The Triangle of Death — “the area south of Baghdad – with apexes at Mahmudiyah to the north, Yusufiyah to the west and Iskandariyah to the south” (the quote is from a piece I wrote in the Jerusalem Post in March 2008) has now improved to the point where it is jokingly called the Triangle of Love. John Nagl writes:
There is a town where I served in Iraq, south of Baghdad in the al-Anbar province, named Mahmoudiyah. Since the insurgency began attacks there have been so frequent and severe that it came to be called the “Triangle of Death.” The area suffered 35 attacks a week in 2007, according to Colonel Dominic Caracillo, commander of the Army’s 3rd brigade of the 101st Airborne division. I visited Colonel Caracillo there in July and just spoke with him by phone today, and the changes he described to me are encouraging. Violence is down to only a few generally ineffective attacks in any given week, and his troops joke that they serve in the “Triangle of Love.”
The key issue back in March was finding a way to institutionalize the Surge. And while many problems remain, Nagl thinks substantial progress has been made. “The ‘Triangle of Love’,” he says shows “the Iraqis are growing increasingly capable and confident, but they’ll need our help for some years to come.” Many critics of the Surge point to the uncertainty of political developments in Iraq. But politics isn’t confined to Baghdad and some of Nagl’s commenters in the WaPo article provide proof that both US domestic politics, as much as sectarian politics in Iraq will have a bearing on the eventual outcome. Some commenters wrote, “it’s a triangle all right, every angle points to OIL.” Another commenter writes “The Iraqi “Government” (i.e US puppet regime) will never be capable of maintaining security as long as we stay in Iraq. ..”
Some of the worst policy debacles, such as the fall of the Shah, have their roots, not in a chaotic Third World political situation, but in the corridors of power in the DC. They often spring directly from fixed world view, of which two main variants are the most common. The first, common to either Republican and Democratic administrations is “we never made any mistakes” and usually serves to maintain a policy regardless of consequences. The other, more common to the Left, is the idea that “we are always wrong”. This usually manifests itself in the policy of pre-emptive self-defeat or anticipatory apology. Recently, Tony Blair’s sister in law, Lauren Booth went to Gaza in order to argue that it was worse than Darfur or the Nazi concentration camps. When she was denied entry both into Israel and Egypt, she blamed Israel.
In an interview with PJM, Ms. Booth says she has tried three times to leave Gaza — once via Erez Checkpoint, which leads into Israel, and twice via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. She was turned away by both the Israelis and the Egyptians, but told me she holds Israel solely responsible for her predicament. I pointed out that both a senior IDF spokesman and several well-informed Palestinian journalists confirmed that Israel has “zero control” over who crosses the Rafah border. In other words, perhaps Egypt was at least as responsible as Israel for forcing her to remain in Gaza. This elicited an angrily dismissive response from Ms. Booth, who claimed that “high up sources told her” that Israel is pressuring Egypt into keeping her trapped in Gaza. She would not reveal the source of her information, nor did she explain how it would serve Israel to have her stay indefinitely in Gaza.
The immutability of political world views means events like the Surge, the rise of Khomeini or the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza will simply be reinterpreted, as often as necessary, until it is twisted into an ideologically convenient shape.