November 06, 2003

We Cannot Run Away

Democrats like to complain when people say they canít be trusted with national security, as if itís some "straw man" (their new favorite buzzword) spun up by Karl Rove and the White House.

Itís not what Republicans say that makes people wary. Itís what the Democrats say on their own.

Here is Peter Beinart, a Democrat I do trust, in the New Republic:

A CBS poll in late August found that 53 percent of Democrats wanted the United States to either increase troop levels in Iraq or hold them steady, versus 37 percent who wanted to decrease the number. By last week, that figure had reversed itself. In a late October Washington Post/ABC News poll, 54 percent of Democrats said the "U.S. should withdraw forces from Iraq to avoid casualties," while only 40 percent wanted to keep them there.
Thank heaven for that 40 percent. But more than half want to run away.

What a complete and utter disaster that would be. Nothing we could do, and I mean nothing, would ratchet up more terror attacks than surrendering to them. The Democrats would have blood on their hands. The Baathists and Islamists would wage a devastating civil war in Iraq. If the left doesnít like war, they shouldnít go and kickstart a pointless and evil one into action.

I want to trust my old party to do the right thing, to hang in there, to not give in to fear, to support a good cause and help democratize Iraq. But I canít. Some Democrats get it. But itís a minority faction now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2003 10:20 PM

What a crazy day for this post of yours man. Today Rummy announced that troops ARE being reduced in Iraq, and you're claiming to be worried about the Dems?

Why is Rummy reducing troops? (Answer: rhymes with "erection")

Troop rotation in Iraq will reduce total U.S. presence by next May

And why are you knowingly, falsely blaming Dems for actual Thug actions?

Have you seen scred around?

Posted by: flavog at November 6, 2003 10:25 PM

And why are you knowingly, falsely blaming Dems for actual Thug actions?

There are thugs in Iraq. There are innocent civilians in Iraq. Our soldiers stand between the innocent civilians and the thugs. If we step out of the way, innocent civilians will be killed by those thugs.

The primary blame for thug violence rests with the thugs. Yes. But anyone who chooses to empower those thugs by getting out of their way is also responsible. Our actions do not take place in a vaccuum.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2003 10:33 PM

Why is Rummy reducing troops?

Because they are being replaced with Iraqi troops. He is reducing troops, not running away.

I have no idea if this is smart or not. What I do know is that Rumsfeld is not a chicken, and that the base of the Democratic Party does not have the will to correct his mistake if that's what it turns out to be.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2003 10:41 PM

I am sorry, I was being too snide and obtuse.

I didn't mean Thugs in Iraq, I was referring to Donald Rumsfeld, reThuglican, reducing troops on the same day that you blog about your fears of the mighty Dems doing the same.

Posted by: flavog at November 6, 2003 10:41 PM

I am faced with a dilemna. I want to take you at your word that you do not believe Rummy's ploy is an election gambit. I also want to respect your intelligence.

Norman coordinate.

Posted by: Harry Mudd at November 6, 2003 10:43 PM

Flavog: I didn't mean Thugs in Iraq, I was referring to Donald Rumsfeld

Perhaps this misunderstanding will help you use the word "thug" more carefully in the future.

Harry: I want to take you at your word that you do not believe Rummy's ploy is an election gambit. I also want to respect your intelligence.

It is Karl Rove's job to come up with election gambits. Rumsfeld's job is to win wars.

If Rumsfeld thinks reducing troops will botch Iraq but he's doing it anyway for "election" reasons, he will destroy his boss's chances of re-election on purpose. Where's the motive for that?

On the other hand, if Rumsfeld thinks reducing troops will help Iraq then he is doing what he is supposed to be doing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2003 11:08 PM

I don't understand your post. And I'm honestly trying to.

The Democrats did not kickstart the Iraq War. Saddam was cutting his ties to terrorist organizations. Yes, he did this under threat of war, but rattling a saber is very different from getting our soldiers killed.

As to what will provoke terrorist attacks the most, remember that we were getting attacked by these terror freaks long, long before we ever considered seriously invading Iraq a second time. I don't think out withdrawal would increase the terror attacks we face (and most on the left advocate withdrawal and replacement by UN forces, not the abandonment that you seem to call for).

Posted by: eugene at November 6, 2003 11:19 PM

My Harcourt suffers from PM, The Weekly Standard writes about Premature Iraqification:

Yet "Iraqification," as it may soon be advanced by the Bush administration, isn't likely to solve Iraq's most pressing problems. Indeed, if the Pentagon and the Coalition Provisional Authority move too expeditiously, they may well repeat the great sin of modern Iraqi history by creating security forces before the political system can absorb, socialize, and politically neutralize them. If the United States moves too quickly to rebuild an Iraqi army designed primarily to root out former Baathists, Sunni militants, and jihadists, it could unintentionally reinstall the structure and ethos of the pre-Baath Iraqi army, whose primary mission from its inception was to confront internal, not external, threats. The pre-Baath army--contrary to the public reminiscences of the former military officers in the opposition groups paid for by the Central Intelligence Agency--was a predatory institution that consistently defined its interests as the nation's.

Where's the motive for Rummy doing the wrong thing? He was ordered to by GWB? 4 More years of graft? Loyalty? Belief the right thing to do is get reelected first, fix Iraq second? What was his motive for firing Shinseki?

Why is Rummy making a loud noise about announcing troop reductions while the Pentagon silenty cranks up draft boards?

Why has Bush announced unemployment reductions for the past three weeks (except this week I gather) that later on all turned out to be unemployment increases?

Why is Bush screwing over the country thereby destroying his chance for reelection?


Posted by: Stella Mudd at November 6, 2003 11:22 PM

My understanding is that we have to reduce troops in the medium term or we will be dangerously overstretched. I'm not getting that from any lefty blog, either. I don't think we should reduce troops in the short term. I don't know what the hell we're going to do in the long term if we can't bring in more international troops or train the Iraqis quicker than seems likely.

