Monday, January 08, 2007
born of black wind, fire and steel:
What will it mean for Petraeus to have General Ray Odierno as his deputy? In Tom Ricks's excellent Fiasco, Odierno is portrayed as brutal and clueless -- eager to kick in a door when he should be dispensing a bribe -- while Petraeus is calculating and judicious with force. Petraeus's Mosul office displays a sign asking "What have you done to win Iraqi hearts and minds today?" Odierno's troops push Iraqis off an aqueduct and then their superior officers cover it up.

In today's Post, Odierno is back up to his old tricks. His trouble is that he confuses desire and capability. First, he notes that in the failed Operation Together Forward -- which led to increased violence in Baghdad -- "we overestimated the availability of Iraqi security forces initially; we didn't have enough here." What he can't say is that Nouri al-Maliki didn't provide four Iraqi battalions that he promised for the mission, for reasons that remain unclear. Second, Odierno says that there has been an overemphasis on fighting Sunni insurgents as opposed to Shiite death squads: "You have to go after both Sunni and Shia neighborhoods," as he puts it in a lovely phrase. Third, it's probably too dangerous to go after Moqtada Sadr: "I'm not sure we take him down." And finally, you have to have more Iraqi troops in Baghdad to supplement the escalation of U.S. forces.

There's a word for this: clusterfuck. Odierno's analysis contradicts several of his key conclusions. For one thing, leaving Sadr alone is sensible enough, but what does that leave you in terms of the "extreme elements . . . that are conducting operations that we don't agree with"? In a world of perfect intelligence, it's conceivable that Odierno could target breakaway Mahdi Army factions -- but in the real world, we can't distinguish between what's under Sadr's control and what isn't; and what's more, at the first sign of assault, Sadr will embrace the aggrieved Mahdi unit. So do you target SCIRI's Badr Corps -- while Bush is trying to get SCIRI to throw Sadr out the door? And furthermore, if one has to "go after both Sunni and Shia neighborhoods," how much sense does it make to rule off-limits the major Shiite death squads? Additionally, if Maliki didn't give his four battalions over to the U.S. in the spring, why would he do so now, when Bush is targeting his parliamentary power base?

It's been reported for several weeks that U.S. commanders don't have a clear idea what to do with the additional 20,000 troops Bush is going to give them as part of his public-relations drive. So it remains to be seen how Petraeus is going to justify his augmented force. The war is unwinnable, but surely he won't come up with something as muddled as what Odierno's pushing here.
--Spencer Ackerman
Nouri al-Maliki didn't provide four Iraqi battalions that he promised for the mission, for reasons that remain unclear.

Are they unclear? I thought there was a plausible-sounding report somewhere along the way that the units -- from Shiite-dominated southern Iraq -- simply refused to go to Baghdad, where they might, like, die and stuff.
Blogger Swopa | 10:06 PM