In Iraq, Still No Strategy

Today's papers (NYT, WP, and LAT) all report the findings of a new GAO study evaluating strategic planning and progress in Iraq.

Quite correctly, the GAO cites improvements in security and the advent of a thoughtful, practical, viable campaign plan. But those aren't enough -- what's missing from our Iraq policy is a clear strategy, something that links improved security and other operational goals to the national security of the United States and its interests in the world. The GAO concludes:

Weaknesses in "the way forward" and the Joint Campaign Plan are symptomatic of recurring weaknesses in past U.S. strategic planning efforts. Our prior reports assessing (1) the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, (2) U.S. efforts to develop the capacity of Iraq's ministries, and (3) U.S. and Iraqi efforts to rebuild Iraq's energy sector found strategies that lacked clear purpose, scope, roles and responsibilities, and performance measures. For example, we found that the NSVI only partially identified the agencies responsible for implementing the strategy, the current and future costs, and Iraq's contributions to future needs. Although multiple U.S. agencies have programs to develop the capacity of Iraqi ministries, U.S. efforts lack an integrated strategy. Finally, although the United States has spent billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq's oil and electricity sectors, Iraq lacks an integrated strategic plan for the energy sector. We recommended that the National Security Council, DOD, and State complete a strategic plan for Iraq and that State work with the Iraqi government to develop integrated strategic plans for ministry capacity development and the energy sector. Clear strategies are needed to guide U.S. efforts, manage risk, and identify needed resources.

By Phillip Carter |  June 24, 2008; 9:37 AM ET  | Category:  Iraq
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The GAO suggests that "progress" in creating an independent Iraqi Army has been greatly overexaggerated. Furthermore, al-Sadr's ceasefire is an uncertain factor in "stability," as is our paying off Sunni elements to side with us. Considering how much money we are spending, though, I suppose that that's a valid expense. What is not considered is the issue of the millions of refugees that our invasion/occupation have created. That question undercuts any claim of "progress" in Iraq.

Posted by: H R Coursen | June 24, 2008 10:47 AM

This is part of a circular and profoundly unhelpful discussion. The Bush administration insists on defining its objective as victory in Iraq, prepares strategic documents with that objective as part of their title, and draws objections from agencies like the GAO that the documents don't really describe a comprehensive strategy.

It is something of a stretch to call this a discussion based on self-deception, because it's unlikely that even most of the people preparing the administration's strategic documents are unaware that the definition of "victory" being used requires that it be achieved by Iraqis, not by Americans. Any strategy to achieve this objective is a strategy the success of which depends entirely on the actions of people who do not work for us.

But the objective was chosen to begin with not because it was realistic or attainable, but because the word "victory" appeals to the American domestic audience -- or at least to one segment of it. No one associated with the administration's strategic documents can say this, and rendering a judgement on this point is outside the GAO's purview. This leads to the GAO tsk-tsking about how the administration's strategy isn't really a strategy, and government agencies' responses that the GAO's metrics are less than ideal -- an exchange that could go on for months, and never get us anywhere.

Posted by: Zathras | June 24, 2008 11:04 AM

I lament the recent passing of William Odom, former NSA director under Reagen, who was one of the most cogent and personally unassailable critics of the Iraq fiasco.

As General Odom frequently stated and as mentioned in a few of the postings below on the GSA report, the "surge" is only a tactic, not a strategy. Its only benefit is in effect to place a tighter lid on the pressure cooker, but the heat remains on and the pressure is building.

One example which some of you of the reality based community may be aware; the issue of Kirkuk. Taking it into Iraqi Kurdistan is sine qua non to the Kurds, and is entirely unacceptable to both the Shiia and the Sunni groupings.

Another: So the Anbar Awakening Councils are mollified by our paying each one $300 per month? And how long is this supposed to go on? Perpetually? Or until the Sunni make their eventual play to retake control of the Iraqi state, to which end they are resolved?

Another: Is anyone really unaware that the political deliberations of the supposed government in the Green Zone, while in some control of armed units, has been incapable of civil reconstruction, like turning on the lights for more than two to three hours per day? Or anything else of consequence?

General Odom may say that no tactics even good or expedient ones, can alter a strategic fiasco. For example, once you invade Russia as Napoleon or Hitler, you may win battles and even major campaigns, but the deeper you go the worse it becomes. Exhaustion, overextension, and ruin await because there is no bottom to the barrel.

I am so angry at such as Senator McCain who strongly maintain that because the current level of violence is down, things are going well and we cannot leave. And he is supposed to be one with military understanding? Is he not even aware of the most basic principle of Carl Von Clausewitz? "War is merely a continuation of politics by other means," ("Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln") It seems so.

So the whole Iraq question remains a political battle in the US between rhetoric and reality. Usually, emotion trumps because we are vulnerable to the power of passion, especially when the pain of intelligent awareness leads to some frightful conclusions, such as the inevitable shake out there whenever we do leave completely or even substantially.

