January 15th, 2007

Cat-and-mouse, jihadis and the “surge:” they can run, but can they hide?

I wondered about it a few days ago: what’s to stop the terrorists/jihadis/insurgents in Iraq from running away in the face of the proposed surge, and living to fight another day?

The answer seems to be “nothing, at least for the moment.” It’s been reported that that’s exactly what’s happening–the jihadis are dispersing to areas other than Baghdad.

The terrorists are many things, but they’re certainly not dumb (although I often think that false perception allowed us to soothe ourselves into our state of torpor during the 80s and 90s). And, despite the frequent characterization by the Left of our own military as poverty-stricken dupes, ignorant victims and tools of the Rovian Right, those leading our armed forces are not stupid, either. It’s almost a certainty that this jihadi movement had to have been anticipated by the US.

One of the hallmarks of any successful military campaign is the ability to adjust to changing circumstances. It’s good to anticipate events as much as humanly possible; but, realistically speaking, this can’t be done perfectly, and the idea is to adapt to changes faster than the enemy.

The comments section of the previous thread on this subject contains many shrewd observations. I excerpt a few here:

(1) The primary strategic weakness is the close margin of support for continued fighting in Iraq. This weakness is telegraphed daily by the NYT and major media.

Tactically, the insurgents would know almost immediately when the surge started.

The strategic strength of this message [Bush's speech] is the commitment of forces itself, even if for a limited period of time, and changes in the rules of engagement.

There will be tactical surprises in the actual mission, and on balance, the telegraphing of the surge and change of ROE more than offsets any benefit of surprise.

(2) Strategies that depend on surprise are not strategies, they are tactics and operational details.

This is almost a matter of definition, because strategies are not executed over the course of hours or days, they are executed over the course of months, years, or in some cases, even decades. As such, if your strategy requires your opposition to be surprised month after month by your strategic approach, your strategy is doomed to failure. In that case, you are implicitly assuming that your opponents are stupid, in which case, why do you need a strategy in the first place?

(3) What can terrorists do differently now that they know? They can’t go hiding. Why? Because as the newest Counter Insurgency Manual just told us, insurgencies acquire power by creating chaos and then doing the extortion-protection racket game. But when they succede in doing that as the first part of the insurgency, this means THEY are in Power. This means they are now responsible for security. They can’t run anymore. They can run when they have no strongholds. But Sadr? Those Baghdad Sunnis? Their enclaves have been safe from American attack for a long long time now, given the limitations placed on American soldiers.

This post at Iraq the Model, discussing the cut-and-run tactics of the jihadis who are leaving Baghdad for parts somewhat unknown, sheds further light on the matter. Right now, the jihadis’ situation somewhat resembles that of an animal who’s built a cozy nest for the winter but has been flushed out by a hunter. It takes some time for it to build a new and safe place to dwell, and in the meantime there’s increased vulnerability.

It seems that not everyone in Iraq wants the honor of housing these new visitors as they build new homes-away-from-home, despite the highly vaunted Arab virtue of hospitality. According to Iraq the Model, locals are already alerting authorities on the movements of the jihadis.

Unfortunately, there are areas in Iraq, particularly Diwaniya, where the Sadrists have already established cozy nests:

…Diwaniya is not far away from Baghdad, and the past few months had shown the level of the Sdarists strength in that city when order was restored only after reinforcements were summoned from neighboring provinces.

The Sadrists feel they are very strong in Diwaniya and what their man in the city said yesterday shows the level of extremism of the Sadr followers in this city…

…the bad guys are adjusting their plans as the government and US military adjust theirs. The clear and hold tactic means militants will have little chance to maneuver within Baghdad like they used to do to work around previous crackdowns so now they are planning to make long-range maneuvers in provinces outside Baghdad.

The cat-and-mouse game continues. As the cats, we have to be craftier than the mice. And much of that craft depends on anticipation, flexibility, and above all, the quality of the intelligence we receive.

76 Responses to “Cat-and-mouse, jihadis and the “surge:” they can run, but can they hide?”

  1. Anon Says:

    Part of the problem here is your use of the term “terrorists/jihadis/insurgents.” I think a lot of people have trouble understanding what is happening in Iraq – and many other places – because they’re looking for an easy explanation to a complicated situation. It’s easier, for example, to believe that every Muslim who espouses Islamism is, in fact, The Enemy, than to try to understand the fundamental differences between Hizb, Salafiyya, jihadiyya, Qutbism, Wahhabiyya, and so forth, and to tailor an appropriate foreign policy that takes into account these nuances. Why not simply cast it as a monolithic Clash of Civilizations and call it a day?

    Pretty much the same with Iraq. You want to lump “terrorists” with “jihadis” with “insurgents” when these terms are not interchangeable, both linguistically and realistically. There is, for sure, an element in Iraq that could be described as “jihadiyya Salafiyya” – the jihadi Salafists who utilize terrorism and are linked, operationally and ideologically, to the broader al Qa’ida movement. However – and these numbers come from the US military, as reported by the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index – this element makes up probably no more than one in twenty of those actively fighting in Iraq. The rest are composed of Sunni and, a bigger problem, Shi’ite militias.

    “Insurgency” isn’t terrorism, though insurgents can use terrorism. Insurgency is, more or less, the challenging of the state’s monopoly of power by a non-state actor. By eliminating the central Iraqi state and failing to supply an adequate replacement – we’ve never had enough troops to provide adequate security – the US created the conditions for insurgency to occur. This has nothing to do with Iraq, or jihadism, or terrorism per se – rather, this is a fundamental reality of the human condition. If war is cheap or easy, someone will pursue it as policy. Social scientists David Laitin and James Fearon, for example, found a significant correlation between the conditions which favor an insurgency – such as mountainous terrain – and the outbreak of insurgency. In every society on earth there exist some elements which, if given the opportunity, will resort to violence to achieve their aims. This happened in Iraq – no strong central authority, inadequate policing in most of the country, lots of weapons lying around, lots of unemployed soldiers, and so forth. The result is not the “unleashing of ancient enmities” or anything even remotely like this – what happened in Iraq would happen anywhere else, given those same starting conditions. See John Mueller’s “The Banality of Ethnic War” for more on this – basically, “ethnic war” is an illusion, and in every case, what you have isn’t something like “Sunnis and Shi’ites killing each other,” but rather “small bands of armed men exploiting a security vacuum to engage in violence in the name of some broader group.”

    So will a surge fix this? Probably not.

  2. stumbley Says:

    Anon:

    According to some, there will NEVER be enough troops, EVER, even if we were to have 25 million there (one for every Iraqi). To place things in perspective:

    In 2005, Detroit (population around 1 million [I'm rounding off]) had 359 murders, or 1 per every 2785 citizens. Detroit’s police force is around 3400, or 1 per every 294 citizens.

    In contrast, Iraq had 16565 fatalities in 2006 (first year for full data), or 1 per every 1509 citizens. If you count “security” as the number of troops in Iraq, there’s about 1 for every 192 citizens. So, security in Iraq—a war zone, with foreign fighters and jihadis and all kinds of “non-state actors”—is only about twice as bad as Detroit. I’d say that’s pretty good, considering the circumstances of the two areas.

    All those thinking that Iraq should be Switzerland five years after deposing a tyrant that held ethnic and religious strife in check for 35 years are pretty unrealistic. It’ll be a long hard slog, but eventually it will be worth it. It’s too bad that more Americans (and global citizens) can’t see the value in providing a stable democracy in the most turbulent area of the world. It’s possible, but we need to give the Iraqis a chance to come to terms with their history.

  3. Anon Says:

    Stumbley,

    I think that’s about right – that there will never be enough troops, ever. Assuming magic and unicorns and dragons aren’t real, and we’re talking about realistic numbers – not 25 million, but rather some realistically feasible number, such as several hundred thousand troops – there might have been a small window, early in the war, to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Having failed to do so – and there was never a very good chance of doing so – the consequences are civil war.

    And how do you deal with this situation? Studies by James Fearon indicate that most civil wars don’t end until you have a decisive military victory by one party. So which party will we back? Will we back the Sunnis who run death squads and murder Shi’ites? Or will we back Shi’ites who run death squads and murder Sunnis? What’s the point, either way?

