August 10, 2004

Kill Moqtada Al Sadr - Part Two

As expected, I'm being taken to task in the comments section in my previous post for saying it's time to take out Moqtada al Sadr. For whatever it's worth, at least some people in Iraq are with me on this. Obviously, some Iraqis like al-Sadr and sympathize with this goals, but they are part of the problem. I, for one, don't wish to let them run roughshod over those who want a secular democratic Iraq. If Pat Roberton or some other right-wing nut raised an American militia to overthrow the government and impose a theocracy, I'd want him and them taken out, too, not negotiated with or appeased. Call me crazy.

Here is Omar over at Iraq the Model. This is a long excerpt, but I want to make sure everyone sees this, not just those who choose to follow my links.

It seems that it’s time at last! I hope they get Muqtada this time and also all his deputies. People here are not only disgusted and upset with this gang but also most of them showed extreme anger and some of them went as far as condemning Islam and even the Mahdi himself!! I don’t agree of course with that, as Muqtada has nothing to do with Islam.

A She’at taxi driver told me, “ Why are we doing this!? Why among all religions we commit such horrible crimes?? If this is Islam then s**t on it and on Mahdi himself, we don’t want this! They went as far as attacking peaceful churches and I really don’t understand why! This is not the Islam we were raised to believe in, the Islam of peace and tolerance. I wish I could see this idiot dead.”

One of my colleagues; a She’at who used to sympathize greatly with Islamist whether She’at or Sunni, told me today that he is shocked with what the Mahdi army is doing, “ When he revolted the 1st time and they called him an outlaw we didn’t like it. How can they call a cleric who’s the son of Iraq’s most respectable Ayetullah, an outlaw. Now I cannot and I do not want to defend him. He’s a criminal and so are all his followers. They have killed civilians, policemen, destroyed a gas station in Sadr city, and are threatening to burn down the oil pipelines now! Why and for what!?”

None of the people I met today showed any sympathy with Sadr and all of them showed eagerness to end this situation in a decisive way, not by negotiation but through capturing or killing Sadr and disarming his militia... [Emphasis added.]

I do suggest you click over to his site. Lots of interesting stuff from a guy who actually lives there. He doesn't have much patience for the "soft on fascism" line. He would have to live with the real-world results of that policy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 02:21 PM
Comments

Even the anti-occupation Iraq bloggers don't care for al-Sadr. That's not the issue. The issue is whether killing him will push the moderate Shia into the extremist anti-occupation/anti-council camp.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 03:39 PM
The other issue is whether killing al-Sadr would make much of a difference. Pro-occupation Zeyad, of Healing Iraq, said this on Friday:
Overall, the situation looks bleak for Sadr, and one has to surmise if this would end in either his arrest or his death. I doubt that the Sadrist movement would be over with Muqtada's death, they would just have a third martyr from the Sadr family to add to their list.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 03:42 PM

DPU,

Did catching Saddam enflame moderate Iraqi public opinion? Did overthrowing the Taliban make the previously anti-Taliban Afghanis hate us? These questions, too, are worth asking. Especially since we already know the answers. The anti-warriors predicted average folks would rally to the deposed rulers, just as you are predicting average folks will rally to al Sadr, but this line of argumentation has a poor track record so far.

Sadr isn't a dictator himself, so the analogy isn't perfect. But perhaps you can see why I'm skeptical of the prediction that using force against bad guys only pisses people off and makes the problem worse. It hasn't been working that way so far. And what about the fact that we've already killed hundreds of Al Sadr's goons? Should we stop doing that, too, just in case it makes people mad?

And what about the Iraqis who do want al Sadr taken out? Is it just tough cookies for them?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 03:48 PM

DPU:

Does the anti-war crowd EVER get tired of predicting the eruption of the Arab street?

Posted by: Big Brother at August 10, 2004 03:54 PM

Did catching Saddam enflame moderate Iraqi public opinion?

No, because he was a despised dictator. According to the CPA's own polls, al-Sadr is the second-most admired man in Iraq (soon to be most-admired if killed, or isf Sistani dies).

But perhaps you can see why I'm skeptical of the prediction that using force against bad guys only pisses people off and makes the problem worse. It hasn't been working that way so far.

But it HAS, Michael. Check the news.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 03:57 PM

Does the anti-war crowd EVER get tired of predicting the eruption of the Arab street?

Dunno. Does the pro-war crowd ever get tired of spinning a strategic disaster into a sterling victory?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 04:02 PM

Michael - you quote that blog as if it were gospel. Given the degree to which you base your views of the situation on one man's blog, why don't you try to imagine what view you would take of America if you decided that, for example, Charles Johnson were the authentic voice of the American people ... or Ted Rall, for that matter.

It's just another example of you failing to overcome ... or even consider that you might be subject to ... the natural human tendency to place more weight on information that tends to confirm your prejudices than on information that tends to call them into question.

A rational person, being aware of this tendency, reaches a view and then tests it by seeking out contrary information.

An irrational person (ie most of us) reaches a position and then looks around for evidence to support it.

Which do you think you are?

Posted by: Mork at August 10, 2004 04:12 PM

DPU,

If we don't use force against bad guys it will piss off different people. You can't make everyone happy in war. You have to pick sides.

You could be right about the consequences of killing the guy. I acknowledge that. It could also be true in the short run but not in the long run. There are only so many theocratic-minded Iraqis who are willing to pick up a rifle against us, especially when they get their asses kicked so spectacularly.

You have to remember that force is respected in the Middle East more than it is here. The worst thing we can do is use enough force to piss people off but not enough force to win. We need to go one way or the other. And choosing not to fight back when our soldiers are being killed is not an option for us.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 04:17 PM

Mork: you quote that blog as if it were gospel.

No I didn't. I just quoted it. I quote lots of people, I do it every day, and I don't think anyone ever writes anything that is gospel. Come off it.

Sure, I can find Iraqis who don't agree. I already said so in the main post. Big deal. That doesn't mean I can't quote those who do agree with me. You're just bummed that I found Iraqis who don't argue with me about this, apparently. Quote Riverbend back at me if you want to. I don't care. I'll argue with her instead of accusing you of being in thrall to the Riverbend Religion.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 04:21 PM

Mork: A rational person, being aware of this tendency, reaches a view and then tests it by seeking out contrary information.

I have changed my mind about politics over and over again. I expect this will continue. God help me if it doesn't. That's one of the reasons I said a few days ago that I will never sign a loyalty oath for any political party. I'm not getting sucked into groupthink where I can't evaluate this stuff for myself.

I used to be a pacifist, Mork. Bosnia changed me. If I were as irrational and stubborn as you accuse me of being I would be a "clapping seal," as Marc Cooper recently put it, at Michael Moore's stupid new movie.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 04:25 PM

You're just bummed that I found Iraqis who don't argue with me about this, apparently.

I ain't bummed out about nuthin' Michael. In fact, I would be delighted if your Panglossian (if slightly bloodthirsty) world view were right on the mark.

All I'm doing is pointing out that the way that you marshall and analyze the available evidence does not inspire a great deal of confidence you're going to be correct about anything.

Posted by: Mork at August 10, 2004 04:27 PM

Mork: (if slightly bloodthirsty) world view

Only in order to more quickly put an end to bloodshed, Mork. Not because I think killing people is groovy. Quite the contrary. As I said yesterday, it's long past time to remove the gun from Iraqi politics.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 05:23 PM

DPU --

"Does the pro-war crowd ever get tired of spinning a strategic disaster into a sterling victory?"

How can you legitimately call Iraq a "strategic disaster?" We WON the war, and indications are that we are winning the peace. The war went about as well as could have been expected. The occupation has not gone as well as might have gone, but neither has it gone as poorly.

Let me be perfectly clear: I have been a supporter of the Iraq War from the very beginning. I always thought there was a chance of failure, but that it was worth the risk given the stakes involved and the consequences of doing nothing. Overall, I am pleased with how matters have proceeded in Iraq. There were some problems, but that is to be expected. Moreover, the problems were and are being addressed. What more could reasonably be expected?

Posted by: Ben at August 10, 2004 05:33 PM

Hamas is in hiding and innefective because Israel cut the snake's head off.

Bush must cut the Mahdi Army's head off.

There is no Arab street, it's a myth perpetrated by the yellow-bellied naysayers.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 05:57 PM

p.s. Arabs respect brute strength, not the Deep Compassion and Understanding of the Yellow-bellied naysayers.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 05:58 PM

The Myth of the Wrath of the Arab Street is alive and well. I say Myth because one so often hears of it but never sees it, except in Anti-Western demonstrations arranged by the contrivance of various petty despots. Why not give the Arabs some credit, and assume that they (a) know what is in their own best interests, and (b) want to advance those interests?

Does anyone doubt that the Iraqi people would be better off in a democracy than in a fascist tyranny? No. Does anyone think that democracy is possible without the presence of US troops in Iraq for the forseeable future? Not unless you are living in another reality. Accordingly, is it not reasonable to assume that many Iraqis, while they may not like the idea of their country being occupied, actually support that occupation as a matter of necessity? Absolutely.

