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Thread: In Iraq, Congress is just as clueless as the President apparently is

  1. #1

    In Iraq, Congress is just as clueless as the President apparently is

    [QUOTE]Congressional leaders are illiterate on Iraq.
    Knowledge Gap
    by Lawrence F. Kaplan
    Only at TNR Online
    Post date: 05.01.07

    Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. But, when Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that Al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every Al Qaeda operative, and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true. (When I questioned him about Pelosi's assertion, a U.S. officer in Ramadi responded, incredulously, that Al Qaeda had just held a parade in his sector.) Perhaps the House speaker was alluding to the discredited claim that Al Qaeda operated in Iraq before the war. Perhaps. But the insinuation that Al Qaeda's depredations in Iraq might be something other than what they appear to be has become a staple of the congressional debate over Iraq. Thus, to buttress his own case for withdrawal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We have to change course [away from Iraq] and turn our attention back to the war on Al Qaeda and their allies"--the clear message being that neither plays much of a role there.

    What is going on here? There are two possibilities: First, Reid and Pelosi could be purposefully minimizing the stakes in Iraq. Or, second, they don't know what they're talking about. My guess is some combination of the two. Political maneuvering certainly contributes to the everyday pollution of Iraq discourse. But a lot of the pollution derives from legislators being functionally illiterate about the war over which Congress now intends to preside. In this, of course, they're hardly alone. The Bush administration's wretched Iraq literacy has been well-chronicled. But, with Congress demanding a louder say in the management of the war, the same knowledge gap that plagued our arrival in Iraq looks like it will be revived just in time for our departure.



    Whatever explains the literacy gap, this much at least is obvious: Having been called into being by politicians on both sides of the aisle, the war in Iraq no longer bears a relation to anything they say. You don't need to cherry-pick quotes to prove the point: Nearly every time a senator's mouth opens, something wrong comes out. A typical example came a few weeks ago when Senator Joseph Biden took to the op-ed page of The Washington Post. In response to an equally surreal op-ed by Senator John McCain, Biden wrote,

    The most damning evidence that the "results" McCain cites are illusory is the city of Tall Afar. Architects of the president's plan called it a model because in 2005, a surge of about 10,000 Americans and Iraqis pacified the city. Then we left Tall Afar, just as our troops soon will leave the Baghdad neighborhoods that they have calmed.

    A minor detail perhaps, but "we" never left Tal Afar. In 2006, the First Brigade of the First Armored Division replaced the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, actually boosting the number of Americans in the city. Biden's analysis will also come as news for the 25th Infantry Division, whose soldiers were patrolling the streets of Tal Afar even as the senator claimed otherwise. Not to single Biden out: Who can forget Representative John Murtha's suggestion that it would be a cinch for American forces to "redeploy" from Iraq to nearby Okinawa, 5,000 miles from Baghdad? Or House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes not knowing whether Sunni or Shia populate the ranks of Al Qaeda? U.S. officers in Iraq say that, during their briefings to visiting delegations, they routinely find themselves subjected to examples of congressional oversight along the lines of: Is (the northern city of) Mosul east or west of Baghdad? What's the difference between a brigade and battalion?

    As to why some of Capitol Hill's would-be war managers can't name more than a single Iraqi province, officers and journalists offer all kinds of theories. A common explanation points to the shrinking percentage of veterans in Congress, which amounts to a paltry fraction of the World War II cohort that legislated the war in Vietnam (and, incidentally, did a lousy job). But the ranks of the confused feature enough veterans, most notably Reid and Murtha, to disprove the theory. Another blames the reluctance of delegations to venture beyond the Green Zone or the bases they visit--and, then, their reluctance to be dazed by the sheer unfamiliarity of it all. "I'll never forget the helicopters coming in at night delivering wounded to the hospital in the Green Zone," the Iraq Study Group's Leon Panetta marveled to The Washington Post. "We've all seen 'M.A.S.H.,' and yet it was happening right there." Which brings us to yet another explanation for the literacy gap: Today's wise men don't exactly rise to the level of their predecessors. In place of William Bundy and Walt Rostow, we have Panetta and Vernon Jordan; as the custodian of William Fulbright's legacy, we have Harry Reid. The former hungered for the data and lacuna of war; the latter seem frankly uninterested.

