Measuring Success of the Surge: Nir Rosen Debates Fred Kagan


This was an exchange last night on Lehrer News Hour between my friend and former colleague Nir Rosen and AEI scholar and “surge architect” Frederick Kagan:

JIM LEHRER: And now, two very different views of the surge. They come from two frequent visitors to Iraq. Both are experts who have written extensively about the situation on the ground there.Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security. Frederick Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a former professor at West Point.

Mr. Kagan, to you first. You agree with the president that the surge has been successful, correct?
FREDERICK KAGAN, American Enterprise Institute: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: And why do you say that?
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, the main purpose of the surge was to get the sectarian violence in and around Baghdad under control so that it would be possible for the Iraqis to start making political progress.
You have to remember that, when the surge went in, the purpose actually was just to get Baghdad under control. It was initially called the Baghdad security plan.
A variety of developments, including the turning of the Sunni Arabs against al-Qaida and the insurgency, have allowed us to be playing for much more than that. And so we’ve actually managed to stabilize a large swath of central Iraq.
And there has also been remarkable political progress. There’s been progress on almost every one of the major pieces of benchmark legislation.
And so — and the Iraqis are — there’s a new fluidity. When you look at the Iraqi political dynamic in Baghdad now, at the senior levels and throughout, there’s a new fluidity in the equation, which comes from the fact that the Iraqis certainly feel that violence has dropped to levels where what they are starting to care about is less security and more moving forward with their country.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rosen, do you see the same — do you look at the scene and see the same thing, less violence, more political possibilities on the Iraqi side?
NIR ROSEN, Fellow, New York University Center on Law and Security: No, I think it’s absolutely a failure, the surge. I think that less violence is actually a sign of the failure of the surge.
The violence during a civil war was very logical. It was an attempt to remove Sunnis from Shia areas and Shia from Sunnis areas, and it’s been incredibly successful. There are virtually no mixed areas left in Iraq.
You have what Americans call gated communities, effectively a Somalia-alike situation, where you have different neighborhoods surrounded by walls, controlled by a militia or a warlord. And they’re sectarianally pure, all Shia, all Sunni. There’s no reconciliation between the two communities.
You have, fortunately for the Americans, the Mahdi army decided to impose what they call the freeze, so Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader, could sort of clean his house, get rid of some of the bad elements there, and prepare for the next round.
Likewise, the Sunni resistance realized it had lost the civil war. Sunnis were basically expelled from Baghdad. They had lost their resistance to the occupation.
And beginning in 2006, you saw them being much more introspective in Damascus, in Jordan, and in Iraq, thinking, “How do we proceed? Our main enemy is what we call the Iranians.” When they say Iranians, they mean basically all the Shias.
JIM LEHRER: The Shiites, yes.
NIR ROSEN: They call the government Iranian. They call the security forces Iranian. “That’s our main enemy. The Americans can wait. We’ll have a huddanah (ph),” a temporary cease-fire, “with the Americans so we can regroup, collect weapons, collect territory” — thanks to the Americans, in this case — “and then fight the Shias and sort of retake Iraq.”
JIM LEHRER: So you see this as just a temporary thing that was not even caused by the American increase of troop — the increase in American troops?
NIR ROSEN: Well, Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to declare the cease-fire was, in part, a result of the increase of American troops, because he realized that he was going to face more pressure from the Americans. So he might as well lay low, wait the Americans out. And when the Americans reduce their numbers, then you can continue this purge of Sunnis from Baghdad and elsewhere.
Frederick Kagan, American Enterprise Institute: The fact that we’ve seen the violence drop even though you still do have mixed areas in Baghdad, Baquba, Diyala and so forth, tells you that there has to be something more here than the cleansing has been done.
Sunni, Shia tensions
JIM LEHRER: So, Mr. Kagan, what Mr. Rosen is saying, essentially that both sides are laying low, the Sunnis for their reasons, the Shias for their reasons, that this is not a permanent thing.
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, there’s a magnificent myth out there that Mr. Rosen just reiterated for us that there are no mixed areas in Iraq anymore and that the cleansing is completed.
And it’s astonishing to me that someone who’s been in Baghdad for as long and as much as Mr. Rosen has been could say something like that. There are still Shia areas in western Baghdad, not only in Kadamiyah, around the Kadamiyah shrine, in which there will always be Shia, but also in west Rashid.
JIM LEHRER: What does that mean?
FREDERICK KAGAN: It means that you still have — in neighborhoods that are predominantly Sunni, on the west side of the river, which is historically the Sunni side of the river, you still have Shia enclaves that are within those neighborhoods.
Now, they’re more consolidated than they had been before, certainly. At a low level, you certainly have seen that kind of consolidation, but there is no natural dividing line between Sunni and Shia in Baghdad, let alone around Baghdad, let alone in Diyala.
And the result is that — for those people that want sectarian conflict, there are more than enough sectarian raw edges, both in Baghdad and around the capital, to be generating that kind of conflict. The fact that we’ve seen the violence drop even though you still do have mixed areas in Baghdad, Baquba, Diyala and so forth, tells you that there has to be something more here than the cleansing has been done.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rosen?
NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s true that there are Shia areas in western Baghdad, but that’s because the Shia militias made a lot of inroads even in western Baghdad. And they control more and more neighborhoods within the west.
But what’s really frightening is that, indeed, when that sectarian fighting will resume — and it will — there’s going to be nowhere to run to, because Syria and Jordan have closed their borders to Iraqi refugees; 11 of Iraq’s 18 governors have closed their borders to internally displaced Iraqis. So when the fighting resumes intensively, it’s going to be a slaughter.
JIM LEHRER: Why are you so sure it’s going to resume?
NIR ROSEN: When you talk to people on both sides, to the militiamen, they’re quite clear about their motives.
The Sunni groups, the Americans call them concerned local citizen or other euphemisms; they call themselves the awakening. They’re quite clear. They’re not just security forces that are cooperating with the Americans. They’re temporarily not fighting the Americans because they want to regroup and prepare themselves to fight the Shias.
The Mahdi army is there. And this is their worst nightmare. The Sunnis, who we defeated — and this is actually the Iraqi government in general, all the Shia Islamists who control the security forces and the government, and the Mahdi army, this is their worst nightmare.
We defeated the Sunnis. We kicked them out of most of Baghdad. We certainly got them out of power. And here they are coming through the back door, thanks to the Americans.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see the resumption coming, as Mr. Rosen does?
FREDERICK KAGAN: No. I think it depends very much on who you talk to in Iraq and how you talk to them about what kind of responses that you get. And I’ve spoken with Sunni local citizens and various people, and you get some responses that are along these lines. And you get some responses that are along other lines.
I think what’s very important to understand is that this is a very local phenomenon.
People have decided to join these movements because of local conditions on the whole and not because of some big pan-Sunni “Well, you know, now this is how we’re going to get them this time” plan, because you have to keep in mind people also forget the sequence of how these guys become concerned local citizens.
The first reason why they become concerned local citizens is because they don’t want to be killed, because they’re in a middle of a war that they’re losing. And so the first and only deal that we give them is we will agree not to kill them.
We aren’t paying these guys to come over to our side; we certainly aren’t arming them. What we’re doing is promising not to kill them in the first instance. Now, that happens on a local basis.
And then I have to contradict Mr. Rosen. There is reconciliation happening on lower levels. When you go out into Diyala, where you have mixed tribes and where you have tribes on both sides, you do have CLCs from both groups. In areas to the south of Baghdad, you’re starting to see some reconciliation initiatives reaching out to one another.
JIM LEHRER: You don’t see that?
NIR ROSEN: There are exceptions, of course. And Iraqis were never sectarian. They’ve been pushed into this by various militias.
But when you hang out with the Sunni militiamen, with the concerned local citizens, when you hang out with the Mahdi army, when you’re not with the American soldiers, but when you’re with them naturally, and then you ask them who they were and why they joined these forces, they’re quite clear.
They’re former Islamic Army of Iraq, former 1920 Revolution Brigade, former Army of the Mujahedeen, the Iraqi Resistance. Some of them are even former al-Qaida.
And, yes, they realize they have lost the war against the Americans and they have lost the war against the Shias. “And we have to get the Americans off of our backs so we can control some territory.”
So now they have territory inside Baghdad and elsewhere and they can use this as a foothold. And they are attempting to become a political movement. I accompanied some of these guys from Dura (ph), guys who controlled 150, 300 men who had been in the resistance.
They went to Ramadi to pay homage to Abu Risha, one of the main leaders of the awakening, and to try to join his political movement. And why? “So that we can fight the Iranians. So we can fight the Shias.”
Nir Rosen, New York University: It’s an occupation. A foreign occupation is never a positive thing. It’s a systematic violence that’s imposed on an entire nation. Now, the American occupation was much more brutal the first few years, that’s true.
Impact of U.S. troop presence
JIM LEHRER: OK. Let’s talk about the role of the Americans now.As we said in the setup piece, there’s a presidential debate going on about the withdrawal of U.S. troops. First of all, what is your reading, Mr. Kagan, of what the role of the United States military is on the ground now and how important it is to the stability and all things of the future?
FREDERICK KAGAN: It’s critically important. And I think that the role that we’ve moved into is one of armed mediation. Increasingly, we’ve managed to persuade both sides — and if you bring in the Kurds, all three sides — that we are actually relatively impartial, relatively neutral force, which is a change, because a lot of the Sunni community had not been trusting us and had seen us as the enemy.
And now what we’re doing at the local level, at the provincial level, and at the national level is working to create bridges between Iraqi groups of both sides and bring them together.
JIM LEHRER: A positive force.
JIM LEHRER: You see the U.S. troops as a positive force…
JIM LEHRER: … among all Iraqis now?
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, there are still people shooting at us.
FREDERICK KAGAN: Still people who don’t want us to be there. But among the majority populations, we definitely are playing a very positive role.
JIM LEHRER: Positive role?
NIR ROSEN: It’s an occupation. A foreign occupation is never a positive thing. It’s a systematic violence that’s imposed on an entire nation.
Now, the American occupation was much more brutal the first few years, that’s true. Abu Ghraib-like scandals aren’t happening anymore. They’ve slightly softened their approach, but they’re still killing innocent Iraqis everyday. They’re dropping bombs on Iraq.
