COIN Toss

posted at 8:15 am on January 18, 2007 by Bryan

Thanks mostly to political environment, we’ve all been mired in a debate over whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not. What should be a cold assessment of truth on the ground in Iraq has, like every single aspect of the war, become politicized. If you describe the situation in Iraq as a “civil war,” it’s taken as an implied or direct criticism of President Bush more than your opinion of the actual state of play in Iraq. If you resist calling it a “civil war,” you’re usually seen as an apologist for the Bush administration and its policies.

Why everything has to revolve around Bush is a mystery to me. Making everything about him trivializes the war and personalizes it to the point that real policy debate becomes impossible. It makes our politics petty and hinders our ability to see reality for what it is and learn to adjust to it. It’s childish, but it’s where we are as a country.

Nevertheless, I’m going to wade into this. Having seen a little bit of Baghdad up close and talked with the troops serving there, I don’t believe Iraq is in a state of civil war. Before you liberals run off declaring me a neo-con or Bush apologist, hear me out. You can always mischaracterize me later, but at least do me the honor of using my actual words. And before any war supporters cheer, hear me out.

As I said in my first post since returning from Iraq, calling the situation there a “civil war” misunderstands and oversimplifies the conflict there. We’ve all seen the movie Mad Max, right? Iraq is something like that–chaotic and hyper violent in places, but the world of that film isn’t orderly enough to be called a civil war. Well, parts of Baghdad are a lot like that film. Parts aren’t. Most of the violence is confined to areas where the Sunni and Shia mix, along with insurgent Haifa Street. The rest of Baghdad, the vast majority in fact, isn’t terribly violent unless the insurgents or terrorists mount attacks there to draw in US forces and press coverage.

Which isn’t to say that things are safe even outside Baghdad. Several contractors have been abducted in the past couple of months around Basra, and the environment for Iraqi journalists remains lethal all over the country.

The truth is, a real civil war might be a welcome development, as it would probably be less complicated than what it actually going on over there right now. A civil war might clarify who is on which side and what they want. Their reasons for fighting might even be clear enough that we could take a side in good conscience and help that side win. But like everything else about Iraq, the violence that is going on over there is too complicated to be distilled down to those two words–civil war.

miska

LTC Steve Miska, FOB Justice

Lt Col Steve Miska, commander at FOB Justice in Baghdad, put it this way: “There are so many different enemies out there, and then there’s the complexity of the fight…There are so many different cats and dogs running around the battlefield that you could take the enemy (the insurgents and al Qaeda) away and we would still have a hard time trying to synchronize all the activities.”

One of those dogs is Moqtada al-Sadr, boy cleric and warlord of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM for short). He’s not the titanic moster we tend to think he is, and by that I mean that he’s not all-powerful and doesn’t wield the same kind of influence that Sistani does. According to Vali Nasr, Sadr has a nickname–Mullah Atari–because as a teen he spent more time playing video games than boning up on his Islamic law. He’s seen as a student, not a master, and as a hothead, not a great leader–by most Shia in Iraq. Nevertheless, I’m on the record wishing our troops had been allowed to kill him two years ago. He has attacked US forces and is a menace. But he also leads a legal political entity in Iraq now, so we can’t go after him directly without him making some very big and serious mistakes. And going after him now would destabilize the Maliki government. That may not in itself be a bad thing, but we had better have a plan for dealing with what destabilizing Maliki could do to the overall battle space. It could, for instance, precipitate a civil war. Which could be a bad thing, or a good thing. Clear enough?

Sadr’s JAM is itself an army of cats and dogs, what the troops at FOB Justice refer to as “good JAM and bad JAM.” Good JAM are local men who have joined JAM not because of ideology, but either because they need the money or because they want to work within the only group in their neighborhood that has the clout and firepower to keep a lid on ordinary crime and violence, and in their neighborhood JAM is that group. So they join up. They couldn’t give two flips for Sadr, and they might join up with the Iraqi Army or police if they thought those groups were stronger than Sadr or could protect their families after they split with Sadr, but for now they’re just local anti-crime security agents. Politically, they’re potentially good guys. But soberingly, they see the Mahdi Army as stronger than the police–and they’re probably right. And the police are full of Sadrists anyway, so to some extent what’s the difference between joining the police or JAM? In some places, the differences are vast. In some, there is no difference at all.

Then there’s bad JAM, Sadr’s real loyalists. These guys are very dangerous. They form some of the death squads that hunt Sunnis, torture them and kill them. They foster organized crime to pay for their weapons, and they threaten local authorities who don’t go along with their way of thinking. They’re an Islamic version of la cosa nostra with the ambition to take over Iraq, and they’re flexible enough to use Maliki or mortar rounds, whichever they deem would be most effective on any given day. They’re very bad news. They’re aligned with Iran ideologically, too, and are getting training and weapons from Tehran’s Hezbollah goons.

The trick for our troops is to sort out good JAM from bad JAM, and that’s about as easy as it sounds sometimes. How do you know why any given Madhi fighter has joined the JAM? Our troops have to stay in an area long enough to get to know who the local players are and what their goals are. Our troops have to generate good, reliable intelligence on the ground, which means getting out of their “urban submarines” and walking around on foot talking to people on the street. That takes equal measures of guts and patience, and it takes knowing how to read people and watch for threats even while you’re engaged in conversations over chai. They have to hold meetings with local sheiks and sort out the good ones from the radicals. And they’re working from within bases and behind a language barrier, with a foreign culture thrown in just to make it more fun. To make it even more fun, the Pentagon has the annoying habit of having units train together away from Iraq and then splitting them up once they’re sent to Iraq. And, putting them in, say, Samarra for one rotation and Baghdad the next. The threat environment in Samarra versus Baghdad is totally different, and our troops end up burning up a third to half of their deployments just figuring out who’s who. And then they move on, and the next unit has to start that ground work all over again, because there is very little overlap in unit rotations.

