Thursday, November 15, 2007

Iraq News Smorgasburger (apologies to the Muppets Swedish Chef)

Another morning out at the MOUT site- with the two Deputy Project Managers
I just never look good in military clothing- something about my FAT BELLY!

A good day for articles interesting to folks like me...

Excerpts and links:

Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say
With Attacks Ebbing, Government Is Urged to Reach Out to Opponents
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.
In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

The lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind the troop buildup President Bush announced in January, which was premised on the notion that improved security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing arrangements. And what if there is no such breakthrough by next summer? "If that doesn't happen," Odierno said, "we're going to have to review our strategy."
Ricks has been someone that I've enjoyed reading over the past 6 months or so. Doesn't seem to pull punches.

U.S. Ponders War Message, and How Best to Deliver It
Published: November 15, 2007
New York Times
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 — When Representative Ellen O. Tauscher of California, a senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, visited Iraq in late summer for a firsthand view of the war, she was greeted by American soldiers and Iraqi officials who seemed to know a lot about her.

What they knew, though, came from a biography compiled by military strategic communications officers and distributed before her meetings.

The selection of information in the handout highlighted her critical remarks about the administration’s war strategy, which she had called a failure, but did not mention her sponsorship of legislation requiring more time at home for combat troops or her support of financing for armored vehicles and upgraded flak jackets.

An angry Ms. Tauscher characterized the document as “an attempt to frame my stance as someone opposed to the war, hence opposed to the troops,” which, she said, left her “feeling slimed.”

The episode is part of a complex debate now under way within the State Department and Pentagon about how to shape and transmit their messages — internally, to their own personnel, to the nation at large and overseas during a time of war.
All about the SPIN.

Strategic Drift
Where's the Pushback Against the Surge?

By John Podesta, Lawrence J. Korb and Brian Katulis
Thursday, November 15, 2007; Page A25
Washington Post

With apparent disregard for the opinion of the American people, the debate over whether the large U.S. military presence in Iraq threatens our national security has been put on hold. Both political parties seem resigned to allowing the Bush administration to run out the clock on its Iraq strategy and bequeath this quagmire to the next president. The result is best described as strategic drift, and stopping it won't be easy.

President Bush claims that his strategy is having some success, but toward what end? He argued that the surge would provide the political breathing space needed to achieve a unified, peaceful Iraq. But its successes, which Bush says come from a reduction of casualties in certain areas, have been accompanied by massive sectarian cleansing. The surge has not moved us closer to national reconciliation.
Strategic drift is being aided by many in the legislative and executive branches (in both political parties), most of the foreign policy elite, and several policy research institutions. Conservatives continue to align themselves with Bush's Iraq strategy; some have offered muted criticisms of the implementation and handling of the war, but there has been no call to change direction.
A clear "get out" message/argument.

No Good at Nation-Building
By Robert D. Novak
Thursday, November 15, 2007;
Page A25
Washington Post

A bus full of 15 Iraqi lawyers carrying a four-page, single-spaced letter to President Bush arrived at the White House on Tuesday. Their mission was to request less U.S. help in building prisons and more in establishing the rule of law. There was no immediate official response, and the experiences of the past four years indicate nothing will be done.
Reminding me of many organizational behavior sessions- "Every system is perfectly designed to produce the results it gets."

Quiet Victory
By Rich Lowry
National Review Online

Forget the briefings from generals, the intelligence evaluations and the Pentagon status reports. There is a handy indicator for whether the war in Iraq is going well — its relative absence from the front pages.

In the past month, the country’s top newspapers have splashed Iraq stories on Page A-1, but most have involved the scandal concerning the security contractor Blackwater and the impending (but yet to materialize) Turkish invasion of the Kurdish north. Reports on major trends in the war tend to be relegated to inside pages because — from the blows dealt to al Qaeda, to the rise of Sunni security volunteers, to Muqtada al-Sadr’s cease-fire — they have been largely positive.

In Israel, there’s a law that bans reporting on sensitive national-security operations; you could be forgiven for thinking the U.S. has a similar ban on any encouraging news from the hottest battlefront in the war on terror. The United States might be the only country in world history that reverseitself, magnifying its setbacks and ignoring its successes so that nothing can disturb what Connecticut’s Sen. Joe Lieberman calls the “narrative of defeat.”
The logical flaw in the argument that no news is good news- it can also mean folks have lost interest, or realize they won't be able to convince anyone to change course- as some of the above noted op-ed pieces have suggested. True, "it bleeds it leads" has some verity to it, but not in all cases.

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