They have 24,000 Iraqis in American-run prisons. They haven’t been charged with anything. They haven’t been found guilty of anything. So still a very oppressive, systematic violence that Iraqis are enduring.
However, it’s true that the American presence does mitigate some of the violence that would otherwise occur between Iraqis.
JIM LEHRER: How do they mitigate the — just by being there?
NIR ROSEN: Well, these days, the Mahdi army is lying low. It’s lying low, and not because it wants to stop killing Sunnis or stop seizing control over Baghdad, but because the Americans are there and the Americans were very clear that the Mahdi army is one of their main targets.
So they decided to become legitimate. And now the American leadership speaks with respect about Muqtada al-Sadr. So he might as well wait them out.
Frederick Kagan, American Enterprise Institute: Our presence is still essential in terms of this mediation role and also in terms of the support that we provide to the Iraqi security forces, which still need us for logistics purposes, for training, for a variety of other things.
Debating withdrawal
JIM LEHRER: I know neither of you are politicians, but the political debate come November is going to be based, if it’s still a hot issue among American presidential candidates, it’s going to be John McCain on one side and one of the Democrats on the other.John McCain is going to be saying, “We may have to have a U.S. military presence there,” he says, “for 100 years, it’s going to go on,” versus either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton saying, “No, we want to start taking troops out.”
How do you see this?
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I hope that the debate will at least occur on the basis of reality on the ground and not these same sort of storylines that we’ve had for a long time. The American presence in Iraq is not an occupation. We are there by power of the U.N. Security Council.
JIM LEHRER: So you disagree with Mr. Rosen’s reading?
FREDERICK KAGAN: Absolutely, in terms of international law and in terms of the reality on the ground. We’re there under a U.N. Security Council resolution.
We hold detainees, not prisoners, on the basis of that resolution. And that’s why we don’t charge them with people. And there’s a lot of international law here that people are not tracking on.
The violence has dropped; we agree on that. Americans are playing a role in continuing to have the violence drop and stay down; we seem to agree on that. Political progress is being made in the center; that’s pretty clear.
So the question is — and if we leave, the situation will deteriorate.
JIM LEHRER: In what way will it deteriorate?
FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, I do believe that our presence is still essential in terms of this mediation role and also in terms of the support that we provide to the Iraqi security forces, which still need us for logistics purposes, for training, for a variety of other things, and also for the partnership that we play in help them become better forces.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rosen, how do you see — if U.S. troops begin to be withdrawn by a new president, what happens on the ground?
NIR ROSEN: I think, frankly, they’ll never be withdrawn by any of the candidates. Even the Democrats speak of maintaining a presence for the embassy, for training Iraqi forces, for counterterrorism, which is tens of thousands of soldiers already. So there’s never going to be a full withdrawal.
Now, should there be? I think most Iraqis want there to be a full withdrawal. And they always have.
JIM LEHRER: Most Iraqis want…
NIR ROSEN: Leaving aside the Kurds, most Sunnis and Shias want that.
NIR ROSEN: One interesting development, however, the last couple of years was Sunni friends of mine who were vehemently opposed to the occupation, as I was, began to worry that, “If the Americans leave, we’re going to be slaughtered.” And…
JIM LEHRER: The Sunnis are going to be slaughtered?
JIM LEHRER: By the Shia majority?
NIR ROSEN: Yes, I began to hear that in 2006, so Sunnis worrying about the debate in the U.S. on the Democratic side. People who had opposed the occupation who had fought the Americans worrying that, “If the Americans leave, we’ll be slaughtered.”
So it’s a difficult — it’s a dilemma, because the occupation is a brutal presence that’s imposed on the Iraqis. And they’re arrested, and they’re not charged. And that’s a problem, actually.
And, of course, they’re not handed over to the Iraqis, because that would be much worse. The Iraqis are actually grateful, relatively, to be arrested by the Americans and not to be handed over to the Iraqi forces where they’re more likely to be tortured and killed.
But I think there’s really no happy ending here. If the Americans stay, then they’re only postponing the inevitable, which is fulfillment of the civil war.
But the Mahdi army is growing impatient with the cease-fire. Mahdi army men are losing control, losing their power and influence. They’re still being arrested by the Americans, so they’re growing resentful.
The Sunni militiamen feel like they’re not getting anything from the Iraqi government, so why are they in this bargain? The Americans forced the Iraqi government to promise to integrate 20 percent of the Sunni militiamen into the Iraqi security forces. That’s not really happening.
There’s no reconciliation. In fact, the Iraqi government just acquitted two famous death squad leaders from the Ministry of Health. I mean, they’re basically an insult to the entire Sunni community.
JIM LEHRER: No happy ending, Mr. Kagan?
FREDERICK KAGAN: I completely disagree. I think if you come at this from the standpoint of re-fighting the question of whether we should have gone in or not, continuing to say “occupation, occupation, occupation,” which is a false statement, and presenting the view basically of the Sunni insurgency, then, you know, there’s no happy ending for the Sunni insurgency.
I think if you look at what’s actually going on, on the ground, and you look at the progress that’s been made, and you look at the breakthroughs that have taken place, I think it’s perfectly possible that we can work together with a large segment of the Sunni and Shia Arab Iraqi community and the Kurds to move forward in a very positive way.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