Beyond the JAMs and the Badr Brigades, there are foreign arms dealers working a lucrative trade in Iraq. Captain Stacy Bare has seen them on the streets near FOB Justice, working what is currently the world’s biggest weapons bazar.

bare

CPT Stacy Bare, civil affairs officer at FOB Justice

“There hasn’t been a really big war for people to profit off of in the arms trade, and you’ve got French traders, Russian traders, Portuguese traders, Brazilian traders coming in. And you hear people say things and you wonder ‘What’s this German guy doing here?’” He continues, “You hear people talk about, well there’s Germans and French and they’re the problem…they’re just here to make a buck. You’ve got mafia guys that are here to make a buck. Like Col Miska said, take away the insurgency and we’ve still got a problem.”

That problem is organized crime, Iraqi and international. Organized crime certainly shows up in modern civil wars, usually providing drugs and arms, but its heavy influence in Iraq hints at least to me that we’re looking at something other than a classic civil war.

The troops don’t call it a civil war. They call it an insurgency, and their strategy, counterinsurgency, or COIN. And they’re working Iraq along classic COIN doctrine, working with the local people as if they are the principal war terrain, and working to co-opt as many of the “enemy” as possible without having to fight and kill every last one. I only put “enemy” in quotes because there isn’t any one enemy to deal with; Iraq is full of enemies, who hate the US, or hate each other, or will work with each other against the US or with the US against each other. Very few of them have national ambitions, and some are agents of Iran and to a lesser extent Syria.

If the troops aren’t treating the war they’re fighting as a civil war and they’re not calling it a civil war, it’s a good bet that whatever fight they’re in, it’s not a civil war. In the case of Iraq, it’s too chaotic and the violence is too uneven to be called a civil war.


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That all makes sense, but I honestly don’t know enough either way.

I always believed it wasn’t a civil war just because I’ve always believed that a civil war was one fought citizen against citizen like our own American Civil War. And from all that I’ve heard, many of those who are engaging in this violence are not even from Iraq and only want to be in Iraq because of our troops.

But again, I admit I don’t know enough of the situation to say that for sure either.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 8:44 AM

Interhouse faction fighting. Call it civil war, or don’t, that’s specifically how it is.

This is what the MSM does. They say things like, “Technically, by definition”, in order to paint something the way they want, in order to be in line for an investigative award. “Fake, but accurate”.

It is what it is, and it’s a power vacuum. They’re fighting for an Identity, power, and to hinder the US War Machine.

Does it really matter? No domestic attacks since 9/11. Scores to 1 Kill to Death ratios. Boots-on-deck combat experience for our boys in uniform.

Whatever kind of war it is, I like what it gets us.

Ringmaster on January 18, 2007 at 8:45 AM

Whether or not a civil war exists, does it make any difference? Our national interest is not served in either case.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 9:04 AM

Great reporting Bryan. Here’s a question or two for you; I don’t expect you to answer in one of these comments, but if you could possibly address this in a future post????

Pres. Bush talked about leaving troops (preferably Iraqi) behind in neighborhoods once that neighborhood has been pacified… (and I don’t think ‘pacified’ was his word, but I think it was the general idea) does pacification equate to removing JAM’s influence (good or bad)? Would this mean that the good JAM members would then leave JAM to join the police/Iraqi military? Or at least support them, and quit supporting Sadr? Or do you see good JAM co-existing with the military in the individual neighborhoods?

Also, is there strong effort on the part of our troops/Iraqi’s to close down the military bazaars? Or are there other concerns that are more pressing, so we’re basically turning a blind eye to this aspect?

Are we also strongly attempting to stop organized crime from operating in Iraq? Or is the OC problem another one of those problems that must be set aside until we have the resources/time to deal with it.

It sounds like we’re working hard to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people; are we successful for the most part, even in the JAM-influenced areas?

Reading an analysis like yours reminds me once again how much more informative this type of news reporting and analysis is over the more conventional MSM, and how lucky we all are that you, Michelle, Sean Hannity, and others are able to travel to Iraq and report on some of the details of what’s really going on. Mucho thanks!

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 9:26 AM

Iraq is not a civil war it’s a gang fight, funded by Iran, for the purpose of disgracing the United States and the Dems will allow them to succeed.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 18, 2007 at 9:26 AM

Our national interest is not served in either case.

And what, exactly, do you see as our national interest?

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 18, 2007 at 9:28 AM

Our national interest is not served in either case.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 9:04 AM

Clarify please. Is it in our national interest to pull out? Is it in our national interest to stay there until some resemblance of peace is established? If we pull out, what do you propose we do? Build a fence to keep all of them inside Iraq so they can just anihilate each other? Do you honestly think that the violence will stay in Iraq and only in Iraq if we just up and leave? Again, please clarify. And please don’t say it’s all Bush’s fault – like Bryan said, that’s much too simplistic and petty.

pullingmyhairout on January 18, 2007 at 9:29 AM

Whether or not a civil war exists, does it make any difference? Our national interest is not served in either case.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 9:04 AM

Valiant, do you mean our nat’l interest in being in Iraq? Are you saying that we shouldn’t be there?

As to whether it makes a difference, the easy answer is that we’d have to use a different approach; as Bryan said above; if it was a true civil war, at least we could pick a side, and we’d know who all the parties were.

