Saturday, 17 March 2007

Is the Surge in Baghdad Succeeding?

Is the much-vilified 'troop-surge' in Baghdad working? Some people certainly seem to feel that it is. The drop in sectarian violence also seems appreciable, as the drop in numbers of bodies being found executed or tortured to death seems to attest. To be sure there has been death and carnage aplenty, but most of it has been outside Baghdad.

In Baghdad itself, there are the usual good news stories which may or may not illustrate some kind of trend, but more to the point is that US and Iraqi government forces seem to have taken over security in Sadr city and its militias have gone to ground. This an interesting article about the reaction of some American soldiers to the poverty of the slums of Sadr city which suffered throughout the 90s from the double affliction of US-sponsored economic sanctions and Saddam-sponsored neglect. Meanwhile efforts are also on in what are often called 'Sunni areas' to win over the populace. Here is an article about the 'surge' plan and the new commander of the American forces in Iraq.

What does all this mean? Are matters turning a corner in Iraq? Or is it that the chaos has simply moved outside Baghdad and will return once the surge is over? Have the militias stepped down permanently or will they return with a vengeance? And is the surge sustainable? Or will the growing clamour by Democrats bring it to an end prematurely? Here is a more pessimistic article that argues that Iraq is suffering from unsustainable mission creep. A counter argument is that the pacification of Baghdad will finally allow the government to start functioning properly, putting into action its plan for economic redevelopment. This will lead to the return of basic social services and the growth of trade which will help defuse many of the social problems Iraqis are facing.

I suppose time will tell.


Thursday, 15 March 2007

The AEI and the Neo-cons!

There's an interesting and insightful piece on Slate about the AEI's latest celebration of neo-conservatism. Its truly perplexing that on the one hand the neo-cons are happy to celebrate the crusades and on the other, attack those who criticise neo-con policies as anti-semitic. The AEI, by the way, stands for the American Enterprise Institute and for more information about it, I suggest you read the article.

The absurdity of it is simply bizarre.


P.S. Oh and Bernard Lewis was in London recently. My brother was trying to talk me into attending one of his speeches because it was a 'once in a life-time' opportunity! I don't know. I didn't want to throw up in front of all those people...

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Fisk on those Awful Maps

I always found those maps that carved up areas by race and religion to be somewhat distasteful. It was like saying that this area belongs to people of one race/colour/creed. These maps seem to take on a particularly distasteful aura in the current breathless discussions of the "ages-old seeds of hate" that is the "root" of the current sectarian violence in the Middle East.

I came across an article in the Dawn newspaper which was originally printed in the Independent by Robert Fisk which kind of puts this dismay into words. Sigh.


Sunday, 4 March 2007

Was it Worth It?

First Barack Obama, and now John McCain have been forced to apologise for saying that American lives "were wasted" in the Iraq war. Apparently they were diminishing the achievements of the American soldiers by saying that their deaths (3100 and counting) were a waste.

On the note of the achievements of the war, the UN now says that there are over two million Iraqi refugees who have fled the chaos in the country. On top of that there are an estimated 375,000 internally displaced refugees.

This article chronicles some of the hardships refugees have to face when they leave the country. Many of Iraq's vulnerable minorities are being targeted amidst the sectarian violence. This articles is about the plight of Sabian Mandaeans (monotheistic non-Christian followers of John the Baptist.)

That's a great deal of sacrifice for very little gain. Its tough to say what that is, if not a waste.