They've been warned
I admit it. Most political bloggers (including yours truly) spend most of our time preaching to the choir. You don't find a lot of dissent in the comments logs at most blogs, whether on the left or right. We define our stance and attract, for the most part, the corresponding audience.
There are a few out there, though, that merit attention beyond their ideological range, usually because they bring genuine expertise to the subjects they cover. That's why I hope that someone, anyone, on the other side is reading Juan Cole. More and more, his blog is the first place I turn for information on the war, and on the region generally.
Today offers some great examples of why I find him so valuable, and why I hope that someone in a position to actually affect policy is at least giving his work some consideration.
After offering a summary of the weekend's bleak and bloody action in Iraq (a new front opened in Husayba, claiming the lives of five Americans and bringing the weekend death toll to 12 Americans and about 30 Iraquis), Cole looks at the claims of foreign infiltration, prinicpally from Syria, and finds the evidence sorely lacking. Then he reminds us why that misleading focus is so dangerous.
"The Husaybah fight appears to be an extension of Fallujah," he writes, "with some fighters from that city having moved over to Husaybah and having ambushed the Marines. This narrative contradicts the impression given by Gen. Myers that the problem is infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria. Rather, looks like infiltration of Iraqi fighters from Fallujah.
"I think this ritual invocation of Syria in connection with infiltration is just a way of attempting to intimidate and bully Syria, which some in the Bush administration would like to topple. If they think Iraqi instability is bad, wait until they see Syria without a proper government in Damascus. It won't be pretty; and remember, as Colin says, if you break it, you own it." (my emphasis)
Myers, et al, would have us believe that the Iraqis are waiting at home, clutching the sweets and flowers they've been saving for our troops, just waiting for those bad guys from out of town to leave. It just isn't so, and the continued claim that it is amounts to little more than saber rattling in a new direction, while our forces struggle to maintain a modicum of control over the fronts they've already been assigned. Let's just admit that the enemy forces in Iraq are Iraqis, and leave Iraq's neighbors out of this thing, can't we? We can't afford to break anything else.
Elswhere today, Cole comments on the impending monolition.
"The key issue now is Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite movement, and whether Spanish troops would stick around to help put it down, and risk getting mired in a colonial anti-insurgency effort. The answer: No.
"A problem for the US: A lot of other countries may well decide to follow suit. Most "Coalition partners" signed up for peacekeeping or reconstruction, not to fight against guerrillas (there is a difference between peacekeeping and peace-enforcing). The US could well lose half a division this way, and it doesn't have half a division to spare." (my emphasis)
This is serious stuff, and presents serious risks to our troops on the ground and our international efforts to battle the very real threat of organized terror. Juan Cole has a strong point of view, but he is no crank. He's a serious student of the region, with a serious message which he delivers in plain terms.
It's no secret that the Bush administration, taking their cue from the top, is intolerant of dissenting opinionpaying, but I hope someone who matters is paying attention to Cole. At the very least, I hope lots of you mine his work for letter to the editor material.