    Setting aside the utterly rediculous notion of trying to compare the fatality rate of one urban area in another country with the entire state of Iraq, the situation is pretty awful. It’s awful because – again, relying on Fearon and Laitin – it only takes a small number, sometimes as few as 500 to 2000, of insurgents to maintain a long-running and highly destructive civil war. Most civil wars since 1945 last a decade or longer. Increased ethno-sectarian concentration – Sunnis and Shi’a self-segregating as a result of violence – increases the longevity of civil conflict. The situation in Iraq won’t get better any time soon – surge or not – because the dynamics of power in a global security context are changing. Weak state + easy availability of highly destructive weapons + enough poverty to make insurgency an attractive option to some young men = long, bloody civil war with US soldiers in between.

    “ethnic and religious strife [held] in check for 35 years”

    Again, it helps to know something about a country before you try to act like an expert on it. What strife? Suunis quietly hating Shi’a, Shi’a quietly hating Sunnis, waiting for a chance to strike? Sorry, no. Fearon and Laitin found no correlation between ethnic diversity, the existence of grievances, and the outbreak of civil war. Let me put it this way: if you did to the US what you did to Iraq – remove government, police, civil service, public services, handed out highly destructive weaponry to a large number of people, and fired the army, you’d have the same situation. It has nothing to do with ethnic or religious strife, and everything to do with the dynamics of human society. In any society, there exists some small number of people who, given the chance, will use violence to pursue their aims. In Iraq, they were given their chance. “Sunnis” aren’t fighting “Shi’ites” in the sense that all of one group are fighting all of another. Rather, a small number of people (and often, different and competing factions on each side) are committing violence against other groups in the name of so

  4. Zeno Says:

    So… If what Anon says is true, it’s even easier to solve things, it’s just a “small number of people” who must be killed. Moqtada among them, of course.

  5. Anon Says:

    You’re right, Zeno – those actively fighting in the insurgency number (this comes from the US military via Brookings’ Iraq Index) is somewhere between 20000 and 50000 out of a total population of almost 25 million. Except that a) this small number is highly destructive, b) is replaced quickly, c) is partly composed of people who are ostensibly our allies.

  6. Marcus Vitruvius Says:

    Nota Bene: I never said terrorists (or insurgents, rabble-rousers and other assorted miscreants) couldn’t leaev Baghdad– they self-evidently can, as many of them did for the Battle of Fallujah.

    I said al-Sadr acn’t leave baghdad without incurring what I believe will be (to him) unacceptable political risks and diminshments in authority. To an extent that is true of the movement as well– as you well note yourself, running from Baghdad means that the movement will need to establish one or more bases in the surrounding area, which if nothing else will take time and effort.

    My other comments remain the same– there is very little harm in publishing this information because any insurgency incapable of detecting that there are twice as many troops in Baghdad is not an insurgency that would survive in the first place.

  7. stumbley Says:

    Anon:

    See Yugoslavia. As far as “the utterly rediculous notion of trying to compare the fatality rate of one urban area in another country with the entire state of Iraq”, why is that “utterly ridiculous”? You’re complaining about a “security situation” and a “civil war”, which is by your own comments, more a result of the US having “remove[d] government, police, civil service, public services, handed out highly destructive weaponry to a large number of people, and fired the army”—i.e., creating conditions where violence can flourish—why isn’t Detroit better, when such conditions do NOT exist there? Why isn’t Detroit the paradise that so many think Iraq was before the U.S. invasion?

    Or is it rather the case that Iraq was NEVER at peace, just (like the former Yugoslavia) a boiling pot of sectarian strife just waiting to boil over when the cover is lifted? Is it because there will ALWAYS be criminals, willing to do violence? And isn’t then the answer to allow the police (American troops) to engage the criminals with the necessary force to subdue them? What will happen if we leave, as so many want us to do? Will the conditions for violence magically disappear? What’s the point of your post, anyway? What do you want the U.S. to do?

  8. Sally Says:

    Anon: It’s easier, for example, to believe that every Muslim who espouses Islamism is, in fact, The Enemy, than to try to understand the fundamental differences between Hizb, Salafiyya, jihadiyya, Qutbism, Wahhabiyya, and so forth, and to tailor an appropriate foreign policy that takes into account these nuances. Why not simply cast it as a monolithic Clash of Civilizations and call it a day?

    You didn’t answer your question — why not, indeed? By all means, know your enemy, but also know how to recognize an enemy even when he comes in variant strains. For some, complexity becomes a mere excuse for paralysis, defeatism, and defeat itself — for such people, “probably” nothing will fix the problem. For the rest of us, however, there is a time when nuance should give way to Alexander’s solution to the Gordian Knot.

  9. Anon Says:

    Stumbley,

    It’s absurd because, when using statistics, you must compare the same thing with the same thing, or else your numbers are meaningless. What we’re really talking about here are rates of death by assault. For the US, it’s something like six per 100,000. For Iraq, it’s almost 28 per 100,000 – significantly more dangerous. Some cities, such as Detroit, have averages that are higher than the national average – but the fact that there exist areas that are more dangerous within the United States does not invalidate a national average of six per 100,000. So, you have demonstrated that some areas of the US are more dangerous than others, and yet no area in the US is more dangerous than Iraq as a country. So?

    And, again, when you’re going to talk about a country, it helps to know something about that country. In the case of Yugoslavia, “support for militant nationalism…was not all that deep even at the time of its maximum notice and effect in the early 1990s.” This is from Mueller’s “The Banality of Ethnic War,” a text version of which can be found at: http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndsu/ambrosio/old/ndsu/pols499/banality.html – I recommend giving it a read, especially its footnotes, because you’ll find that – surprise! – violence was not committed by sectarian communities, but in large part by small groups of fighters committing violence in the name of larger groups which played no role in the violence.

    What will happen if we leave? The violence will continue, likely for upwards of a decade, until one side wins a decisive victory over the other – that’s usually what happens with civil wars, according to the numbers crunched by Fearon and Laitin (“Ethnicity, Insurgency and Civil War,” American Political Science Review, 2002). What happens if we stay? Basically the same thing, only with more Americans dead. We’re not going to accomplish anything there. We like to pretend that Iraq is something like the US, only with some bad guys fighting the government. This isn’t the case – it’s more like the government dissolved, and everybody with a last name starting with the letters A-M started fighting everbody with a last name starting with the letters N-Z. What is the point in supporting Maliki if Maliki represents a coalition government of Sadr and SCIRI?

  10. Anon Says:

    “nuance should give way to Alexander’s solution to the Gordian Knot.”

    Which is rediculous. Alexander cut threads, and you’re talking about dropping bombs. You want to say “I propose or support Policy X,” but if you want to propose the optimal policy, it helps to know something about the country in question. In the case of Egypt, Hizb and Herekat are very different from jihadiyya Salafiyya – in the case of the former, they’re a conservative alternative to dictatorship who have accepted elections, constitutionalism, and the framework of the nation-state, while the latter want to murder anyone who stands in their way of achieving a Qutbist vision of a Khalifate. In the case of Iraq, lumping jihadist terrorists together with sectarian insurgents isn’t just foolish, but it’s counterproductive when trying to formulate policy. In the case of the former, pursue counterterrorism. In the case of the latter, however, you have to accept the realities of civil war. Saying “a surge will make insurgents/terrorists flee the capital” is foolish; why would Sadr, leader of a militia which has engaged in fighting with the US, flee the capital when US troops are ostensibly there to protect the Maliki government, of which Sadr’s group is a part? Do you see the importance of understanding such distinctions?

    Let’s imagine a scenario – let’s imagine that, in 2008, Democrats take control of the White House and hold Congress. Let’s imagine that, in response, an extreme right-wing Christian group, numbering only 2000 but well-armed, expanded their existing terrorist campaign against abortion clinics and gay groups to a wider campaign to overthrow the US government. Though small in number, the group proves difficult to eliminate and maintains a highly destructive campaign in the name of conservative ideals. Should the US government, in response, begin a campaign against all conservatives, rounding up registered Republicans because they share a tangential relationship with the small terrorist group? Does that make sense? Does it make sense, then, for the US and its allies to name among its enemies Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism, including Islamist groups with the potential to play an important role in our favor?

