from the cockpit beneath a large "mission accomplished" sign.

    Yet another incredibly long comment. Sorry folks, didn't mean to burn so many electrons here. Too much caffeine on my last day of Christmas vacation. I am back in the salt mine tomorrow morning, and I am procrastinating in avoidance of transitioning to work mode. I most likely will expand on this comment and turn it into a post over at my site, so watch for it.

    Good night, all.

  22. Gosh, now that they need increasingly-scarce troops for a "surge" in Iraq, General Shalikashvili thinks the Don't Ask Don't Tell thing isn't such a hot idea after all.

  23. I opened Bob W., Tue Jan 02, 10:04:15 PM EST post as the next thread.