Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: Surge Architect Has No Idea What's Happening In Iraq

02 April 2008

Surge Architect Has No Idea What's Happening In Iraq

Fred Kagan is one of the primary authors of Bush's strategy to defeat the terrorist in Iraq. Doesn't that make you feel safer?

Fred Kagan, one of the leading architects of and cheerleaders for "the surge",
manages to get everything wrong in his analysis of the recent outbreak of ultraviolence in Iraq:

The legitimate Government of Iraq and its legally-constituted security forces launched a security operation against illegal, foreign-backed, insurgent and criminal militias...

Iraqi forces kept the Five Cities area (Najaf, Karbala, Hillah, Diwaniyah, and Kut) under control with very little Coalition assistance...

Sadr never moved to return to Iraq, ordered his forces to stop fighting without achieving anything, and further demonstrated his
dependence on (and control by) Iran...

Maliki demonstrated a surprising and remarkable commitment to fighting Iranian-backed Special Groups, Sadr's Jaish al Mahdi (the Mahdi Army, or JAM), and even criminal elements of JAM. The Iraqi Government has loudly declared that "enforcing the law" applies to Shia areas as well as Sunni. Maliki has called Shia militias "worse than al Qaeda." These are things we've been pressing him to do for nearly two years (emphasis added)...

We've said all along that we did not think the ISF was ready to take care of the security situation on its own (emphasis added). Maliki was overconfident and overly-optimistic. But for those who keep pressing the Iraqis to "step up," here's absolute proof that they are willing...

On March 30, Sadr ordered his followers to stop fighting. This decision contrasts with his 2004 decision to fight on, and his continued presence in Iran combined with this surrender results from weakness, rather than strength...

But the ISF performed remarkably well...

The ISF reported for duty (the number of reported "defectors" etc. was trivial compared to the tens of thousands of forces that fought loyally), moved and fought as directed, mostly with minimal Coalition support...
If you look at the boldface, you'll see that Fred Kagan is incapable of rational thought. He's saying that for two years, he has urged Maliki to attack the Sadrists. And in the very next sentence, he's saying that he knew all along that the Iraqi security forces weren't up to the task. What kind of lunatic would knowingly urge his ally to launch a futile assault, which could only strengthen the enemy?

And make no mistake:
Maliki's attack failed miserably. Virtually every reasonably objective analyst agrees that the Iraqi security forces suffered a humiliating defeat that badly damaged Prime Minister Maliki's credibility. Maliki gave Sadr 72 hours to surrender, then extended the deadline to 10 days, then offered cash and amnesty to any of Sadr's followers who agreed to disarm. He got few takers. Instead, many ISF units refused to fight or defected. In the end, Maliki had to call in British and American forces to halt a Sadrist counterattack.

Kagan's also wrong about the political situation. First of all,
Sadr is far more popular in Iraq than Maliki, so it's silly to pretend that this was a battle between a legitimate, democratic government and a band of illegitimate would-be usurpers. Also, the Iranian government has given some support to both the Sadrists and the factions backing Maliki. In fact, Maliki's most powerful ally, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is head of a political party that was founded by the Iranian government, with the expressed purpose of spreading Iran's Islamic revolution to Iraq. In reality, Maliki is much more closely tied to Iran than Sadr. In fact, one of the main points of friction between the two is Sadr's belief that Maliki allows the Iranians to have too much influence in Iraq.

And that leads us to another point that Kagan's missed: because the Iranians are smart enough to work closely with all Shiite factions in Iraq, they were able to do what the US could not:
broker a ceasefire. Think about that for a second. Last year, the US sent tens of thousands of extra soldiers into Iraq in an attempt to halt the violence. That surge had minimal impact until various anti-Western factions voluntarily agreed to a stop fighting. And as soon as one faction decided to restart the violence, all of those extra troops were unable to stop it. But the Iranians were able to stop it, just by negotiating.

So it turns out that Kagan, one of Bush's most trusted advisers on Iraq, is just wrong, wrong and more wrong. And
not for the first time. That's not a coincidence. Like Kagan, all of Bush's top foreign policy and military advisers had very little background in Middle Eastern culture or politics. That's because an ability to ignore the facts and claim that every setback is just part of Bush's ingenious plan is a requirement if you're going to counsel the president. It's a lot easier to ignore the facts if you don't know very many of them.

In other words, Kagan became influential within the Bush White House not in spite of his ignorance, but because of it.

While that ignorance gives the Bush team a lot of flexibility -- they've tried a lot of approaches that were advocated by almost no-one who had studies Iraq or the Middle East extensively -- the downside is that you wind up making a lot of mistakes. For example, you wind up telling you closest ally to launch a suicidal against the strongest faction in the country.

And let's not forget something: Kagan is now a
foreign policy adviser for John W. McCain.

(cross posted at appletree and Liberal Avenger)



Anonymous kiwi said...

Kagan? Haven't I heard that name before? As in Ugly Debra?

9:33 pm  
Anonymous gordo said...


He's one of the academic neocons who pushed for war with Iraq. He consults with the Bush administration on foreign policy and military matters, and is generally regarded as one of the key architects of the troop surge. Here's his wiki entry:

10:46 pm  
Anonymous kiwi said...

Thanks for that link, Gordo.

12:03 am  
Anonymous R J Adams said...

Fred Kagan's brother, Robert, was one of the co-founders of the Project for the New American Century, a neo-con policy document which originally orchestrated the idea of invading Iraq as a means of subduing the Middle East and securing future oil supplies. The document also noted that this action was unlikely to be viable without the occurrence of a "catastrophic event" against America "similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor".
This, coincidentally(?) one year before the attacks of 9/11.
I agree with everything written by Gordo, except that Kagan is no ignoramus. He's a very clever and cunning tactician. I'm quite sure he is fully aware of the 'discrepancies' in his article. It's designed, not to be read by clever Americans like Gordo, who easily see through it, but for greedy consumption by the right-wing Republicans who subscribe to the neo-con Weekly Standard, founded by William Kristal, who just happened to be the other co-founder of the Project for the New American Century.
Kagan's readers will lap up every word he writes without pausing for one moment to consider the factuality.
While the PNAC is considered 'dead in the water' among most analysts, my own opinion is that its very much alive and well, and will remain so while Dick Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Khalilzad, and others still wield influence in and around the halls of US power.
Take a look at the PNAC signatories. Some may surprise you:

2:39 am  

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