  11. Anonymous Says:

    “name among its enemies Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism,”

    And who would those be, exactly? Who have we “named” other than radical Islamists

  12. grackle Says:

    You’re right, Zeno – those actively fighting in the insurgency number (this comes from the US military via Brookings’ Iraq Index) is somewhere between 20000 and 50000 out of a total population of almost 25 million. Except that a) this small number is highly destructive, b) is replaced quickly, c) is partly composed of people who are ostensibly our allies.

    Others might put it differently: The “insurgency” has never been very destructive. A few snipers, a few IEDs and some explosions is all they can muster. The result has been low casualties for the Coalition forces. The insurgency has been an irritant – nothing more.

    And yes, the terrorists ARE replaced quickly. Iraq has turned out to be a terrorist magnet – they come in droves to be sent to Paradise. How endearing of them. The more the merrier I say. Come terrorists – come to Iraq to be slaughtered.

    And isn’t the enemy ALWAYS “partly composed of people who are ostensibly our allies”? In ANY war?
     

  13. Anon Says:

    Anonymous,

    Hizb, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, have nothing to do with radical Islamism. Likewise, if you’re going to deal with jihadi Salafism, it helps to understand that, for example, while Wahhabiyya and jihadi Salafism have often been equated by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, jihadi Salafiyya seeks to overthrow Muslim states while Wahhabiyya is, except for Central Asia where it is largely a quietist movement, a status quo movement allied to ruling elites, as in Saudi Arabia.

    In the case of Iraq, the insurgent groups, unlike the jihadist terrorists, have little to do with radical Islamism, and are more interested in mundane things like power vis a vis existing state structures.

  14. Anon Says:

    “the insurgency has been an irritant”

    Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the insurgency, and the rest who live in a chaotic, barely functioning state.

    “the terrorists ARE replaced quickly”

    Again, equating terrorists in Iraq with insurgents in Iraq. The latter are largely foreing – and their replacements could be eliminated if anyone were ever able to secure Iraq’s borders. Insurgents, however, draw their replacements exclusively from the Iraqi people. Imagine, for a moment, that what I’m telling you is correct – that the two groups are largely distinct. Where does this leave us? Basically, it leaves the US backing one set of militias against another set of militias, the only difference between the two being confessional. How does democracy come from supporting one Iranian-backed death squad over another Saudi-backed death squad?

  15. Sally Says:

    How does democracy come from supporting one Iranian-backed death squad over another Saudi-backed death squad?

    For somebody that makes a great and frenetic show about naming some varieties of islamist, anon is actually pretty ignorant about Americans. The issue, of course, has nothing to do with picking among death squads, but rather with shutting down the actors on any side who, wittingly or unwittingly, are doing the terrorists’ work for them (and saying the insurgents aren’t terrorists even while they use terrorism is priceless). Their idea is simple: create and sustain enough sectarian strife to a) inflict a demoralizing defeat on the Great Satan, and b) produce another failed state that can be used as an incubator for more mass murderers. Whether a “surge” can prevent that or not is an open question, but it’s long past time we got over worrying about whether this is going to upset that faction or that annoy this sect. If you think the story of the Gordian Knot was about cutting threads, you really have a lot to learn.

  16. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    “to believe that every Muslim who espouses Islamism is, in fact, The Enemy” — we here between the neo-conservative and the classical liberal persuasion understand this clearly.

  17. TmjUtah Says:

    Good call on the “flush”, neo. It’s a lot easier to blow away a varmint if you get him out of his hole.

    Our troops, especially the embeds, have had three years’ experience in analyzing the different parties in play in Iraq. We’ve learned a lot about relationships, alliances, logistical paths, lines of communication… and especially critical points of interest, external to Iraq, in Iran and Syria.

    Mooq is going to stop a bullet. Or a JDAM. As are a large number of other, lesser known darlings of the western media. It’s already a pretty tough gig to be a jihadi minuteman – much harder than we ever hear about from our “journalists”. It’s going to be a lot tougher for the next few months.

    The surge won’t bring victory in the Long War. But it may just ensure the continuing existence of a nominally democratic Iraq beyond the next couple of years.

    Not all muslims are terrorists. But the terrorists/insurgents/resistance fighters/minutemen who are killing ours all seem to end up being muslim. So their club ring or secret handshake doesn’t seem to me to be that important.

    We’ll be a lot closer to victory when we make it unmistakably clear to all parties that lining up against us means death and utter defeat.

    We’ll suck up an unknowable number of friendly casualties before we get to that point.

    But we’ll get there. The outcome is not in doubt. Just the price and the path from here to there.

  18. grackle Says:

    “the insurgency has been an irritant”

    Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the insurgency, and the rest who live in a chaotic, barely functioning state.

    Let me elaborate: The insurgency has been merely an irritant to the Coalition. Here’s something I’ll “tell” the Iraqis:

    Iraqi citizens, work very hard in the future NOT to allow another Saddam to lead you – try very hard since your existence may depend on stupid, doomed despots NOT leading you. As a postscript I would tell them to denounce religious fanaticism in all its forms and to please, please CEASE killing each other.

    Again, equating terrorists in Iraq with insurgents in Iraq. The latter are largely foreing – and their replacements could be eliminated if anyone were ever able to secure Iraq’s borders. Insurgents, however, draw their replacements exclusively from the Iraqi people. Imagine, for a moment, that what I’m telling you is correct – that the two groups are largely distinct. Where does this leave us? Basically, it leaves the US backing one set of militias against another set of militias, the only difference between the two being confessional. How does democracy come from supporting one Iranian-backed death squad over another Saudi-backed death squad?

    Not really. The terrorists have never been able to kill anyone able to fight back, poor dears. One almost feels sorry for them. Innocent civilians are their meat. It’s the same for the insurgents, except there you have several quasi-religious political factions killing each other. But admittedly – they ARE two “distinct” Iraqi groups, along with other Iraqi groups, that are killing Iraqis and dying from each others death squads – all of which doesn’t matter at all to my point. Let them kill each other all they want. I would not waste a single Coalition life trying to stop them from offing each other. I would not “back” either one. I would simply stand aside while they have at it. If the Iraqis are tired of the violence – well then, LET THEM CEASE BEING VIOLENT. That’s ALL they have to do and the deaths are ended. Religious fanaticism and violent politics are a bitter harvest. Let them reap it amongst each other.
     

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Insurgents, according to theory, must continue to move. They must never be caught and fixed and destroyed. They need to survive. They can lose every battle as long as they survive, and they do that by moving. In the wilderness, possibly every day. Start at midnight to a site picked out by recon, lay up by dawn.
    Move, move.
    Which means travel light and live hard.
    Problem is, nobody wants to do that for very long.
    If given a sanctuary, amenities start to appear. Heavy weapons are accumulated, one and two, then more.
    Then nobody wants to move, to go back to living hard. And the heavy weapons are an asset which needs defending.
    Eventually, the guerrillas fix themselves.
    Certain governents–supposedly Colombia, for example–are using this aspect of human nature against the guerrillas.
    Give them an area which seems to be no-go for the government. Let them set up, fix themselves.
    Then you can get some of them there, and the rest are, as neo noted, vulnerable as they run.

  20. Anon Says:

    Goodnight.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    In case I didn’t make my sentiments clear from the quoted portions Neo got down, let me add to it by saying that I believe that the terrorists can’t hide without suffering repercussions. Obviously they can try to hide, but I do not forward the recommendation that they do so or that it will even succede. So that was left out of the first sentence in which I wrote that “they can’t hide” concerning what new things they may do. All insurgencies have to hide in the first stages. Maybe they don’t want a Fallujah 2 scenario in which they stand and they fight and they die. Or maybe they learned that discretion is their best attempt at aping valor. *shrugs*

    To an extent that is true of the movement as well– as you well note yourself, running from Baghdad means that the movement will need to establish one or more bases in the surrounding area, which if nothing else will take time and effort.

    As Marcus described, it puts the insurgency back at square one. This doesn’t mean ultimate victory for the US, Neo, as I believe you understand. It just means the balance of power shifts. A couple of defeats there, some victories here, all that matters is who is left standing at the end. Them or us. It almost doesn’t matter that you lost 99% of your previous battles in a war, because that history matters little if you achieve a victory that leads to the surrender of the enemy the day after.

