When “New Realities” Ignore Facts on the Ground


It comes as little surprise that Fred Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, and Jack Keane offer a glowing assessment of the political and security progress in Iraq in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed “The New Reality in Iraq.” Despite evidence to the contrary, the Keanes and Kagan open by triumphantly proclaiming:

All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow; and the Sadrist militia and other Iranian-backed militant groups have been disrupted. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has accomplished almost all of the legislative benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration.

This “New Reality” they inhabit must be in a parallel universe because substantial accounts suggest exactly the opposite — Sadr is consolidating power and the political scene in Iraq is moving towards him; gaping holes devalue claims of political progress, especially with respect to oil laws, professional police forces, and reintegration of Sunnis into security forces; al Qaeda just scored a big hit in Diyala; and US softening towards Iran is in part a recognition of what Steve Clemons describes as “Iran’s ability to control the temperature of Iraq.”
While these might be points of contention some can wrestle with, the authors remain muted on a major threat to the political stability, security, and purported sectarian calm of Iraq and the surrounding region — namely the state of Iraq’s refugees — and their silence is deafening.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has again drawn attention to this elephant in the room that the United States has only scraped at the edges by providing some visas to Iraqis who assist the US as contractors or translators.
Even if one bought the Kagans’ and Keane’s argument that sectarian violence is down, it is a misleading and temporary figure because over five million — one in five Iraqi’s — have fled their homes (not to mention the over half a million Iraqi deaths). 2.5 million Iraqis are internally displaced and without ample support, the process of resettlement or return to their homes will be a deeply destabilizing and violent process that is bound to reignite sectarian tensions.
Meanwhile, the other 2.5 million are being hosted in states that are becoming increasingly concerned and overwhelmed with the burdens of millions of refugees that drive up inflation, housing prices, the black economy, crime, and the propensity and cover for extremist elements.
Refugee camps, particularly in the Middle East, have long been simmering hotbeds of tension and violence with countless examples from history — ranging from Jordan in 1970 to Lebanon today — that provide a cautionary tale given our current willful negligence.
So even if the Kagans and Keane ignore the old realities of Iraq that are ever present today, they cannot wish away the looming strategic consequences as the refugee crisis spirals into a catastrophe.
The strategic blunder aside, the ICG reports on the fecklessness of the US and Iraqi governments:

If Jordan, Syria and Lebanon can be faulted for unfriendly treatment of refugees at border crossings and lukewarm assistance once they have entered, they should, nonetheless, be credited for having agreed to receive so many Iraqis in the first place and allowing them to stay at great cost to their own societies. By contrast, it is difficult to give the Iraqi government any credit at all. Flush with oil money, it has been conspicuously ungenerous toward its citizens stranded abroad. No doubt there are senior former regime figures among the refugees, but this does not excuse callous neglect of overwhelmingly non-political people who loyally served Iraq rather than any particular regime.
The approach of the international community, especially states that have participated in Iraq’s occupation, has been equally troubling. Western nations have been happy to let host countries cope with the refugee challenge, less than generous in their financial support, and outright resistant to the notion of resettlement in their midst. Although it has contributed more than most, the U.S., whose policies unleashed the chaos that spawned the outflow, has clearly failed in its own responsibilities: downplaying the issue, providing far less assistance to host countries than needed and admitting to its own shores merely a trickle of refugees and only after unprecedented security checks to which asylum seekers from other nations are not subjected.

A corrective course would require not only opening up immigration paths to Iraqi refugees but also providing significant economic support funds to regional actors assuming the burdens and responsibilities of resettling them.
Based on Jordanian estimates of annual spending on refugees, serious efforts to deal with the crisis would cost roughly $6.5 billion per year or about five percent of annual US spending on Iraq. The returns for the US strategic position (staving off further regional instability) and moral position (boosting US credibility and compellence power in international affairs) would be far higher.
— Sameer Lalwani


15 comments on “When “New Realities” Ignore Facts on the Ground

  1. Kathleen says:

    Susan… exactly right.. we cannot win a war crime…


  2. Susan says:

    We cannot win a war crime.
    No matter what happens.
    I heard today that the US is building an airbase in Halabja, Iraq – near the Iranian border.
    This ain’t over by a long shot.
    Sadly, the warmongers will kill lots more, and people like section9 and kotzabasis will cheer them on from a distance.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    The “surge”? Dalivision has aptly named himself, as only a surrealist would see this scam as “one of the most important issues”. If one is to view the “surge” as an important issue, one should be honest about what it represents. The name was adopted because of it being a policy that upped the number of troops in Iraq. Never mind that the American people were given fraudulent numbers, nor told about the huge number of support personnel that were required. The real con-job is this premise that it is a surge in troop numbers that has been responsible for the alleged reductions in violence. Truth is, it was a shift in policy, having nothing to do with troop numbers. We simply shifted alliances, and allied ourselves with yesterday’s “enemies”, namely the “sunni insurgents”, “former Baathists”, and “Saddam loyalists”. And the “success” of this “surge” can be measured in the amount of dollars we have paid out to bribe Iraqi factions that would sooner slit our throats than look at us.
    So, I must disagree with Dalivision. “The most important” issue facing us is how to convince these pathetic cowards in Washington to frog march George Bush a Dick Cheney out of our White House, and up the stairs of a good old fashioned gallows, erected on the White House lawn. After waterboarding, of course, and completely without the benefit of habeas corpus, representation, or a trial.
    Good for the goose, good for the gander. After all, they’re just enemy combatants.