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 9:29 AM

Iraq is not a civil war it’s a gang fight, funded by Iran, for the purpose of disgracing the United States and the Dems will allow them to succeed.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 18, 2007 at 9:26 AM

I’d guess that disgracing the US is the least of their (JAM’s and others’) aims; with the removal of Hussein there’s a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum… this is chiefly (I think, about a power grab)

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 9:31 AM

I still haven’t been able to figure out the insurgents/terrorist’s endgame – is it that they want the US out of the region? A pure Islamic state? Death to the infidels? All of the above? How can we begin to fight an ideology? I think our brave soldiers have their work cut out for them over there. And if it’s a civil war, so what? it’s just a name – something to call it. The fight is still the same no matter what we/they/MSM decide to call it.

pullingmyhairout on January 18, 2007 at 9:34 AM

I think Bryan has made the point that what is going on in Iraq is complicated. Because of that it’s hard for to me to determine if it really is civil war. I know the MSM likes to call it civil war, only because it gives them another reason to bash Bush.

vcferlita on January 18, 2007 at 9:35 AM

if it was a true civil war, at least we could pick a side, and we’d know who all the parties were.

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 9:29 AM

That would be like picking between the Crips and the Bloods! Regardless of who wins, the winner will eventually turn on you. Unfortunatley, both need to be eliminated.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 18, 2007 at 9:35 AM

You’re probably right, Dread. You know, if we’d just sit down and talk with them…

/sarc

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 9:42 AM

Add to that analysis – it’s not a civil war. It could be, but it isn’t at the moment and it is not at all inevidable that will become a civil war.
Again, it’s the Left MSM and Democrats who are abusing the words and fundamental meaning of the reality of civil war. Civil war has a definition and the conditions for such are far more comprehensive and shattering than what’s going on in Iraq. A civil war is large, comprehensive and devastating. Furthermore, if foreign agents and soliders are part of the trouble, then “civil war” is not the term. Infiltration, destabilization by foreign countries, possible conquest by other nations falls along a completely different spectrum than a truly internal civil war. The Iraqis, as a center-leaning group, are signalling strongly that they don’t want to be split along ethnic,religious lines, despite being provoked – and again being provoked by foreigners.
Our schools don’t teach history or government, the MSM takes advantage of the ignorance and throws around inflammatory words like civil war.
The biggest factor in avoiding a true civil war in Iraq is to provide stability and security so that the “salt of the earth” the solid, community and family oriented decent people can dominate the scene, not the chaos-loving breakers of society.

naliaka on January 18, 2007 at 10:09 AM

Iraq is not in a civil war. Not yet, anyway.

The current situation is more like a gigantic Gang war, with one Mob family fighting another Mob family.

But there is also a true insurgency forming with regard to the Iranian support of various factions.

And if our State Department keeps fumbling the ball, this could very well turn into a true civil war. With the Iranians supporting one faction, and the USA supporting the other.

Lawrence on January 18, 2007 at 10:15 AM

Again, I see no point in fighting a war of words. The real fight will still be there, no matter what we call it.

pullingmyhairout on January 18, 2007 at 10:19 AM

well written. that clarifies a lot of stuff that’s going on over there. Now if only the MSM had such in depth reporting.

no wonder people over here are so phreaking uninformed.

One Angry Christian on January 18, 2007 at 10:27 AM

Sounds like Chicago in the 20′s-30′s.

tormod on January 18, 2007 at 10:57 AM

I still haven’t been able to figure out the insurgents/terrorist’s endgame – pullingmyhairout

Did you watch Mark Styne’s Heritage Foundation video posted elsewhere on HotAir?

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/01/17/video-mark-steyns-speech-to-the-heritage-foundation/

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on January 18, 2007 at 11:26 AM

It’s not a civil war. I don’t say that because it helps one political party or hurts another one. I just examine what is happening on the ground, not just in Iraq, but worldwide. There is violence in Iraq, but there are two questions to be asked; who is engaged in the violence and what is the result hoped for? Let’s take an analogy used by Dr. Hanson to explain another circumstance and just expand on it. Let’s say the British came in 1855 and toppled the trade of slavery. During their occupation, southerners egaged in violence against the British but also against the provisional govt. of Lincoln. In response, northerners retaliate. So in the meantime we have a flood of pro-slavery sympathizers come into the country from all over the world. They only care about creating violence, chaos, so that anarchy may rule. Lincoln, just after slavery fell, as a show of reconciliation, releasded a ton of prisoners from prisons all over the country. Now we have a perfect storm brewing. There are random acts of terror, but all are targets, the British, the provisional govt., pro-slaves, anti-slaves, and your garden variety thuggery. Is this civil war? Or chaos? There is no organized movement of sunni versus shia or vice versa. Are there killings of shia by sunni and vice versa? Sure there are. But I believe the vast amount of violence is being perpetrated by foreign terrorists and everyday thugs. The thugs because that’s what they do and the foreign terrorists because they seek to start a civil war. We see this same scenarion playing out in Somalia and the Sudan. Are these nations experiencing a civil war? No, they are in the grips of foreign terrorists trying to turn their nations into Islamic states. We have a terrorist problem in Iraq, not an insurgency or civil war…….

ritethinker on January 18, 2007 at 11:50 AM

Valiant, do you mean our nat’l interest in being in Iraq? Are you saying that we shouldn’t be there?