Posted by: Ben at August 10, 2004 06:10 PM

" yellow-bellied naysayers " --- David

That is almost as good and as accurate as my favourite blast from the past -- " NATTERING NABOBS OF NEGATAVISM ".
Since it has become impossible to have any conversation with the intellectually bankrupt 'left' at this point,it seems reasonable to cut right to the chase.My Canadian colleague DPU will doubtless find your comment offensive but he is a product of the Canadian indoctrination system and is more to be pitied than censured.

Posted by: dougf at August 10, 2004 06:28 PM

Come on, Doug. DPU could just as easily say you're a product of the American "indoctrination" system, and it would accomplish about as much.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 06:40 PM

Michael, I think I'm getting whiplash. What's the strategy? I thought it was to establish liberal democracy in Iraq. Which tactic will better advance that strategy: killing al Sadr or prosecuting him?

And to TMJUtah I completely agree that the War on Terror must in part be a military action. And in part a police action as well. We should use whichever approach furthers our grand strategy and avoid approaches that don't further our grand strategy. IMO police action became the preferred modality in Iraq at the transfer of sovereignty.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 10, 2004 06:44 PM

Dave: What's the strategy? I thought it was to establish liberal democracy in Iraq.

That's a goal, not a strategy. The strategy is how you get there, not where you hope to end up.

Another goal, one which goes hand in glove with the first, is defeating both secular and theocratic fascism in Iraq and across the Middle East as a whole. Liberalism (broadly defined) cannot co-exist with violent totalitarians whether they are in or out of power.

Ideologies can be killed on the battlefield. See Italy, Germany, and Japan.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 06:58 PM

Capturing al-Sadr would no doubt lead to hostages being taken, threats to kill them if he was not released. Killing him will make him a "martyr" to some, who will use his name when they seek revenge on innocents.

It's tricky. What is the common wisdom of the Marines there on the scene?

Posted by: miklos rosza at August 10, 2004 08:14 PM

Come on, Doug. DPU could just as easily say you're a product of the American "indoctrination" system, and it would accomplish about as much. ---MJT

Hi Michael. I live in Canada so I KNOW how the system works. Remember we can't even watch FOXNEWS here(it is PROHIBITED). All we get is the usual suspects from the US alphabet networks and the CBC which is a story in itself.
I stand behind the indoctrination comment.We currently have Sharia law for some cases right here in Ontario because its MULTICULTURAL

Posted by: dougf at August 10, 2004 08:14 PM

For whatever it is worth, my very, very, very distant Armenian Christian relatives in Baghdad think we have been too soft on Najaf and Fallujah for about six months. Their commentary around Christmas was that Fallujah should be "steamrolled" (their words).

The folks were in LA two weeks ago and begged America to be patient, that they were still figuring out this Democracy thing.

Two good posts Michael.

Posted by: spc67 at August 10, 2004 08:22 PM

I think our culture specializes in scoring own goals. Sheesh. Michael, you are completely right on this one.

There's a certain point where your opponents already have all the martyrs they can usefully possess. Worse than a martyr is a hero. By continually letting leaders survive, we're mythologizing them.

al Sadr has had several chances to end this and escape with his life. Not our fault that he hasn't taken us up on the offer. At least his death can serve as a cautionary example.

Posted by: Rob at August 10, 2004 09:03 PM

Dave Schuler -

I hit Belmont Club daily. I also read Regnum Crucis but I'm so far out of my depth there I just hope to catch the high points.

BC for the strategic overview, and RC for what can only be described as watching somebody unravel a multi-strand ball of yarn the size of a moving truck...except that it's the story of the persons, politics, and religion interconnecting in the Islamofascist movement/muslim world.

You touched on different tactics aimed at a common end; the technical term is pressure. A major part of our current effort is comprised of direct military action...but the reason we see so much of that is that men in suits flying from country to country is boring. Diplomacy and negotiation are making the noose tighter, too. Remember that it was a year-long process to flip Libya.

Faster, please. chuckle

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 09:41 PM

Al Sadr. Hooey.

The United States should leave al Sadr alone. The Iraqis should take al Sadr down -- with all the American help they need, if they need it, but it should be an Iraqi project with American help, not a U.S. project with Iraqi stooges.

We don't want Iraq as a possession, colony, protectorate, or dependency. If we solve all the problems, that's what we'll get. What we want is a strong, cohesive, independent Iraq. The only way to get that is to have the Iraqis take charge of their own country and their own future. Right now, we're still at the point where members of the Iraqi army who are in the local tribe hide their faces so no one can identify them. When it gets to the point where Iraqi soldiers are willing to go after an al Sadr, or any other of the faux holy men who are causing trouble there, with their faces uncovered -- well, at that point we will have won, and can collect our no-prize and go home and try to pay for it all.

And the only way we'll ever get to that point is if the Iraqis lose patience and faith that the U.S. will solve all their problems and take their own fates into their own hands. If we have to look like dorks in order to accomplish that, issue the pocket protectors. With bunnies on (flowers for the officers.)

That strategy didn't work in Fallujah because the Iraqis weren't ready. It hasn't worked yet in Najaf because al Sadr was still seen as a respected figure. It's early days yet, and it sounds, from Omar and some of the others, like that's coming to an end. If the Iraqis can handle al Sadr, it may be time to try Fallujah again. But for us to do it? Forget it. Big mistake. Imperialism, in fact.

Regards,
Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke at August 10, 2004 09:58 PM

Mork, look at the data and consider whether you might be wrong.

First, democracy. Sure, there has been no progress toward democracy yet. But it all depends on the January elections. If Allawi allows the elections, and if he honors them, and if his secret police don't turn the thing into a mockery, iraq could actually get an elected government. It depends on him. Just because he's a Ba'athist secret-police thug who has shown no sign of interest in democracy so far, doesn't make it certain. He could do the right thing, we won't know until January. If January comes and the elections get postponed, or important parties are not allowed to run, etc then we'll know we're in trouble. Until then who can say? Maybe we're heading the right way. We have no evidence one way or the other yet, right?

Second, security. The most important thing is security for iraqi civilians. Just because the kidnappings of iraqi civilians are getting worse is no proof. The claim is that the police are getting stronger, and maybe they're getting stronger fast enough to make a difference. Already we have two examples of police stations fortified well enough that they withstood attacks long enough for the Marines to save them. That says they've learned how to do that. Within six months every police station in the country will be fortified well enough to hold out for rescue. By that time there might be native iraqi forces that can do the rescues too. And by that time we might have body armor for iraqi police, and armored cars for them to patrol in. Once the police are reasonably safe they can start doing real police work. They might have a handle on the crime problems in less than a year. In the meantime they can find poorly-armed gangs they can beat up on to show the public they're doing something. Sure it looks bad now, but there's a chance the police are getting strong fast enough to really help. Soon we may start getting stories of police helping to handle kidnappings, and by the time the police can solve half the kidnappings the crime rate will go way down. When there's a strong chance of getting caught criminals get a lot more careful, and then with fewer cases the police can solve them easier, and all of a sudden the problem is gone. Admit it, it could happen. Just because things are a lot worse over the last few months doesn't mean they'll keep getting worse. They might start getting better.

Third, the occupation. Things have settled down since sovereignty, we've cut back patrols and retreated into secure positions and our losses are pretty stable at about 2 killed 20 wounded a day. We could manage that casualty level forever. It doesn't really matter that the insurgents have gone from 3-man teams to 15-man squads. The larger their units the easier it will be to call in airstrikes and artillery on them in iraqi cities. It's true we can't protect iraqi civilians from them but we never could, so the pullback really doesn't hurt at all. And the less contact iraqi civilians have with our troops the less they'll resent us (except maybe they might resent the airstrikes and artillery). So just because this looks like a traditional guerrilla war failure, with the guerrillas controlling the roads except when heavily-armed supply convoys punch through, the foreign troops retreating to strong points while guerrillas patrol in larger units etc, that doesn't mean it's really bad. It's more that things used to look better than they were, and now the illusion is gone. We're better off for it. The reality could be improving even though it looks worse.

We aren't completely defensive, we're attacking the Sadrists. You can argue that it's a stupid fight. We started out attacking them because they called for the US military to leave, and one thing led to another, and now we feel like we have to beat them or else nobody will take us seriously. It's easy to kill them, they don't have much training, but if you include untrained sympathisers they might be as much as 10% of the country, a bunch of poor illiterate shi'ites. We can't very well kill 10% of the country and they might be too stubborn to give up. But it isn't that bad. Every time we kill a thousand of them it takes them a couple weeks to get a thousand more into the field, so unless they improve their mobilisation methods we'll only have to kill on average around 500 a week which isn't that embarrassing. And if we keep killing them the iraqis will know we're serious even if the sadrists never quit. Also, their people are concentrated in Sadr City where they have epidemics of both typhoid and cholera. There's no evidence of biowarfare from us, the most anybody can pin on us is that we haven't fixed the water system and so the public water supply is giving them raw sewage. We can say that isn't our fault. The epidemics will distract them from resisting us. So it isn't as bad as it looks, they might even all surrender.

So look on the bright side. If things work out well, Allawi will quickly set up a police and secret police that will stop crime without stopping democracy. The iraqis will fight terrorists themselves and the resistance will melt away. They will have democratic elections and turn into a democracy, and the democracy will request that we go away. We'll be out of there with no regrets.

Just because there is no evidence that things are heading that way now, doesn't mean it can't happen. The evidence against it isn't conclusive. We can still win!