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    Ok, dalivision, here`s the 12`th comment – not directly ON
    topic, but directly related TO the topic:
    What is the actual Obama strategy?
    In very general terms, you could say that Barack Obama wants
    to remove American troops from the 2. front (Iraq) to the 1.
    front (Afghanistan), with a possibility of extending the 1. front
    to the northern parts of Pakistan.
    AFGHANISTAN INSTEAD OF IRAQ. (And then there is the risk of a
    3. front (Iran) opened before he perhaps become the president,
    or while he is in charge.)
    I`m surprised that this is discussed so little here and elsewhere.
    Here`s a handful of obvious questions:
    1) How will ordinary Americans react, if the only tangible results
    of the “Change” in foreign policy from Bush to Obama are that
    more of their young kids are sent home – maimed or in coffins
    – from Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan), than from Iraq?
    2) Is it wise to suggest a “surge” in Afghanistan, or is victory
    impossible with military means?
    3) What are the risks, if that front is extended to parts of
    Pakistan? How will the regional dynamics develop under a
    surge, given a weak Afghan and Pakistani government,
    substantial support for Islamists within the Pakistani army and
    intelligence – just to mention a few points?
    4) How will the trans-Atlantic relationship develop, if the US
    under Obama will demand more soldiers from European
    countries to fight in Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan), and
    lesser restrictions regarding WHERE they`re sent to fight?
    These questions will surely be discussed intensely in the
    months and years to come, both in the US and in Europe and
    elsewhere. Perhaps it`s wise to raise them at a time when it
    makes sense to discuss them – before they become mere
    academic issues, post factum.


  5. dalivision says:

    Is it my imagination that only 10 posts (with this one 11)? given that this is one of the most important issues and other subjects have over 5 times as many posts?
    When does reality set in for Americans?
    Will even Steve comment on the surge????


  6. Kathleen says:

    To Surge or Insurge, that is the question…..we won nothing… all The Surge did, besides kill and maim many more people, was bring us back to Square One…that is the new reality.
    After all factions of the Iraqi population particpated in the election, they worked together in drafting and adopting their Constitution and proposing a Peace Plan which included an agreement with the Sunni to lay down their arms if we withdrew within two years. There WAS political unity in Iraq at that point. we rejected the Peace Plan and the Insurgency began. We then started paying the Sunni to not kill our troops. really smart strategists at work here, eh?
    UN Security Council authorization for our presence in Iraq is about to expire in Dec. and Maliki is not going to ask for it to be renewed. end of story. Last May, the Iraqi Parliament voted overwhelmingly, to petition the UNSC to NOT RENEW our authorization to stay in iraq, on Mailiki’s invitation alone. they want the question put to their Parliament for a vote. So how is the UNSC going to do authorize our presence there, without an invitation from their Parliament? How is that victory?
    Victory to Dopey and Darth will be when they pass our oil law and not before. Even if the UNSC does not renew our authorization, I see Darth saying “So? We’re occupiers, whatcha gonna do about it?”


  7. Mr.Murder says:

    The surge worked because Sadr said so, by telling elements in the country to scale down fighting.


  8. David says:

    Nobody but the god of war won this war. The US did succeed in weakening itself in the world, debilitating its own military, and strengthening Iran’s position. Iraq is mostly barely functional, has a devastated infrastructure, likely a million dead civilians and another four million either internally displaced or as refugees, primarily in Jordan, and Baghdad has experienced what amounts to ethic cleansing to control the sectarian homicides that did not exist before we invaded, basically destroyed, and then occupied, to very little benefit for the average Iraqi, the majority of whom want us to please go home.
    We didn’t win jack shit, unless you think the prospect of American oil companies regaining control of Iraqi oil, which Saddam had nationalized, at a cost of about $2 trillion to American taxpayers before its all over, along with all those people killed, maimed, and/or displaced, somehow can be celebrated as victorious. Sorry, but your definition of victory, if by any definition we can claim victory in this misguided, immoral war of choice/aggression, is clearly different than mine as an idealistic American whose father served in WWII, a war we really did have to fight once it came to war, and a war we did win, although Mars claimed his cut in very, very large numbers.
    Yes, the makings of a deal are in the offing, because we must leave Iraq, and because attacking Iran is dumb beyond belief.