— Steve Clemons


22 comments on “Measuring Success of the Surge: Nir Rosen Debates Fred Kagan

  1. lindat says:

    Not only does Kagan state that “The American presence in Iraq is not an occupation” and “We hold detainees, not prisoners” (one wonders what he would call it if foreign soldiers busted down his door in the middle of the night or what he would call himself from the wrong side of a prison cell door) but also “We aren’t paying these guys to come over to our side; we certainly aren’t arming them.”
    The NY Times reported on 12/22/07 that “As of Dec. 10, 2007, the Americans had signed up 73,397 men, according to the Multi-National Force-Iraq. Of those, about 65,000 are receiving monthly salaries from the American military of $300; a few who are leaders, receive slightly more.” And in a March 16, 2008 article the NY Times reported that “Paying former insurgents to stop attacking American forces and join neighborhood militia forces has played a crucial role in turning around security in many Sunni parts of Iraq.” So it is one thing to say it is a worthwhile expenditure to stem attacks on our troops; but Kagan saying “We aren’t paying these guys to come over to our side” with a straight face is simply operating on the arrogant assumption that we are stupid.
    Michael Yon’s comments in The National Review are very disappointing. My brother just returned from a year’s tour serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq, and Yon’s reporting has been one of my news sources, along with Iraqi blogs, US military publications and the mainstream press – an amalgam of points of view from which I try to cobble together a picture of what is really going on there. Yon’s name-calling and hewing to the “it’s not an occupation / we hold detainees not prisoners / they work for us because they love us” line is a disappointment.


