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18 June 2007


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Colonel, you say "a balance of state power that favors them in a way disproportionate to their numbers, but, perhaps, not disproportionate to their actual political weight in the state."

But aren't the majority of those assassinated or fleeing Iraq the very ones who might have the political weight to which you refer: the professors, the doctors, the lawyers, the educated class...not to mention the Baath politicians.

Now if all the missing billions of US dollars had gone into the hands of the Sunni, that might make a difference but isn't it far more likely that Shiites got those?

What I'm getting at is what political weight do you suppose them to have?

jb vanover

But do we really plan on giving the goodies to Iraqi Sunnis? Or will alqaeda-mania stunt reason some more?

Simply offer Baathist secularists nuclear power in exchange for pacification without too much torture.

See? this international relations ain't too hard.



Could you please explain, "their actual political weight in the state"?

W. Patrick Lang


"their actual political weight in the state"

Come now... pl


This will be another in a long line of failed 'plans' where everybody with any sort of intellect will be 'laughing at the gullibility of the Americans'. 'Look at all the weapons and money they gave us..HAHAHAHA...FOOLS'

But let me guess, we should just give it six months and see how it works out.

Personally I'm tired of being laughed at, and wish we had one damn person in this counrty with the credibility to end this nightmare. Hell, you don't even have to be a leader, the people already have declared what they want. Can we even find that guy? Anybody, anybody, Bueller?


I think they made a hideous mistake when they went ahead with the first election in the face of a Sunni boycott. Yes, the boycott was foolish, as the Sunnis later acknowledged, but it was also foolish to go ahead and bulldoze them by holding the election anyway. I think it would have gone a long way toward pacifying their fears if the election had been postponed until they could be persuaded that the boycott was foolish, which shouldn't have taken much. Giving them the bum's rush instead did exactly the opposite.

When the Nicaraguan opposition to the Sandinistas pulled out of an election the Sandinistas were excoriated by the Reagan Administration for holding it anyway. But hey, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, eh?


Col. Lang said: "their actual political weight in the state"

Go on...we're listening.



"a balance of state power that favors them in a way disproportionate to their numbers, but, perhaps, not disproportionate to their actual political weight in the state."
Lebanon? Very imperfect, but better than street-fighting in Baghdad.


"a balance of state power that favors them in a way disproportionate to their numbers, but, perhaps, not disproportionate to their actual political weight in the state."

That's the essential MO in U.S. Middle East policy. The assumed economic or firepower "balance" the U.S. thinks it can achieve by manipulating the locals.

That "balance" though is to be changed in the rythm of Friedman units, i.e. the billionairs heir, always six-month-long, flat-thought horizont.

So six month from now, you will see this blownback and changed inevitably with maybe renewed support for this or that Shia or Kurd or whatever is left in Iraq to be blamed for the next catastrophic decision.

Another fine example of six-month strategy from Palestine:

[We] learned from sources working for NGOs in Palestine yesterday that they have received from the USAID organization a request for them to present large-scale project proposals for financing [by USAID] in the West Bank on an accelerated basis. According to these sources, USAID ...requested, less than 12 hours after the appointment of Dr Salam Fayadh to form an emergency government, ideas for huge projects to be carried out in the West Bank, on condition that these projects be capable of showing quick results in the life of people in the West Bank and that they involve large numbers of Palestinian workers. The sources told [us] that these are [supposed to be] projects in which it will be apparent that there is large-scale American funding for improvements in the life of the people of the West Bank, and that this [American connection to the quick improvements] should be readily apparent to the eye and tangible on the ground....
And the U.S. thinks after 60 years of resistance the Palestinians will be fooled by that?

Dustin Langan

The added political weight of the 'Sunni constituency' (to the extent that we can speak of one) is to be found in the enormous and very heavy attitude they carry around with them, especially with regard to these superstitious, illiterate Shi'a who somehow have got it into their crazy heads that they're now running the show.