Posted by: J Thomas at August 10, 2004 10:02 PM

Big, sad, smile for J Thomas. I think many of your "facts" aren't quite right, but it's a fair-ish negative POV. (Without alternatives). On Democracy, you could have mentioned the 2-week (?maybe longer) delay on forming the "July" convention -- due to security concerns.

Big YAY for Ric. Sadr is an Iraqi problem, the Iraqis have to be leading on the decision making for how to solve it. I prefer "trying" to arrest him, but if Sadr dies resisting arrest, like Saddam's sons, then he dies. Note that NOT killing him then has greatly reduced his martyr potential -- slow growth democracy in Iraq, like tree growth, doesn't jibe with US election optimality. For Iraq to develop national Iraq heroes, it must have villains to fight and overcome. Sadr might well be the first anti-Iraq villain the (future) Iraq heroes will be winning against.

Back at the Falujah time I wrote a quick post http://tomgrey.motime.com/1083000026#264950
Harry Potter, (no) Help for Iraqi People.

J again, on alternatives. After Tet in 68, the US had basically two:
1) Stay and fight in Vietnam (with draftees) against the evil commies,
2) Cut and run and let the evil commies win.

Kerry advised (2). Recently it's become clear he wasn't accurate about his own Christmas of 68 Cambodia experience.

Kerry Lied. 2 million Died.
Think about it.

Posted by: Tom Grey at August 11, 2004 12:46 AM

J Thomas -

This is one of those meta-discussions, isn't it?

I have an alternate proposal. A modest proposal, as it were.

There are supposed to be around two million people living in Sadr City. Apparently, Saddam Hussein studied up on western city planning in the seventies and decided to do Cabrini Green, only several orders of magnitudes larger.

He built it, gave a speech from the steps of the municipal building, and never looked back. It's full of Shia (no pun) and was apparently the destination of many of the tens of thousands of criminal prisoners he released from jail in the run up to the war.

The district has never had a functioning infrastructure. It wasn't the 91 war that caused the cholera, dysentery, and parasitic maladies endemic to the area. That was the design objective of the project in the first place, to pen the shia in a district where they could never find time to rebel after surviving one more day.

Two million people. Sentenced to despair, ignorance, and death for the political expediency of just one man. Welcome to the swamp. Now there's another putative dictator-in-waiting working the same gig, but this time from inside the walls. His appeal to the people is based on his stature as a cleric and his lineage from a family of martyrs.

Just what credibility should that inheritance really hold in Iraq? "Ha, your dad was killed? I'll see that, raise you two uncles, my prom date in 1984, all my livestock, and my son who came in fourth at the Olympic trials! Beat that, the prophet be praised!"

What's that? Sadr is a popular figure? Dare we say he's a "Minuteman?". Nope. He's a two-bit thug functioning on the end of a leash held in Tehran. His original gig was a simple grab for power in the vacuum following the liberation. Early on his script was changed to include fomenting a civil war. He failed at both. The mission now...his last...is to cause the maximum delay in reconstruction and self-administration anywhere he can.

I don't think all those two million people hate our guts. It only takes one troublesome relative swinging a machete to screw up a wedding reception. I bet if given the chance, even the ones that hate us just a little bit might change their minds if their kids had a future, or they had a chance at earning a living instead of rolling the dice on which gang of criminals or mystics to align with on any given day.

So I say shoot the bastard with the machete, and see if the rest of the guests are still up for cake and pictures. As long as it takes, using every precision tool at our command to minimize the damage to people that have lived in Hell for generations. If it takes going street by street and building by building, we can do that, too.

Pressure. We must not allow a repeat of Fallujah to happen; that was a valuable lesson for us. Let Najaf be just as clear a demonstration that we know what their script is now, too, and we aren't following it.

What's my motivation? Not the urge to kill a bunch of people. It's the hope that by acting decisively now the others that don't know anything but the swamp might have a chance at pulling themselves out, and the sooner the better. We didn't remove Saddam to install a friendly dictator. We didn't go there for Haliburton. We went there because freeing a nation was the option chosen in order to secure our safety as a nation. The priniciple has precedent in both Germany and Japan; we didn't have the same cultural hurdles in those two challenges but things did work out in the end. Thus far, at least.

As long as this is a metadiscussion, just be warned that I consider the Bush Doctrine ambitious and visionary but frighteningly dependent on the moral courage of America for there to be any chance of success. There is a nobility of purpose bordering on idealism here that the cynic in me wants to reject.

The ground rules are simple. We as a nation will no longer tolerate stateless brigands who target our citizens or our interests. We will further hold any state accountable for aiding such individuals or groups. None of the states currently in the support/control family have anything remotely resembling a representative government. The old paradigm of war of annihalation makes no sense because while we have it in our power to pave entire countries, ethically we have zero grounds for arbitrarily killing people who have zero input in the policies of their despots. "All men are endowed"...covers ALL men. We eventually worked the theory into practice here...after about two hundred years and several million deaths on battlefields, streets, and trees.

We face an enemy wholly disinterested with coexistence. Their ability to hurt us is limited only by what they cannot write a check for and the security measures we can implement yet still remain a free society. They are not penalized by the lack of warships, plant capacity, or standing armies that have characterized our past global conflicts.

If we fail in this extension of the Grand Experiment...if we walk away from this option because it seems too unpleasant or too dirty, in spite of our clear ability to afford the blood, treasure, and time to see it through then we will have cocked the pistol at the head of the muslim world and flipped off the safety. Expand the lesson learned in Fallujah beyond Iraq. If we don't make this work, we will invite the survivors of half-hearted efforts on our part to rally the faithful, arm themselves with weapons beyond evil, and attack again and again until we finally tire of dealing with any of them at all.

I have made this point before. We are fighting the hard option via the Bush Doctrine. Hard for us. The more time we leave the enemy to gather resources the greater potential there is for an attack we will have to respond to with all the power at our command. All of it. I'd rather not see that happen. For my kids AND their kids.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 01:09 AM

Mork,

why don't you try to imagine what view you would take of America if you decided that, for example, Charles Johnson were the authentic voice of the American people

If Charles Johnson was the authentic voice of the American people, then I would rest assured that we will win this war. However, there are people like you who are paralyzing us. Until those who share your voice are politically marginalized we are at risk of losing.

Posted by: HA at August 11, 2004 03:27 AM

TmjUtah

Nice idealistic speech, mate.

Inject a bit of realism and the thing falls apart. Take this:

The ground rules are simple. We as a nation will no longer tolerate stateless brigands who target our citizens or our interests. We will further hold any state accountable for aiding such individuals or groups

According to that "groundrule" Iraq was therefore the wrong target. Iraq was no danger to the USA as a state, it was thoroughly contained (even when it was not contained it was not a threat to the USA, indeed an ally) and if it had a link to 9/11, it was extremely tenous, and defies logic.

Of course there were countries with stronger links to international terrorism. Going by the 9/11 example alone one can easily identify Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and of course Germany and the USA harboured the terrorists. There are many states that harbour international terrorism.

The USA does not attack them because of realistic, sensible reasons - they USA may have no interests there, no strategic advantage to gain, or the risks outweigh the possible advantages.

The notion that the USA invaded Iraq because of the War on Terror is a non-starter, not worth dwelling on, and the notion that it attacked because it was a serious threat through WMD is illogical.

States get WMD, especially nuclear weaponry, to avoid invasion and attack, and the deterrence works. It is perfectcly logical for states to get nuclear weaponry, WMD - thats how the game is played, they are following in the USA's footsteps, it adds counters to the board.

Iraq was therefore attacked because it was weak, defenseless, not strong. It was invaded because of sensible strategic reasons, the same reasons that war and invasion have occurred for many centuries. States aim to dominate the world, and protect their interests, and that is precisely what the USA is doing - again perfectly logical.

No amount of idealistic language can get away from the basic realities.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 11, 2004 03:59 AM

TmjUtah

Nice idealistic speech, mate.

Inject a bit of realism and the thing falls apart. Take this:

The ground rules are simple. We as a nation will no longer tolerate stateless brigands who target our citizens or our interests. We will further hold any state accountable for aiding such individuals or groups

According to that "groundrule" Iraq was therefore the wrong target. Iraq was no danger to the USA as a state, it was thoroughly contained (even when it was not contained it was not a threat to the USA, indeed an ally) and if it had a link to 9/11, it was extremely tenous, and defies logic.

Of course there were countries with stronger links to international terrorism. Going by the 9/11 example alone one can easily identify Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and of course Germany and the USA harboured the terrorists. There are many states that harbour international terrorism.

The USA does not attack them because of realistic, sensible reasons - they USA may have no interests there, no strategic advantage to gain, or the risks outweigh the possible advantages.

The notion that the USA invaded Iraq because of the War on Terror is a non-starter, not worth dwelling on, and the notion that it attacked because it was a serious threat through WMD is illogical.

States get WMD, especially nuclear weaponry, to avoid invasion and attack, and the deterrence works. It is perfectcly logical for states to get nuclear weaponry, WMD - thats how the game is played, they are following in the USA's footsteps, it adds counters to the board.

Iraq was therefore attacked because it was weak, defenseless, not strong. It was invaded because of sensible strategic reasons, the same reasons that war and invasion have occurred for many centuries. States aim to dominate the world, and protect their interests, and that is precisely what the USA is doing - again perfectly logical.