    The question of flexibility, you brought up at the end Neo, is of course very important. And the one thing that JAG and Army lawyers have done in this war, for whatever reasons, has been to become folks who are afraid of the media and “war crime accussations” to the extent of limiting the American military’s rules for engaging the enemy. There are soldiers in Iraq that say they can’t shoot someone laying an IED because “he isn’t a hostile with a gun” so to speak. This was to some extent, actually present BEFORE 2001, but the whole Abu Ghraib thing really told the lawyers to go ape shat.

    While flexibility is done on the small unit level, Neo, the top brass commanders can definitely stiffen the joints so they don’t flex. The body might be willing, but if the mind isn’t, then it isn’t.

    Petraeus and folks wrote us an anti-insurgency Manual, Neo and companions. I suggest folks read it, or at least read the portions which they don’t get so to speak. You can download the pdf. And yes, the terrorists probably downloaded it in spades, just like we downloaded “Management of Savagery” in pdf format. It’s all about being smarter and quicker than the enemy. It don’t matter if they got this “knowledge” thing, if they are dead and choking on it.

    Get it here.

    Link at bottom

    I haven’t finished reading it of course. It is not 5 poems stacked together after all. But it is easy to understand, if you have some background knowledge of things. Which I thi

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    think most people who have paid attention to the 3 years in Iraq, already have, more or less.

  23. troutsky Says:

    Varmints huh,you don’t find that on every blog.Goes back to neos astute metaphore of cats and mice.It seems to me a good bombing campaign like Dresden or Tokyo or Hanoi might be the way to kill the most varmints.But I’m no military expert.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Well, Neo, if there is one thing that the agent provocateurs on your blog have taught you, it is how to complex dynamic of the predator and the prey.

    In this case, we have folks who both attack and then run away. Hit and run. Age old techniques, from an age old mentality. Border and clan warfare, it developed from. Where folks were so stupid that they were fighting for insults to their honor that they don’t remember the origin of.

    The agents can hide, Neo. They always could hide, and they always did run after attacking you. But the point is, people who run away from you do so with a reason, and that reason usually isn’t because they like you or think they are doing you a favor. Usually it is because they cannot match your power. We have to find a way to keep the terrorists reacting to us. Because if you just sit around waiting to be attacked, the momentum of the offense will be gone, and then you’ll be stalled like the German forces in the Bulge.

    Move through the assault people, don’t just stand there. Bush’s strategy is good, but he has to get rid of the people who will make his strategy into a “let’s attack for 5 seconds, and then stand around while getting shelled to talk about developments”.

    You’ve seen Omaha beach, Neo. You know that for an attack on a fortified position to succede, you must carry Through The Attack. You can’t just sit around waiting for this politican or whatever to get their pants up.

    You’ll take casualties, but they will be far less than if you just stood right in the middle of the beach while taking fire from machine guns and artillery.

    The Marines specialize in this sort of shock assault philosophy. They are in fact the premier assault troops of our age, trained and molded into a weapon by which no fortification or defense may hold against them. Not islands, not jungles, not swamps, and not mountains. That is why the esprit de corps of the Marines are so high. You need a unit that will take more than 90% casualties in a fixed position to become ineffective. You need a unit that can take more than 50% casualties while taking the objective successfully.

    These conventional war techniques can be applied to guerrila insurgencies, as we have seen before. You just got to find them, and then launch assaults against them. It is not like we don’t know who they are. So it takes people to cut the orders, because certainly folks will follow them.

  25. Zeno Says:

    You know what, I haven’t made up my mind yet if the US should continue trying to pacify Iraq or just give up and play Sunnis and Shias against each other, not only in Iraq, but all over the Middle East. In a sense, it would be better for all (specially the Iraqis) to try to stabilize Iraq, but it might prove impossible without striking Iran at some point too.
    So, I guess, either the US strikes Iran, or leaves the place and lets Saudi Arabia and Iran go against each other, hoping that both lose.

  26. Anon Says:

    The most amusing thing about you, Ymarsakar, is the length to which you will go to in order to compensate for your shortcomings. Having created a hypermasculine image of yourself, for example, you must then find ways of compensating for your utter lack of actual masculinity – hence you will turn having a conversation via blog comments into attack and then run away or hit and run. I mean, that’s really impressive – convincing yourself that engaging in a conversation over the internet is the equivalent of engaging in combat. Does your wankdom know no limits? Apparently not. You, sir, are the pinnacle of wanking. I tip my hat to you.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Anon, I admire your generous spirit, knowledge and eloquence, but you really are wasting time and energy trying to enlighten this crowd. I speak from experience. Life is short, move on.

    .

  28. TalkinKamel Says:

    Troutsky, neo-neoconned, what are you still doing here?

    You should be fighting alongside these guys that Michael Moore calls, “The New Minutemen.” Why aren’t you in Iraq?

  29. stumbley Says:

    “you really are wasting time and energy trying to enlighten this crowd. I speak from experience. Life is short, move on.”

    Please. With my blessings.

  30. Promethea Says:

    I wish the anons and anonymouses who post here would sign your posts with fake names (or real ones, if you prefer).

    Thanking you in advance for your consideration to your readers.

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    Spank, you don’t have to wear a mask here, what do you have to fear? Being outed?

    Coming from a guy so scared he tries to be a wanna be spy on the internet, that is something else indeed.

    These people actually read my blog on a rather regular basis. I think it is their daily jack off requirement or something to that effect.

  32. neo-neocon Says:

    By the way, my use of the term jihadis/terrorists/insurgents by no means indicates I think it’s a unitary bunch. But what I say happens to apply to them all.

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    One thing that I will add to what Marcus said, Neo, is that while your strategy should not rely upon surprise, this doesn’t mean giving the enemy time to form up counter-strategies is a good idea.

    Remember back in 2002, when Bush gave Saddam 6 to 12+ months to come up with counter-strategies? Because strategies operate over a long time, the counter-strategies also operate over a long time, and take time to formulate once the enemy’s strategy is known.

    It is a psychological function really. All surprises on the part of the enemy is a good idea. Surprises don’t last long, but that doesn’t mean giving the enemy time to plot and plan is not going to give them time to give us a surprise.

    That is why it is important to keep the pressure on the attack. You just can’t goof off at a party now and again in war, and have victory parades.

    Because it is important to adapt faster than the enemy, you should not give the enemy time to adapt to you. If they are good enough to adapt to you quickly, then fine that is simply an ability that we will decrease over time. But you shouldn’t give the enemy time, which is very precious. Ask me for anything but time.

    While it doesn’t matter that a strategy surprises the enemy or not, It Does Matter if you give the enemy time enough to counter your strategy. These things take time to move, heavy weapons takes time to move. If you just sit around and talk with Congressmen about these “things”, then eventually you will be surprised, and you will lose the initiative.

  34. Anon Says:

    “By the way, my use of the term jihadis/terrorists/insurgents by no means indicates I think it’s a unitary bunch. But what I say happens to apply to them all.”

    Except that doesn’t flow from the logic of your post: “the jihadis are dispersing to areas other than Baghdad.”

    Ok, the jihadis are dispersing to areas other than Baghdad. So? What about the much larger entities involved in fighting in Iraq, including militia groups which compose a significant portion of the Iraqi government? Are SCIRI forces also fleeing Baghdad? Probably not, since SCIRI, Sadr’s forces, and other Shi’ite militias form the bulk of Iraq’s new army. As I said, it’s easier to pretend that there is one Bad Guy in Iraq, composed of turban wearing, scimitar wielding Musselmen out to get the Good Guys, but in reality, the situation in Iraq is complex and nuanced. If you’re trying to understand the situation, it doesn’t help to pretend like all we have to do is kill some terrorists and then everything will be fine when Iraqi society will be dominated, for a long time, by fighting between various groups, none particularly “good,” as each attempts to consolidate power in the wake of Saddam’s overthrow.

  35. Ymarsakar Says:

    Since we’re going on with arguments, I made a response to the argument I had with Ariel at that Tet thread here.

    Link

    I shot back at Sally as well, that argument is there, you may get it if you don’t prefer to argue with Sally yourself.

