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Thursday October 26 2006

Question: who wrote this?

I’m a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every area of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I’d say I have a pretty damn good idea of what’s going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.

I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.

And who, on the other hand, wrote this?

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) - a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police - are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is “Why stop there?” I can’t tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn’t see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than “benchmarks.”

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do ... nothing.

Same guy!

His view is: current policy in Iraq is failing dismally, but we can’t cut and run.  Instead, the US should commit half a million men for a decade.

One thing this chap does confirm is that the policy of just “training more police and soldiers” in Iraq is not just not working, it is pouring flames on the fire of civil war.  The US is now busily training both sides.

And us Brits of course.

I want one day to do a huge essay on the “War on Terror”, etc., for public consumption at Samizdata, or some such place.  (Don’t we all?) But I want to precede it by thinking it through out loud here, but privately, you might say.

Much of the strangeness of the atmosphere re Iraq now is that, as I see it, neither big political team, Pro- or Anti-, foresaw what has actually happened.  The Antis predicted that the military preliminaries would be a disaster, but they weren’t.  They were a cake walk.  Few walks, militarily speaking, have been caker.  And although the Antis foresaw trouble, they foresaw mostly opposition to the Hated Foreigners, not civil war.  But the Pros did not foresee civil war either.  They foresaw a potentially difficult, hopefully easy (as it was), military operation, followed by a brisk and cheerful imposition of democracy.  Okay, maybe not that brisk and cheerful, but more brisk and cheerful than has happened.  They certainly weren’t talking half a million men for a decade.

This seems to me to be the crux of the argument, from another emailer to James Taranto:

It’s always a mistake to see the world as it is today and mistakenly compare it with the world as it was on a day in the past. It’s harder to do, but infinitely more useful, to try to compare today’s situation with that in which we’d find ourselves if we had done nothing.

But if the first guy is right, things are about to get a lot worse, because I can’t see the USA committing half a million men for a decade, and, actually, nor can he.

For me, the crux of this whole thing is that Western Public Opinion is now insufficiently clarified to be the basis of any really difficult policies, like sustaining the current Iraq venture.  Things have to get a lot scarier before the West will unite against its foes, instead of doing what it usually does, namely quarrelling amongst itself.

But if things do get much worse, then by definition, Western Public Opinion will be much less concerned about sneering at the Other Bastards in its own countries, and at the Americans, and genuinely terrified about what the Pesky Muslims might do next.  In this respect, the parallel with Hitler and the process of seeing him off is rather helpful.  British public opinion in 1935 wasn’t able to support throttling Hitler.  Just wait for him to calm down, was their attitude.  By 1940, after Britain had been well and truly scared, the Brits were ready to inflict any horror that their leaders could contrive.

I just hope the Pesky Muslims understand this distinction, but I fear that they do not.  Because if and when the Pesky Muslims ever do succeed in uniting Western Public Opinion, against them, they’d better look out.

But meanwhile, there is no such Western Unity, and there’s no point moaning about this.  Disunity is what The West specialises in.

This “Pesky Muslims” phrase has stuck in my mind.  It was used by my host, a retired journalist, during my recent stay in Brittany.  I like the phrase.  It leaves entirely open just who the “Pesky” Muslims are, and just how Pesky they may or may not be.  There is an air of self-mockery about the phrase, an implication that this may all be a fuss about nothing, that I really like.