No amount of idealistic language can get away from the basic realities.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 11, 2004 04:01 AM

Benjamin: The notion that the USA invaded Iraq because of the War on Terror is a non-starter, not worth dwelling on

In other words, you don't get it. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. And you just can't get past that.

The liberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (no Bush supporter, he) said there were four reasons we invaded Iraq. The right reason, the moral reason, the real reason, and the stated reason. The stated reason has been debunked. You have three to go.

The right reason is to bring democracy to the swamp. The moral reason is to free slaves from a tyrant. And the real reason is because he deserved it and because we could.

Get cracking on the other three if you want to convince the rest of us. "Global domination" ain't the name of the game, bud. Before 911, Bush and Cheney considered rolling back the no-fly zones.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 06:10 AM

Tom, I'm not concerned about the July delay. It doesn't matter. It could get delayed to January and it won't matter provided the election is on time. The charades don't matter. The election does, provided it isn't another charade.

I agree with you about Sadr as an iraqi problem. Here's a suggestion -- let's give the iraqi judiciary our evidence about the murder we say he did, and let them decide whether to arrest him. That arrest warrant would have somewhat more value if it was Allawi's judge doing it instead of our judge. Likewise, give them the evidence about Chalabi and let them issue that warrant. Let's just stop issuing arrest warrants completely, it looks bad for us to do that with iraqi sovereignty.

Also, we could promise not to ban any iraqi political parties. See, the iraqis tried to get Sadr to give up fighting and do politics instead. You know, democracy. But there were three problems. First, what they offered him was one seat on the 1000-man committee that would appoint a 100-man assembly that would have no power at all. Second, they offered to cancel the bogus arrest warrant, but they couldn't because the americans wouldn't go along and kept trying to "arrest" him. And third, they offered to let his party run in the election, but the committee that Bremer appointed gets to ban parties and they can't stop it. He looked at those three things and decided it was a puppet government that didn't have the authority to let him join it.

But if it's a real government that can let him join, maybe he'd stop fighting. What's to lose? He might do just fine in a real democracy, we won't know until there's a real democracy for him to join. If the government makes that offer and he accepts and he doesn't fight until well after the elections, that's a big plus. If he rejects it or he accepts and keeps fighting then nothing has changed except he has less support. Iraqi democracy wins either way.

Sadr wants the US military out of iraq. That's our fundamental complaint with him. But we only want to stay as long as we're needed, and if he stops fighting us then we can clean up the other problems that much quicker. Show him we aren't installing a puppet government and he just might cooperate. It costs nothing to try. (Almost nothing. We don't get to kill him while we're trying that. But does it really help us to kill him? Unless the guy who replaces him is an imporovement we're better off not to kill Sadr.)

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:18 AM

There is another argument I hadn't considered. If we don't utterly crush Sadr and all his people, maybe our other enemies will decide that we're creampuffs and not respect us. I didn't take that seriously because I got out of grade school a long time ago. Our job in iraq is to help the iraqis rebuild and set up a democratic government. Our goal is not to find bunches of poorly-trained iraqis to massacre so third parties will "respect" us.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:18 AM

J Thomas: Also, we could promise not to ban any iraqi political parties.

I'm tempted to agree with this. But I think it's worth repeating what worked well in post-war Germany and banning fascist political parties outright.

I do enjoy the fact that the Iraqi Communist Party is staunchly democratic and pro-American.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 06:24 AM

J Thomas: Sadr wants the US military out of iraq. That's our fundamental complaint with him.

Actually, the fact that he's killing our guys is our fundamental complaint. If he weren't a violent whackjob he would not targetted with a military response. Dennis Kucinich wants US troops out of Iraq, and nothing happens to him except that he can't win a presidential primary with that platform.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 06:27 AM

Benjamin, at this point it doesn't matter why Bush did it. That he lied about why he was doing it might matter foro the elections, but the big question is what to do now.

If Bush wins the election it still doesn't matter why he invaded iraq, he'll go on doing whatever he wants to, limited by how much of our money Congress gives him.

If Bush loses the election it still doesn't matter why he invaded iraq, though probably a lot of documents will get declassified for people to argue about, and if somehow the republicans lose congress then Bush's intentions might make a difference at his trial.

The important thing is that we're stuck in iraq. If we get an administration that's open to suggestion what suggstions could we make for getting some sort of favorable outcome?

We could accept defeat and pull out. We won't do that unless we're defeated. It isn't something we could bring ourselves to choose.

We could continue as we're doing. That leads eventually to defeat.

We could try to deliver on Bush's promises. We could actually work toward allowing democracy in iraq. Then we could leave, as we say we want to. Maybe all we have to do is what we said all along we were doing, and we can win at that.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:35 AM

>>>>"Also, we could promise not to ban any iraqi political parties."

J Thomas,

If Sadr were a white European fascist in the Balkans instead of a sympathetic person of color with bad teeth in Arabia, you wouldn't give a crap if we killed him, and you wouldn't be bending over backward to make him happy.

Promise him squat. And that allegedly insignificant seat he was handed on a platter is more than most people get in any democracy. If he wants more, let him win a friggin election, not grab it at the point of a gun. This isn't Afganistan.

But no, he has rocket launchers and pent up rage, so we should give him what he wants. If it solves the problem you say? Killing will solve the problem, for good. Appeasing him lets him hang around and cause more problems in the future. He's already shown he's a troublemaker. Even Shiite elders want the guy dead. We're not doing anybody any favors by letting hang around except Libs with misplaced sympathies.

But it should be at the hands of Allawi's men, not ours. Arabs will respect Allawi when he shows he has Arab balls. Being mr. nice guy will only prolong the killing. He needs to grow some facial hair too. They like that.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 06:43 AM

Michael, democracy says you let people say what they want and vote for what they want and if they can get the laws they want then those are the laws of the land.

When we tell people they can't join the government they tend to revolt. "If you can't join them, beat them."

We said no Sadamis in government and the Sadamis became insurgents.
We said no Salafis in government and the Salafis became insurgents.
We said no Sadrists in government and the Sadrists took their shrines and invited us to come kill them and take them back.

Everybody we throw out of the democracy is somebody who's likely to join the insurgents.

The other way around isn't as certain. Let insurgents join the government and some of them won't want to. It's necessary to mop up the ones who stay violent, but what do we lose by thinning out their numbers first?

Democracy. Not just a pretty slogan.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:47 AM

J Thomas: Everybody we throw out of the democracy is somebody who's likely to join the insurgents.

Yeah, that's why I'm tempted to agree with you. I don't know, maybe I do agree with you. I go back and forth on this one.

I guess this is up to Iraqis now, in any case.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 06:52 AM

He's been fighting us because we're an occupying army. We've killed his people at a ratio of somewhere between 20:1 and 100:1, hard to say exactly since we don't do body counts.

If we can get them to quit fighting, what's the problem? We've shown we fight better, we establish democracy, all solved.

If the iraqis feel like killing them the US army doesn't need to protect him. That might solve it or might make new problems, but it's their choice.

When we kill him independent of the iraqis, it makes it look like we're trying to run things in their sovereign nation. Not good.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:55 AM

It's only up to iraqis if we let the iraqis choose.

The way Bremer set it up, our selected committee gets to ban any party they want to. The iraqi government doesn't get to choose.

Allawi tried to set up an amnesty, get people to stop fighting, and Negroponte told him he couldn't. If he wants to, let him.

We set up "iraqi" judges who warrant people completely independent of the iraqi justice system. Then we try to arrest those people to put them into american-run prisons. This is not compatible with iraqi sovereignty. We already detain anybody we want without charges, we should quit the fake arrest warrants. If we want somebody officially arrested, give the iraqi judges our evidence and let them issue the warrant. Otherwise just detain them without arrest.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:04 AM

J Thomas,

were are you getting all this juicy info? your source, if you don't mind.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 07:06 AM

David, which info have I presented that's in doubt?

Looking back I immedately see one that could be doubted, possibly Negroponte didn't make Allawi back down on the amnesty. Allawi announced it, and Negroponte said it wasn't acceptable, and Allawi backed down, but it isn't proven that Allawi backed down because of Negroponte. So I went beyond the evidence on that one.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:49 AM

J Thomas,

I didn't say it was in doubt. I'd just like to know what news outlets provide that level of detailed information. None that I've run across so far. Are they Arab, European, what? Should we just take your word for it?

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 07:53 AM

Damn, go off line for twelve hours, and look at all the good stuff you miss.

Michael, you are, of course, right in that forces like al-Sadr's militia needs to be met with force if they are unlawful, which they certainly seem to be. And I don't really care if it's the occupation forces or Iraqi forces, although I think that the Iraqi army is going to take a while to get up to speed.

What I was objecting to was your "kill" statement. It won't do any good, as al-Sadr is barely in control, if at all, and it would create a martyr for a movement that I wouldn't want to see get more powerful.

It would probably be better for all involved to arrest al-Sadr (if possible), charge him with whatever it is that he's guilty of, and allow the Iraqi government to try him. However, given his popularity, that would not make the interm government very popular, and if they're serious about elections, then they have their eye on the popular vote in January.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 07:56 AM

dougf My Canadian colleague DPU will doubtless find your comment offensive but he is a product of the Canadian indoctrination system and is more to be pitied than censured.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

dougf Remember we can't even watch FOXNEWS here(it is PROHIBITED). All we get is the usual suspects from the US alphabet networks and the CBC which is a story in itself.