No, we shouldn’t have forces there now. Our military objectives, as I understood them, have been achieved. The new nation-building objectives are not the job of our armed forces nor in our national interests.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 11:59 AM

No, we shouldn’t have forces there now. Our military objectives, as I understood them, have been achieved. The new nation-building objectives are not the job of our armed forces nor in our national interests.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 11:59 AM

OK, what do you think will happen if we pull out of Iraq and how is that in our countries best intrest?

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 12:24 PM

Bryan,

I think you should replace one of those talking heads in fox news. This is pure news. I was reading Waters diary. He said that one of the biggest problem in the world is simplifying everything.

“No Stem cell research= we are all going to die”
“No Iraq war = peace forever”

I would like to comment on the article, but leaving it intact makes it unpolished.

Ouabam on January 18, 2007 at 12:28 PM

The new nation-building objectives are not the job of our armed forces nor in our national interests.

And you predicate this upon what, exactly?

Withdrawing from Iraq provides a huge propaganda boost for terrorist organizations, and their backing nation-states, “proving” that the United States can be beaten by jihad, and therefore increasing sympathy, recruiting and funding by those Muslims already sympathetic towards that cause, but who are currently still on the fence. The cultural truism “always back a winner” has never applied to any culture more than many of those in the Middle East. Withdraw, and all aspects of terrorism increase, promising more terror attacks in the future, targeting among other things, U.S interests and citizens. As the primary responsibility of the government is securing the safety of its citizens, nothing could be more in our national interest.

Further, withdrawing from Iraq will spur an assured proxy war (an economic oil war is already under way) in Iraq between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are already on record saying they will back the Sunnis if we pull out, ostensibly to prevent genocide. This could, of course, escalate into a full-fledged conflict between the two nations, completely shutting down the Persian Gulf, as no insurer will allow ships they insure to run the gauntlet between tow warring nations. As we depend on the Persian Gulf for a considerable quantity of our oil and for the oil of our other trading partners, it is in our direct national interests to keep the current oil war from escalating to the already promised proxy war that will happen if we precipitously pull out, and the possible regional war that would likely wreck the energy-dependent economies of much of the world, including our own.

Of course, there is also that humanitarian argument that many Democrats and some RINOs refuse to acknowldge. If we pull out of Iraq while it is in its current state, you can rest assured that the violence will only escalate among current factions, and that is not even including how much worse the violence will be when the proxy war–spurred by Saudi interests not to let Iraqi Sunni face a possible genocide–makes the nation even more violent. You think 35,000 dead Iraqis over the past year is bad? Think more along the lines of more than 100,000, or perhaps more, after a pull-out. Nature abhors We have a humanitarian responsibility to do what we can to prevent that from happening, and that transcends national interest, to human interest. We either care about our fellow human beings and attempt to clean up the mess we have helped create, or we are only a shadow of what we tell the world and tell ourselves that we are. So yes, I guess that is in our national interest as well.

Withdrawal promises more bloodshed, perhaps even wider warfare across a larger region and potential economic upheaval, and the decline and fall of the last superpower.

National interest? Yeah, we’ve got a little invested in Iraq.

Bob Owens on January 18, 2007 at 1:24 PM

Good, in-depth analysis, Bryan.

When I hear talk of “civil war,” I always think of definitions. When I think of that term, I think of whole regions, states or provinces declaring independence from the central government, and whole units of the national army either defecting to join that new entity, or mutinying or dissolving rather than fighting against it.

Typically, I’d expect to see the newly self-declared political entity attempting to secure foreign recognition of its “legitimate” status.

I’m not really seeing any of these characteristics in Iraq. Kurdistan hasn’t declared independence; nor have the Sunnis. The Iraqi army is still a work in progress, but I haven’t heard of it fracturing or dissolving. And I’m waiting for any other country or international organization (other than terrorist organizations like al Qaeda) to declare that any government other than the duly elected one is the “true” government over any part of Iraq.

In short, there’s political and military instability; that instability is largely connected with the Sunni part of the country; and some foreign nations (e.g., Iran and Syria) are semi-covertly assisting the insurgents who foment the instability. But civil war? I’d have to agree with Bryan’s assessment that the ones bandying that term about are doing so for political hype more than out of any logical definition process.

Spurius Ligustinus on January 18, 2007 at 1:45 PM

Rose is a rose is a rose. Right?

honora on January 18, 2007 at 2:24 PM

OK, what do you think will happen if we pull out of Iraq and how is that in our countries best intrest?

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 12:24 PM

There will be a civil war as is debated here. So what?

Withdrawing from Iraq provides a huge propaganda boost for terrorist organizations

We could take out every terrorist cell in Iraq, but there is no stomach to do so. We have shown an intolerance for collateral damage which means the terrorists will go on as usual whether we are there or not. Unleash the forces or bring them home.

the possible regional war that would likely wreck the energy-dependent economies of much of the world, including our own.

Persian Gulf oil is coming at too high a price. It is in our national interest to keep the oil flowing. Perhaps our military should be focused on protecting these assets and not nation building.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 3:24 PM

There will be a civil war as is debated here. So what?

So how is that civil war better for american interests than what we are doing now?

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 3:28 PM

Between his comments on another thread and here, methinks Valiant is just tossing out the chum, hoping for some nibbles.

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 3:36 PM

So how is that civil war better for american interests than what we are doing now?

How is it worse? It didn’t directly affect us when Saddam was mass-murdering his people any more than a civil war will affect us now. The whole place will be under Sharia Law one way or another in a few years whether democratically elected or by the sword. I guess I am not a “compassionate conservative” in the neocon sense. It is tragic.

I am not trolling. I voted for Bush in 2000 because he specifically slapped down Gore on nation-building. He has become the conservative’s worst nightmare.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 3:45 PM

How is it worse?