  36. stumbley Says:

    Anon, we all agree that the situation in Iraq is a “complex and nuanced” one. What is YOUR complex and nuanced SOLUTION?

    I’m so tired of people who keep on telling us what’s WRONG…why don’t you be part of the solution and not part of the problem? And the solution is NOT to abandon Iraq to its sectarian/religious/civil violence…it’s to see the mission through to establishing a viable democracy that can be an example to the region.

    If you claim that that’s not possible, then you’re just as much a “racist” (not the term I’d choose, by the way) as those who say the “ragheads” can’t ever understand democracy.

    We’re still in Bosnia years after the conflict ended there; why isn’t anyone b***ching about Clinton’s “mistakes”? We’re still in Korea 50 years after the end of that war? Why? We’re still in Europe 60 years after WWII. Why?

    And if your answers to those questions are “because it’s in the U.S.’ interests to be there” then you’ll get why we’re still in Iraq.

  37. Anon Says:

    Part of the problem here is going to be sheer overload – so many of you say so many things that should be addressed in every post that one person could never hope to respond to each and every one.

    For example:

    “So, I guess, either the US strikes Iran, or leaves the place and lets Saudi Arabia and Iran go against each other, hoping that both lose.”

    Ah, yes – it would make lots of sense, wouldn’t it, for two of the biggest oil producers in the world to wage war against each other with Iraq and Kuwait, two of the other largest oil producers in the world between them, with the Strait of Hormuz almost certain to be shut down in the event of hostilities. In other words, you’d lose probably at least a quarter of the world’s oil production for the duration of the war, with the end result likely being either complete destruction of oil producing capacity in these countries, or at the worst Iranian control over a majority of the world’s oil reserves. Genius!

    “If the Iraqis are tired of the violence – well then, LET THEM CEASE BEING VIOLENT.”

    In most cases of intrastate war – Iraq being no exception – the vast majority of people do not engage in violence. The easy availability of highly destructive weaponry – from small arms to explosives to anti-aircraft missiles – means that smaller and smaller groups of people can use more and more violence. All it takes is a very small number of Iraqis to maintain an insurgency – as few as 500 to 2000 – that will kills hundreds of thousands and last a decade. All calls for the Iraqis to “stop being violent” are predicated on the fantasy of some Hobbesian “War of All Against All,” when in reality, most Iraqis are just trying to live their lives as best they can in the face of violence and chaos. Anti-abortion terrorists have killed hundreds of Americans over the last decade, yet we would never hear calls for “Americans to stop killing Americans,” but rather invocations to stop the few people actually committing violence.

    “Their idea is simple: create and sustain enough sectarian strife to a) inflict a demoralizing defeat on the Great Satan, and b) produce another failed state that can be used as an incubator for more mass murderers.”

    Oh, you know this? You talked to them, perhaps, and asked them? Who is this “them” you’re talking about? Are you talking only about the small number of terrorists in Iraq who ascribe to jihadiyya Salafiyya,” in which case you’d be roughly correct, or are you talking about all parties engaged in fighting in Iraq against US forces? Would that include Sadr’s forces, who have engaged in fighting against US troops? The same Sadr who runs one of the two main parties in the governing parliamentary coalition in Iraq? Are you asserting that the government of Iraq wants to overthrow the government of Iraq and create a failed state to incubate mass murderers? See what happens when you gloss over differences this basic?

  38. Anonymous Says:


    anon please don’t go, you have provided the most effective critique of this mob seen for a while. thanks

    neoneoconned, how do you measure the impact of an effective critique in this community?

    .

  39. Anon Says:

    Sorry, forgot to close my emphasis. Here’s the rest!

    “The more the merrier I say. Come terrorists – come to Iraq to be slaughtered.”

    Ah, because it makes lots of sense to try to attract terrorists to Iraq for an extended, violent counter-terrorism campaign while simultaneously trying to turn Iraq into a flourishing parliamentary democracy? What genius thought this one up? Excuse me, Iraq, would you mind if we used your country as a battleground to fight our enemies who will destroy your infrastructure, assassinate your leaders, and bomb your cities while we fight them using air strikes against crowded urban environments? What’s that? You think that will get in your way of transforming a society beaten down by decades of totalitarian rule into a prosperous democracy overnight? Oh, pshaw.

    “saying the insurgents aren’t terrorists even while they use terrorism is priceless”

    It would be, if I had actually said that. It’s important to distinguish between “terrorists who ascribe to Qutb’s vision for the Muslim world and are largely foreign-born” and “Iraqis fighting in the name of larger sectarian groups for a share or control of power in the nascent Iraqi government.” Responses to the two groups should be, you know, tailored accordingly. To think otherwise is sort of like invading Normandy and declaring that the Maquis and the Nazis, since they’re both carrying guns and shooting, are obviously part of a singular Enemy who must be destroyed.

    “we here between the neo-conservative and the classical liberal persuasion understand this clearly.”

    This is great – assuming that every Islamist is also a terrorist is almost (almost) as stupid as assuming that every Muslim is also a terrorist. When the vast majority of Islamists are not committing violence and most are, in fact, opposed to the jihadiyya Salafiyya (most Salafists don’t even like the jihadis), it makes little sense to treat them as if they were on the same side. If you took five seconds to learn about the part of the world upon which you are expounding, you might see this. It would almost be like saying “all conservatives are fascists, because fascists are conservatives and fascists espouse ideas that are ideologically, tangentially associated with conservative ideas.”

    “Because if you just sit around waiting to be attacked, the momentum of the offense will be gone, and then you’ll be stalled like the German forces in the Bulge.”

    The Germans stopped before reaching their goal largely because they ran out of gas, and because they were stopped by Allied forces who shot at them a lot. The Germans didn’t stop because they felt like sitting around waiting to be attacked, they stopped because they didn’t have a choice – their trucks and tanks no go vroom vroom with no gas, Ymarsakar.

    Oy. That’s all I have time for right now.

  40. Anon Says:

    ‘If you claim that that’s not possible, then you’re just as much a “racist” (not the term I’d choose, by the way) as those who say the “ragheads” can’t ever understand democracy.’

    Do you understand the fundamental difference between saying “Iraqis cannot have a democracy because of some element of their nature” versus “there is no reason to believe that US forces, no matter how dedicated, will be able to help create a stable, prosperous democracy in Iraq given the present political, economic, and military situation there”? One is, yes, racist. The latter, however, draws on research done by social scientists who have found that foreign intervention in civil wars usually prolongs them, rather then ending them. If you cannot understand that fundamental difference, I’m not sure what point there is in talking any more.

  41. Ymarsakar Says:

    A and Conned, it is too brokeback mountain, folks.

  42. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Germans stopped before reaching their goal largely because they ran out of gas,

    I knew it was you Spank, because only you would take the bait about the Germans.

    The Germans stopping was bad, analogous to stopping an attack against terrorists in mid stride. Obviously if the Germans had the gas, they would have wanted to go on, because stopping in the middle of an attack on an enemy zone, is very bad.

    I’ll try to make up more traps for you Spank.

  43. Anon Says:

    “I’ll try to make up more traps for you Spank.”

    You are, how does one say? Pathetic. What an odd little creature you are…

  44. Anon Says:

    “A and Conned, it is too brokeback mountain, folks.”

    Shorter Ymarsakar: People who disagree with me are total fags! LOL!!1!

  45. Zeno Says:

    Anon, we all agree that the situation in Iraq is a “complex and nuanced” one. What is YOUR complex and nuanced SOLUTION?

    I suspect Anon’s complex solution involves calling Dr. Frankenstein to bring back to life the body of Saddam and then put him back in power.

  46. Sally Says:

    Wow, look at that anon go! Like a one man derivish of debate, isn’t he, swatting neocons to the right of him and paleocons further to the right of him? He’s even got the old trolls in a sweat!

    But let’s look at what he’s saying, over and over and over again:
    1) that there are different factions involved in the Iraq situation with different motives, objectives, and methods;
    2) that only small numbers are responsible for the violence; and
    3) that the US should give up and get out, since it’s only worsening the situation.