And the nearly certain fact that the blowback is coming, economic and geostrategic.

The longer we stay, the worse it will be.

Posted by: tarquinis | June 24, 2008 12:22 PM

Iraq is a strategic blunder. America should have thru' the history of Iraq before invasion.It has violent past with the killing of the Prothet's grandsons to
the massacres of Hajjaj in the 6th century AD. The best way out of this quagmire is to involve the international community & resolve the crisis.The more you run after it's oil to make good your losses the deeper you sink in loose sand.

Posted by: Ilyas Ali Khan | June 24, 2008 4:08 PM

To the Americans of this Country,
These are my memories. It is hard, complicated, and confusing to explain. I am not mentally insane but after reading this you might think so. I was born in Knoxville, TN. I was adopted by a wonderful family that showed me nothing but love. We moved around many times due to my fathers work. Around the age of eleven I was approached by a woman while riding my bicycle in Pryor, Ok. where we lived. The woman approached me and told me that I was related to someone very important and that I needed to watch what I was doing and to behave. I was very confused at the time because I was not doing anything wrong at the time and it made me wonder if it was due to my adoption. I went on about my business and I never saw this strange lady again. Within that same year while playing in my driveway in Pryor, Ok. I was approached by a man and woman. I did not know the woman but the man resembled President George W. Bush. He grabbed a hold of me and asked me what have I been doing and that I need to get it together by acting good and making good grades in school. He had some kind of laser that he shined into my eyes and the woman that was with him told him to stop that he was doing to much. None of this made sense to me but looking back I had numerous people say odd things to me. Soon after this we moved to Plano, Tx. because of my fathers job transfer. Around the age of twelve while living in Plano, Tx. on a dark night around 1992 the door bell rang to our home. I opened the door and was approached by the secret service and Chelsea Clinton and her mother Hillary. They searched our home and asked us numerous questions and began to scream at my father. They claimed we threatened the President but we did not. I have always respected this great country and the people in that live in it. Things began to get chaotic with the talks and I was taken outside and spoke to Chelsea. I can not remember all of the events and things that were said. I remember being upset and laying in my bed and given an injection. The injection knocked me out. I never remembered those events until years later when they would come back to me in flash backs as if they were dreams. I was always questioning what was real and what was not. I believe there was more than one visit but my memory cannot recall when and every detail. They slowly began coming back to me in flashbacks. Next event at the age of twenty two while living at home attending college and working at a vet clinic an unbelievable event occurred. I woke up to having my penis cut off. I remember screaming with blood everywhere. My mother was screaming through out the house. I sat down by the door of my bed room. After this my memories are empty. My next memory was where I was standing in the vet clinic that I worked at. I was frozen as if I had been drugged. I saw a Dr., Chelsea Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. The Dr. told me to pull down my pants to see the severed penis. One of the people there had a penis attached to their naval area as if it had been grown through stem cell. This was in 1999. They cut the penis of the the person it was attached to and used some kind of laser to reattach on the remaining portion of my penis. I have a very minor scar about two inches from the tip of my penis. They then flashed me with a laser and I lost memory of the whole event. These memories began to come back to me months and years later as if I was losing my mind. Soon after the procedure with stem cell I had another incident. I was working at the vet clinic one night and soon to be President Bush came around the corner in the office and told me to freeze. He screamed at me and asked if I believed in human cloning and I responded no. He said I have something to show you and he grabbed someone from around the corner. He showed me my clone. I thought it was a hologram but he punched the clone in the stomach to prove it was real. I was frozen with fear. He then said you will understand these in verbs and pulled out what looked like a silver rod. He pushed a button and it sprayed what seemed to be that light of God into my face. This sounds unbelievable but these are my memories. I am not crazy. May God be my witness. Am I related to someone in politics by blood? It has taken me years to piece these memories together. Human Cloning has happened. Ask Senator Hillary Clinton about what happened at Willow Bend Veterinary clinic where the surgery took place. Senator Clinton and Chelsea have pictures. You must believe me and God bless this great country.
God Bless the President for telling the truth.

p.s. Why are the U.S. soldiers just now being treated with stem cell replacement when it has been around for over a decade. I was the young boy the story was about in politics. God Bless
Stem Cell Clone

Posted by: Stemcellclone | June 24, 2008 9:33 PM

Jeez, Phil, how often do we have to have this discussion?

1. There IS a "strategy", it's the same one that was formulated by the PNAC crowd several years back: seize a central position in the ME, use it for power projection as well as political intimidation in order to obtain U.S. hegemony in the southwest Asia/Gulf region. This has the added benefit of assisting the Israelis, those dear children of the neoconservative and AIPAC crowd, in their task of surviving as a Western island in an Islamic sea.

2. Because this objective varies between mildly supported to violently rejected by probably 60-80% of the American public, this strategy cannot be uttered aloud. Hence all the nonsensical bloviating about WMDs, the intercontinental threat of Saddam Hussein and now the fearful threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose navy, should we ever depart that benighted land, will float their several-million man Army across the Pacific and, supported by the air armada of the AQAF, invade freaking San Diego.

3. So. There you have it; the strategy is NOT TO LEAVE. And, if that's the strategy, it's working. We've been there longer than the Revolution, the Mexican War, Civil War, most of the Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2, and Korea. So don't knock it. The Bushies' appear to have gauged the complacency and stupidity of the American public to a nicety.

4. The only flaw in this cunning plan, of course, is that control of the Middle East is as useful to us in the middle term and long term as control of Holland was to the Spanish Empire of the 16th Century. Pursuing this chimera will cost us a steady trickle of blood and considerably more treasure. Will it eventually help enervate the America of 2015 as the Dutch Ulcer did the Spain of 1590? Hard to say. But it probably won't help.

5. Right now the West is in a renewed competition with certain elements of Islam, those elements that want to try and reverse the Enlightenment. Just as the secular West didn't beat back the Catholic and Lutheran Churches with airstrikes and detaining insurgent priests, this nasty little war is unlikely to help in the larger struggle to convince Middle Easterners to relegate their faith to Christmas and Easter (or Ramadan and Eid al Fitr, whatever). But, hell, it entertains the masses and provides employment for 0.5% of Americans. So why bother trying to think hard about it, eh?


Posted by: FDChief | June 26, 2008 5:49 PM

10:12AM World A'hoy; Just for this record;

Yesterday's U.S. Intel embarrising news;encapsulated;

Is now,'The Most Popular Story' @indy.;

Revealed: the infighting that has hobbled hunt for Bin Laden

Disagreements within the Bush administration blamed for failure of the US to defeat al-Qa'ida

By Leonard Doyle in Washington
Tuesday, 1 July 2008


Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida organisation has relocated from Afghanistan to Pakistan during the Bush presidency


Damaging details of infighting within the Bush administration and intelligence agencies are emerging, just months before George Bush leaves the White House.

A scathing assessment of US failures in its war with al-Qa'ida was published by The New York Times yesterday, containing the charge that the infighting has hobbled efforts to capture Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants.

The report coincides with revelations in The New Yorker about deep unease among congressional leaders over a secret directive issued by the Bush administration which significantly boosts the activities of Special Operations Forces inside Iran. The magazine also detected further disarray by highlighting concern within the US military about White House support for possible military strikes on Iran, which would aim to set back Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Mr Bush will now leave office with al-Qa'ida having successfully relocated its base of operations from Afghanistan to Pakistan's tribal areas. According to the report in The New York Times, there may be more than 2000 foreign recruits to al-Qa'ida. The newspaper describes how last year the Pentagon's Special Operations Forces were authorised to launch missions in the mountains of Pakistan. But they are still awaiting the green light to launch attacks on al-Qa'ida camps in the North West territories. There was "mounting frustration" at the delay, a senior defence source told the newspaper. There have been numerous American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, but militants have continued to flock to al-Qa'ida encampments it is reported.

And for this record;locally; Haaretzs's Intel Yossi Melman has two appearances in today's Haaretz;

Including his Honorary;

Haaretz journalist wins investigative reporting award

By Asaf Carmel

Haaretz journalist Yossi Melman received an award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors association (IRE), for his report on a Palestinian-Jordanian who was held illegally by American, Israeli and Jordanian security services.

The American association awarded Melman as a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, whose members come from countries including the United States, Italy, Britain, Thailand, Colombia and Belgium. Association members received the prize for the investigation, "Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid after September 11."

The investigation revealed worldwide arrests and interrogations of international terrorism suspects by the United States security services.

Also on today's Haaretz Page 2;

Alleged Israeli spy gets death sentence in Iran

By Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies , By Yossi Melman

Iran's Revolutionary Court issued a death sentence yesterday to Ali Ashtari on charges of spying for Israel. The sentence was handed down three days after the trial was reported in Iran.

According to Iranian reports, Ashtari, 45, was an electronics importer who supplied equipment to the army and defense establishment, including the nuclear program, throughout Iran. The reports claimed that Ashtari had worked for the Mossad for several years prior to his arrest about 18 months ago, and that he met with his Mossad handlers - known as Tony, Charles and Jacques - in Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey. They allegedly paid his travel expenses and also gave him $50,000. Iranian Television showed a laptop computer for coded communication as well as satellite phones and electronic surveillance equipment purportedly given to Ashtari by his handlers.

Phil's Intel dump;All;While 'jour gems' E@World prospecting,over these next 100 minutes or so;this Far West Jerusalem AM;

Should Intel Dump relivance appear;

Count on it,being tapped to here;(By my primitive single finger @about 1 100th my Century/3 mastered;English Speed-reading;journalism concentrated,rate.)

To Life!=לחיים.Pronounced Le Chaim.


Posted by: Michael of up West.Origin.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | July 1, 2008 3:30 AM

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