I don't think this poll question is very clear. Do they mean withdraw all forces or a reduction in number? What sort of time line are people envisioning? It's not encouraging, but these are numbers that will respond to the right leadership and I trust every single Democratic candidate to give it.

I think a Democrat has a much better chance at internationalization than Bush does, because they would be more willing to share control, because they would make concessions in other areas important to the EU (ICC, Kyoto, etc.) and because Europe would probably be more receptive to someone non-Bush, and especially someone who opposed the war in the first place.

Of course, it would be a year and a quarter before a Democrat conceivably took office, and the situation could be much better or much worse by then.

Posted by: Katherine at November 6, 2003 11:42 PM

"every single candidate" does not include Kucinich or Sharpton, since I try to pretend Sharpton is a wayward stand-up comedian who wandered onto the stage and that Kucinich doesn't exist.

Anyone have a link to the full poll with internals, etc.?

Posted by: Katherine at November 6, 2003 11:44 PM

I was under the impression that troop reduction is only fractional ( about 20,000 less), and Rumsfeld's redployment plan is intended to give tens of thousands of overdeployed Army, Reserve, and National Guard troops a break while replacing them with fresh Marines and National Guardsman. A slight reduction in the total number of troops and a redployment to keep our troops from being exhausted is not injecting election politics into national security, but the "US out, UN in" chant that seems so popular on the left is. Of course, some of you critics would call troop increases an election tactic too, so there's no pleasing you people.

Posted by: Matthew Stinson at November 7, 2003 01:59 AM

The best way to avoid "straw man" arguments is to quote by name the leading democrats who urge a pull-out from Iraq.
Let's see...Dean, Clark, Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards, and Braun are all on record in support of the occupation. This is a "minority faction"?

And Kucinich and Sharpton, the only candidates calling for withdrawal, are the presumptive favorites for the nomination, I presume.

What color is the sky in your world?

Posted by: George Cerny at November 7, 2003 03:43 AM

I'm just glad someone else noticed the Straw Man thing. It had been driving me nuts.

It was like we were stuck in a college debate classroom, the professor had just handed out the sheet with the argumentative fallacies on it, everyone started to read the sheet aloud and the needle stuck. Anything anyone does not like for the last six months has been a "straw man".

And they all sounded like a bunch of ill educated children using words they didn't understand.

Politics aside, thank you for pointing this out Michael. It was driving me nuts.

Posted by: Roark at November 7, 2003 04:11 AM

Kerry and Edwards may be on record in support of the occupation but last time I checked they're not willing to fund the occupation. Do they expect us to take them seriously?

Posted by: linden at November 7, 2003 04:19 AM

Re Eugene's post: what evidence is extant that Saddam, pre-war, was cutting ties to terrorists? I can't believe he ever intended to reduce support of terrorism or abandon his weapons programs. And leaving Iraq to UN administration is, in my mind, same as abandonment. THe UN could not protect its own facility or its people in Iraq; the agency is hardly capable of anything except misrule.

Posted by: Zacek at November 7, 2003 04:21 AM

"I don't think out withdrawal would increase the terror attacks we face (and most on the left advocate withdrawal and replacement by UN forces, not the abandonment that you seem to call for)."

What mythical UN forces are you talking about? Does it have a few divisions that I don't know about? The only thing the UN could do is give blue helmets to the forces already there.

And if you don't understand why our withdrawal would be disastrous to the U.S. in the war on terror then you're a prime example of why the left is not trusted with national security.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at November 7, 2003 04:24 AM

What bothers me about Bush (well, one thing) is that he still doesn't seem to have a plan to succeed in Iraq.

At least Gen. Clark is offering a plan. Note the kicker: "Retreat is not an option".

Posted by: Oberon at November 7, 2003 04:50 AM


This is a good blog but I can't help but notice that you seem to be getting a little over excited, shall we say, about Dem candidates intentions in Iraq if they were elected.

Candidates often have a position on the campaign trail that, once they have their hands on the reins of power, change significantly. A quick example would be Bush non-nation building/non-interventionist stance in 2000 began to change almost immediatley he was elected as the realities of being in government hit home.

I also can't imagine a situation where Clark, Kerry, Gephardt or Dean would run from Iraq or the War on Terror. Indeed, with a less ideological bent both could be proscecuted on a more effective basis as other allies come on board. This is particularly true of the War on Terror.

As for your concerns about the Dems base, polling of bases can often throw up some unsustainable policy positions. For instance, polling the Conservative Party (here in the UK) membership highlights some very extreme views on race and immigration that would, if adopted, guarantee another landslide defeat at the polls. The parliamentary party would never offically endorse such policies.

What I am really saying is that I think yours fears are largely unfounded about the Dems 'cutting and running' simply because government is, or should be, a pragmatic business.

Bush won't run and neither would his Dem successor if that was the election result as first and foremost he would be an American first.

Posted by: Neil at November 7, 2003 05:47 AM

Katherine, I respect your opinions and intelligence even though I don't agree with your politics, so I'm sorry to have to tell you that there will be no "concessions in other areas important to the EU (ICC, Kyoto, etc.)" - I'm specifically referring to the two that you specifically mentioned - under either a Democratic or a Republican administration for a long, long time to come. Those past Senate votes pretty much tabled the matter for a decade.


Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 05:56 AM

"What color is the sky in your world?"

Blue. What's the color in yours? - probably blue, I'm sure, but the way that you managed to write an entire post about who supported staying in Iraq to include Braun as a leading Democrat and avoid mentioning Lieberman at all, at all does make one wonder*. He does exist in your world, right? - because in this one the guy's got much better numbers than Braun.