    Now, #1 is no doubt true, as it’s true in all such situations, but:
    a) it doesn’t mean that their motives, methods, or objectives don’t or can’t converge for all practical purposes of the US, and
    b) it doesn’t mean that a simpler policy of opposing the violent, regardless of motive, isn’t to be preferred to a complicated, “nuanced” attempt to play one group off against another.
    #2 is true only in the limited sense that those directly involved in violence at any one time are no doubt relatively small. But it’s false in the larger sense that helps explain why Iraq remains a problem — the sense that significant numbers of both major factions continue to provide active or passive support to the killers in their midst. And, of course, it simply overlooks the other facet of the problem, the extent to which the “insurgency” is fueled by outside support.
    And #3, which is the real point of all his frantic quibbling and scribbling, is not simply a recipe for American humiliation — that’s all the simple America-haters can see, of course, and what’s got them foaming with excitement — it’s a recipe for an international disaster that will dwarf anything we’re currently seeing in the region, as islamist terrorism gains a new base and a new wind. Anon says, oh don’t worry about it, the Iraqi’s will be too busy fighting each other for 10 years, I think was his estimate. Of course he has no way of knowing this, and a statement like that should lead one to realize that he doesn’t know much of what he pretends to. What he may know, though, is just enough to know how to appeal to the frightened and the distracted, with the old lure of yet another cut-and-run.

  47. Anon Says:

    “the sense that significant numbers of both major factions continue to provide active or passive support to the killers in their midst.”

    So you admit that you’re relying on a “sense”? Do you admit that you really don’t know too much about Iraq or what’s happening there, instead relying on general “feelings” you might have gleened from “the news”? This is a major problem, and I don’t mean to come across as nasty about this – I think most people rely on a small set of data and then extrapolate general “senses” from this small set. In reality, in almost every case of intrastate war, popular support is not an important factor for the survival of an insurgent group. Rather than popular support, an insurgent group needs only enough knowledge about a population in order to identify and “punish” members of that group who help the insurgents’ adversaries.

    “as islamist terrorism gains a new base and a new wind.”

    How exactly would Islamist terrorism gain a new base if we were to leave Iraq? This is, again, a case of equating jihadi terrorists with the Iraqi insurgency – another case of imagine that “the bad guy” in Iraq is the same “bad guy” who attacked the US on 9/11 or the same “bad guy” who did this thing or that thing. Sorry, but that’s wildly inaccurate. It’s totally true that there are terrorists in Iraq who share ideology with the broader al Qa’ida movement and who have had some – limited – operational ties with bin Laden and al Zawahiri. But these terrorists form a very small percentage of those fighting in Iraq, and there’s very little reason to believe that they would ever be able to take over the entire state of Iraq, or even some small portion of it. Don’t you think that, if they tried to actually consolidate control over a given territory, we’d simply bomb them? Or, if it ever came to that, that the other elements in Iraq which oppose the jihadi terrorists’ agenda – including the Sunni insurgents and the Shi’a miltias – would do the job for us? It seems that, in your mind, they’re all pretty much the same, and they’re all “terrorists” in the sense of “terrorists attacked us on 9/11″ or “‘terrorists’ is a generic term for bad men,” when in reality I think you’re talking about two or more very different things.

    “a simpler policy of opposing the violent, regardless of motive”

    This would of course, involve “opposing” (ie, “shooting at”) elements of the elected Iraqi government, such as death squads operated out of the Ministry of the Interior. Which is better – to arbitrarily pick one side of a brutal civil war to support, or to start shooting at everyone? Is “better” even relevant? Nope.

  48. Anonymous Says:


    If you cannot understand that fundamental difference, I’m not sure what point there is in talking any more.

    You will not succeed in teaching them anything, either.

    Far better to work with your local Democratic 2008 committee than piss your time away here.

    .

  49. Sally Says:

    So you admit that you’re relying on a “sense”?

    Go back and try my comment again — if you can’t do better than that then you really need some remedial help in reading comprehension. I realize, for example, that, like many sophomores, you’ve read a paper, in this case by a couple of “social scientists” on “intrastate war”, and now you feel you’re an authority. Instead, you’re simply an uncritical parrot of any dubious thesis that flatters your fragile preconceptions. Otherwise, you would have asked yourself how it’s possible for any state to exist in the face of an “insurgent group”. And the same sort of ignorant faith infects your simple-minded view of the position islamist terrorists in an Iraq that the US has abandoned — the ensuing chaos would breed them like flies, as well as arm and support them. Which, of course, again, many on the left not only understand all too well, but are hoping for.

  50. Anon Says:

    “you’re simply an uncritical parrot of any dubious thesis that flatters your fragile preconceptions.”

    Actually, what I’m trying to do is create an informed understanding of the world by drawing on actual research done by actual scholars using actual data, rather than having “feelings” or vague “senses” of what’s happening. And no, I’m not drawing on a single paper – I could give you a reading list, if you’d like. I just think Fearon & Laitin’s piece on civil war is the best place to start, as is Mueller’s piece on ethnic conflict.

    “you would have asked yourself how it’s possible for any state to exist in the face of an “insurgent group”.”

    I never argued that a typical insurgency threatens the existence of a state – in fact, I tend to believe that the changing relationship between state, individual, and force makes it less likely for armed substate actors to challenge a state’s existence – more violence is readily available below the level of a state, but it’s far more dispersed, ie – the difference between the destructive capability of al Qa’ida before 2002, when it pulled off 9/11, versus the decentralized, networked terrorism we’re seeing now, which is much harder to stop but also incapable of concentrating force in a significant way. So I don’t think the insurgency in Iraq will cause the state to collapse, whether we’re there or not. I also don’t think it matters much whether the current government stays in power or is replaced by another group, as they’re both pretty much two sides of the same coin. But regardless, the outcome depends not on the US at all, but rather on the insurgent (and militia) groups fighting each other.

    I never said it was the best option; I think discussion of “the best option” stopped being possible a long time ago. I think we’ve long been at the point of “the least bad option for the time being.”

    “many on the left not only understand all too well, but are hoping for.”

    Oh, yes. Boogity boogity boo, lefties hate freedom and democracy and apple pie, and love terrorists. Grow up.

  51. Sally Says:

    First, the word “sense” as I used it doesn’t pertain to “feelings”, vague or otherwise, it pertains to meaning, as in the “sense” of a statement or thesis. Your inability to grasp something as basic as that, and your willingness to distort plain language to suit your preconceptions, doesn’t bode well for your ability to comprehend even a single paper. In which case, reading lists won’t help you.

    I never argued that a typical insurgency threatens the existence of a state

    But here’s what you did say:
    “Rather than popular support, an insurgent group needs only enough knowledge about a population in order to identify and “punish” members of that group who help the insurgents’ adversaries.”
    Now I don’t doubt that that in your own personal la la land, a state can be riddled with such “insurgent groups” and still be in “existence” of some sort. But in the real world, such “states” would be mere fictions, and not states in the real sense — i.e. (for the reading-impaired) in the real meaning of the term. Hence, by this thesis, since insurgent groups need no popular support after all, it’s unlikely there could ever be true states at all. Since there are, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the thesis is as absurd as it looks.

    It doesn’t take much more acumen, by the way, to realize that the vestigial but still widespread contemporary left is populated with many embittered ideologues whose crumbled faith has turned into a vicious and encompassing hatred of much of the modern world, and who therefore are possessed by a lurking admiration for anyone who challenges it, and its current representative, the US. Even in its heyday, the left was never too big on freedom and democracy — now, in its decadence, I think it’s safe to say that a significant proportion of them hate both (apple pie, egh).

  52. Anon Says:

    “Now I don’t doubt that that in your own personal la la land, a state can be riddled with such “insurgent groups” and still be in “existence” of some sort. But in the real world, such “states” would be mere fictions, and not states in the real sense — i.e. (for the reading-impaired) in the real meaning of the term. Hence, by this thesis, since insurgent groups need no popular support after all, it’s unlikely there could ever be true states at all. Since there are, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the thesis is as absurd as it looks.”

    I honestly have no idea where you’re going with this paragraph. Are you seriously arguing that a state can’t face an insurgency without immediately collapsing? Since, in essence, every state in existence has at least once faced an internal insurgency – America, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, included – it would seem that most states can experience insurgency and not poof out of existence, be absorbed by their neighbors, or experience a government collapse.