    More than that, congressional leaders often seem loath even to hear about events on the ground. During General Petraeus's visit to Washington last week, for example, House Democrats at first denied the Iraq commander an opportunity to brief them, citing "scheduling conflicts." And, when he finally did brief Congress, the evidence of progress that Petraeus was expected to present was dismissed before he even offered it. "He's the commander," Senator Carl Levin reasoned. "We always know that commanders are optimistic about their policies." The joke here, of course, is that Levin and his colleagues were not so long ago denouncing the Bush administration--and rightly so--for the sin of disparaging military expertise. True, civilians have no obligation to heed that expertise. They do, however, have an obligation to be informed or, at a minimum, to listen.

    But, then, expertise may be beside the point. Obliviousness, after all, has its uses. It comforts the sensibilities of politicians whose varying levels of awareness allow them to favor certain facts and not others. Obliviousness testifies to the virtue and good intentions of members of Congress who, in truth, couldn't care less what comes next in Iraq. It invites Americans to indulge in the conceit that what happens in Washington obviates the need to think seriously about what happens in Baghdad.

    Most of all, illiteracy makes for good politics. There is the conviction, to paraphrase McCain, that winning a war takes precedence over winning an election. But it isn't so clear that this conviction guides a partisan brawl in which the Senate majority leader can gush, "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war." In such an environment, the subordination of facts to politics inform matters small and large, from the relatively trivial question of whether U.S. troops still operate in Tal Afar to enormous questions regarding the future of the U.S. enterprise in Iraq.



    These big questions, of course, are where literacy matters most--and where you won't find a trace of it. Consider a speech last week by Reid, who neatly summarized the strategic logic behind legislation mandating a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Speaking of "where things stand on the ground in Iraq," Reid insisted that the role of U.S. forces is to train Iraqi security forces, protect U.S. troops, and conduct targeted counterterrorism operations.

    This transitions our mission to one that is aligned with U.S. strategic interests, while at the same time reducing our combat footprint. U.S. troops should not be interjecting themselves between warring factions, kicking down doors, trying to sort Shia from Sunni, friend from foe.

    There are several problems with this formulation, not the least of which is that, far from being a "new strategy," it mirrors exactly the approach that was tested and found wanting when Donald Rumsfeld was presiding over the war and "reducing our combat footprint" was a raison d'être. Chaos, not stability, was the result.

    Still, the idea dovetails neatly with Reid's insistence that it is "the specter of U.S. occupation [that] gives fuel to the insurgency"--and that, absent this specter, the violence will magically subside. But just the reverse has been true. Falluja and Tal Afar in 2004, Ramadi in 2005, Western Baghdad in 2006--these places became charnel houses when U.S. forces pulled back. The suggestion, moreover, that American forces ought to confine themselves to "targeted counter-terror operations" rather than trying to sort "friend from foe" misunderstands the most basic tenets of counterinsurgency, ignores the lessons of the past four years, and purposefully slights the testimony of Petraeus and his fellow experts. Living among the population and sorting "friend from foe" is precisely how the military generates intelligence tips, which, in turn, provide the key to "targeted counter-terror operations." It can't be done from Kuwait, and it can't be done from Okinawa.

    Though Reid has no use for the Bush administration's military "surge," he does propose a "surge in diplomacy," in line with the cliché that the war has no military solution. As The Washington Post's David Broder has pointed out, "Instead of reinforcing the important proposition ... that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can succeed." Nor is this the only reason to doubt the reasoning behind Reid's "diplomatic surge." To begin with, even if they were inclined to assist the American cause in Iraq, neither Iran nor Syria have much, if any, sway over Al Qaeda. Moreover, the violence in Iraq has its own, wholly internal logic. In fact, the one brand of diplomacy that truly matters in Iraq--the U.S. Army's tribal diplomacy, which accounts for the recent turn-around in Anbar Province--is precisely the mission that Reid's demand for a skeleton force would shut down.

    Where all this leads is clear. Piece together a string of demonstrably false "facts on the ground" from a suitably safe remove, and you're left with a scenario where we can walk away from Iraq without condition and regardless of consequence. You don't need to watch terrified Iraqis pleading for American forces to stay put in their neighborhoods. You don't need to read the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which anticipates that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal will end in catastrophe. Why, in the serene conviction that things are the other way around, you don't even need to read at all. Chances are, your congressman doesn't either.
    Lawrence F. Kaplan is a senior editor at The New Republic. [/QUOTE]


    I'm so glad the November elections were such a huge "turning point" and that the problem is Iraq would finally be solved.

    The whisper is getting louder alright, about how incompetent our Congress is.