*Indeed, now that I think of it you managed to note every single Democratic candidate except for the one who supported the war from the start. Interesting.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 06:05 AM


Michael didn't say that the Democrats kick-started the war in Iraq. What he was saying is that if the majority of Democrats (in the poll) got what they wished for, and the U.S. pulled out of Iraq too soon, the result would be a civil war. THAT is the war he's talking about Democrats kick-starting -- it's theoretical.

Posted by: Scotty The Body at November 7, 2003 06:26 AM

It's my first time at your blog, though I've seen your posts elsewhere. This comments section is definitely not the groupthink lovefest I see elsewhere. That's a point in your favor. Lovefests are so boring.

I'm with you on your original post. I'll just add one conjecture on why Rummy may be planning troop withdrawals early next year (and no, it doesn't come close to rhyming with erection): K O R E A.

We could also spell out any number of other potential hotspots we can no longer count on staying out of trouble (or, to the neo-Clintonites in the audience, buy ourselves a few years of pseudo-peace from). The point remains the same. Gotta get some slack back into the system for next time.

Posted by: Kelli at November 7, 2003 06:44 AM

Yes, I did overlook Lieberman. My bad.
But this reinforces my point.
It is only a minority faction- there's that phrase again- in the party that favors withdrawal.

Posted by: George Cerny at November 7, 2003 06:45 AM

"Yes, I did overlook Lieberman. My bad."

OK, fair enough; I catch myself - more accurately, don't catch myself - doing stuff like that more often than I like to admit.

"But this reinforces my point."

Your point - which is that the Democratic candidates are mostly opposing withdrawal? Sure. Michael's point - that the Democratic voters aren't? Remains to be seen: Katherine's question about the validity of the poll is a good one, so the jury's still out on that one.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 06:55 AM

Moe--not talking about ratifying either treaty--it won't happen anytime soon. I'm talking about legislation to restrict CO2 emissions--that requires a simple majority, and we weren't that far off a few months ago. Several Republicans supported it. With some presidential leadership and arm twisting, we can get a majority.

And for the ICC, I am talking about an end to our bilateral non-extradition agreements that we are requiring every single country that gets aid from us to sign, and signing with some of the most horrendous human rights violators on the planet. (The Congo, I think Uzbekistan, etc.) This means we don't extradite them, as well as them not extraditing us. I don't understand it. It is wrong, it is unnecessary, and in the extrememly unlikely event that someone tries to prosecute a U.S. general, he is not going to want to hide out in the Congo or Uzbekistan.

Posted by: Katherine at November 7, 2003 08:02 AM

On CO2 emissions, for "months ago" read "days ago" or "weeks ago".

A democratic president would also write a, well, less horrendous energy bill, invest in renewables instead of propping up coal, oil and nuclear (which is not a problem for global warming and which is better than coal with reasonable safety measures, but has other issues) and focus on renewables. Wind power is becoming economically competitive. Oh, and raise CAFE standards. There's just no excuse for our average emissions per new car to be getting worse. And maybe get the EPA to do a rulemaking limiting CO2 under the Clean Air Act, which the Act may or may not authorize them to do.

Posted by: Katherine at November 7, 2003 08:11 AM

Posted by Stella Mudd at November 6, 2003 11:22 PM

> Why is Rummy making a loud noise about
> announcing troop reductions while the Pentagon
> silenty cranks up draft boards?

The troop reductions may be because we don't have enough total troops (they are needed somewhere else, more need to rotated out to allow for vacations, et cetera)....

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 08:57 AM

Neil: Candidates often have a position on the campaign trail that, once they have their hands on the reins of power, change significantly.

Yes, I know. I made a similar point in a different way two days ago.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 09:04 AM

I too have been plagued with the realization that the Dem's credibility deficit on national security is well deserved. I try to reassure myself--along the lines of Neil's post--that the candidates' rhetoric is mostly bluster which would be abandoned after taking office. For instance, I understand that a vote against the $87 bil. does not indicate opposition to reconstruction. The measure passed the Senate by voice vote, after all. A vote against in that context is purely for show. Nevertheless, why can't a candidate other than Lieberman admit that Saddam's ouster is a good thing? Wes. Clark would have been in a great position to acknowledge the positives of the war on terror thus far while offering criticism. Just because Dem voters are letting their Bush-hatred get the best of them doesn't mean our candidates should too. Didn't the failure of Newt's Republican Revolution make that clear?

Posted by: Dove in D.C. at November 7, 2003 09:36 AM

To those thinking that force reduction is a political tactic I would recommend a close reading of the article posted at the top of the thread.

The primary forces being withdrawn - the 82nd, the 101st, the 4ID (and the previously with drawn 3ID and the MEF) are the true tip of the spear. It takes about 18 months to properly refit and retrain these types of troops. If anything, Rumsfeld is leaving too many troops behind. We have plenty there to handle what's happening.

If I were Kim Il Jung or an Iranian ayatollah I wouldn't spend much time on planning my '05 calendar.

Posted by: RDB at November 7, 2003 10:54 AM


I'm incredibly saddened by the current state of hostility between Democrats and Republicans over Iraq and foreign policy in general, but I am not at all in agreement with you that the blame lies with the Democrats alone (or even mostly).

In the war in Iraq and its aftermath, George Bush managed to find a way for Democrats to oppose a humanitarian, democracy-building exercise. You seem to think that there is something wrong with the Democrats here, but isn't it the job of a President to try to win bipartisan support? Has he tried? Has he ever met with Democratic House and Senate leaders to discuss differences? Has he been honest with the Congress and with the American people?

Absolutely not. At every step of the way, Bush has angled to keep the public uninformed about the reasons for war, the resources that would be required, how much it would cost. You are now saying we must stay the course in Iraq for humanitarian reasons, for reasons of advancing democracy. But those aren't the reasons Bush used to sell this war! It was sold on the basis of national security.

What Bush said (October 2002) was "Saddam must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him." As late as January, 2003, he said "If diplomacy results in strong and powerful expressions of unity towards Saddam Hussein, so that Saddam Hussein receives as powerful a message as possible that he needs to disarm, then this can be resolved peacefully."