    Insurgent groups don’t need popular support to maintain a violent insurgency. It’s a common misconception that insurgent groups require some sort of popular base of support to survive – really, they just require the ability to keep a population in line (hence being able to identify turn-coats in the group they claim to represent – they really only need to know a population well enough to be able to identify departures from the party line and to mete out violence in response).

    “the sense that significant numbers of both major factions continue to provide active or passive support to the killers in their midst.”

    Ok, if this isn’t a vague “feeling” you have acquired, I most politely inquire as to what sources you have found regarding widespread popular support among sectarian groups for death squads, insurgent groups, militias, and terrorists. If this is, in fact, occurring, it would have lots of implications for people actually trying to understand the phenomenon of intrastate war, and I’d be very curious what these would be.

    “many embittered ideologues”

    Again, I’d be curious to know how large a number this is – are we talking the Evil Triumverate of Michael Moore, Ward Churchil, and Lefty X, the obscure fringe leftist being held up by the Right as an example of how evil all lefties are, depending on which day it is? Or do you have some sort of evidence – some percentage of registered Democrats, for example, who have signed a petition calling for America to be transformed into a Islamofascist theocracy? Again, it would be news to me, and I’d be very curious to know about this.

  53. Sally Says:

    I honestly have no idea where you’re going with this paragraph.

    Which only further demonstrates a real problem with comprehension generally. The thesis is that an “insurgent group” can spring up and sustain itself without popular support. But if that were true, then they’d be springing up constantly, any time you could get a few bitter, or deranged, or both, “activists” together, and would be unstoppable. Since that doesn’t happen, the thesis isn’t true. It is true, of course, that insurgent groups do spring up from time to time, in the hope of gaining popular support — but the state only goes poof if they succeed in so doing.

    All this is quite obvious, and I bother saying it just in case anyone might think anony actually knows much at all. To anyone who might still think he does, let’s politely ask him for the evidence behind his confident assertion that the Iraqi insurgents have no popular support on either side.

    “many embittered ideologues”

    Again, I’d be curious to know how large a number this is

    Yes, so would I. And I see you’ve started a file — keep at it. I think you’d be better at listing embittered ideologues than at straining your brain to understand “intrastate warfare”.

  54. Anon Says:

    “The thesis is that an “insurgent group” can spring up and sustain itself without popular support.”

    Correct, sort of – see Fearon and Laitin, which you can find here: http://www.yale.edu/irspeakers/Fearon.pdf

    “then they’d be springing up constantly, any time you could get a few bitter, or deranged, or both, “activists” together,”

    The thesis is, of course, more complex than what you stated above. It says, basically, that when insurgency is cheap, someone will choose insurgency. That is, if you have, for example, mountainous terrain in your country, it’s easier for an insurgent group to hide from counter-insurgency efforts, and therefore your country is that much more likely to experience insurgency. The fact that insurgencies – civil wars, basically – have been proliferating in the Third World since 1945 is largely the result of, per Mohammed Ayoob, the proliferation of weak states in the Third World. A weak central state makes insurgency cheaper – it changes the balance of power between the state and the sub-state actor in favor of the sub-state actor. So does external support – if you have another country giving money and weapons to an insurgent group, insurgency is cheaper – easier – and therefore more likely. And so on. Iraq is undergoing a civil war, for the most part, because insurgency became so much cheaper after the fall of Saddam – lots of weapons lying around, no strong central authority, lots of outside players giving support to various groups, and so forth. It’s also important to remember that, in most cases, an external power is unable to play a decisive role in ending an insurgency.

    “Since that doesn’t happen, the thesis isn’t true. ”

    I think the most obvious examples of small insurgencies surviving without popular support would be various Communist insurgencies, especially in Latin America. Tupac Amaru, Sendero Luminosa, and Castro’s revolution, for example, were all very small groups of fighters who never held popular support, yet were able to fight, in some cases, for decades. There are lots more – pretty much every case of insurgency, basically. I’m saying: if you look at all historical insurgencies, most lacked popular support, yet were able to survive for long periods of time. Please, take a look at the actual numbers, and then tell me whether I’m wrong, rather than trying to logic it out from a poor understanding of the thesis in the first place. Or are you going to argue that Sendero Luminosa did, in fact, have high popular support?

    I think, here, the problem is that you’re confusing the survival of an insurgency with the success of an insurgency. Many are long-lived; few actually achieve their goals (ie, replacing the state).

  55. Sally Says:

    I think, here, the problem is that you’re confusing the survival of an insurgency with the success of an insurgency. Many are long-lived; few actually achieve their goals (ie, replacing the state).

    Ah, well — this is what “moving the goalposts” looks like folks. If all we’re talking about is how long some alienated ideologues can hold out in mountains or holes in the ground, then, sure, many states are likely to have something or somethings that might reasonably be called an “insurgency” at any one time. But that wasn’t what we were talking about — we were talking specifically about the Iraqi insurgency, which is hardly some rag-tag bunch in the bushes, and even more specifically about the unlikelihood of reducing that insurgency to the level of being merely a persistent nuisance. How are you coming with the sources behind your assertion that the Iraqi insurgents are without any popular support, Anon? Hmm?

  56. Anonymous Says:


    Correct, sort of – see Fearon and Laitin, which you can find here: http://www.yale.edu/irspeakers/F…kers/ Fearon.pdf

    American Political Science Review is an accomplished journal: 4th most-cited in a field of 174 related journals. The article itself has been cited 116 times since it was published in Feb, 2003 — a Very Hard Thing to Accomplish in academia. (Source: ISI Web of Knowledge)

    I look forward to reading Sally’s rigorous interpretation of the resource Anon thoughtfully contributed to the debate.

    It would only be fair if Sally contributed an equally engaging article supporting her point of view.

    .

  57. Anon Says:

    “How are you coming with the sources behind your assertion that the Iraqi insurgents are without any popular support, Anon? Hmm?”

    Actually, I have none – what I was doing was drawing on data which indicate that the occurrence of insurgency does not correlate with popular support. That is, at least statistically, it’s highly unlikely that the Iraqi insurgent groups have widespread popular support, and are much more likely to represent relatively small bands of fighters. I asked you, Sally, if you had anything more than a “sense” that this wasn’t true. If you had anything to show me you were correct, as I said, I’d be very interested because it would be a significant data point on insurgency, and would influence understanding of intrastate war. Part of the problem is that there is not going to be a lot of good information about the Iraqi insurgency until the insurgency is over – it’s hard, usually, to undertake public opinion polls in a warzone, for example. The best I can offer, I admit, is to draw upon a body of knowledge about intrastate war in general, and make predictions about that. As I said, I’m curious what your method is.

    ‘this is what “moving the goalposts”‘

    I have moved no “goalposts.” I have said, repeatedly, that an insurgency can be highly destructive and last many years, even without popular support. Most insurgencies don’t seek to be violent and long-lived for the sake of being violent and long-lived; I imagine that the Iraqi insurgent groups seek some share of power over the nascent Iraqi state, either maximal or some portion of a final settlement. I think they’re unlikely to get it (Castro is one of only a handful of examples of small insurgencies successfully toppling a government), but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause lots of trouble in the meantime.

  58. Sally Says:

    If you’d bother to read this, you’d soon see that:
    a) it uses “insurgency” to refer to “rural guerilla war”, hardly the phenomenon we’re currently seeing in Iraq, and
    b) it’s primarily concerned to counter the notion that late 20th century civil wars arise from ethnic differences, not the idea that insurgencies, especially of the kind and level we’re seeing in Iraq, have no need for popular support.

    Anybody can throw a reference to a paper into an argument, claim that it backs up their point, and then hope no one will actually look at it.

  59. Anon Says:

    “it’s primarily concerned to counter the notion that late 20th century civil wars arise from ethnic differences, not the idea that insurgencies, especially of the kind and level we’re seeing in Iraq, have no need for popular support.”

    I’m guessing you didn’t actually read the report. I’m guessing you read the abstract? Maybe the first page? From Fearon and Laitin, page 17:

    “After controlling for per capita income (or other measures of state strength), neither political democracy, the presence of civil liberties, higher income inequality, nor nondiscriminatory linguistic or religious policies should associate strongly with lower odds of civil war. Given the right environmental conditions, insurgencies can thrive on the basis of small numbers of rebels without strong, widespread, freely-granted popular support rooted in grievances – hence even in democracies.”