It is not prohibited. The CRTC gave CanWest the rights to carry it if they wanted to, but market research indicated that there wasn't sufficient consumer interest, and so they declined. It was a business decision, not a regulatory one.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 08:00 AM

The question is not whether Sadr should be killed, but rather WHO should kill him. He should be killed by the Iraqi transitional government, not by the US forces. The distinction is vital.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 11, 2004 08:14 AM

Markus is correct (wow). Allawi should earn this ribbon.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 08:27 AM

He should be killed by the Iraqi transitional government, not by the US forces.

Yeah, I'm sure they're clamouring to do that. Executing a popular religious figure who's father, uncle, and brothers were killed by Hussein. There's a real vote-grabber for you.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 08:36 AM

Double,

how popular is Sadr actually? I mean nationally, not just in his sect or geographic area. And how many votes might it EARN Allawi if he knocked Sard off?

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 08:52 AM

Interesting discussion. It shows yet again why leftists cannot be trusted to win a war. At every point where a troublemaker increases his demands and causes more violence, it seems the reaction from the left is to avoid hurting said madman and to let him continue his violence. Why is it that appeasement seems to be seared - SEARED - into their being?

I suppose leftists will object to that appeasement label, but honestly, if the shoe fits wear it. Quite frankly, I'm convinced that leftists would've taken this tactic with bin Laden were the public rage against the man not so overwhelming. And quite frankly, some more prominent and out-of-touch liberals DID make such an argument.

I've yet to see a convincing argument that lays out a SPECIFIC case that killing X badguy would actually increase the violence, either in the short or long term or both. The weakenss of the argument is suggested by the fact that it's trotted out EVERY SINGLE TIME. At least regarding Arabs. And maybe people in the Sudan. (Apparrently, this appeasement policy might not apply to dictators from Europe). If the argument held its own weight, it would be supported by specific evidence that relies not on an idelogical belief like appeasement, but the reality on the ground, and would change circumstances based on the nature of the badguy. But it never frickin' changes. It's the same, old, tired, discarded argument that failed in the 1930s, failed in the 1990s, and will fail now if we let it.

This idiotic appeasement-based ideology is attractive because it sounds convincing to us used to rationalist Western concepts of fair play. But its ultimately an emotional appeal, moral grandstanding, and dare I say, a cowardly attempt at desperately avoiding a fight.

I've had it with appeasement, forever. This is a war. If we're going to win, we should fight so we will be in the position to dictate terms. That means that we do not worry about what the hell the enemy thinks of our actions. That's exactly the point of dictating terms.

I should note that this isn't an argument against strategic pullbacks, reinforcement, or sitting back and seeing how the sitution changes to your advantage without fighting. But it IS an argument against bullshit appeasement.

Every day, I'm convinced that liberals and the left are a serious national security problem. The Democrats will never be electable unless they abandon idiotic ideas like this. They seriously need a Tony Blair, or a Truman, or someone.

Posted by: Sydney Carton at August 11, 2004 09:11 AM

Sydney,

great post, well stated.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 09:16 AM

>>>"(Apparrently, this appeasement policy might not apply to dictators from Europe)."

BINGO.

White European fascists will NEVER get the appeasement treatment from the Leftists and their wannabe Lib symps in the West. Can you say Milosovic? Kosovo?

Milosovic's biggest mistake was being a white European and christian, instead of a brown muslim. Had he been, you'd have seen the Compassionate People of Deep Understanding fall all over themselves urging whirled peas and "restraint."

Where was all the Leftist soul-searching during the Balkan wars? Where???

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 09:27 AM

sydney -- i'm a leftist, and my (critical and conditional) support for the war and my strong hopes for a pro-Western, democratic, and federalist outcome is based on my leftist and internationalist principles. If I was looking at what was strictly good from the US perspective, I'd be in the Pat Buchanan camp on the war and on our Mideast policy in general.

It's true we should not worry about what the enemy thinks of our actions. But the Iraqi people are not our enemies, and so the question of what the broad mass of their citizenry thinks is an important one. So is a cost-benefit analysis of the consequences of killing Al-Sadr. As double-plus-ungood points out, he is from an important Iraqi family whose members were killed by Hussein. Leave this decision of what to do with Al-Sadr to the sovereign rulers of Iraq, at whose pleasure our troops are there.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 11, 2004 09:28 AM

TmjUtah:

Bravo! That was a great post up there about the Bush doctrine. If you are game for a wider audience, I'd be happy to cross post it over at centerfield. Just give me the go-ahead. BTW, I'm not trying to recruit you as a centrist. I know we don't see eye-to-eye on everything even though I think you're on target here. Thge thiung is that I value your voice, and I'd like to see what sort of responses you get with our audience, which is a little less polarized than the one here seems to be. (No insult intended to you other posters, BTW.)

My only caveat about Al Sadr is that in my view, our primary concern should be that we eliminate him as security threat, killing him ourselves only if necessary. If Iraqi forces do it, great. If we do it under battle conditons, also OK. If he surrenders and we arrest him, also OK, even if it means a continuing pain in the ass for the purpose of setting some of example of how the democracy we are trying to establish would be different than what Iraqis have seen in the past. But that's sort of a difference in tone, I think one way or the other it's pretty obvious that further tolerance is a bad idea.

Posted by: bk at August 11, 2004 09:42 AM

Don't mind me. Just an idealist, you know.

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles.php?article_id=3743

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 09:50 AM

Re FOXNEWS in Canada
"It is not prohibited. The CRTC gave CanWest the rights to carry it if they wanted to, but market research indicated that there wasn't sufficient consumer interest, and so they declined. It was a business decision, not a regulatory one"--DPU

I do NOT want to clutter up this thread with an off-topic debate BUT the above statement is EXACTLY why it is essentially futile to discuss ANYTHING with most of the left. DPU, your analysis is 100% FALSE and demonstates clearly that you have the insular grasp of reality about which I originally complained. If you want respect for your views then DO THE RESEARCH instead of repeating 'common knowledge'. I apologise for the tone of this comment but I have reached the end of my patience with what can only be described as WILLFUL obliviousness on either side of the issues.We cannot have meaningful debate of issues when accurate information is considered to be merely optional and it is only neccessary to say something to make it true.
Please see the link below for the REAL FACTS.

http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Letters/2003/lb031107.htm

Posted by: dougf at August 11, 2004 10:36 AM

David, if there are particular details you want I'll look for links. I've found that Informed Comment links to a lot of detailed news. Cole is an arab expert but he mostly doesn't give arabic-only news, if there are sources in english he quotes them, he only links arabic-only when there are no english sources.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 10:37 AM

http://www.juancole.com/ Informed Comment

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 10:38 AM

Dougf - dude, no need for all the capital letters. We can disagree without having to resort to extreme measures like the CapsLock key.

FYI - Here's the CRTC decision granting Fox News a license.
The licensee shall provide a national English-language Category 2 specialty television service blending a Canadian domestic perspective with an American-style news service. The service will provide regional news reports and public affairs programming from across Canada, enhanced by a general news service provided by Fox News.
From the Vancouver Scrum, a Canadian media blog:
The channels that were approved that day have had mixed fates. Lone Star, BBC Canada, the National Geographic Channel, and TechTV are reportedly doing well, while others are struggling to stay afloat. Not every digital channel is carried on every cable or satellite system -- for example, MuchLoud is not available to Shaw Cable subscribers, but it's on the Bell ExpressVu satellite network. Other channels existed only on paper: a swath of regional news services never got off the drawing board. Neither, to my knowledge, did the Wine Television Network, various martial arts networks, parenting channels, the interesting-sounding Late Night Vidiots, and dozens of others. They never went to air because there weren't enough potential subscribers, or willing advertisers, or the cost of programming was too high. That's what happened to Fox News Canada: CanWest decided to shelve Fox News Canada due not to the hand of the government, but because their research showed that Fox News Canada wouldn't attract enough subscribers to turn a profit.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 10:49 AM

David: Where was all the Leftist soul-searching during the Balkan wars?

The leftist "soul-searching" you lament was absent because a Democrat was in the White House. The leftist "soul searching" I did see was the anti-fascism and promise of "never again" that has been intregral to the liberal left for many decades.

My question for the conservatives is...where was your anti-fascism then? I still think a huge variable in anti-war behavior on both sides of the aisle since the fall of the Soviet Union is political opposition for its own sake. Bush hatred, and Clinton hatred. I could be wrong, though, it's just my gut feeling. If Kerry wins we'll see what happens.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 11:25 AM

"That's what happened to Fox News Canada: CanWest decided to shelve Fox News Canada due not to the hand of the government, but because their research showed that Fox News Canada wouldn't attract enough subscribers to turn a profit"-- DPU
This is correct and I apologise for the CAPS.I would use italics but have yet to learn the method. Lazy me.
But this proposal was never going to fly and really represents a digression from the latest CRTC decision in 2003. I should have the right to see FOXNEWS as I have the misfortune to be able to see CNN.That is what the CRTC has prohibited not some fantasy project involving mandated Canadian content which is what the application you referenced involved. It is a freedom of speech and information issue as far as I am concerned. Canada is a wasteland for any alternative thoughts to the collective truth and without the internet we would be totally clueless about anything not approved by the usual suspects at the CBC and the like minded media. At least we might possibly agree on that.