  2. #2
    >cliché that the war has no military solution

    yeah it's such a cliche, General Petraeus said it himself in front of congress.

    there's alot of huffing and puffing in this article but very little in terms of real solutions

  3. #3
    [QUOTE=bitonti]there's alot of huffing and puffing in this article but very little in terms of real solutions[/QUOTE]

    Sounds alot like the Dems. On the War and pretty much everything else.

    By the way, can you please link your source where Gen. Pat. says "The Iraq War has no Millitary Soulution". I'd like to read that article or transcript. Thanks.

  4. #4
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    [QUOTE=Warfish]Sounds alot like the Dems. On the War and pretty much everything else.

    By the way, can you please link your source where Gen. Pat. says "The Iraq War has no Millitary Soulution". I'd like to read that article or transcript. Thanks.[/QUOTE]

    [URL=http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/08/iraq.petraeus/index.html]http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/08/iraq.petraeus/index.html[/URL]

  5. #5
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    [QUOTE=pauliec]The whisper is getting louder alright, about how incompetent our Congress is.[/QUOTE]


    The whisper has been screaming for a long time now about how incompetent our ENTIRE government is...Local, State and Federal.

  6. #6
    [QUOTE=PlumberKhan]The whisper has been screaming for a long time now about how incompetent our ENTIRE government is...Local, State and Federal.[/QUOTE]


    Indeed. Just tell that to Jetdawgg the next time you see him, he thinks Pelosi is the greatest leader this country has seen since 2000.

  7. #7
    [QUOTE]Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. But, when Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that Al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every Al Qaeda operative, and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true. (When I questioned him about Pelosi's assertion, a U.S. officer in Ramadi responded, incredulously, that Al Qaeda had just held a parade in his sector.) Perhaps the House speaker was alluding to the discredited claim that Al Qaeda operated in Iraq before the war. Perhaps. But the insinuation that Al Qaeda's depredations in Iraq might be something other than what they appear to be has become a staple of the congressional debate over Iraq. Thus, to buttress his own case for withdrawal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We have to change course [away from Iraq] and turn our attention back to the war on Al Qaeda and their allies"--the clear message being that neither plays much of a role there.[/QUOTE]


    The problem in this paragraph is that the author is committing the same crime that the administration has---overstating the significance of AQ in Iraq. Every estimate including the most recent one put out by the DOD has put the # of AQ/Foreign fighters as making up no more than 10-15% of the insurgency in Iraq. Yet this author is thumbing his nose at Democrats who correctly note that AQs role in the Iraq Debacle is insignificant. What facts does he present to back his claim of a significant AQ role in Iraq?

    The error here is the continued refusal to acknowledge that the violence in Iraq is a result of a CIVIL WAR between iraqis

  8. #8
    [QUOTE=kennyo7]The problem in this paragraph is that the author is committing the same crime that the administration has---overstating the significance of AQ in Iraq. Every estimate including the most recent one put out by the DOD has put the # of AQ/Foreign fighters as making up no more than 10-15% of the insurgency in Iraq. Yet this author is thumbing his nose at Democrats who correctly note that AQs role in the Iraq Debacle is insignificant. What facts does he present to back his claim of a significant AQ role in Iraq?

    The error here is the continued refusal to acknowledge that the violence in Iraq is a result of a CIVIL WAR between iraqis[/QUOTE]


    The problem is that there is no middle road being taken by either side. Democrats are saying that Al Quaeda is not a factor at all in Iraq and never was. That's simply not true. Republicans are saying Al Queda is one of the major causes of unrest in Iraq. Also not true.

    However, which is worse: to ignore and dismiss a problem completely or to devote too much attention to it?

  9. #9
    Thanks Para.

    [QUOTE=CNN.com]BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The new commander of U.S. troops in Iraq has warned that military force [U]alone[/U] will not be enough to quell the country's violent insurgency.

    Speaking publicly Thursday for the first time since taking charge in Baghdad last month, Gen. David Petraeus said [U]military action was necessary to improve security in Iraq[/U] but "not sufficient" to end violence altogether.

    "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus told a news conference, adding that political negotiations were crucial to forging any lasting peace.[/QUOTE]

    This is an altogether different meaning than Bit uses. Bit claims Millitary action is 100% fruitless and useless in iraq, no matter what. That is not, clearly, what Gen. Pat. is saying here at all. He's simply saying what any common-sense person would agree with, Millitary might alone isn't enough in ANY situation where there is a populace to be managed, rather than simply annilihated.

    But excellent work taking the General out of context (from a Liberal News outlet no less) and changing his intent Bit. Top rate work, as usual.