Notice that Bush was giving Saddam an ultimatum about disarmament, not about democracy, not about human rights. Was Bush lying about there being a chance for Saddam to avoid war? I think so, because now (it appears) that Saddam's arms had nothing to do with the war---it retroactively was about democracy and human rights.

If Bush had actually been a strong leader for all the people, instead of a dishonest, games-playing demagogue, then it is possible that Democrats and Republicans might be united behind the project of furthering democracy and human rights to the world. The Democratic Party has always been on board for that.

Bush's utter failure of leadership in this project has turned off many Democrats who would naturally be his allies. Ironically, that has been tremendously to the political advantage of Bush and the Republican Party as witnessed by the defections of Zell Miller, Michael Totten, Roger Simon, etc. It is doubly ironic because Bush campaigned (and won) on the promise to get away from the sort of nation building that he is getting into now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Funny how things work out.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 11:27 AM

Scotty The Body:

>Michael didn't say that the Democrats
>kick-started the war in Iraq.
>What he was saying is that if
>the majority of Democrats (in the poll)
>got what they wished for,
>and the U.S. pulled out of Iraq too soon,
>the result would be a civil war.
>THAT is the war he's talking about
>Democrats kick-starting -- it's theoretical.

Actually, I think you both mis-read his statements, if we show "weakness" to the culture over there, they will take from that the idea that they can continue to use terrorism on us. It may well be a civil war but it will be fought on our lands using terrorist techniques.

They are starting a failed culture in the face and are unable to accept personal responsibility for it - they need to blame and America and Western "Culture" is the biggest target on the horizion...

Posted by:

Posted by: DaveH at November 7, 2003 11:51 AM

"In the war in Iraq and its aftermath, George Bush managed to find a way for Democrats to oppose a humanitarian, democracy-building exercise."

And all this time we thought that it was the fault of the ® after his name. Wow.

At any rate, while I am impressed that George Bush has somehow become powerful enough to make wide swathes of the Democratic Party compromise its morals and ethics (as seen by their statements about Iraq during the days of The President With A (D) After His Name), I would politely suggest that, assuming that your statement is true, then the Democratic Party might want to try actually developing its own moral scruples for a change, so that they might stop relying quite so much on merely reacting to the Republicans.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 11:59 AM

George Bush managed to find a way for Democrats to oppose a humanitarian, democracy-building exercise.

Um, no. Bush did not force the Democrats to take the right-wing isolationist position. They did that all on their own. They have free will. And they do not need Bush to hold their hand to teach them how to be liberals.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 12:06 PM

But those aren't the reasons Bush used to sell this war!

I don't care what Bush said. I really don't give a fig about him one way or the other. He is one player in an epic global conflagration. Can't you see that? This war will outlast him, and it may outlast you too.

This war is not about George W. Bush. Tattoo it on your forehead.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 12:10 PM

"Silently cranking up the draft boards"?

Hoo-weee. You've got absolutely NO idea how that works. (Which is no surprise). The current military has no provision for draftees (and don't make cracks about reservists) and frankly, nobody wants conscripts. Those days are over.

Posted by: eric at November 7, 2003 12:25 PM

Moe and Michael,

Well, that's the paradox of free will---we each make our own decisions (and are morally responsible for them), but they are certainly influenced by the actions and words of others. Do you not agree that the way that a leader goes about getting support for a war (or the peace) can affect whether or not he gets that support? Yeah, maybe in an ideal world we would all do the right things for the right reasons without the need for speeches and meetings and discussions and persuasion. But we aren't in that world.

The fact that the Democrats were not on board and the fact that the rest of the world were not on board are failures of leadership on Bush's part. I can't tell whether you are denying that, or just saying that it isn't as important as the Democrats' failures to do the right thing.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 12:28 PM

"Why is Rummy making a loud noise about announcing troop reductions while the Pentagon silenty cranks up draft boards?"

Let me guess. Since you said "silently" you have no evidence of it, right?

So far the only people I have heard talk about a draft were Charlie Rangel and John Conyers, both Democrats. I think that two sidelines Democrats are far from being safely characterized as "the Pentagon".

Posted by: Roark at November 7, 2003 12:42 PM

Daryl, go read the SOTU 2003:

Bush: And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)

And yet Daryl says:
Was Bush lying about there being a chance for Saddam to avoid war? I think so, because now (it appears) that Saddam's arms had nothing to do with the war---it retroactively was about democracy and human rights.

Yet it wasn't retroactive, was it? And ol' Saddam, poor guy never had a chance. After all, he couldn't renounce tyranny and mass murder, or give up his WMD programs. Ya' gotta feel for him.

Daryl says about liberation: The Democratic Party has always been on board for that. Look, this is really simple. Were they in favor of liberating Iraq or not? Your line that Bush said it was about WMDs, not liberation, and thus hoodwinked the Dems into being against a liberation is nonsense. Thank God there were enough Dems to vote in favor of the liberation in the Congress. But so many were against it, and that's a real shame, not something to make bizarre excuses for.

Instead, the party needs to put this fiasco behind it, make amends, and get with the program it has "always been on board for".

Posted by: Jim at November 7, 2003 12:48 PM

Daryl: The fact that the Democrats were not on board and the fact that the rest of the world were not on board are failures of leadership on Bush's part.

Stop blaming Bush for others' cowardice, envy, and spitefulness. Is it Bush's duty to make sure others do not have those character flaws?

Posted by: Jim at November 7, 2003 12:52 PM

"The fact that the Democrats were not on board and the fact that the rest of the world were not on board are failures of leadership on Bush's part."

Translation: It's not our fault; he made us change our minds. Bad, evil, naughty Bush! No biscuit!