Posted by: dougf at August 11, 2004 11:28 AM

"That's what happened to Fox News Canada: CanWest decided to shelve Fox News Canada due not to the hand of the government, but because their research showed that Fox News Canada wouldn't attract enough subscribers to turn a profit"-- DPU
This is correct and I apologise for the CAPS.I would use italics but have yet to learn the method. Lazy me.
But this proposal was never going to fly and really represents a digression from the latest CRTC decision in 2003. I should have the right to see FOXNEWS as I have the misfortune to be able to see CNN.That is what the CRTC has prohibited not some fantasy project involving mandated Canadian content which is what the application you referenced involved. It is a freedom of speech and information issue as far as I am concerned. Canada is a wasteland for any alternative thoughts to the collective truth and without the internet we would be totally clueless about anything not approved by the usual suspects at the CBC and the like minded media. At least we might possibly agree on that.

Posted by: dougf at August 11, 2004 11:28 AM

Dougf - To make something <i>italic</i>, surround it with italic tags.

<b>Bold</b> is done using the bold tags.

When posting a link, like the CRTC main page for example, do it like this: <a href="http://www.crtc.gc.ca">CRTC</a>

Make sure you preview before posting so you can see any errors.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 12:15 PM

Michael,

Re: where was the anti-fascism from conservatives during the Balkans? As I recall, in the 1996 presidential campaign, Senator Robert Dole didn't argue against the Balkan war per se, but argued that it wasn't being done in a hapazard way that had no clear strategic objectives. This argument made sense, at the time, because it was prior to the final bombing runs which eventually crushed that regime. It would be difficult to say that Dole lacked anti-fascism. I never got the impression from his statements that he was secretly a pacifist or that he advocated appeasement in truth if not in fact.

But irrespective, I'm not going to doubt that some of the problem is partisanship for its own sake. People are human and out-of-power Democrats can make really dumb arguments merely because they're out of power. Maybe some on the left see the same in Bob Dole's 1996 position visa that Balkans (though I don't). But overall, especially in the last 3 years, the Democrats have really shown how immature they are on national security issues and how they cannot be trusted. It's more than political opposition: the truth of their ideologies is at stake.

It is not worth the consequences to find out of a President Kerry will protect America, or worth the consequences to see if Republicans will suddenly transform into appeasement-minded pacifists merely for the sake of political opposition (which, given how Dubya has revolutionized the party, is unlikely).

Posted by: Sydney Carton at August 11, 2004 12:20 PM

dougf: Canada is a wasteland for any alternative thoughts to the collective truth and without the internet we would be totally clueless about anything not approved by the usual suspects at the CBC and the like minded media. At least we might possibly agree on that.

Um, no. I find the CBC to be fairly well-balanced, and offers far more interesting news than, say, CNN. I will agree with you that it would be nice to get Fox News, just so I can watch someone like Bill O'Reilly call The Globe and Mail a "far left" newspaper. I'm still giggling about that one. Now that's news that entertains.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 12:21 PM

Grr.. I meant to say: "Senator Robert Dole didn't argue against the Balkan war per se, but argued that it WAS being done in a hapazard way that had no clear strategic objectives."

Posted by: Sydney Carton at August 11, 2004 12:21 PM

Sydney,

Yes, Dole was sufficiently on board, I'd say. Read this to see the silliness of much of the rest of the GOP at that time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 12:24 PM

>>>"My question for the conservatives is...where was your anti-fascism then?"

Michael,

first of all, the Serbs weren't any more "fascist" than your average muslim hardliner. So that covers that. Second of all, they were more socialist than anything else. So I don't agree that Libs were scratching a "fascist" itch at the time. I was a staunch Lib, and for me it was a genocide issue.

Also, I can't speak for conservatives at the time. But I don't recall any real conservative opposition to U.S. interference in the Balkans, so you? except for a few isolationists like Pat Buchanan, but not the GOP.

I think it's a race issue. Muslims/Al-Sadr are little brown people of the sort Libs love to love, so any outside interference by the U.S. is tantamount to polluting a protected ecosphere.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 01:33 PM

>>>"I find the CBC to be fairly well-balanced, and offers far more interesting news than, say, CNN."

Double,

that says it all. Dougf's case is closed.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 01:35 PM

Michael,

If I were a supporter of war for the sake of humanitarian reasons only, I'd say that the statement referenced in that article were ludicrously made out of partianship gaming, and reflect poorly on those who made them. A more serious analysis from those politicians might've further mentioned that their real beef with the Balkan war was that it they weren't sold on how it was connected to our national interests, and many at the time argued that (apart from the humanitarian interest) it was done merely to keep NATO alive.

Still, I despise such whimpering in all its forms. My impression at the time was that the GOP's position was, if we're going to be there, to get in, win decisively, and get out. I recall that many feared the Balkan war was a repudiation of the Powell Doctrine of massive use of overwhelming force to crush an enemy, to best ensure that the conflict is short and decisive. It's a fair criticism of the way the Balkan war was handled. But obviously, it doesn't sound as if that was the position of the politicians mentioned in that article.

In a way, it makes me glad that the Bush Doctrine was thought up by so-called neoconservative think tanks, and not politiicans who might change their minds merely because they're out of power.

Posted by: Sydney Carton at August 11, 2004 01:37 PM

David: I don't recall any real conservative opposition to U.S. interference in the Balkans, do you?

Yes, I do. I had long arguments with conservatives about it, many of the same arguments I have with liberals today. I'm having deja vu all over again. I became a bit of a Bosnia geek, so I remember it all very clearly.

Check out the link I gave to Sydney above. That should refresh your memory.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 02:05 PM

David,

Hindsight is 20/20. Mass murder of civilian populations usually translates into international thuggery later. It's ok to say that people didn't really understand the international dimensions of Bosnia at the time, as long as one continues to remember that 9/11 was supposed to wake the world up from their delusions.

Unquestionably, for instance, the genocide in the Sudan right now is connected to the war on terror (Islamists murdering Christians and others). Whether the US should go into the Sudan, without first dealing with Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others, is an issue for debate. But terrorists of local reach sure have an easy time becoming terrorists of global reach these days. If you're really sold on the Bush Doctrine, as I am, then one should recognize that it's a good idea to nip these problems in the bud before they grow to be malignant.

For Conservative hawks like me, that means a re-assessment of the good that Clinton did in the Balkans (even though we should've killed Milosovec instead of arresting him), and a further recognition of Clinton's failure in Rawanda. This doesn't mean that we MUST intervene in these sorts of humanitarian diasters all the time, but that they can be evidence of a larger global problem that should not be avoided.

Posted by: Sydney Carton at August 11, 2004 02:19 PM

Obviously, some Iraqis like al-Sadr and sympathize with this goals, but they are part of the problem

Clearly, they need to be "taken out" too.

Posted by: kc at August 11, 2004 02:48 PM

KC: Clearly, they need to be "taken out" too.

Um, no. Shooting civilians on purpose is a war crime. Get a grip, buddy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 03:07 PM

Shooting civilians on purpose is a war crime. Get a grip, buddy.

Would it make it OK if Allawi sked us to? He's already asked us to do airstrikes on cities full of civilians, and send tanks into the Najaf graveyard (and of course the rest of the city) and we've been blowing up buildings because they had snipers in them.

Sure it's officially a war crime, but as Mirabai said the last time I was discussing war crimes in iraq, "What's one more spot on the leopard?".

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 03:55 PM

BK -

I assume anything that I post on a public forum is open for linkage with attibution. Please do as you wish.

I don't think I'm centrist. I just can't see Nancy Pelosi and me in the same sentence in the Nation.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 04:01 PM

J Thomas: Would it make it OK if Allawi sked us to?

No. Why would it? A war crime is a war crime is a war crime. You can't get permission to carry one out.

He's already asked us to do airstrikes on cities full of civilians

If the civilians aren't targetted, it's not a war crime. If the civilians are targetted, then it is.

we've been blowing up buildings because they had snipers in them.

That is not now and never has been a war crime. A sniper is a legitimate military target. It is, however, a war crime for combatants to hide among civilians because it draws fire onto those civilians.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 04:12 PM

Michael, my point is that we are not acting pro-iraqi.

Also, it's getting increasingly obvious that Allawi has little influence on policy.

If it was his choice, wouldn't he ask the various shi'ite authorities who they wanted to have protecting the shrines? It might take a few months but there's essentially no chance that they'd say they wanted Sadrists as the ones to protect their shrines from the US troops.

At that point the sadrists could either leave or else defy the rest of the shi'ites, and either way we'd be in a much better position. We wouldn't even have to be involved, whoever the shi'ites appointed could push out the sadrists. If they wanted to they could even be polite about it. "You've done a good job protecting the shrines in these unsettled times and we thank you, and now we're here to do it and you can go home. Allawi says if we need help we can call on the police and the iraqi army, and if things really get bad we'll call for your help too. But for now go home and rest."