  9. section9 says:

    What Lalwani, Cole, and the Left can’t wrap their heads around is
    that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps has won the war in Iraq. This
    despite the catastrophic failings of the political class here at home
    in Iraq. The Iranians have been denied their maximalist aims, and
    we have been denied ours. So both sides can sit down to deal, and
    so they are. Behind closed doors, of course.
    And so, their western frontier secure, the Iranians are prepared to
    deal, provided the United States is prepared to recognize their
    position in the Gulf and their interests. Which we, apparently, have
    been for quite some time.
    The makings of a deal are in the offing.


  10. Frank says:

    The Kagans are noted for creating their own reality..They are noted for fashioning input reality filters that grounds out the negatives, and allows only the positives for amplification that op ed pieces in friendly havens can provide.
    Expectation congruence in what was prophesized by the Kagans about the fruits of the Iragi surge must be attempted in order to protect their herniated credibility. Never mind the twisting of “what is” to get that congruence. Setting the stage for “I told you so”, when our military leaves, and chaos still reigns in Iraq, may be the aim of the piece, and is expected from Mr. Kagan.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yes Kotz, “unimiginative” is the key word here.
    So many of us, unable to access the crystal ball of our leaders, were unable to imagine Iraqis greeting us with roses as we invaded their soveriegn nation. We also had an extremely difficult time imagining the WMDs that so many experts were telling us didn’t exist. And sin of sins, we just couldn’t get our minds around imagining that the Iraqis would stand quietly by as we privatized and sold off their nation’s natural resources.
    And speaking for myself, I am still stricken with this failure of imagination. Completely unable to conjure up the impression that you are sane or sentient, I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to utter your brand of fantasy if in fact it is founded in conviction. Your’s must be a separate reality, based entirely in the limitless world of the human imagination.
    I wonder, is it comfortable in there, or do you feel a constant nagging paranoia that one grim day, reality might intrude?


  12. kotzabasis says:

    It’s hardly surprising, that people like Sameer Lalwani, Juan Cole, and so many others from the liberal UNIMAGINATIVE intelligentsia who have been so abysmally wrong about their prognostications of the war in Iraq, now that the war is being won are petulant and sulky and manufacture shoddy and specious arguments by invoking the indisputable evidence of the sufferings of the war such as civilians killed and refugees, to TRUMP the real triumph of the war after the surge and the new political configuration that is dawning in Iraq auguring a bright future for all Iraqis, that could serve, moreover, as a possible model for the whole Middle East. One would have expected after the dismal military situation that U.S. troops were facing in Iraq before the surge that every American would be proud of what their forces accomplished post-surge under the capable and savant leadership of General Petraeus.
    Lalwani attempts to overturn this great event with what: With the art of a conjurer. He turns the RETREAT of al Sadr’s militia facing decimation by American-Iraqi forces into CONSOLIDATION of his forces; the attack on Iraqi recruits killing thirty-three of them in Diyala by a suicide bomber is considered to be by him a show of the continued VIGOR of the insurgency; and the tragic misery and agony of the refugees is a proof to him that the war has accomplished nothing.
    Lalwani, Cole, and the aureole liberal intelligentsia, have suffered their intellectual Waterloo in the argument about the war. A Waterloo in whose battle, unlike Napoleon, they were neither by disposition, mettle, and strategic sagacity ever qualified to be in.


  13. ... says:

    wall st journal – news outlet for the far right.. if anyone thinks they will get something objective out of it when it comes to political type coverage, forget it…


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What would a blockade of Iran look like? The Bush administration sending American warships and military equipment into the most combustible region in the world. Their mission? Board and inspect cargo entering and leaving Iran by any means necessary.1 This would be a clear provocation and the first step on the path to all out war.
    Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Democrats who want to look tough on national security are demanding. Right now there is a resolution working its way through the House of Representatives which would require a naval blockade of Iran and bring us closer to war.1 This resolution already has 247 co-sponsors and it must be stopped.
    Tell your Representative to oppose the Ackerman Iran resolution:
    For the past 10 months, we’ve been warning against the perils of starting yet another war in the Middle East. Together, we’ve sent thousands of messages to Congress demanding that Congress have to approve any military action and our Iran Mobile has traveled to events across the country to highlight how crazy it is to start another war. Still, our work is just beginning. Between now and November, we’ll have ample opportunity to remind our legislators that there are other ways of being tough on national security than acting like George Bush Republicans.
    We need an active policy of engagement and diplomacy, and there is absolutely no reason for Congress to even consider escalating the war of words with aggressive belligerent action.
    Thanks for taking action,
    Darcy Scott Martin
    TrueMajority.org Washington Director


  15. David says:

    Thank you, Sameer, for reminding us of this absolutely crucial issue, especially in light of the uninsightful smiley face view in that op-ed. I hope Obama will inject exactly this reality in the election debate.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *