Saturday, April 14, 2007

Krauthammer and Reality

Charles Krauthammer is insisting that we are (for a change) making progress and that this is the worst time for people to pull us out of Iraq, when we are actually finally winning.

As nice a claim as this is, one has to remember that it has been repeated throughout the war, with it never actually coming true. If, a year from now, we are worse off than we are now, doubtless some hawk (maybe even Krauthammer himself) will be pushing the line that "this time we really mean it" and insist that we just need to hold on a little longer.

But of course, are his claims accurate?

Well, coalition hostile death rates in Iraq have been fairly high since about October of 2006, with the least bloody month being November (67 hostile deaths). Currently, we are on our way toward a >100 death toll for this month.

Unfortunately, this is not as good a metric for success or failure right now, due to the surge, as it was for much of the war. It is highly likely that the increased death toll is at least partly from our more aggressive tactics in confronting the insurgents, which would mean that it does not necessarily indicate a strengthening of the insurgency. Of course, unless the death toll goes down within, say, three or four months, it will begin to indicate something less than success, as the agressive confrontation with the enemy will be shown not to have significantly weakened him.

Media-reported civilian deaths have also remained high since July of 2006, although this may be a function of better reporting rather than increased violence.

Nonetheless, Krauthammer's optimism seems long on secondhand claims and short on specifics. He largely deals with contradictory evidence by mentioning it but dismissing it (Thursday’s bridge and Green Zone attacks show the insurgents’ ability to bomb sensitive sites. On the other hand, pacification is proceeding. , by acknowledging the possibility of failure but then saying, essentially, "but let's not talk about that" ([Terry McCarthy] concluded that “nobody knows if this small safe zone will expand or get swallowed up again by violence. For the time being though, people here are happy to enjoy a life that looks almost normal.”), or by simply ignoring it, as Daniel Larison points out.

Obviously, the recent explosion in the parliament building puts our ability to provide security in very serious question.

Is it possible for us to pacify Iraq? Certainly. But it would take many more troops, a much more dismissive attitude toward Iraqis (if they don't do exactly as we want, we can kill them or imprison them with impunity, including those in charge of the government), and a much larger and harder commitment in general, not just a 10% or 20% increase in troops.

Of course, that brings up the question, would what it would take to win be worth it?

That is all.

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