    ‘it uses “insurgency” to refer to “rural guerilla war”, hardly the phenomenon we’re currently seeing in Iraq’

    True – but, as I’ve said already, I’m not relying on this piece alone, but rather a wider body of work (I’ve cited a few of the authors so far – Ayoob, Mueller) that deals with intrastate war – insurgency, terrorism, whatever you want to call it – violence by sub-state actors that challenges the state’s monopoly over violence.

  60. Anon Says:

    Here’s probably a better quote, from page 31:

    “If, under the right environmental conditions, just 500 to 2000 active
    guerrillas can make for a long-running, destructive internal war, then the average level of
    grievance in a group may not matter that much. What matters is whether active rebels can hide from government forces and whether economic opportunities are so poor that the life of a rebel is attractive to 500 or 2000 young men. Grievance may favor rebellion by leading nonactive rebels to help in hiding the active rebels. But all the guerrillas really need is
    superior local knowledge, which enables them to threaten reprisal for denunciation.”

  61. Sally Says:

    From the multiple tries, and the weakness of the quotes you could come up with, I’m guessing you only just got around to skimming it yourself, anony.

  62. Anon Says:

    I certainly can’t convince you that I took the time to read a journal article, but I highly recommend, regardless, that you do so – it won’t take that long, and it will help bring you up to speed. I mean, that’s the point of being here, isn’t it? None of you will ever have any actual impact over any policies implemented by the US government, but you at least seem interested in foreign affairs – just woefully under- and misinformed. So, I thought I’d offer to help out. As I said, I can get you a reading list, but I think this is a good place to start.

  63. Sally Says:

    So, I thought I’d offer to help out.

    Aww, that’s sweet. No really. But now you really need to get back to that term paper.

  64. Anon Says:

    Sally, I like how your line of argument has jumped around from “you don’t know what you’re talking about” to “you can’t read” to “you’re dumb” to “you didn’t even read the article” to “you’re a kid” without actually addressing the points brought up by one paper you seem very determined not to read. Why not just read it?

  65. Anonymous Says:

    “Why not just read it?”

    Why indeed?

    You can do no good here.

    .

  66. Anon Says:

    “You can do no good here.”

    I suspect this is likely true. The internet has great potential to spark debate and nurture discourse, but at the same time, it also presents the potential for ideological ghettoization. Many of you read the same blogs and then post comments, agreeing with each other endlessly and constantly reinforcing what you already believe. At the suggestion that you read – gasp! – something you might not have yet read, you lock arms and declare that dissenting ideas are unwelcome. Bully for you for being honest about yourself.

  67. Sally Says:

    Anon continues his relentless display of incomprehension — I’ve read the article, and commented on its general irrelevance to the topic under discussion already. Whether he’s a kid or not, I neither know nor care — the simple point is that he’s pretending to a knowledge he demonstrably doesn’t have, and thinks that throwing out further irrelevant “reading lists” will get him off that hook. It’s what a kid would do.

  68. Anon Says:

    Did you read it? Did you really read it, or did you just skim it? Read the intro and conclusion? Come on, you can tell the truth.

  69. Anonymous Says:

    I threw I dunno how many hours and links at this crowd before concluding that most have too much invested in the personas fronted by their damn pseudonyms. There’s always a chance you’ll reach the person behind the persona, but if you did you’d never find out. You’ll never satisfy your curiosity about the “other,” the American conservative, because you can only fence with absurd blowhard caricatures.

    Ultimately, the person to blame is Neo-neocon, who sets the example by making violent, sweeping generalizations about the “left.” What’s vexing is that she should know better — her mind is subtle — but she doesn’t and there you have it.

    I do have to split for a lecture now (lol), so I’ll just wrap by again appealing to you to channel your energies towards booting these bastards from power rather than indulging your curiosity or trying to engage them in a meaningful conversation. Most of the liberals in the world can only wring their hands and watch; you’re an American, you can can actually step out there and help turf this godawful administration. Please consider it.

    .

  70. Sally Says:

    Buh-bye, anon. Catch that class, but by all means come back when you can think of something else to say.

  71. Ymarsakar Says:

    There goes Sally again.

  72. Anon Says:

    Dear Sally,

    I believe there has been some confusion. I go by Anon, while another commenter goes by Anonymous. I can easily see how the mix-up might have been made, especially coming from someone who already has a tendency to lump everyone who disagrees with her into one giant, monolithic Enemy.

    But, I digress. I’m going to stop talking in this thread, but before I leave, I’d like to recommend a few articles. These articles, which may at first appear to have nothing to do with each other, are really all about why organized violence occurs, and why it is decreasingly happening at the state level and increasingly happening at the sub-state level, especially in the Third World. It might not be immediately obvious what relevance they have for Iraq, but I imagine that if you read them, you’ll understand.

    -Stephen Van Evera, “Offense, Defense and the Cause of War,” International Security, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Spring 1998)

    -Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives us Meaning (New York: Anchor, 2002) (esp. ch. 2, “The Plague of Nationalism” and ch. 3, “The Destruction of Culture”)

    -J. Fearon and D. Laitin, “Ethnicity, Insurgency and Civil War,” American Political Science Review Vol. 97, No. 1 (February 2003)

    -Mohammad Ayoob, “State Making, State Breaking and State Failure,” in Chester Crocker, Fen Hampson, and Pamela Aall, eds., Managing Global Chaos (Washington, DC: USIP, 1996)

    -Deborah Avant, “The Implications of Marketized Security for IR Theory: the Democratic Peace, Late State Building and the Nature and Frequency of Conflict,” Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 4, No. 3 (2006)

    -Azar Gat, “The Democratic Peace Theory Reframed: the Impact of Modernity,” World Politics Vol. 58, No. 1 (October 2005)

    -David Laitin and James Fearon, “Neotrusteeship and the Problem of Weak States,” International Security Vol. 28, No. 4 (spring 2004)

    Well, I guess that’s more than I remembered, but I highly recommend that you (or anyone here) read these. Beats, you know, getting information about Iraq from a psychiatric professional with no IR, foreign affairs, or Middle Eastern studies background.

  73. Anon Says:

    Ooops, forgot one really important one: John Mueller’s “The Banality of Ethnic War,” which you can find here: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpsweb.sbs.ohio-state.edu%2Ffaculty%2Fjmueller%2Fapsa2000.pdf&ei=h4ivRY98j4KrAtCwjPwP&usg=__lQfey3JywU4wqvq5P88ifa9np8w=&sig2=Q3DWjQNwATyHjgPVArGl3g

  74. Sally Says:

    Sorry, anon, you just sound as though you’re class mates. Course reading lists are fine, and thanks for listing yours, but you still have to learn how to a) actually understand what you’re reading or skimming, and b) apply what you’re reading to a particular topic or issue. Good luck with that, and don’t be a stranger.

  75. Anon Says:

    I know I said I was done with this thread, but I really can’t help but point out that Sally’s response to my suggestion that she read a few articles was, essentially, to yell “No! I can’t hear you, lalalalala!”

    Honestly, how much could it hurt to read? Just read something other than a blog for a change. Is that the end of the world? Is the suggestion of reading so heinous, the idea of learning new information so terrible?

    Please, in all seriousness and honesty, just read a few of these. What could it possibly hurt? What do you possibly hope to gain by refusing to read them? I know it’s easier to make fun of me and suggest that I haven’t read them, that all I’ve done is skim them, that they’re from a class reading list, etc etc etc, but all that isn’t particularly insulting to me when I have read them and you are refusing to read them. If you want to insult, I recommend finding a different avenue.

    Ok, now I am done.

  76. Sally Says:

    He just can’t help himself, can he, poor anon? It would be funnier if it weren’t also a bit sad — like a permanent sophomore who’s just discovered the world of academic papers, he now thinks he alone reads such things. But the evidence he’s presented here indicates that he either doesn’t understand what he’s reading, or deliberately distorts its import, or — always a possibility — hasn’t read them himself, but believes that their mere citation should work magic in debate. The last possibility is especially comic and ironic, given his drama-queen pleading: “Please, in all seriousness and honesty, just read a few of these. What could it possibly hurt?” So maybe you should, anon, maybe you should.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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