Daryl, I appreciate what kind of debating position you're in on this one, what with all those comments from leading Democrats in 1998; really, I do. And I'm sorry that Gore walked into the 2000 election already gut-shot by his own side (which thus caused his peers in the party to come up with this mess); really, I am. But you can stop projecting why it is that the Democratic Party leadership couldn't do what they had previously declared to be the right thing (pardon the pun) onto Bush any time now. If the Republicans have to provide everything for the Democrats, including reasons for and against every policy position under the sun, then the latter should just change its name to the "We Aren't The Republicans" Party and be done with it. It'd be a relief on aesthetic grounds alone.


PS: Yes, I'm not addressing the free will bit or the it's-all-Bush's-fault-bit or any of the rest, precisely because I'm trying to remind you that the Democratic Party should not need the Republican Party to determine what its positions should be. Blaming everything on Bush is a luxury the Democrats can't afford... not least of which is because of the fact that there's a certain party that actually does know what they want and how to get there, and they look at the Democrats' voter lists, and drool.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 12:58 PM

Can anyone tell me why there is a political poll on whether the troop strength in Iraq is adequate or not. Like I would trust Joe Bumfuck public to be able to make the determination...based upon his vast military command experience and detailed situational briefing from CENTCOM. Not CENTCOM...OK...I guess just from the deployed media reporters instead then. That should do it!

Posted by: sammy small at November 7, 2003 01:12 PM


Do you honestly believe that if things had turned out differently, and it had been President Gore leading an invasion of Iraq, that the Republicans would have been on board any more strongly than the Democrats were this time?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 01:15 PM


Also, as has been pointed out---the Democrats voted for the authorization to go to war. The Democratic candidates for President are in favor of staying and rebuilding Iraq. So you and Michael and others are deducing moral flaws in the Democrats based on what, exactly?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 01:18 PM

Oh, oh. Three posts in a row, I'm becoming a nuisance, I guess. But one other thing, Moe. I'm not the Democratic Party. I'm an American citizen who believes that we have an unprincipled demagogue in the White House and I am upset about it. Believe it or not, back at the time of Gulf War I, I was 100 percent behind George Bush Senior. I believed that he did what was necessary to build a coalition, to unite the country behind him.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 01:28 PM

"Do you honestly believe that if things had turned out differently, and it had been President Gore leading an invasion of Iraq, that the Republicans would have been on board any more strongly than the Democrats were this time?"

Actually, yes, thanks to the neocons, but irrelevant. Again: the policies of the Republican Party should not be the touchstone for the policies of the Democratic Party. As for the moral flaws of the Democratic Party leadership... shoot, I just gave the biggie:

When it comes to Iraq, they're reactionaries.


PS: Just so you know, I'm not trying to snark at you specifically: it's just that the Democratic leadership seem especially irritating this fine Friday afternoon so close to beer call, it's been a long week anyway and I haven't had a cigarette for almost a month now. Reviewing earlier posts, I seem to have been not entirely successful in avoiding said snarking, so my apologies if it's too in-your-face.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 01:40 PM

I swear to God I didn't see the 1:28 post before I posted the 1:40 one.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 01:41 PM

Now I'm triple posting... anyway, it seems that I really didn't succeed, so I'll apologize for the too in-you-face part. Not especially nice of me.

Posted by: Moe Lane at November 7, 2003 01:43 PM

Daryl, let's not get carried away. I think the whole Democratic field except for Lieberman has tried to walk a thin line on the issue of staying in Iraq. I've seen Dean and Clark, for example, indicate they understand that success in Iraq is imperative. However, a number of candidates subsequently have made inane comments about substitution with foreign forces, presupposing their availability. That leaves me concerned about their committment. Have you heard any candidate acknowledge how difficult it might be to muster an international bail-out? No one is eager to help since their initial offers were rejected in the weeks after the war's alleged conclusion, and the candidates need to describe how they might change the situation if they're going to focus on internationalization. Clark's recently proposed trade-off (on ICC, Kyoto, et.c) is a start, but not a very convincing one.

Posted by: Dove in D.C. at November 7, 2003 01:45 PM


Don't worry about it. Your snarking is infinitely more friendly than most that I find on blog comment boards.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 01:45 PM

"This war is not about George W. Bush. Tattoo it on your forehead."

Maybe not. But for those against this war, it's all about George Bush.

Posted by: JJ Walker at November 7, 2003 01:48 PM

Dove in DC writes: However, a number of candidates subsequently have made inane comments about substitution with foreign forces, presupposing their availability. That leaves me concerned about their committment.

Let me quote this:
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is scrambling to find enough fresh troops to begin an orderly rotation program that would bring home some of the 147,000 soldiers spread thinly across troubled Iraq.
With the new commanding general of U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, confirming what others in the Defense Department had been reluctant to admit - that United States forces face an increasingly deadly guerrilla war - the question of relief and rotation for weary GIs moved to the front burner.

The easiest fix would be for the 14,000 foreign forces, mostly British, already in Iraq to be augmented by thousands more allied soldiers. But negotiations to internationalize the occupation have been slow and difficult.

So there isn't a huge difference between what the Democratic candidates are saying and what the administration is saying.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at November 7, 2003 01:50 PM

Daryl: So you and Michael and others are deducing moral flaws in the Democrats based on what, exactly?

I based this post on the poll discussed in the New Republic. (See the original post.) I am aware that Howard Dean (for example) wants to stick around in Iraq. I'm glad for that, really, and I've never suggested otherwise.

The rank and file is making me nervous. The isolationist temptation is on the rise, and it must be fought.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 01:57 PM

Maybe not. But for those against this war, it's all about George Bush.

