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November 15, 2007

Breaking News: Sunnis and Shi'a in Iraq Don't Trust Each Other
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

It turns out that simply dealing with local militias and having no plan for how to actually integrate that into a national strategy is a problem.  It also turns out that the Shi'a central government is afraid of all the Sunnis that the U.S. is arming.  This was the obvious problem in the "bottom up" approach from the very beginning and some of us have been saying it for months.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

...The year-long progress in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq could carry a downside. Maj. Mark Brady, who works on reconciliation issues, noted that a Sunni leader told him: "As soon as we finish with al-Qaeda, we start with the Shiite extremists."


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I've long been under the impression that the decision to leave Saddam in power in the first Gulf War, and the subsequent refusal to support the Shiite uprising against him were predicated on the notion that our government wanted Saddam gone, but only if another Sunni strongman could take over.

Otherwise, there could be a Shia alliance with Iran and a sectarian conflict driven by retribution.

If that's close to what the conventional wisdom was (which seems to have been right), why did some old CW believers - Cheney & Rumsfeld - change their minds?

All the available evidence over the years - the disposable rationales - have eliminated all the possibilities except the one they constantly deny: it's the oil, stupid. And I'm stupid enough to believe that.

Mr. LeFong:

Things like stock market prices, miniature golf scores, post-drugged semen levels, and chronic back pain and flatulence can fluctuate naturally and may regress towards the mean and uncalled for. The logical flaw is to make predictions that expect exceptional results to continue as if they were the average, a representativeness heuristic if I ever saw one! People are most likely to take action when dissent, like morning wood, is at its peak. Then after results become more normal or less turgid, they believe that their action was the cause of the change when in fact it was not causal, wherein cohesion between objects of similar silly appearance is assumed. While often very useful in everyday life, it can also result in neglect of relevant base rates and volumes, an inability to play funk, and other errors. Another snag you may encounter involves describing some occurrence in vivid detail, even if it is an exceptional occurrence, to convince someone that it is a problem, when, throughout my garbled history, it’s been commonly identified again and again that, if the nuns of the order of Sisters of Saint Joseph are to be believed, I am the one with the “problem”. Though misleading vividness does nothing to support an argument logically, it can have a very strong psychological effect because of a cognitive forceful brainwashing called the availability heuristic. Another area that needs to be dealt with in a timely and thorough manner is several references in my late Elementary/Junior-high phase of mutational development, otherwise known as the "Parade of horribles", originally referred to as a literal parade of people wearing comic and grotesque costumes, rather like the Philadelphia Mummers Parade or my yearly family reunion. It was a traditional feature of Fourth-of-July parades in dismal parts of the U. S. in the nineteenth century without indoor plumbing. A 1926 newspaper article about July Fourth celebrations in the White Mountains of New Hampshire notes “Old-time celebrations are to be held tomorrow at Littleton, Lancaster, Colebrook, and Conway, with all the usual features of street parades of horribles and grotesques, brass balls bands, decorated automobiles and vehicles, dance exhibitions by fire departments, basket picnics in convenient small groves, finger-sniffing contest sponsored by the local Catholic diocese, and the regional dwarf tossing semi-finals...”. And to further enlighten and confuse, in Hesse’s “Steppenwolf”, the protagonist affirms that the men of the Dark Ages (see “Living at Virginia’s house”) did not suffer more than those of the Classical Antiquity (see “Attending Catholic school in the 60’s”), and vice-versa. It is rather those who live between two times, those who do not know what to follow, that suffer the most. In this token, a man from Virginia’s house attending Catholic school, or the opposite, would undergo a gulping sadness and agony.

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