When I was in Iraq I was occasionally told by Sunni Arabs that they were in fact the numerical majority. They really did perceive of themselves as somehow 'bigger' than the Shi'a and Kurds; if not in size than in culture, intellect, and courage.

Yet as Leigh pointed out, the vast majority of the Sunni Arab technocrats, doctors, engineers, and other professionals have since fled the country or are dead. So what does this mean for Sunni options in Iraq?

It means there is no democratic future for them, and perhaps there never really was. Why haven't we seen that until now?

Throughout this war in Iraq, the American popular consciousness has tended to view it as an exercise in justice; by deposing a bad king and getting his quarreling sons to shake hands and make up, we would not just celebrate our own heroics, but the heroics of the inner American in every human being. That's how self-infatuated we are at the moment.

But now it turns out the brothers are so wretched, they don't even want to shake hands! What nerve! And while we huff in exasperation, the Sunni Arabs are having their moment of reflection. In the beginning they seemed to think the Shi'a were incapable of government. Now they've stopped laughing and feel their back against the wall. The recent attack on the mosque in Samarra - through the Shi'a reprisals it has already provoked - will certainly only contribute to the creeping escalation.

And how do we react? By trying to piece together some 'Sunni coalition' to turn out the television terrorists and then block Shi'a and Iranian expansion in the proxy war which follows. It's curious. From the rest what we know of George Bush you'd think he would just pick a side and stick with it. Perhaps the difference is that he can tell one American from the other.

Dustin Langan

To jb vanover:

There is another assumption which undercuts your proposal of giving nuclear power to a government of Shi'a secular politicians. The peoples of the Middle East are incestuous, all writhing around in a big naked brown ball. Giving nuclear power to one is like giving it to all. The notable exception is India, but we've had 60 years now to digest their feud with Muslim Pakistan.

Duncan Kinder

In the Post-Civil War era, the North was highly familiar with the South's culture, traditions, economics, and other factors. In short, it had very sound basis to decide what would or would not work.

The South, during the Civil War, was very much, the enemy the North knew. This post makes very clear that the United States, in Iraq, has no idea what it is up to.

W. Patrick Lang


In re the present government setup in Iraq. The Shia/Kurds have to win on the counter-insurgency battlefield to have this arrangement become 'permanent." So far, they look like a bad bet.

what we are really talking about here is the division of power in Iraq after the US gets out.

I will say again that a partial withdrawal will prove impossible under the present conditions.

Therefore, we are going to go all the way out (except perhaps for something in Kurdistan). It is just a matter of time.

The president and his band of merry fantasists may think Iraq is Korea or Germany but that is just more proof of their lunacy.


W. Patrick Lang


Ah, I forgot. This has nothing to do with whatever with your ideas may be on "civil society," etc. and everything to do with Mao's admonition that "political power comes from the barrel of a gun." (approximate)

Who remembers that Castro has a doctorate in law? Who cares? Certainly not he.

The nice doctors, landscape architects, lawyers, politicans, etc. will come back after the nasties clear some space for them.

If you think that fighting does not create history, you are mistaken. pl


Playing on Duncan's thoughts, the point of arming the now-thoughtful Sunni could be to:
1-enable them to eradicate al-Qaeda which they can use as collateral to take their place in the only game in town
2-which would add them to the coalition against pro-Iranian factions.

That is, the Sunni alone would ultimately be ineffective against Iran and her Shia sympathizers, but a Sunni, Shia secular, Kurd coalition could work.

Michael Murry

If (1 ) the (largely Sunni) Baathists in fact only comprise 20% of Iraq's population, and if (2) the other 80% (Shia and Kurds) cannot defeat and rule them after going-on five years of war (plus a decade of U.S./British sanctions previously) -- despite having "the world's greatest military" (i.e., hideously expensive volunteer imperial militia) killing them, incarcerating them, and rendering them homeless refugees and ex-patriots -- then (3) it would now seem a matter of simple recognition to consider them players far heavier in effective weight than all those others arrayed against them. I cannot speak for Colonel Lang, but I think his comments somewhat reflect this assessment. "Anything that doesn't kill them makes them stronger." "If you can't beat them, join them." That sort of thing.

Unfortunately for Iraqis and Americans as well, though, Deputy Dubya Bush needs this war-of-occupation to continue at least until he leaves office and can blame his disaster on someone else. He began this needless, discretionary, unforced error of war-to-have-a-war on the bad assumption that it would gain him political capital and show up his mistaken father (the earthly one) for not doing what the "smarter" son had the "guts," "instinct," and "crisp decisiveness" to do. The "political capital" from getting to play "the commander-in-chief in time of war" only lasted long enough to loot the Clinton surplus and get a few right-wing judges added to those already on the Supine Court; but still, both the Iraqi and American people seem powerless (or disinclined) to stop him from squandering not just the political capital that he has already used up, but the very real capital of both affected countries, present and future.

The decadent American regime itself, along with its attendant corrupt courtier "elites" (both civilian and military) now find their own legitimacy in question. Saving George W. Bush and his war-to-have-a-war-for-political-capital has now become the sole, over-riding preoccupation of all those -- in both politicl parties and throughout the bureaucracy -- who aided and abetted this pathological pretender. So, the self-interested desire to escape unscathed with all the plunder -- as well as future opportunities for more -- will drive the regime and its enablers to resist ending this war-of-occupation on the watch of those who bear primary responsibility for starting and continuing it. Will they succeed with their stall? Upon that question hangs the fate not just of our Army, but of our republic, as well.


The PBS Frontline program will be shown Tuesday night at 9PM E.T. (but check your local listings). It's called, "Endgame," and will be about the surge in Iraq. After the broadcast it'll be available on the internet at www.pbs.org/frontline/endgame

Let's remember that in both Germany and Korea the fighting stopped when the whistle blew and there were no insurgencies to defeat. Anyone hear a whistle?

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

My understanding has been that the defeat of an insurgency requires the death of 20% of the population. This means a million Sunni Muslims in Iraq will have to be killed for Shia & Kurds to win - a clear impossibiliy; I should think.

So power sharing actually might work or at least, money sharing.

Got A Watch

If the Americans are perceived by the Shiites to be favoring the Sunni fighters too much, the Shiites may decide the neo-con adventure in Iraq has gone on long enough, and is no longer to their advantage. So far the Shiites have been kept leashed by their perception that the Americans are helping them do the dirty work of defeating the Sunnis. If that is no longer true, what reason do they have to co-operate with America?

If Ayatollah Sistani and Moqtada together issued a joint fatwa demanding all "foreign fighters" leave Iraq within say 6 months, or face a general jihad, how tenable would the U.S. position be? Maliki would likely go along with his religious superiors and refuse to pass any "benchmarks" or extend any agreements for foreign forces to remain in Iraq beyond the mandated end of 2007. American and British forces would then have 4 or 5 months for the 10 month withdrawal plan.

You could say Malike is weak, but he is actually in the drivers seat if he wants to be. He could make a speech tomorrow demanding US troops leave this year, and at least of 80% of Iraqis would cheer. Watch GWB try and talk his way around that one.

But then America would cut off financial support to the Iraqi government you say. So what, I say. The Chinese would be happy to step into Iraq with piles of ready cash to advance now, and no strings attached, to get the oil down the road. They are already doing it all over the world, Iraq would just be one more name on the list. And they have the piles of cash sitting around to do it any time they want. Chinese workers would swarm Iraqi oilfields and get the oil moving east faster than was thought possible - they've done similar things in several places in Africa already.

This leaves the Kurds as the only US ally left in Iraq who could be expected to do anything useful, and then only within their own area at best. The days of peshmerga being deployed to Baghdad are pretty much over, I would bet. They will need those troops at home to fight the Turks. And how will Turkey feel about that support for the Kurds and bases in Kurdistan? The Turks will probably demand the oil from Kirkuk flow their way, but the Kurds won't be too eager to sell it to them, Turkish invasion or not.

