The military analysis by Michael Gordon, “To Stand or Fall in Baghdad: Capital Is Key to Mission,” is getting a lot of attention from The Huffington Post, not least because it appears above the fold on the front page of The New York Times. Gordon discusses the failure of the military plan to “clear, hold and build” Baghdad, “the center of gravity for the larger American mission in Iraq.”
The analysis is not new news. It’s basically a wrap-up of what’s been happening in the neighborhoods controlled by the militias or threatened by the death squads in the genocidal civil war there. And it’s curiously bloodless, making no mention of the death squads or the civil war. Instead it substitutes the antiseptic term “sectarian strife.”
But deep in the story there’s a revealing comment by the general who commands the American forces in Baghdad that isn’t likely to get the attention it deserves. It’s revealing because it describes the problem in an analogy that unintentionally compares Iraq to a mud hole, which is a perfect illustration of the military’s true take on the country, let alone the so-called mission.
“We can do the clearing,” the general tells Gordon. “But once you clear if you don’t leave somebody in there and build civil capacity in there then it is the old mud-hole approach. You know the water runs out of the mud hole when you drive through the mud hole and then it runs back in it.”