Iraq: it's not the battles - it's the goals
'Who Won Iraq's "Decisive" Battle?', asks Gary "War Nerd" Brecher, and answers:
What happened in Iraq this week was a beautiful lesson in the weird laws of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, it was the Americans who got schooled. Even now, people at my office are saying, “We won, right? Sadr told his men to give up, right?”
Wrong. Sadr won big. Iran won even bigger. Maliki, Petraeus and Cheney lost.
For people raised on stories of conventional war, where both sides fight all-out until one side loses and gives up, what happened in Iraq this past week makes no sense at all.
Read it all, as they say - it's one of his best. It's hard to say that the Iraqi Army won, with troops defecting or refusing to fight, and dragging the Americans (and the British I hear) as unwillingly props. And then four farcical days later, Sadr calls for a ceasefire, and looks gracious doing so. No doubt he's going to milk everything he can out of the incident election season this year.
Some people seem to be of the "Peace offers are for Losers" persuasion. If they think that way, fine. But do real losers get to keep their weapons? The Mahdi Army did. After all, it's not about the battles, it's the goals. One of Sadr's main ones is to get the Americans out of Iraq. The last few days have moved him a lot closer to grabbing power off Maliki. Once then, I have no idea. But I feel he'd rather order the Yanks out than shoot them out.
It's not that I trust the guy - I don't - I have little tolerance for fundamentalists. I would rather have me an Iraqi Olaf Palme or Nelson Mandela, but they don't exist. Given this, Sadr is probably what we're looking at Iraqi leader a couple of years down the track, and (woo-hoo!) sitting on a lot of untapped oil as well. We'll have to deal with the man. But at least he's no Saddam (I hope), more liberal than the ibn Saud family (not fucking hard), gets along with the Sunnis (unlike the other Shi'ite groups), and might even come out looking better than Bhutto. After all, he never capped his brother, did he?