It's not all about the President, but he is a major factor. The belief that he mislead the public in making a case for the war and cannot be trusted to manage any reconstructive process is certainly a big part of my thinking.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 7, 2003 02:00 PM


Should I assume you are in the 40 percent of Democrats who don't want to withdraw from Iraq to avoid casualties? That seems to be the case. If so, you are not one of the people I targetted for criticism in the original post. My argument (in this post anyway) is with the other 60 percent.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 7, 2003 02:01 PM

"'But negotiations to internationalize the occupation have been slow and difficult.'"

This underscores the need for the candidates to propose a strategy to muster international support. I'm sure we agree that would be nice to hear, and would demonstrate a more coherent understanding of foreign policy.
I admit that my complaint is related somewhat to the candidates' tone. When Dean--who faces increased scrutiny here due to his longtime opposition to the Iraq intervention and expressed doubt about its purpose--says the troops should be foreign ones, it sounds like he's still criticizing Bush for having Americans there in the first place rather than advocating a more efficacious path.

Posted by: Dove in D.C. at November 7, 2003 02:09 PM

I suspect that, if a Democratic Party President were currently in office, the roles would to some extent be reversed. "It's obvious that President Gore is blowing this occupation and does not have the diplomatic skills necessary (as did former President Bush) to gain the confidence of the international community."

Mixed record here: A lot of Republicans baled out on Kosovo, but most supported Clinton's strikes against the Hussein Regime.

An interesting statistic in the ABC/WP poll is the correlation between educational level and the questions re: Iraq (without regard to party affiliation). College graduates were the only group with a majority (50%-48%) opposing the idea that "the war with Iraq was worth fighting", compared to voters as a whole (54%-44%). However, that same educational group - College graduates - was the group most likely to support keeping troops in Iraq, 69% versus 58% for the population as a whole.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at November 7, 2003 04:10 PM

I have a question for the group here:

Suppose it's 2013. The US has been in Iraq for ten years, and while there is an Iraqi Constitution, it has been clear for most of this time that if Iraq were to hold free elections, Islamic parties would win a majority of the votes and immediately move to scrap the rule of law -- so we've been forced to keep running the country to avoid the rise of a second Iran.

In the meantime, resistance activities, fueled by varying sets of Ba'athist holdouts, angry young men, people who lost something in either the US invasions or our reprisals for earlier attacks, or Al Qaeda-related terrrorists, have continued to cause a casualty count of approximately one US soldier per day, putting us at some 3,500 or so US soldiers lost.

Meanwhile, reconstruction efforts have been massively hampered by constant sabotage and the initial poor planning; the US has sunk some $300-500 billion into the country, much of which has gone up in smoke. Oil production remains a small fraction of Iraq's capability.

What do we do? Is there any point at which we cut losses? As time passes, the risk of a My Lai-style atrocity only increases; if it does take place, what happens then? What happens if we need the ground troops currently stationed in Iraq somewhere else? Or if the reserve system completely dries up? Do we institute another draft? What is, in the end, our exit strategy?

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 7, 2003 07:05 PM

"Suppose it's 2013. The US has been in Iraq for ten years, and while there is an Iraqi Constitution, it has been clear for most of this time that if Iraq were to hold free elections, Islamic parties would win a majority of the votes and immediately move to scrap the rule of law -- so we've been forced to keep running the country to avoid the rise of a second Iran."

Well, that's not going to happen. Every poll so far of Iraqis that I've seen ask the question about "Islamic" law says no, the Iraqis all favor a secular state.

And, as time goes on, more and more Iraqi policemen and a reconstitution of the Iraqi army is going to occur, so, by 2013, the only Americans that will be in Iraq will be the tourists and the businessmen.

The exit strategy is already in place. It will just take a while.

Posted by: eric at November 7, 2003 07:23 PM

What scare’s me most about the growing Democratic position is that it sure looks like many are putting their Party before the security of this nation. Remember that bin Laden’s inspiration was the withdrawal from Somalia. Withdrawal from Iraq will cement the image of a weak America for generations and surely result in acts of terror on American soil that dwarf 911. The terrorists are banking on this result as it is their only hope of winning. Regardless of one’s views of Bush, and how we got here, the fact remains that our children’s future now depends on us finishing the job.

Posted by: Mike at November 7, 2003 07:24 PM

"Suppose it's 2013."

Ooooh! Can I get a gravitic belt that will let me fly! Who knows what the world will be like in five years, let alone ten? That is an unsustainable and irrelevant supposition from the outset. Blithering on after that is just insulting.

On matters of reality, there are a lot of ways we can reduce troops without affecting the mission. All of the Heavy Artillery can go home. We don't need to blast massed formations out of trenches and won't anytime sooon. All of the Air Superiority fighters can go home until such time as somebody in the region develops a credible fighter threat. All of the Air Defense Artillery can go home for the same reason. It's a tough call, but a lot of the Engineering troops can go home; if there are minefields that haven't been cleared by now, it's time to hire the job out. Many of the logistics troops can go home, that is another job that can be done cheaper and better by civilians.

A fair number of tanks can go home or back to Diego Garcia...but this is a judgement call. Leaving them in place as a way of reminding Syria and Iran that nothing they have can stop or even seriously slow down a US Armored Division has a strong appeal. On the whole, it costs a lot to move them, and it's not like there are a lot of other places you want them more. Oh yes, and it's not like anybody actually has the stones to tell an M1A2 Abrams platoon that they are not fully welcome to their face...well, not twice.

On the whole, rotating back a bunch of the troops who are not doing their primary mission or just twiddling their thumbs is not a bad plan. So far, the opposition has been able to mobilize maybe a reinforced squad against us, and then not in the field. Being poised to demolish a Armored Cavalry Regiment is not the best allocation of resources in that event.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at November 7, 2003 07:28 PM

Posted by eric at November 7, 2003 12:25 PM

> nobody wants conscripts. Those days are over.

True... plus they have not yet put out the voluntary call. If they want more people in the military, they could ask before going to conscription.

I went to join up for the first gulf war. There was a huge crowd... anyway, they told everyone not to bother because the war would be over before our training... Still, pleanty of people would join if asked...

Posted by: Thomas at November 7, 2003 08:14 PM

It seems to me that the Democrats are basing their foreign policy on wishful thinking.

At some point, they need to recognize that France, Germany, and Belgium didn't just disagree with us about the means of disarming Saddam; they disagreed with us about the end as well. These countries are not our allies, do not wish us well, and do not want us to succeed in rebuilding Iraq.

Our true friends and allies are already in Iraq, working side by side with us in what John Kerry calls a "fraudulent coalition". (Some demonstration of the D's superior diplomatic skills there).

Posted by: Fredrik Nyman at November 7, 2003 09:41 PM

If only the Clinton/Gore team was still around to handle all this post 911 mess! They would have cobbled together a truly massive international coalition that would have the terrorists and muslim extremists heading for the hills and we would all be sleeping so much more securely today. More's the pity.

Than again, I did forget to take my medication today.

Posted by: Erik at November 7, 2003 09:42 PM

If President Gore were in office, Fox News, etc. would remind us ad nauseam how many days it had been since 9/11 and the fall of Baghdad it had been without a verified capture or death of Bin Laden and Saddam.

Posted by: Kevin Boyd at November 8, 2003 06:18 AM

Kevin Boyd --

On what grounds do you think Fox et al would "remind us ad nauseam how many days it had been since 9/11 and the fall of Baghdad it had been without a verified capture or death of Bin Laden and Saddam"?

They didn't do (and aren't doing) that with the Balkan conflict, after all, and that's still going on, seven years after Clinton claimed the troops would be home.

And even if you are right, it is a pretty lame defense of the defeatists who are aiding and abetting our enemies, giving them hope for a successful Somalia strategy.

Posted by: Fredrik Nyman at November 8, 2003 07:40 AM

Please post the surveys, or ask Peter Beinart to post them. I googled for:

cbs august poll 2003 iraq

And found

Which leads to

Then I googled for

October Washington Post/ABC News poll iraq

and found

which leads to

Simply put, neither of these surveys or the articles contain the poll results Beinart mentions. I assume I found the wrong polls, why else isn't the WAPO disputing the Peter's report, but gosh read the articles I found and it certainly seems I found the right stuff.

Finally, you and Peter blast the Dems for their change in position from August to October. How can you draw any of your conclusions about Dems without asking what has happened to those opinions in America overall and in the Republican camp?

Posted by: Data at November 8, 2003 07:53 AM

You can amuse yourself wondering how Republicans would react to a similar situation but with Gore as president, and you might find a template from Vietnam, but, as I understand it, the Democrats' alternative reality would have some major expeditionary force occupying the whole of Afghanistan, and very active in the border regions of Pakistan trying to track down Bin Laden, cronies, and supporters - while somehow trying to keep the latter country from falling apart. (THAT adventure might really have had the makings of another Vietnam, or worse.) Meanwhile, Saddam and his sons would still be in power, and the US would somehow have to continue to guarantee "containment" throughout the region. From time to time, one also gets the sense that we're supposed to be acting forcefully against Saudi Arabia - though I don't believe anyone has yet advanced a remotely realistic plan for such action that differs very much from current policy.

Republicans would probably be seriously divided about how to respond in such a situation, with one faction in despair over the whole Afghaninam (Vietestan?) enterprise and another faction pressing for ever more forceful measures.

The same would probably also be true if Gore had somehow decided on the Bush approach - which has the advantage of being strategically sound vis-a-vis US capabilities and geopolitical interests and realities. (Of course, in the Democratic fantasy world, geopolitical interests don't exist: They simply melt away if you're just nice and sufficiently welcoming, and politely bend over for Kyoto and the ICC. France and Germany turn into dependable allies whose interests in no way diverge from American interests, and, voila, the French Foreign Legion is ready to lend a hand, and all divisions at the UN also disappear. Anyway, how long Europe and the UN would support any strategic US response to 9/11 is debatable.)

Another possibility is that the Democrats would have responded to 9/11 or some 9/11-like event in the same way that they've responded as the party in opposition - with no coherent approach whatsoever - but political realities, including a determination to prove that they could be taken seriously on security challenge, would have required a muscular response. It's almost impossible for me to imagine a US president failing to react to 9/11 in a way that would risk frightening the children (and the Europeans). It would also have been very difficult to spread the blame for the perceived intelligence and security lapse - it would be difficult to argue that it was somehow the Republicans' fault - thus increasing the pressure for a strong reaction.

Few observers seem able or willing to assess the entire predicament strategically. The Bush Administration has had no choice but to do so. Though I have no confidence that a Gore Administration would have handled things half as well, I believe that strategic realities would have forced Gore - or his successor - sooner or later to adopt an approach broadly similar to Bush's. The overall political response would depend in large part on how well the effort was executed. A Vietnam-like misadventure would likely have led to a leftwing insurgency and a strong challenge from the Republicans in '04, and, under any conditions short of amazing success, a new emphasis on security issues would have played to the Republicans' historical advantage in this arena.

How Gore would have responded to economic challenges would also obviously play a major role in his political fate. I imagine something close to panic in the face of a recession deepened by 9/11 shocks, eventually leading to traditional liberal, public sector jobs and stimulus programs, probably with major emphases on energy sector (alternative fuels, conservation, and so on), civil defense, and infrastructure initiatives.

Whether it would have a snowball's chance in Hell of working is another question. I personally suspect the overall result would be more LBJ than FDR, with exhaustion after 12 years of Democratic presidents increasing the odds in favor of a Republican '04 victory.

This is kind of fun, for me anyway. I may expand on and re-organize this post on my own blog. Feel free to offer suggestions - whether here or by contacting me directly.

Posted by: Colin MacLeod at November 8, 2003 10:25 AM

Maybe. And maybe since Gore insisted we put more of our own into Tora Bora even though the possibility of higher American casulties was real, maybe we caught Osama Bin Laden there and then.

I dunno man, you and Michael like to setup strawmen and then pretend to yourselves that you've found the one true universe.

Posted by: anne.elk at November 8, 2003 11:29 AM

Aw, shoot, anne, I'm just speculating, taking inspiration from some earlier comments here. I don't think I'm setting up straw men, and I'm certainly not claiming to have "found the one true universe."

As for your specific example, even getting to Tora Bora, as we saw it unfold, forces us to assume a similar lead-up. Going into Afghanistan much heavier than we did, or escalating at a later point, would have entailed a long build-up and deployment process, and would almost certainly have involved additional complications - including, as you being to acknowledge, higher casualties.

In addition, we don't really know whether OBL was truly catchable at any imaginable level of US deployment: Terrain of the sort typical for the Tora Bora area, and much of the rest of the region, can soak up troops and other assets in huge quantities to little greater effect but at great cost - another reason why the heavy option was resisted. And we're not even 100% sure that OBL was really there, or for that matter that he survived.

Then there's also the question of whether capturing or killing OBL would have ended the matter for President Gore. Don't we, for the sake of fairness in speculation, have to assume that he'd be as good as the Democrat word on focusing like a Clintonian laser beam on AQ, and on administering the entirey of Afghanistan sufficiently to prevent resurgent warlordism and Taliban-AQ re-infiltration?

Thanks for the response anyway.

Posted by: Colin MacLeod at November 8, 2003 12:13 PM

Can someone define "strawman" for me? Pardon my ignorance and thanks in advance for the help.

Posted by: spc67 at November 8, 2003 12:54 PM

Can someone define google for me? Pardon my incontinence and thanks in advance for the help.

Description of Straw Man

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
Examples of Straw Man

1. Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."
Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."

2. "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."

3. Bill and Jill are arguing about cleaning out their closets:
Jill: "We should clean out the closets. They are getting a bit messy."
Bill: "Why, we just went through those closets last year. Do we have to clean them out everyday?"
Jill: "I never said anything about cleaning them out every day. You just want too keep all your junk forever, which is just ridiculous."

Posted by: G.oogle at November 8, 2003 01:13 PM

"Our mission is to create a secure, stable Iraq with a representative government. Only this will make America more secure and enable our troops to come home. Success means that Iraq is strong enough to sustain itself without outside forces but is no longer a threat to its neighbors; that representative government has taken root so Iraq can be a model for democratic hope in the Middle East; and that Iraqi society and the Iraqi economy are healthy enough so that Al Qaeda cannot recruit there."

That is from Wesley Clark. I don't know if Clark will win the nomination, but I do know that Kucinich won't. I think who the Dems nominate as their standard bearer is a pretty reliable indicator of how Dems feel about the occupation. And they aren't going to pick a man calling for a pull out.
The danger of "cut-and-run" is more present in the Bush administration, which has shown a talent for, shall we say, creative optimism. Bush is the one who would most like to declare "victory" and leave.

Posted by: George Cerny at November 8, 2003 02:27 PM

Do you have any reason to believe that, other than that it strikes you as politically advantageous to say so? Has Bush ever said he wants to declare victory and leave? Said anything that indicates that? More to the point, has he done it? Certainly he could. If he spun it the right way, he'd even get plaudits from isolationist Democrats for doing it.

As for Clark, well, that sounds nice. But do we have any indication that he's willing to do what's necessary to make it happen? (Hint: this does not stop at the borders of Iraq.)

That last comment about "the Iraqi economy" making it impossible for Al Qaeda to recruit there fills me with a sinking feeling that here we may, regrettably, have someone who is not paying attention. Al Qaeda does not recruit from poor people. Al Qaeda recruits from the educated children of affluent families. A healthy economy does not Al Qaeda-proof a country. If Clark's blind enough to suggest that it does then I don't want him anywhere near the Oval Office.

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at November 8, 2003 05:30 PM

One word: Iraqification.
Read Fareed Zakaria:

Posted by: George Cerny at November 8, 2003 06:45 PM

"One word: Iraqification.
Read Fareed Zakaria:"

Two words: armchair general

Posted by: Colin MacLeod at November 9, 2003 09:45 AM

"Mixed record here: A lot of Republicans baled out on Kosovo, but most supported Clinton's strikes against the Hussein Regime."

There's actually a rather simple answer for that. It's all a matter of who's in charge.

Kosavo, in my opinion, was a clusterf**k from the start. Putting our troops under the UN's leadership is worse than useless. I'd like to remind people that when folks talk about "UN Peacekeepers", they're talking about US troops who take off their green helmets and put on blue berets. It is that simple. If the UN were put in charge of Iraq, there wouldn't be any change in troop numbers, or where they came from, it would be a matter of baby blue headgear and a labrinth of rules designed to get our boys killed easier.

That's been my whole sticking point with the Dems. They want the UN to take over. But a transfer of power to the UN would be the worst thing that could happen. If you want proof of that, look at Kosavo. If you want even worse examples, look at Rwanda, or Kosavo before the US got there.

Posted by: Raging Dave at November 10, 2003 12:01 PM

Raging Dave: Kosavo, in my opinion, was a clusterf**k from the start. Putting our troops under the UN's leadership is worse than useless.

We did not put our troops under UN leadership. The UN had nothing to do with the war in Kosovo.

And what, exactly, was clusterf**ked about it? It was a remarkably successful operation by any possible standard.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 10, 2003 02:36 PM

LA Times has an article about Vietnam; echos my thoughts.,1,4043011.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary

The anti-war folk are responsible, partly, for the Killing Fields. (I lived w/ my Grandfolks, they wanted to nuke Hanoi & mine Hai-phong harbor. I didn't, quite; but I did think we either wanted to win or we should leave. I entered the US Naval Academy in 74, left 2 years later. UCMJ? not for me)

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