Bringing Iraq back into focus

Lebanon has dragged public attention away from the progress of the Coalition of the Willing’s Iraq adventure. But the blood continues to flow. Today’s lead article in the New York Times reports that official US military statistics on the number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war. Daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces have doubled since January. Roadside bombs made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.

The paper reports that these increased attacks have taken their toll. 38 Americans were killed in action in July (down from 42 in January) but the number of Americans wounded has more than doubled, from 287 in January to 518 in July.

A separate classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency documents ever worsening security conditions and the prospects of a slide into civil war. And let’s not forget the Iraqi people. The latest Brookings Iraq Index reports 3400 civilians killed in July, up from 1700 in January.

So far no Australians have ben killed in combat, though 4 were wounded recently. When, however, is Australia’s policy stance both in Iraq, and indeed Afghanistan, going to be subject to serious political and policy scrutiny? A Leader of the Opposition in love with all things military surely does not help.

This entry was posted in Politics - international. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Bringing Iraq back into focus

  1. cam says:

    Beazley is inching toward the right policy reponse, his focus on Afghanistan has more merit than the GAPF reponse to Iraq-ghanistan.

    We can make no difference in Iraq, we arent sending sufficient troops, money, police, judges whatever. It is not surprising that most conservatives defend our participation there based on our support for the US, rather than any effectiveness of Australian deployment. The defence of the local foreign policy becomes the main point for it.

    Afghanistan though, it is where we can make a difference and use our military in a manner that can force a solution. We have the right force structure for it and southern Afghanistan needs those assets desperately.

    Basically the Australian political/military mission would become the eradication of Al Queda and Taliban irregulars on the Pakistani border and south eastern Afghanistan. A goal that is achievable and would get voter support.

    I think that is a better policy than where we are now. Beazley isn’t too far from that.

  2. derrida derider says:

    From an amoral realpolitik POV I reckon Howard’s played Iraq pretty well. Bush belongs in the dock at the Hague, and at a pragmatic level he has massively hastened his country’s decline. But our guys made no difference to that, so tagging along has incurred very little cost to us and some gain in US support.

    And you’re right – the Bomber always wants to play with the big boys and their toys. He’d have supported US adventurism if he’d won the 2001 election. In fact he might have been enthusiastic enough to commit real resources to Iraq, which would have done us actual, rather than just moral, damage.

    On Afghanistan, cam, I can’t understand how people talk about “eradicating [insert popular ethnic based militia here]” with soldiers, unless you’re talking about either genocide or a very long and mutually very painful occupation. Afghanistan has never been a Western-style nation-state, any more than Lebanon. The focus should be on providing incentives (mainly positive ones) for these people to leave us and the neighbours alone, rather than some naive view of sweeping your military through the area and expecting the populace to embrace neo-liberalism.

  3. J says:

    What I hate is this constant reference to “the slide into civil war”. At what point does that slide actually end? A lot of Middle Eastern scholars are calling it as it is – ‘civil war’.

  4. cam says:

    DD, I dont think military assets can nation-build. For a start the premise of nation-building is civil which is largely outside of the domain of the military. They are good for killing and logistics.

    Beazley is far more ‘great and powerful friends’ oriented than Keating was, so I would expect there would have been little difference between Howard and Beazley’s policies. Being in opposition gives clarity to Beazley’s response to Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Howard’s original policy in Afghanistan was the right one, which was the removal of the Taliban and Al Queda from Afghanistan – as well as the bringing of Bin Laden to justice. We even sent people to America and Afghanistan to remind the US that we were there for the ‘War on Terror’ not for ‘Afghanistan’.

    The American mission quickly changed to nation-building and establishing a West Germany in the middle-east. We followed suit. Now we have nation-building assets in Afghanistan while not completing the original goals.

    Light infantry is the right way to pursue militia. Australia has highly effective infantry capable of acting independently. It would not cause massive or lingering disruptions.

  5. cam says:

    I also have not been able to find anything online which suggests the Taliban enjoys popular support. This was the most recent article I could find which suggests that the Taliban is controlling the rural areas through fear, not popular support.

  6. derrida derider says:

    Well, yeah, but then the Yanks would say that, cam – it may even be true as far as it goes. I’m old enough to remember articles just like this one about the Vietcong, which similarly downplayed the point that the VC were hated and feared by the cities but loved and supported by the peasants. And the corrupt central government was loved by no-one.

    No-one can fight an effective insurgency without a popular base in some part of the country. Terror is a necessary, but far from sufficient, weapon in a successful insurgency.

  7. Bring Back EP at LP says:

    I concur with DD on all his points.

    The Vietnam experience is quite moot.

  8. Ken Parish says:

    I hate to be a pompous pedant Homer (well actually I quite enjoy it, but that’s another question). But if you concur with DD on all his points, you couldn’t say that the Vietnam experience is “moot” because that’s the opposite of what DD is arguing. At least it is if you intend the only clearly applicable dictionary meaning of moot: “of no practical importance; irrelevant”. DD is arguing that the Vietnam analogy is very relevant. Or is it a pun that went right over my head?

  9. Bring Back EP at LP says:

    well I didn’t know that Ken,

    Thanks for that.
    I do concur with DD and I will try to be more englishy from now on.

    I always thought you only found relevance in Africa and India!

  10. whyisitso says:

    “The focus should be on providing incentives (mainly positive ones) for these people to leave us and the neighbours alone”

    I’m sure that’d work. Postively incentivate (=bribe) the Islamofascists not to slam hijacked airliners into skyscrapers. It’s a wonder Bush didn’t think of that, but then he’s so dumb. The obvious solutions just wouldn’t occur to him.

Leave a Reply

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