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Excellent rebuttal, Rich. Its amazing to me that more people can’t see the complicity of our media, even the media that many tout as “responsible”. The insidious part played by a media that engages in the kind of irresponsible airing of obvious propagandists like Kagan is dangerous indeed. Repeatedly on such shows, I see known and timeworn lies given air time, unchallenged by the “hosts”. The presentation of two different “viewpoints” is not responsible if one “viewpoint” is a complete deviation from known facts, and that deviation goes unchallenged and unrebutted.
    In Bushworld, the Rathers are muzzled while the Limbaughs are handed megaphones. Such blatant efforts to influence public perception are aimed at the truly ignorant and uninformed. But the kind of deception and propagandizing you describe is far more insidious, and hoodwinks even the more astute of the viewing public.


  3. rich says:

    Mistaking balance for objectivity doesn’t earn you or the Newshour any points.
    It’s great to have opposing viewpoints. But spanning the spectrum from A to B gives that ostensible purpose short shrift. And polishing their prized patina of civility while giving a slate of lies equal weight to verifiable facts pretty much reverses any sense of public service as well as the eager claims of politesse.
    The Newshour does great work. I’ve watched it religiously for just about thirty years. But what they do isn’t always journalism. Fred Kagan is presented as an external analyst, when he has an interest in the policy he proposed. He then pushes an ideological line he can’t back up, and isn’t called on it by Jim Lehrer.
    Kagan’s a mouthpiece; the Newshour doesn’t identify him as such. Your ‘distinction’ between university professor and ‘someone with a role in policy’ seems, well, bankrupt. Kagan isn’t a decision maker; he taught at West Point and whether AEI calls him a scholar or a fellow is moot: he was cherry-picked because he provided the fig leaf of a ‘plan’ to an administration desperate for anything to say. Just as the pre-invasion intel was cherry-picked–and dishonestly presented as fact.
    George Bush & Co. lied at least 985 times as they tried to justify invading and occupying Iraq. Too often, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitze, Rice and Cheney were on the Newshour when telling those lies.
    And Jim Lehrer said nothing. He asked not one question based on widely available information to challenge Bush & Co to prove or even support their assertions. That’s not journalism. That’s not even passivity or as you gloss it, “just putting it out there”; that’s enabling.
    In light of the multiple news accounts that discredited Bush Admin officials’ statements in real time, Jim Lehrer and the Newhour either a) didn’t do their homework (or their jobs); or b) did read as widely as many citizens had–but chose to withhold that damning information from their audience.
    Either way, the specific instances, the method, and the general trend have really been a black eye for the Newshour. At a certain point, you start watching to keep an eye on what has otherwise been a consistently good show.
    Two things:
    No one advocated taking Fred Kagan off the air. But he’s not entitled to a platform to present lies as fact, unmoderated on the facts. Kagan’s clearly unfit, and the country deserves better. Even the Best and the Brightest would be an upgrade over an agenda-driven propogandist.
    Second, I’m asking Lehrer to be a journalist, not a blogger. Pay closer attention.
    Kagan’s function as a PR mouthpiece is reinforced by his Orwellian insistence that the American Occupation of Iraq isn’t really an occupation because the UN has rules. Had we followed those rules to get there, it’d still be an occupation.
    Yet we actually have Kagan arguing that American soldiers aren’t really standing on Iraqi soil? On the Newshour?
    Kagan & the Newshour don’t “tell [you] what they’re thinking”; they’re telling you what they want you to believe.
    I’m sure some folks will go into a tizzy over this. But it’s long past time to get real about the Newshour. You have Gwen Ifill (whom I admire & like) moving instantly from American torture practices to wondering what on earth could prompt Hugo Chavez to smell Bush’s sulphur at the UN. She just couldn’t make the connection. And surely given Lehrer’s performance before the war, his ‘Moment of Silence’ for the fallen is embittering and ironic. His omissions and passivity put them there. Some attention to sound policy and actual debate, pre-war, would’ve been . . . journalism. You have to wonder how many decades David Brooks will be allowed extra time to spin RNC circles around the doddering Mark Shields.
    So, no Brad, merely having a guest on doesn’t show that they’re full of crap, how much crap they’re full of, or why. Sometimes it’s because they want people to believe the outrageous load of crap and forget the American Occupation of Iraq exists at all.
    Like I said, all that upsets the Applecart of Civility that is the Newshour’s Sacred Cow. But the thoughtful segments can’t compensate for the fatal errors of judgment.


  4. Brad says:

    I think you need to take it a little easier on the NewsHour. Like it or not, Fred Kagan, unlike a university expert, has a role in the U.S. policy in Iraq. I don’t think the NewsHour was going for objective analysis in this piece, I think they were trying to show what the administration’s view on the surge is at this point. Just because they have him on doesn’t mean they agree with what he’s saying. Besides, Rosen was there to poke holes in Kagan’s statements.
    I think the administration and Fred Kagan are full of crap. However, I wouldn’t know why they were full of crap if they weren’t on the NewsHour talking about this stuff. They don’t call me up and tell me what they are thinking, I have to rely on the press for that. Jim Lehrer isn’t a blogger. He isn’t going to turn to the camera and say “That was a load of crap, let me tell you why.” That’s for you to figure out, he’s just putting it out there.


  5. Susan says:

    Michael Yon also does not know Arabic. Further, he thinks what the Iraqis say to him, with armed US military right there, is the truth. Only a fool would think that!


  6. rich says:

    Fred Kagan’s sudden appearance in the national media was curiously timed. And it raises lots of questions about how the NewsHour selects its guests.
    Jim Lehrer could’ve gone to any one of a hundred universities across the country to find an expert in counterinsurgency policy. Instead, he went back to the well at AEI.
    And so at the precise moment the usual Bush Admin mouthpieces had exhausted all credibility on Iraq, up popped the fresh-faced Fred Kagan.
    Not a coincidence. The Newshour chose to continue pushing the Bush & Neocon lies that have gotten us into this quagmire and drained the treasury.
    Sure, Kagan has a degree, wrote a book, taught at West Point–but he got that job, as well as the Newshour gig–because he said what people in power wanted to hear.
    The Newshour gets “The Guy” for the show–but that pipeline has done irreparable harm to the country, to the show’s reputation & credibility, and to program quality.
    It’s also why Norman Ornstein, who does great work, gets grief when people find out he works at AEI.


  7. arthurdecco says:
    Everyone here, their political leanings notwithstanding, would benefit from reading the archived threads written by this articulate, intelligent and talented Iranian writer before posting another opinion on “What’s Gonna Happen In Iraq When We Leave/Don’t Leave!”
    This young woman, who calls herself Riverbend, writes as well as anyone anywhere.
    And she always has something worthwhile to say.


  8. Will Bower says:

    Is anyone else having trouble accessing the last few entries of the “Pelosi Poo-Poos” article?
    Are we being -censored-? *gasp*


  9. Mr.Murder says:

    The only purpose of “The Surge” was to keep political opposition at home cowed. There was no reasonable expectation of success abroad.
    Unless you count both Iran and Iraq’s leaders meeting and shaking hands a success for the neocons.
    Maybe they consider that a success, since China underwrites Iran and America.


  10. Bartolo says:

    In that entire interview no one mentioned the continued killing of Americans, nor the economic drain to our economy and the military due to Bush’s own war.


  11. Nobcentral says:

    Commentary about the “situation on the ground” is merely one data point of many that would serve to create an accurate predictive picture of what’s going to happen in Iraq. It would be a mistake to say that surge has not calmed or stabilized Iraq just as it would be a mistake to say (read: lie) that the purpose of the surge was to provide security to Bagdad when the clear purpose was to create security FOR the purpose of political reconciliation.
    That being said, Michael Yon’s comments are interesting but not particularly useful about what’s going to happen down the road. Everything that Rosen said could be true at the same time that Yon et al see “stability, calm” etc because Rosen is talking about future instability, below the surface hatred and religious and cultural rivalry that can’t be settled in the short term.
    That’s why I think that Rosen’s comments are the most accurate. Shorter Rosen: We’re screwed whether we stay or go unless there is political reconciliation. I don’t think Kagan or Yon really answered that claim.


  12. Karl says:

    Michael Yon has been in the thick of the action in Iraq, not simply
    reporting from the green zone, for quite some time now. If you
    have followed his work you would know he is no stooge for anyone,
    and has been way ahead of the news curve. He is beholden to no
    one and is a beacon for the truth. Thank you for all you do Michael.


  13. karenk says:

    Jim Lehrer should have asked Kagan this: Would you feel comfortable walking down a street in Baghdad without special security details surrounding you?


  14. Nobcentral says:

    The really crazy thing about the Kaganites is the complete and total disregard for historical precedent. One would think that Kagan, as a former university professor, would find the history of occupation and insurgency relevant to the Iraq situation. But yet, he never mentions any examples of where a foreign power was able to defeat an insurgency. Perhaps that´s because the historical record is noticeably empty.
    Kagan Sr was a realist. Kagan Jr looks and acts like a Neocon. Neither have done much good for us.


  15. Frank says:

    I watched the debate on the Lehrer newshour too.I did not know that we invaded Iraq under the auspices of the UN. In other words the UN kicked out their own WMD inspectors so that the US could invade Iraq in a timely manner?
    Israel can do better than using this slimey mouthpiece who could have taught George Orwell a thing or two about misspeak.
    Dare I introduce “Kaganianism” as a competitor to the meaning of the word “Orwellianism”?


  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Do these people like Kagan think we are idiots?
    Do they think we are to believe that the Shiite and the Sunnis will simply make happy with each other because we are there laying ruin to their country?
    When you’re stepping over bodies and wading through sewage, shaking hands ain’t the first item on your list.


  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ah Yes, good ‘ol Micheal Yon, whose unbiased and honest reporting is always right on script to the latest scuttlebutt oozing out from underneath the Oval Office doors.
    Where are these pieces of crap going to hide when the not too distant future exposes them for what they really are?


  18. GEN says:

    Micheal Yon chips in at The Corner:
    “This morning I watched the television screen in Mosul as Kagan and Rosen debated Iraq, hosted by Jim Lehrer. Kagan’s statements were entirely consistent with what I see and hear unfolding here. By comparison, Rosen came across as a new Baghdad Bob. While he might be articulate, well dressed and highly credentialed, Rosen’s characterizations of the situation were at best inconsistent with ground-based realities, and at worst completely false . Kagan is worth listening to. Nir Rosen is not.
    Michael Yon


  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The sheer numbers of Shiites will decide the outcome. Its just common sense and simple logistics. And Rosen is right, there will be a slaughter of the Sunnis, whether it occurs in increments because of an American presence and a subsequent slower pace of violence and ethnic cleansing, or if it occurs quickly and violently on the heels of an American withdrawal.
    And as the Sunni’s ability to fight the power of the Shiite majority decreases, our presence there MUST become more and more a forceful military occupation if the influence of the Iranians is to be countered. This so called “surge” only buys time for Bush and his criminal cohorts to run the clock out and hand the inevitable slaughter of the Sunnis off to the incoming administration. An American withdrawal will be a disaster, and our continued presence there will be a disaster. There is no solution to this clusterfuck.
    This is not rocket science. Nor does this unfolding mess need an expert on “foreign policy” in order to accurately predict the outcome. This is the greastest foreign policy blunder in the history of this nation, and it has guaranteed war and violence in the Middle East for at least a generation, probably longer, with us right in the middle of it.
    I have stated here on numerous occassions that the dying has just began there, and the numbers are going to increase exponentially. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And it matters not a gnat whether we have a Democratic Administration, or a Republican one. The events in the middle east have their own momentum, and will inevitably suck us along for the ride, particularly in light of our immoral and ill-concieved support for Israel, which is a constant no matter which party controls the White House.


  20. JohnH says:

    William Polk dissects the way forward in Iraq. It’s ominous:
    In fact, it’s so ominous that everyone is afraid to deal with it…
    It’s good to see that finally someone is dealing with reality.


  21. Ugh says:

    Well, I hope that the debate will at least occur on the basis of reality on the ground and not these same sort of storylines that we’ve had for a long time. The American presence in Iraq is not an occupation. We are there by power of the U.N. Security Council.
    Which, of course, means that the Iraqis are just pleased as punch to have us there, since it’s not an “occupation” due to the U.N. security council.


  22. brat says:

    I watch that interview and found myself screeming at the television almost everytime Kagan opens his mouth.
    Lehrer should have asked Kagan one teeny, tiny, highly RELEVANT question: “Do you speak and write Arabic fluently?”
    It’s clear Rosen is completely fluent and Kagan completely flatulant.


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