The neo-cons have led America deep into the shifting desert sands, and there only remains the magnitude of the defeat to be assessed. Staying in place just makes it worse, as everything that goes wrong can now be easily blamed on America, as they already do.

The blowback is of an epic scale, and only starting to unfold. If any humans survive to tell the tale, a risky proposition, in future periods they may marvel at the pinnacle of strategic ineptitude achieved by America during this era.


All sides will just suck as much out of the U.S. to use against anybody-not-in-my-gang/tribe and whatever balance of power can be established with the U.S. still in occupation will just be refought immediately after a withdrawal. For chrissakes, they should just get out, let 'em get on with establishing made in Iraq(mostly) facts on the ground.

Just Someone

About 80% of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims & aprox 80% of the Muslim population worldwide practices one form or another of Sunni Islam. Even though their numbers are dwindling, Druze, Christians, secularists, etc. are also still in the mix. Once the dust settles, which will take awhile, don't be suprised if Iraqis are not all single issue voters.


This new tactic -- arming and supplying Iraqi Sunnis who oppose Al-Q -- appears to rest upon an assumption not previously stressed -- we are going to lose, at least to the extent we had this chimerical dream -- actually arrogant delusion -- of a Jeffersonian democracy flowering in an Islamic desert.

If this is the new assumption, then perhaps the goals of the new tactic include 1) ensure a ground condition that will protect US troops for the year or so it will take for us to leave Iraq. 2) create an Iraqi government that is hostile to Al-Q so Iraq will not become an Al-Q haven once US military presence ends.

The problem of Iraq becoming a sanctuary for Al-Q appears increasingly acute. At least according to some news reports, Iraq is now a net exporter of Sunni jihadists to other Middle Eastern nations and beyond. In other words, the argument of fighting Al-Q “over there instead of here” -- thus justifying the US occupation -- is no longer valid.

But here’s what is interesting, at least to me. We could reach these goals in 15 minutes if we sat down and continued a diplomatic approach with Iran. But we are not going to do so.

So it makes me believe that arming Iraqi Sunnis is part of a long range and regional strategy, especially if you look at the work of Eliot Abrams in Lebanon and our support of Fatah.

An emerging regional strategy perhaps includes the following: the US militarily supports Sunni “moderates” who oppose Al-Q and the Iranian Shia as well as acquiesce to Israeli aims to continue occupation of the territories, most particularly East Jerusalem.

Such a strategy infers that ultimately we aim to foster a Sunni-Shia conflagration that will transcend national borders. Such a strategy perhaps is an echo of that colonial technique of divide and conquer, but one now pitched outward beyond a single nation and applied to an entire region.

If this is the strategy, then what is the motivation? Well…what would a rapturist do and why? What would Natan Sharansky do and why? What is their ultimate aim? It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

In my civilian opinion, this strategy will not bring peace and stability. From what I can tell, Sunni “moderate” translates to Sunni “corrupt” in the mind of the Sunni, so we will continue to alienate the vast majority of the Muslims and thus take the East and West one step closer to a “clash of civilizations” -- a goal apparently some people in the USG fervently desire to see.

Of course, the leaders of Al-Q and some Shia want the same. It’s the dynamic of the deadly embrace, to borrow the title from one of Bard O’ Neill’s books.

W. Patrick Lang


"But here’s what is interesting, at least to me. We could reach these goals in 15 minutes if we sat down and continued a diplomatic approach with Iran. But we are not going to do so.

So it makes me believe that arming Iraqi Sunnis is part of a long range and regional strategy, especially if you look at the work of Eliot Abrams in Lebanon and our support of Fatah."

your comment assumes that negotiating with Iran is an acceptable option for the administration. I think it is not. What they want from Iran is surrender. THAT is part of the long term strategery. pl


When executing this step, "I will say again that a partial withdrawal will prove impossible under the present conditions.Therefore, we are going to go all the way out (except perhaps for something in Kurdistan). It is just a matter of time." How do we protect our Iraqi supporters?

W. Patrick Lang


We should be privately planning on evacuating them and re-settling them. pl

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