If you are not trolling, why don’t you answer my question? I repeat it…..

So how is that civil war better for american interests than what we are doing now?

You must have some idea what Iraq will be like when we are totally gone. What specifically will be happening in Iraq, and just how is it better in terms of US interests?

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 4:02 PM

Rose is a rose is a rose. Right?

honora on January 18, 2007 at 2:24 PM

A rose by any other name is still a rose, but if there is a question as to whether or not it’s a rose, then no, you’re statement doesn’t apply.

Apply the reverse logic. A rose is only a rose if it’s a rose. You can call another flower a rose, but that won’t change that it’s not a rose (a tulip is a tulip is a tulip).

So the question here is not “what do we call this civil war?” (that would fall under the rose comment), but instead, “is it truely a civil war?”

This question is important because it determines how this country reacts to the violence over there. A civil war would demand different tactics than gang warfare.

I think you’re being too dismissive here.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 4:25 PM

How is it worse? It didn’t directly affect us when Saddam was mass-murdering his people any more than a civil war will affect us now. The whole place will be under Sharia Law one way or another in a few years whether democratically elected or by the sword. I guess I am not a “compassionate conservative” in the neocon sense. It is tragic.

Because it will give the terrorists a general playground, terrorists who would love to see all Americans buried six feet under the ground. And it will convince them that our word means nothing when we say we’ll back a country and that we’re easily beat so long as they just wait us out.

That’s just my reasoning. I’m sure others here have better explanations.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 4:28 PM

A rose by any other name is still a rose, but if there is a question as to whether or not it’s a rose, then no, you’re statement doesn’t apply.

Apply the reverse logic. A rose is only a rose if it’s a rose. You can call another flower a rose, but that won’t change that it’s not a rose (a tulip is a tulip is a tulip).

Say what? The thing is what it is; what it is called is less important. Call it “Melvin” if you like.

honora on January 18, 2007 at 4:33 PM

Say what? The thing is what it is; what it is called is less important. Call it “Melvin” if you like.

honora on January 18, 2007 at 4:33 PM

OK, I guess I haven’t made myself clear.

I agree that it doesn’t matter what it’s called, but a civil war is something that has a definition. Either Iraq has a civil war right now, or it doesn’t. If what’s going on in Iraq is not a civil war, then calling it one, won’t make it one either.

What I mean is, if the flower you’re pointing to isn’t a rose, then the argument should be about what it actually is as opposed to what you’re to call it.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 4:39 PM

What I mean is that Bryan isn’t arguing about what to call it. He’s arguing about what it is.

He isn’t arguing whether you should call a rose a rose instead of calling it Melvin. He’s arguing whether or not it actually is a rose.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 4:41 PM

So how is that civil war better for american interests than what we are doing now?

It is not any better and not any worse.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 4:43 PM

what? Bryan gave a rose to Melvin?

dalewalt on January 18, 2007 at 4:44 PM

Actually what you call the war in Iraq is pretty important. You ought to know this, honora, but the military operates through doctrine that is based on its history and its study of conflicts of the past. It doesn’t just decide things willy nilly. Calling Iraq a counterinsurgency greatly impacts how the conflict there is handled and fought; calling it a civil war would have a similar impact, because in military doctrine they’re two different things. The impact wouldn’t be limited to names or naming conventions, but would cascade into everything the military does and how it handles pretty much everything on the battlefield.

The military is characterizing Iraq as a counterinsurgency operation, not a civil war, and that characterization means that operationally Iraq is a counterinsurgency. That is subject to change if the situation on the ground demands such a change. But so far that change hasn’t occurred, so for anyone to call Iraq a civil war is to go farther than the military has and step outside the way the military is handling the conflict–and they’re the ones fighting the war.

So if you want to call the war something other than what the troops on the ground are calling it, you better know what you’re talking about from a military doctrine point of view and you’d better have a very good reason to think that you know more than the commanders who are over there on the ground being contested.

Bryan on January 18, 2007 at 4:57 PM

So if you want to call the war something other than what the troops on the ground are calling it, you better know what you’re talking about from a military doctrine point of view and you’d better have a very good reason to think that you know more than the commanders who are over there on the ground being contested.

Bryan on January 18, 2007 at 4:57 PM

most excellent slap down.

pullingmyhairout on January 18, 2007 at 5:09 PM

I direct this post to Valiant. Ever heard of a place called Afghanistan? The Sudan? Both places were in the throes of chaos, Islamic-radical inspired chaos. It was during his time in the Sudan where Osama planned the embassy attacks in Africa. It was the chaos in Afghanistan that allowed the training camps that trained the Taliban and worse, the 9/11 hi-jackers. See, this is what you guys who want to be isolationist don’t get. We do not live in a vacuum. How about Salman Pak in Iraq pre-invasion? This is where we found the plane fuselage that was being used to train terrorist in hi-jacking. How about Ansar Al-Islam, the AQ terror group located north of Baghdad, the group that was in posession of ricine and other substances. We found the plans for programs of WMD in Iraq. We brought the uranium Saddam had back to the U.S. In the process, we discovered the nuke triangle of AQ Khan in Pakistan. We have 10 AQ thugs killed in the Phillipines in the last day. Libya had a WMD program they gave up. Somalia and Ethiopia are fighting the jihadists. The Sudan is over-run with Arab jihadists, and Nigeria is fighting the same battle. Europe is drowning in Muslim immigration and the rise of jihadi teaching in the mosques. And there is always Syria, Iran, and the Hamas and Hezbo threat to Israel and the free world at large. It is all inter-connected, it is not episodic. Look at it this way, jihad is the air-craft carrier and the jihadists are the kama-kazes(however in the hell you spell it). To destroy the suicide bombers, we must go after their bases of operation. Iraq, if we make the mistake of cutting and running, will become another base for these thugs. And make no mistake, we will have to go back again in the future, like we’ve done there already(91). We had to go back to Somalia(93) and we’re still dealing with Iran(80).