    [QUOTE=Kennyo]Every estimate including the most recent one put out by the DOD has put the # of AQ/Foreign fighters as making up no more than 10-15% of the insurgency in Iraq.[/QUOTE]

    Link to this report please. Directly to the report, rather than a media "interpritation" would be preferable, thanks.

  10. #10
    [QUOTE=Warfish]Thanks Para.



    This is an altogether different meaning than Bit uses. Bit claims Millitary action is 100% fruitless and useless in iraq, no matter what. That is not, clearly, what Gen. Pat. is saying here at all. He's simply saying what any common-sense person would agree with, Millitary might alone isn't enough in ANY situation where there is a populace to be managed, rather than simply annilihated.

    But excellent work taking the General out of context (from a Liberal News outlet no less) and changing his intent Bit. Top rate work, as usual.



    Link to this report please. Directly to the report, rather than a media "interpritation" would be preferable, thanks.[/QUOTE]

    Funny you didnt extend the underline alittle longer where he says :
    [B]but "not sufficient" to end violence altogether[/B]

    So fish, it seems every solution to this conflict that has been offered by this administration has been a military one...which the general says is not enough. What non-military solutions have been proposed in the last six years?

    Ill get you the report you want, but please from now on do your own homework.

  11. #11
    [QUOTE=kennyo7]Funny you didnt extend the underline alittle longer where he says :
    [B]but "not sufficient" to end violence altogether[/B]

    So fish, it seems every solution to this conflict that has been offered by this administration has been a military one...which the general says is not enough. [B][U]What non-military solutions have been proposed in the last six years[/U]?[/B]

    Ill get you the report you want, but please from now on do your own homework.[/QUOTE]

    I don't know, and neither do you. Neither of us are in a place to know WHAT diplomacy is going on between the US, the Suni leadership, the Shia leadership and the in-power Iraqi Govt. You assume there is none at all whatsoever, and you trust whatever slop CNN/NBC/CBS gives you. I assume there is some, and like most of our positives in Iraq is simply not being reported by a pro-withdrawal Media, and that this small amount is doing minimal good on the ground.

    But your assumption (i.e. opinion) is no more valid or informed than any other non-insider to the process. Don't tell me that because you havn;t read it on CNN that means it doesn't exist. Could the Administration (and the Iraqi Govt.) be doing MORE Diplomaticly? Probably, yes.

    As to doing ones "homework", you cited a questionable fact and it's source. Asking you to provide it is hardly a reach Ken.

  12. #12
    Warfish i didn't do anything besides directly quote the General. You can spin it any way you want but he said those words.

  13. #13
    [QUOTE=Warfish]






    Link to this report please. Directly to the report, rather than a media "interpritation" would be preferable, thanks.[/QUOTE]

    [url]http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/070126_iraq_insurgents.pdf[/url]
    Read first 10 pages.

    [url]http://www.aeaweb.org/annual_mtg_papers/2007/0105_1430_1601.pdf[/url]


    or this :

    [QUOTE]Foreign fighters are believed to number about four to ten percent of the estimated 20,000 or more insurgents.[/QUOTE]

    from [url]http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2005/64344.htm[/url]


    or try this,
    [url]http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0923/dailyUpdate.html[/url]

  14. #14
    [QUOTE=Warfish]I don't know, and neither do you. Neither of us are in a place to know WHAT diplomacy is going on between the US, the Suni leadership, the Shia leadership and the in-power Iraqi Govt. [B]You assume there is none at all whatsoever, and you trust whatever slop CNN/NBC/CBS gives you. I assume there is some, and like most of our positives in Iraq is simply not being reported by a pro-withdrawal Media, and that this small amount is doing minimal good on the ground. [/B]
    But your assumption (i.e. opinion) is no more valid or informed than any other non-insider to the process. Don't tell me that because you havn;t read it on CNN that means it doesn't exist. Could the Administration (and the Iraqi Govt.) be doing MORE Diplomaticly? Probably, yes.

    As to doing ones "homework", you cited a questionable fact and it's source. Asking you to provide it is hardly a reach Ken.[/QUOTE]


    I assume there is none because:

    1. the president keeps on publically pushing only Military Solutions. never talks about a political solution.
    2. There has been no progress with The Iraqi Government. In fact Malaki is actually loosing power.
    3. Sunni leaders continue to complain about having no say. If there are negotiations, they are being left out and thats a big no no if you are trying to reach a political settlement.

  15. #15
    [QUOTE=Warfish]

    As to doing ones "homework", you cited a questionable fact and it's source. Asking you to provide it is hardly a reach Ken.[/QUOTE]

    Questionable fact??

