For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, or Texas Hold ‘Em in general, all you need to know is that this is bad. Very bad. And beyond dumb. In fact, so dumb that if your friends were watching you do this, one would invariably slap you in the back of the head and tell you that you have had one two many. Then, you would have been mocked mercilessly every time you made a big decision for the rest of your life.
Only here, it isn’t funny at all. It is dangerous and is needlessly risking thousands of lives. A fool’s bet.
What am I talking about? Well, not only the disastrous decision to escalate the occupation of Iraq with a sadly low number of additional
targets, er, troops, but also this latest monumental miscalculation of a “mission” just the other day.
Seems noble enough from today’s CBS News article linked above:
U.S. and Iraqi forces swooped into a mosque complex in east Baghdad on Friday and detained a top aide to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the latest in a series of operations aimed at eviscerating the leadership of the Mahdi Army militia.
And while there are many reasons why going after al-Sadr and his militia is dangerous, shortsighted and stupid, this is the real life event that will bring “shit, meet fan” to a whole new level.
Let’s start with the next sentence of that CBS News article:
The raid drew immediate criticism from the Iraqi government, which complained it had not been consulted. An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his job as Iraqi leader to al-Sadr's backing, said the operation was not part of a coming joint U.S.-Iraq security drive.
"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," Sadiq al-Rikabi, the al-Maliki adviser, told Al-Arabiya television. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is calling bullshit on this “mission”. And if you remember one of the cornerstones of the escalation plan was for greater cooperation from Iraqi’s government. So what is this – at BEST, this is a message from the Iraqi government that they will cooperate “eventually”. More likely, the fact that Maliki was against this escalation to begin with shows just how much of a chance this failure of a plan has from Maliki’s perspective.
But what is even more important here is that the backlash was immediate and widespread. The Chicago Sun-Times blared the headline US seizure of al-Sadr has Iraqis steamed. The Edmonton Sun’s headline read Al-Sadr’s aide’s capture draws fire. The Melbourne Herald Sun’s headline was US seizes Sadr aide in Iraq.
In other news, al-Sadr’s militia is indicating that it is “under siege” due to the lack of protection by Maliki. But the real money quote is glossed over in the article – and is passed off as good news:
Their account of an organization now fighting for its very existence could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia is increasingly off balance and has ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.
Hmmmm…..so they are melting back into the general population in anticipation of a “short term” escalation and focus by US troops. Sounds like a question raised by a certain smartass just last month:
My other issue is less strategic than it is dealing with the disconnect between this and setting a timetable for withdrawal. We have heard many indicate that if we set a timetable for withdrawal, then the insurgents will just wait us out until we withdraw. Regardless of whether I agree with this line of thought, the same question would apply to a temporary surge.
Why wouldn't al Sadr or any of the other insurgent groups, militias or terrorists who are in Iraq just wait until the surge is over and the 20,000 - 50,000 troops are redeployed from Iraq before continuing their violence against each other and our remaining troops?
And so it goes.
To explain the biggest disconnect from reality here, and what makes this such a bonehead decision, I’ll go back to my hold ‘em analogy. While Bush, Cheney, McCain and Lieberman have just gone all in with a 2-7 off suit, al-Sadr is already looking at an Ace high flush on the flop.
Maliki owes his entire existence and position to al-Sadr. There is no way in hell that he is going to turn his smaller, less loyal, less trained “official Iraqi Army™” against the man who holds Maliki’s life and fate in his hands. Not only that, but al-Sadr’s current militia will probably, to a large degree, become the beginnings of whatever the ultimate and future Iraqi forces and army will look like. Maliki isn’t the most powerful man in Iraq – we all know that. Al-Sadr, however – has a large following politically, has a strong message of getting the US out of Iraq and holds the indirect sway of (as his militia is getting too large from him to even keep control over) thousands of fighters dedicated to his causes.
Al-Sadr will have to be dealt with – and I don’t mean in the “wild west” way. He is a force in Iraq. He is one of the biggest voices in the government. He controls the Prime Minister for crissakes.
But here is the worst part - if the Prime Minister doesn’t want to go up against him, or to have his own army go up against al-Sadr, then why should the US troops do it? If the Iraqi government is truly independent, then who are we to go against their wishes?
If al-Sadr and his militia are to be a part of the future Iraqi government, it will be so. Regardless of what Bush, Cheney, Lieberman or McCain want. The Iraqis want us out. We have no further purpose being there. Not in the middle of a civil war where the only thing that all sides agree on is that they don’t want us there. The Prime Minister doesn’t support the further escalation.
And just as this crew has gambled recklessly from the opening hand, they now are down to their final stack, and immediately went “all in” with the worst hand possible.
It is over. Even more over than it was when we all first knew it was over. It is time to step away from the table and go home. A viable and internationally supported exit strategy is the only thing that should be discussed at this point.