Isolationism is a fool’s gold. It looks shiney and pretty, and safe. Then you when you get past the surface you find it is only a rock with a glittering paint-job. Isolation is just another word for procrastination. You put off today what you will have to do tomorrow. Only this time the danger has increased ten-fold and the consequences are multiplied by a hundred. Think about buddy…

ritethinker on January 18, 2007 at 5:32 PM

Calling Iraq a counterinsurgency greatly impacts how the conflict there is handled and fought; calling it a civil war would have a similar impact, because in military doctrine they’re two different things. The impact wouldn’t be limited to names or naming conventions, but would cascade into everything the military does and how it handles pretty much everything on the battlefield.

Exactly. That’s what I was attempting to say. This isn’t a discussion of names but of what those names actually mean.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 6:23 PM

It is not any better and not any worse.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 4:43 PM

OK then, what WILL BE the conditions in Iraq that will make it equal to what the conditions are now?

Just to be clear, I am asking you to look into the future after your strategy for Iraq is implemented and tell me what the conditions will be there.

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 7:52 PM

OK then, what WILL BE the conditions in Iraq that will make it equal to what the conditions are now?

Just to be clear, I am asking you to look into the future after your strategy for Iraq is implemented and tell me what the conditions will be there.

csdeven on January 18, 2007 at 7:52 PM

The civil war will get worse due to infighting among the Muslims. How is this our problem? Are we going to step in all around the world every time the Religion of PeaceTM goes bloodthirsty on its own? I have no strategy for Iraq except tht we had better define a military victory immediately with a clear exit strategy.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 8:56 PM

Sunni vs. Shia.

It has been this way for a LOOOOONG time and not just in Iraq. No…it is not a civil war.

I don’t have real high hopes that Iraq will emerge as a flourishing democracy when this is all over with. Islam forbids it.

Saddam needed to be taken out. The people of Iraq have been freed from that murderous tyrant. American troops are HANDING them an opportunity to live free. Our troops ROCK!!
Once our troops leave, all bets are off IMO. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

The Kurds are doing just fine and southern Iraq is mostly quiet. So how is it that a relatively small area of ttrouble constitutes a civil war??? Because Nancy Pelosi says it is, that’s how.

On a happy note, my best friend will be home from Iraq on Wednesday. I will have an ice cold Newcastle in my pocket for him when he gets off the plane!

Talon on January 18, 2007 at 8:58 PM

Just to be clear, I am asking you to look into the future after your strategy for Iraq is implemented and tell me what the conditions will be there.

csdeven,

I expect the only sound you will hear from Valiant/honora is crickets chirping.

F15Mech on January 18, 2007 at 9:01 PM

So if you want to call the war something other than what the troops on the ground are calling it, you better know what you’re talking about from a military doctrine point of view and you’d better have a very good reason to think that you know more than the commanders who are over there on the ground being contested.

Bryan on January 18, 2007 at 4:57 PM

Bryan is correct. Those who are calling this Long War a civil war are mistaken and may need to educate themselves. If this were a civil war, would not the Sunni or Shiite or Kurds or all pull out of the government and declare war on the other(s)?

Zorro on January 18, 2007 at 9:03 PM

AP,

The reason for making everything hinge on the President is the same one that explains why the Dems won’t take a real stand on their convictions, and instead vote for a “non-binding resolution of disapproval”. If they take a concrete action that supports a real position, it puts their power at risk.

As with this resolution, they get to have it both ways. If the surge turns out well, then the socialsts can claim they refused to hinder a wartime President, and take credit. If the surge turns out poorly, they can scream “We told you so!” and point at the resolution’s disapproval language.

Follow the power. It is the only reason behind every decision these jellyfish make. Without a conscience, without a morality to found themselves upon, only political expediency provides a justification for action.

On topic, a civil war would tend to require an extant government whose existing policies are opposed by the group fighting against them. We don’t quite have that condition in Iraq. Groups of now mostly external-sourced insurgents commiting acts of terror in the hopes of weakening Iraq, weakening America, and sustaining chaos in the region is what we have, and that’s not civil war.

Freelancer on January 18, 2007 at 9:38 PM

The civil war will get worse due to infighting among the Muslims. How is this our problem? Are we going to step in all around the world every time the Religion of PeaceTM goes bloodthirsty on its own? I have no strategy for Iraq except tht we had better define a military victory immediately with a clear exit strategy.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 8:56 PM

You had plenty of time to read rethinker’s post just above. If not go read it. If you still don’t get it, you are a troll and need to scoot along home now.

R D on January 18, 2007 at 10:57 PM

I have no strategy for Iraq except tht we had better define a military victory immediately with a clear exit strategy.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 8:56 PM

And there the problem is.

You have no idea how to define an military victory but there needs to be an clear exit strategy.

This is not Duke Nukem where war is “it’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum”

I was born in 1972 so I can’t say for certain, however I expect that same logic is what happened with Vietnam.

IMO…

Victory is not defined by “kicking ass” and leaving, hell we already kicked the Iraq armies ass.

Once you are done kicking ass you help rebuild what you destroyed. The US still has troops in Germany, Japan, UK, Italy, and Korea.

Are those wars still going on?

People do not start wars, governments do, and once a war is started it is the people that suffer however.

Once the government surrenders you have an obligation as a human to help the people rebuild.

The US helped rebuild Japan/Germany, Korea etc. we need to due that with Iraq as well.

The citizens of Iraq have started rebuilding; they have elected a new government, etc however they still need our help with insurgents.

They seam to be having problems with foreign nations/citizens/terrorists trying to undermine their efforts.

F15Mech on January 18, 2007 at 11:03 PM

Thanks for explaining all that Bryan. I get it. Ad it’s a lot clearer then it’s been to me before. That is why these troops of ours just blow me away. they are doing light years more than our valiant veterans did if past wars becasue war is not only more technological–there are a lot of ‘dogs and cats’ especidally in the Arab culture.

You got a ally one day and the next he’s your enemy.

And Kerry is such a schmuck to say these guys are ‘losers’ that couldn’t make it through high ‘scrool’ or in a job at home here. Feh. That’s why he’s the asshole he is and knew he had to marry money in order to have it.

WEll, next important thing to do is win the propaganda war at home here and get the White HOuse to start getting out and ahead of the MSM.

auspatriotman on January 18, 2007 at 11:14 PM

I have no strategy for Iraq except tht we had better define a military victory immediately with a clear exit strategy.

Valiant on January 18, 2007 at 8:56 PM

Then how can you claim that an Iraq in civil war is no worse for the US than what is happening now? What we are doing in Iraq may in fact be what is in our best interests when we take into account that you have no plan for how our national interests are served by having an Iraq embroiled in a civil war.

csdeven on January 19, 2007 at 12:22 AM

Thanks for the post, Bryan, and for a response in the thread which slapped down and chased off the troll Valiant and troll-ete honora

Janos Hunyadi on January 19, 2007 at 12:26 AM

This is such a complicated subject that it’s hard to sum it up in one of these comments. I’ve been reading all day, on and off, first Bryan’s excellent report, then all the comments. Some take one’s breath away.

I believe that we’ll be in the region longer than in Germany, Japan and South Korea, and that all this talk about exiting is complete nonsense, regardless of who will be president after 2008.

Entelechy on January 19, 2007 at 12:56 AM

The point was made that the violence between Shia and Sunni is over 1000 years old. The split predates the creation of Iraq by over 1200 years.

While it is true that Shia and Sunni recognize each other as fellow Muslims today (since a 1959 fatwah), it wasn’t always so. In spite of it, the Shia, however, still remember and lament the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein back in 661 and 680, at the hands of the Sunnis.

It is going to take much more than an American occupation to end the sectarian violence. It is going to take the conscious exerted will of both Sunni and Shia religious leaders to quel the violence.

This isn’t a “civil war” by any of the accepted definitions of one. It’s Northern Ireland.

georgej on January 19, 2007 at 2:24 AM

You have no idea how to define an military victory but there needs to be an clear exit strategy.

A military victory involves as Bryan said “killing people and breaking things.” Define for me a military mission in Sudan and I will give you one for Iraq. There is none left unless you want to turn the place to glass. Our armed forces are not meals on wheels social engineers. To use them as such is to abuse them.

you have no plan for how our national interests are served by having an Iraq embroiled in a civil war.

And you have no plan for how our national interests are served by stopping an Iraqi civil war. When in doubt, follow Washington’s advice to beware of foreign entanglements. We did that for most of the last 230 years.

Valiant on January 19, 2007 at 8:07 AM

And you have no plan for how our national interests are served by stopping an Iraqi civil war. When in doubt, follow Washington’s advice to beware of foreign entanglements. We did that for most of the last 230 years.

Valiant on January 19, 2007 at 8:07 AM

Yes, and that served us so well in the past. I mean it’s not like a country preemptively attacked one of our military bases in a war where we weren’t yet involved…

Esthier on January 19, 2007 at 11:08 AM

Valiant, many have given reasons why a secure Iraq benefits American.

For one, it will bring us an inside ally in the war against terrorism.

That alone would be worth it in my opinion.

Esthier on January 19, 2007 at 11:09 AM

And you have no plan for how our national interests are served by stopping an Iraqi civil war. When in doubt, follow Washington’s advice to beware of foreign entanglements. We did that for most of the last 230 years.

Valiant on January 19, 2007 at 8:07 AM

If it is explained it to you again, will you finally listen?

Our national interests are served by keeping our troops there to prevent Iraq from turning into a country that is ruled by those who are willing to be the most cruel. The shiite will dominate certain areas, and more devestating, the insurgency will control areas, unfetterd in their access to oil resources that will allow them to spread their reign of terror to our interests throughout the world, including here at home. On top of that, the credibility of the USA will be seriously damaged by your suggestion that we surrender.

We followed Washingtons advice before WWI and WWII and we ended up fighting a stronger and more determined enemy.

Don’t bring the Sudan into this. You have already admitted you have no plan for Iraq and demanding someone have a plan for the Sudan is just your attempt to change the subject. You see the Sudan as a weak point in the conservative agenda and would rather talk about that than defend your comments that you can see are losing credibility everytime you attempt to defend them.

csdeven on January 19, 2007 at 11:10 AM

OK, I guess I haven’t made myself clear.

I agree that it doesn’t matter what it’s called, but a civil war is something that has a definition. Either Iraq has a civil war right now, or it doesn’t. If what’s going on in Iraq is not a civil war, then calling it one, won’t make it one either.

What I mean is, if the flower you’re pointing to isn’t a rose, then the argument should be about what it actually is as opposed to what you’re to call it.

Esthier on January 18, 2007 at 4:39 PM

I cannot believe this conversation. If we were dogs they would throw a bucket on water on us. Note to honora and esthier: for the love of God, let it go!!!

honora on January 19, 2007 at 12:47 PM

Actually what you call the war in Iraq is pretty important. You ought to know this, honora, but the military operates through doctrine that is based on its history and its study of conflicts of the past. It doesn’t just decide things willy nilly. Calling Iraq a counterinsurgency greatly impacts how the conflict there is handled and fought; calling it a civil war would have a similar impact, because in military doctrine they’re two different things. The impact wouldn’t be limited to names or naming conventions, but would cascade into everything the military does and how it handles pretty much everything on the battlefield.

The military is characterizing Iraq as a counterinsurgency operation, not a civil war, and that characterization means that operationally Iraq is a counterinsurgency. That is subject to change if the situation on the ground demands such a change. But so far that change hasn’t occurred, so for anyone to call Iraq a civil war is to go farther than the military has and step outside the way the military is handling the conflict–and they’re the ones fighting the war.

So if you want to call the war something other than what the troops on the ground are calling it, you better know what you’re talking about from a military doctrine point of view and you’d better have a very good reason to think that you know more than the commanders who are over there on the ground being contested.

Bryan on January 18, 2007 at 4:57 PM

See above note to Esthier.

So the Pentagon has a plan for civil war and another plan for insurgency. Sure hope they color code the files.

honora on January 19, 2007 at 12:50 PM

For one, it will bring us an inside ally in the war against terrorism.

Like “our friends” the Saudis. I have much less faith in our Islamist allies than you.

You see the Sudan as a weak point in the conservative agenda

Actually, it is not. Putting troops in there for an open-ended mission with no definition of victory would make it a conservative weak point. I believe we should be actively involved in a solution for Sudan (and Iraq) but unless it involves killing people and breaking things, don’t demean our military with it.

Valiant on January 19, 2007 at 4:23 PM

dalewalt

As to whether it makes a difference, the easy answer is that we’d have to use a different approach; as Bryan said above; if it was a true civil war, at least we could pick a side, and we’d know who all the parties were.

By that definition, what happened in Lebanon during the 80′s was something other than a civil war. I think your definition could use some work.

tommy1 on January 19, 2007 at 5:50 PM

Is Iraq in a civil war or not?

Excellent Question.

As a battle between Sunni and Shia, I would say that is an ideological battle that has gone on for decades, and even centuries, and has been fought throughout the entire middle east at one time or another. Also, both side of this conflict have historically kept to different geological locations and different governments. I guess that aspect could be called a civil war as they are struggling to assert their control over the centralized government, but the situation is a lot more complicated than that. I also don’t think most of the Iraqi people support this conflict, so it is not a very large civil war. To me, this is closer to a tribal, or regional, war being waged by a small percentage of the Iraqi people.

As far as the war the insurgency is waging, that is closer to a revolutionary war and not a civil war as the insurgents are trying not only to overthrow a current government to install one of their own, but is doing this as part of an attempt to enforce their rule over all aspects of life in Iraq, including religion. Most of the insurgents are foreigners and that complicates the civil war comparison. Other countries are supporting the insurgents, and both side of the Sunni/Shia conflict as to further the insurgency, so that supports a revolutionary war scenario.

It looks to me like there are several conflicts going on here, a tribal based ‘civil’ war and a foreign based and supported revolutionary war. Adding to this are several small groups and individuals that attack Americans and Iraqis for no reason other than to cause death and destruction, something which happens in every armed conflict.

None of this armed conflict is supported by the majority of Iraqis and it is detrimental to all in the long run. It is important to realize this and to give our support to the government of Iraq and it’s people in general and not to pick which side we should, or should not support. The idea is to stop all armed conflict in this country.

Remember, the Iraqi government was elected by a majority of the Iraqi people. No matter how we feel about outcome of that election, the Iraqi government has requested us as an ally to help them stop the killing. That’s something we can not, and should not, ignore or abandon.

RedinBlueCounty on January 19, 2007 at 7:45 PM

To those who believe we should not have an open-ended commitment to troop deployment, why do we still have troops in the Caucus area (Bosnia, Kosovo, Etc), troops in Europe, Troops in South Korea, Troops in Japan, Etc, Etc, Etc. Wouldn’t you call those open-ended troop commitments? Do you believe we should bring those troops home as well. Shouldn’t we bring those troops home first as that commitment has gone on a lot longer than Iraq? After all, most of the military commitments in Europe and Japan has been going on for over 60 years.

RedinBlueCounty on January 19, 2007 at 7:54 PM

Our armed forces are not meals on wheels social engineers. To use them as such is to abuse them.

I’ll remember that the next time there is a national disaster. I’ll also remind the state of Louisiana that the Army Corp of Engineers are not actually the one’s that should repair and expand the levee system in that state. That duty belongs to private contractors and should be paid by the State of Louisiana and not funded by federal funds. After all, doing such work would demean the troops of the Corp, would it not?

Oh, and remind the people in other countries that suffer massive death and devastation during a tsunami, earthquake, or other disaster that it is not the job of the US military to provide support both in manpower and in materials, so they are on their own the next time.

Sorry everyone, it has been determined that it is an abuse of the military to actually help people and save lives.

Get real!

RedinBlueCounty on January 19, 2007 at 8:33 PM

Valiant on January 19, 2007 at 4:23 PM

Like I said, you want to avoid answering for your untenable position by changing the subject. You need to admit that your entire argument has been defeated by truth and logic.

csdeven on January 19, 2007 at 10:49 PM