    Please provide me the sources that show foreign fighters/AQ types to make up more than 20% of the insurgency...and i want a direct report not some "media interpritation".

  16. #16
    [QUOTE=kennyo7]Questionable fact??

    Please provide me the sources that show foreign fighters/AQ types to make up more than 20% of the insurgency...and i want a direct report not some "media interpritation".[/QUOTE]

    It was questionable because not everyone believes you, or the reporting of our Govt. (interesting that you doubt every word our Govt. under Bush says....except for this apparently).

    You provided your source, which as time permits I'll read. If you're asking for a link for why I might question you OR our Govt., I have none to offer.

  17. #17
    [QUOTE=Warfish]It was questionable because not everyone believes you, or the reporting of our Govt. (interesting that you doubt every word our Govt. under Bush says....except for this apparently).

    You provided your source, which as time permits I'll read. If you're asking for a link for why I might question you OR our Govt., I have none to offer.[/QUOTE]

    I just want to know on what basis you think the percent of foreign fighter/AQ involved in the insurgency is much higher?

    The sources i provided are multiple and not all from the government. The reason i believe this number is because it makes sense when you consider the history of Iraq and the fact that the people we overthrew would try to regain their power at all costs. Also when you consider that even under Saddam, Iraq was secular and considered AQ and radical Islam a threat, you would suspect their role would be minor.

    Thanks though, for admiting that you have no basis for saying that my figures are dubious. At least you can admit that you are just saying this with no good rationale.

  18. #18
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    [QUOTE=kennyo7]I just want to know on what basis you think the percent of foreign fighter/AQ involved in the insurgency is much higher?

    The sources i provided are multiple and not all from the government. The reason i believe this number is because it makes sense when you consider the history of Iraq and the fact that the people we overthrew would try to regain their power at all costs. Also when you consider that even under Saddam, Iraq was secular and considered AQ and radical Islam a threat, you would suspect their role would be minor.

    Thanks though, for admiting that you have no basis for saying that my figures are dubious. At least you can admit that you are just saying this with no good rationale.[/QUOTE]

    My God, you are the King of misunderstanding and putting words into peoples mouths. Are you at all conscious when you read other peoples posts?

    No where did Warfish say he thinks the numbers are any different than what you posted. He asked you for support docs for the numbers you reported because you have a history of talking out of you ass. Thats his rationale for thinking your numbers *may* be dubious. :rolleyes:

  19. #19
    [QUOTE=kennyo7]I just want to know on what basis you think the percent of foreign fighter/AQ involved in the insurgency is much higher?[/quote]

    We are fighting a cunning enemy who very consciously does not wear a uniform, and who blends in with the local ME/Arabic/Islamic population. One obvious benifit to this is that any occupying force has no real way to know how many soliders/millitants they have in theatre. This has a number of strategic and operational advantages. It is even in their interests to make it look as if they are not there in force, even if they are (depending on the outcome they wish to achieve and how/when they wish to achieve it).

    It is also all but impossible for us (the occupier) to get an honest read from the general population as to their loyalties and allegiences. For example, if one is an Iraqi, and ides with AQ strongly, are they going to tell us that, even if we ask? Of course not. It reminds me of the laughble numbers the Govt. shows on "kids who've tried pot". Real life rarely equates to these kinds of estimates, where being dishonest has a benifit.

    I simply believe that the abillity of US Forces to accurately gauge AQ anda AQ support is weak at best. This is the exact same Govt. who (as you say) bothced all of the pre-War intelligence. What makes this intelligence (or anyone elses) any better at accurately gauging something that is, by any real world means, al but impossible to really gauge.

    [QUOTE=kennyo7]Thanks though, for admiting that you have no basis for saying that my figures are dubious. At least you can admit that you are just saying this with no good rationale.[/QUOTE]

    I freely admit I have no outside support for my belief. No links, no studies, nothing. However, I do not believe my logic (some of whcih is laid out above) is particularly flawed. The number in truth could be higher (and I bet it is) or it could, of course, be even lower.

  20. #20
    [QUOTE=JetFanTransplant]My God, you are the King of misunderstanding and putting words into peoples mouths. Are you at all conscious when you read other peoples posts?

    [B]No where did Warfish say he thinks the numbers are any different than what you posted.[/B] He asked you for support docs for the numbers you reported because you have a history of talking out of you ass. [B] Thats his rationale for thinking your numbers *may* be dubious.[/B] :rolleyes:[/QUOTE]

    My god do you read your own posts?
    You realize you have contradicted yourself :rolleyes:

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