Monday, June 04, 2007


Okay, I missed some crazy stuff this weekend, but Orcas Island was completely worth it. I'll have pictures up soon, I promise!

Craziness #1 - LeBron. I did NOT see this coming. I was one of the guys who was complaining about Bron-Bron never trying, but apparently he tried. I have no choice now but to cheer for the Cavs vs. the evil Spurs. My prediction? Bowen sticks his foot underneath LeBron on a jumper, and hurts LBJ's ankle. I really don't want the Spurs to win another title.

Craziness #2 - the JFK airport thing. WTF. Okay, it's not really that big of a WTF for readers of John Robb's excellent blog, but he's got a short post on the subject...just another example of open-source warfare, really. Yes, we're lucky that most people who try to pull off shit like this are inept, but they won't all be (see: London, Madrid). Many homegrown terrorists will try to top 9/11 in terms of scale, publicity and damage, and that is a fool's errand which we can use to our advantage. Scaled-down attacks on infrastructure here at home are where the real damage could be done (electricity grids, bridges, sewage systems, etc.), and what we must defend against, even though it's not as sexy as stopping a potentiall catastrophic plot.

Craziness #3 - people who know my views well know that I'm against the pullout of troops from Iraq. I think more troops have been necessary since day one - it's easy to win a war with 'shock and awe', but you cannot use that to secure the peace - you need boots on the ground.

Anyway, after reading this post (yes, that's 3 in a row for Mr. Robb! Buy his book, too!), I'm perhaps convinced that it may be a good thing. Really. Maybe. I can't decide yet if I'm playing devil's advocate or not, but if Robb is correct, wouldn't de-escalation of this conflict be the best way to fight it?

Throughout most of the fighting in Amiriya, the US army was urged not to intervene. The obvious reason is that if they did the groups would quickly forget their dispute and join together again to fight the American troops. This points to value of de-escalation when fighting open source insurgencies (something I pointed to back in 2005). It also implies that the Baghdad surge has not been effective in controlling restive neighborhoods, in that the guerrilla groups felt secure enough to fight each other rather than US troops. Some reasons for this may be that the expansion of the conflict to Shiite groups (particularly the Mahdi army) and the current hostage dramas have succeeded in distracting Baghdad's generals from its core mission.

I need to do more thinking on this, honestly. I'm not really sure what would happen to the insurgent groups if their "goal" (Americans go home) was accomplished...obviously a power vacuum, but would the various groups only use the leverage of violence, or would they use the leverage of legitimacy in an attempt to take power? Do they even WANT power, or could the insurgent groups act similar to Hamas (providing a limited non-state social safety net (education, access to clinics, etc.) in exchange for non-state legitimacy)? Is a splintered Iraq the most likely option on the table, and can we even shape it?

Odds are against it, at least from the perspective of the United States. Once we're out, jumping back in would only strengthen the insurgency. Things could be different with more international actors taking part, and the optimal solution would involve every nation EXCEPT the United States...all actions (perceived or real) taken on our part will be met with suspicion.

No comments: