There was another one of those "pizza and blogger" things with Wayne Dudding last night. Repeating the full disclosure from last time (just to be safe). I work in the same office as Dudding's wife - we've known each other for a few years.
Slag Heap blogger (and, of course, editor of the City Paper) Chris Potter showed up and I gotta say it was an education to watch him interview Dudding. Early on I realized that his questions, while certainly more detailed and articulate than mine, ran basically parallel to what I asked a few weeks ago. And as I didn't want to get in the way of the real professional in the room, I figured it would be best for me to just ask a few follow up questions once they were done.
I asked about what effect the possible end of the Muqtada al-Sadr cease fire would have on the reduction of violence in Iraq. You can read about the cease-fire's possible end here. Dudding said that while it was potentially destabilizing with little upside, it would be hard to say how much of an affect it would have. The "Anbar Awakening", he said, had a much greater impact on the reduction of violence in Iraq.
The Times had a good description of the "Awakening":
This was from April, 2007 long before the beginning of Sadr's cease-fire.
Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.
“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”
Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.
On yesterday's survey, he offered up some details on how wide and deep the strain really is.
Not only is there a huge strain on families (with rising suicide rates, divorce rates and so on) but there's another more silent strain - the equipment being used in Iraq was never designed for such a quick "operational tempo," he said. The C-130 cargo planes, for instance, are degrading quicker the more they're used. "It's almost like dog years," he added. There are repair depots with huge backlogs for humvees and other vehicles.
The human cost is also very high - he said he'd heard that 70% of those troops in Iraq who contacted a JAG (a military lawyer) did so because of a divorce.
He added that he's not cinfident that the military could respond someplace else in the world adequately because of the the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.