I think Iraq stopped being a counterinsurgency campaign over a year ago, but even when we were fighting an insurgency, a lot of other stuff was going on. A civil war, for example. Do we think Iraq can’t go back to that?
No, Andrew, we do not, and we also find, somewhat to our surprise, that your buddy Rosen has misread the current situation in Iraq when he claims the recent bombings are basically pointless. As the inimitable John Robb put it in one of his brilliant “Standing Orders” (sadly overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding the more high-profile COIN celebs), “Repetition is more important than scale”:
The ability to repeat disruptions targeted on specific groups generates changes in behavior (economic, social, and psychological) akin to an excessive tax. This is in contrast to large, one-off, attacks that cause massive disruption and then quickly dissipate as the targeted system returns to equilibrium.
In short, it doesn’t matter whether the attacks manage to re-ignite the sectarian war. Their goal is to keep the central government off balance by showing it is not in control of the situation. A definite plus to whoever is behind the violence — and this being Iraq, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions — is the fact that with the economy in nosedive, Maliki is heading for the parliamentary elections holding just one trump card — improved security. Take that away from him and who knows, the whole political landscape might change.
Everyone in Iraq understands the country is now in an inter-war period. Any talk of peace, let alone victory, is Western folly.