But we need victories before the November election. It has to be now.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 06:32 PM

J Thomas,

Not everything is about the election. The officers and soldiers on the ground do not make decisions with the November election in mind, I can assure you of that. Ask anyone who has ever been in the military.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 06:48 PM

Michael, it's possible this attack was planned without participation by the politicians back in the USA. But in that case, what for? What possible military value do we get from it? I can see the political value from the media announcing a victory?

Was it imposed by circumstance, with the military not really having any choice but to attack regardless of consequences?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:08 PM

J Thomas: Michael, it's possible this attack was planned without participation by the politicians back in the USA. But in that case, what for?

I don't understand your question. It looks like you're asking me what's the point of fighting back against the people who are attacking us. Did we lost track of what each other is talking about?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 07:15 PM

Yes, I guess so. Do you believe that the sadrists attacked us and stirred us up to massacre them?

If so, why do you believe it?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:21 PM

Do you believe that the sadrists attacked us and stirred us up to massacre them?

I think they made a terrible miscalculation is what probably happened. (Obviously I am making a guess. No one over here actually knows.) They did not expect to get massacred. Insurgencies can grow in that kind of environment, but if they do learn to expect a massacre it will change the equation significantly. Not everyone wants to be a martyr.

The most effective way to win a war is by breaking the enemy's will to fight. That's what they are trying to do to us, you know.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 07:51 PM

Somewhere in Iraq, at some cyber cafe, an Iranian intelligence officer and his local agent are reading this blog.

After wiping the tears from their eyes, the Iranian turns to the Iraqi and says, "There is still hope, my friend!".

J Thomas, why don't you trot on over to Iraq and explain the Law of Land Warfare to the al Sadr militia? Better yet, make a pit stop in Zarqawi's House of Headless Infidels and explain that he needs a judge, a jury, and an appeals process.

You are pathetic. Put a cork in "if we weren't there they wouldn't attack us", too. The existence and operations of individuals like Zarqawi, al Sadr, and UBL predate the Bush Doctrine, and are precisely why I supported the Iraq war, right after the matter of unfinished business from '91 and the need for a staging area to strike Iran.

I'd rather see them killed on their own ground facing our citizen soldiers (carrying every bit of technical advantage we can provide) than watch my countrymen resign themselves to some acceptable level of murder here, thanks. Septenthians (credit: Roger L. Simon) are usually tolerable in social company but the fact remains that the demographic still pops up all too frequently in positions of responsibility. The enemy assumed, with good reason, that we didn't have the will to oppose them in a strategic manner right up until 9/11. They followed all our flagship media and bought the story that our leadership was weak, our economy in tatters, and our country fragmented...in short, that it was a good time to strike. Three years later they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the NY Times had it wrong on the first two judgements. Their only hope remains vested with our political left.

Speaking only for myself, if I faced the same dilemma I'd probably just save time and suffering by walking in front of a bus. Their tendency to suicide may make sense after all...hmmmmmmm....

They cannot win. We can surely lose.

No sanctuary. No refuge. No respite. Stick to that and have a shorter war with fewer fatalities.

You play word games and shovel your moral equivalent angst all you want, J Thomas. It is indeed a free country. Tell you what - you can be guilty for the BOTH of us after we win.

O.K.? Thought so.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 07:55 PM

TmjUtah: Somewhere in Iraq, at some cyber cafe, an Iranian intelligence officer and his local agent are reading this blog.

My first response is to scoff and say "come on." Then again, Tunis News picked up my article today. Someone in the Arab world is reading my stuff, and I'm getting hits from that Web page of theirs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 11, 2004 08:19 PM

>>>"But we need victories before the November election. It has to be now."

I'd say we need the victories before the elections, the sooner the better.

Everything Bush does from here to the elections will be deemed "political" with a broad brush; it's what's passing for shrewd political analysis these days. Bush went fishing, it's "political".

How bout we need the victories because we've needed the victories for over a year now? Is that too simplistic for ya?

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 08:37 PM

Michael -

Am I being dramatic? Most likely...you already know that I tend to write most when my frustration meter is pegged.

I have always believed in the power of ideas. I believe that in a society where markets define success that good ideas usually trump bad ones.

With this tool in front of us...these keys and chips and power supplies and monitors and servers and links and software and satellites and bored guys watching lines of code scroll across screens 24/7 ...with this tool we find the keys to the Library at Alexandria, Dick Tracy's wristcomm, and Guttenberg's press all rolled into one.

This tool is the direct result of a whole slew of good ideas over several hundred years. The power of governments from D.C. to Tokyo to Moscow spent decades trying to make it happen but it took hundreds of millions of people like us to actually pay for it to happen.

(I was going to put in a bit about the inventors not understanding the potential of their products, but even with Google, Snopes, and the Straight Dope at my fingertips I couldn't confirm whether it was 64K or 128K of RAM that Bill Gates thought would be the upper limit ever needed by a PC designer. Dunno. I bet most people who will read this could find out for sure under ten minutes; I am no search whiz.)

Knowledge has often been equated in metaphor as the light that reveals; light bulbs over the head and such. I think in starker terms. Knowledge in its most basic form is the torch that drove the unknown away from the cave at night. Torches burn if they aren't handled carefully.

Here on our side of the rainbow we gaily juggle naked chain reactions without bothering with sunscreen. We take it for granted that seeking our fortunes where we will and when we want is a natural thing. Right at this same moment there are people on the other side bearing weapons they are incapable of producing themselves bent on extinguishing any spark foreign to their embraced view of what should be.

They curse us for their misery. They despise us for our comfort. They are appalled at our optomism.

And they are enraged that we ignore them.

Why the big smoking pit in New York City? Why now? Their prophesies foretell a world ruled by Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood directed that breeding would be the chosen weapon as far back as the fifties - who was that S.O.B....? Qutb?

Search again....fill in the blanks.

It won't work. Not when the idea is flawed at such a basic level. The crescent advanced three times before and was crushed. The gap between western liberal civilization and whatever construct Islam is today is immeasurably wider. They can have all the kids they want but the number of them that will slip on a Semtex jockstrap after living in a free society for even a short generation must be miniscule or the ramifications would be undeniable to anyone. It would be hard to ignore hundreds of thousands of exploding people in the streets of Michigan, Texas, and much of the east coast. It's the hand of man and not the will of any god driving this thing.

This is very much a battle between good and evil on the micro level. Man to man, government to government the conscious acts of the parties can and must be judged. Sides must be taken. On the macro...between populations or entire cultures, its really just ideas shaking out. Just like they have for as long as conflicting ideas have reached a point where they could not continue to exist one along the other.

I do hope there are all sorts of foreign types reading these words. They need to know that whatever the NYT editorial board may care to print on any given day there exists more than enough men who reject the notion the world is a debate in which they participate at liesure but instead is implicitly a fight that must be won.

We are not going back to the caves. We'll try to illuminate their cave...attempt to foster the ideas of individual human worth and basic ethics of democracy as long as we can. We'll teach were we can and burn where we must. Then we'll hand them the torch and wish them luck on their further journies. We aren't wired to rule by the sword despite the most frenzied writings of Chomsky or Van der Huevel or any other tinpot tenured dickwad. Imperialism is not equal to keeping the barbarians knocked back. At least it wasn't until the last fifty years or so.

I've rambled way too long. I appreciate your forum, Michael. We are getting up tomorrow at 0400 to count Perseid Meteor Shower falling stars. I've got a ream of wishes I need to make and do not want to miss the opportunity.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 10:42 PM

MJT -

And congrats on the foreign publication. How cool is that???

'night.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 10:47 PM

Michael, I tend to follow Juan Cole's analysis of it.

http://www.juancole.com/2004_08_01_juancole_archive.html#109185971761574275

Most of what he says fits news reports I've seen elsewhere, I've learned to trust that I can usually find such reports if I look. But sometimes he mentions things in the arab press that I can't find in translation.

So, look at the timeline. Things were quiet between sadrists and the Allawi regime. Then

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10303512%255E1702,00.html
8/31 Sheikh Mithal al-Hasnawi, Sadr's representative in Karbala, was arrested along with his brother in a joint raid by multinational forces and the Iraqi National Guard, Sheikh Raed al-Kadhemi said.

"They just barged into his home at around 3am local time (9am AEST) and arrested him and his brother for no reason whatsoever," Sheikh Kadhemi said.

http://www.juancole.com/2004_08_01_juancole_archive.html#109142109559924607
The arab press reports rioting in Najaf over electricity. Sadr militia somewhat kept order and protected the electrical workers. The police should have done this, but did not.

http://www.juancole.com/2004_08_01_juancole_archive.html#109150515388241277
8/3 Marines attack Sadr's house, wounding several people and killing one woman.

"The gestures given by the Allawi government, indicating that it would not prosecute Muqtada, allowing his newspaper to reopen, and inviting him to join the political process, increasingly look as though they may have been traps intended to lull him into complacency so as to permit his capture.

"I personally wonder whether the Allawi government could survive its capture of Muqtada. A caretaker government in alliance with a foreign occupier doesn't have much credibility to begin with, and I suspect such a move would fatally weaken it.

"The only chance democracy has left in Iraq is for the forthcoming elections to be as open, inclusive, and above-board as possible. The Sadrists haven't been drawn in yet, and with this sort of incident they may never be. Major political forces excluded from the process tend to become spoilers."

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1091590246922_75/?hub=World
Sadrists kidnapped 18 Najaf policement hoping to trade them for Hasnawi and maybe others.

http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=560060&section=news
8/5 Sistani reported to have heart problems, preparatory to his leaving the country.

Sadrists fight british troops in Basra and Amara. A government official who is also a ranking sadrist claimed the british had broken the truce.

Sadrists take over Nasiriya, police and italians don't oppose them.

US troops attack Sadr city in Baghdad, meet enough resistance to call in air strikes.

Marines attack Sadrists in Najaf, called in to protect police. Sadrists say the fighting came from aggressive moves by governor Zurufi.

And there we are.

I'd say that wherever we move in the marines in place of the army, we're probably planning to attack. Except we don't have enough troops there and the marines have to go somewhere. The marines denied they were trying to arrest Sadr when they attacked his house. They say they were just wandering around lost and had no idea it was his house they were attacking. Twice. I'm afraid they might be telling the truth.

Cole figures that neither side really expected the truce to last, and the sadrists were preparing for our attack. Sadr says he doesn't expect to survive. ''Don't wait for me to get up on the pulpit and give you directions. I, certainly, will be gone because the enemy is lurking for me everywhere. Don't let my death divide you.''

8/8"Ma`d Fayyad of Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reveals some of the background to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's trip to the UK. He says that it has been in the works for some time, and that British authorities knew about the plan for the ayatollah to come to London as early as two weeks ago. He says that there was fear that Muqtada al-Sadr would have Sistani taken hostage, or that he might seek refuge in the grand ayatollah's house. (If those are the reasons for the trip, and if the British knew about it two weeks ago, that means that plans to come after Muqtada were made at least two weeks ago)."

8/9 "A demonstration of some 600 was held in downtown Karbala by all the major Shiite political parties, calling for the resignations of Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, as well as Najaf governor Adnan al-Zurufi. They condemned the military operations being carried out in Najaf."

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5931142
8/11 Iraq's interim deputy president has called on U.S.-led multinational troops to leave the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf to end almost a week of fighting there.

"I call for multinational forces to leave Najaf and for only Iraqi forces to remain there," Ibrahim Jaafari said in remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera television on Wednesday.

"Iraqi forces can administer Najaf to end this phenomenon of violence in this city that is holy to all Muslims."

"We will not allow them to continue to desecrate this sacred site . . . " said Colonel Anthony Haslam, commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (This is after the US dropped bombs on the cemetery, which contains the dead relatives of Shiite Muslims from all over the world, but especially Iraq).

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/12/international/middleeast/12iraq.html?pagewanted=2
8/12 Final assault on shrine by 1000 marines and 2000 army (plus 500 iraqi army) delayed. Allawi in Najaf, says no negotiation, no compromise.

Allawi could lose big by this. Lots of shi'ites would be happy to see Sadr gone, but who will they blame for trashing Najaf? Allawi was the iraqi who could tell the USA to stop, and he didn't. Was it that Zufuri pushed him into it? Zufuri was a US appointee and Allawi couldn't control him. So Allawi keeps inviting Sadr to run for office in the elected government, and Sadr says it will be a puppet government controlled by the invaders. He says he wants a democracy without a foreign army involved.

It looks to me like the US planned it from at least 2 weeks ago, and detaining Hasnawi was intended to provoke Sadr into actions they could retaliate against.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 10:50 PM

TMJ, OBL came long before our iraq invasion, he even provided the pretext for it.

Zarqawi gives no indication he was at all important before our invasion, and the current Zarqawi may have no connection with the OBL associate who was probably not very important. I don't understand why any iraqis would follow him but it appears that hundreds do.

Sadr came entirely after our invasion, under Saddam he could only make little grumbles or get killed like his family. The major thing that makes him important now is he's the guy with a name who says to get the US military out of iraq, and we've been suppressing him. A few months ago he was close to the most popular man in iraq because he was the one with a name who was standing up to us. Back then we were the most hated people in iraq, followed by Saddam's old torturers. Maybe by now Zarqawi's guys have beat us out and they're the most hated.

It makes no sense to roll up OBL and Sadr together. They're two completely different things, it will only confuse you.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 11:04 PM

Looks like we've rolled up Najaf. Apparently, however, we will leave the Shrine of Imam Ali to the Iraqi Army.

Good for our guys. Hope the headchoppers in Fallujah and Ramadi are watching.

Posted by: section9 at August 12, 2004 05:03 AM

J -

After careful consideration I think I'll have to characterize our exchange as a failure to communicate.

As long as either OBL or Sadr or Zarqawi can point at a line in a book as authorization to murder people they are indeed the same thing. And will be dealt with the same way.

The falling stars were a bust, by the way.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 12, 2004 05:55 AM

TnjUtah -- you express your perspective eloquently. The facts that you see, you see clearly. The facts you miss, you don't see at all.

That aside, one of your comments made me wonder. As you say you supported the war because of "the need for a staging area to strike Iran", what you would suggest our course of action should be in the entirely likely event that the Shi'a majority of Iraq democratically expresses its preference not to host a staging ground for the US overthrow of the Iranian government, but rather to have CLOSER relations with that government? The major reason Rumsfeld and the rest of the Reagan Administration was so vigilant about kissing Saadam's ass in the eighties, after all, was that he served as a bulwark against the Great Satan, Iran. And the major argument at that time against real Iraqi democratic reform was that it would probably lead to CLOSER relations between the two countries. Seems like you (and your ilk) might continue to have the same overriding concern.

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 12, 2004 09:50 AM

TMJ, any US soldier can point to a line in a book as an excuse to kill people. I wouldn't say it's the same thing. Many israeli settlers can point to a line in a book to justify murder, and I would call that one the same, no question.

But there's a difference between OBL and Sadr. OBL is saudi, and he has some sort of strange ideals that involve getting US influence out of arab lands. Sadr is an iraqi who only wants to get foreign fighters out of iraq.

Sadr says he wants democracy, he just doesn't believe we're heading for one, he thinks we're setting up a puppet government. Of course, a real iraqi government with a 60% shi'ite population would tend to do what shi'ites want....

Allawi still offers Sadr a chance to run for office. But Allawi doesn't have the authority to do that. American-appointed officials can bar any Sadrist party from the elections, and there's nothing Allawi can do about it. Maybe Sadr isn't completely wrong?

Allawi offered to put Sadr's arrest warrant aside, it wasn't done by anybody in his government anyway, nobody connected to his justice system. But it turns out he can't stop the americans from arresting Sadr, so his offer is no good. Just one of those soveriegnty things....

If you were in Sadr's place would you think Allawi was a puppet?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 12, 2004 10:01 AM

J Thomas: Sadr says he wants democracy, he just doesn't believe we're heading for one, he thinks we're setting up a puppet government.

He says that only in English, and only recently. He's an Iranian-inspired Isalmofascist in Arabic. And he kills Americans in both languages.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 12, 2004 11:01 AM

"J Thomas: Sadr says he wants democracy, he just doesn't believe we're heading for one, he thinks we're setting up a puppet government.

He says that only in English, and only recently. He's an Iranian-inspired Isalmofascist in Arabic. And he kills Americans in both languages"--MJT

100% Correct,Michael. This discussion in a very few words sums up why we are in trouble.A certain segment of the population not only cannot see the forest for the trees,they can't even see the trees. To somehow construe Al-Sadr and his Iranian backers as 'democrats' is simply an exercise in delusion. Al-Sadr not only kills Americans,he kills or intimidates anyone not supporting him.He is exactly as you described him.An Islamofascist with nothing to offer to anyone except more death and despair.

Posted by: dougf at August 12, 2004 01:04 PM

Markus Rose -

Your point about the possible outcomes of Iraqi/Iranian rapprochement is valid. Your contention that I discarded it is not. I have not participated in debate on that point here.

My 'ilk' accepts that the president was actually serious when he identified the axis of evil as threats to be confronted. Iran will not be allowed to become a nuclear power. Not under the mullahocracy. Whether we bring down the regime via diplomatic pressure, covert/overt support for indigenous rebellion, or invasion, the clock is running out on Islamic terrorism's corporate headquarters. They know that. Right up until the day the Bush Doctrine was established conventional wisdom among the striped pants crowd, chattering class intellectuals, and dictators the world over was that achieving nuclear weapon capability would instantly buy any regime legitimacy as a world player and constitute immunity for their actions.

Whether we launch from Iraq or the 'stans or go wholly airassault/amphibious in the end is dependent on a tremendous number of variables. I'm sure there are gigabytes of contingency plans in existence already. The pivot everything turns on is our analysis of what intelligence we have available on their program and command/control/communication infrastructure.

That's a sobering thought, for reasons we are all intimately familiar with.

This administration will not accept a nuclear armed Iran. The vacuum of official administration/minority comment provided on the questions about Iranian (and to a lesser extent Syrian and others') complicity in the ongoing unrest in Iraq I take as an agreement between the parties that the threat is beyond any consideration of political exploitation.

If true, that's significant, too, given the ...unconscionable?...behaviour of the minority via Wilson/Clark/Berger et al we've already seen shovelled out of the sty.

The masters of Tehran might be shia. They are certainly directly responsible for a sizable chunk of the murders in the name of Islam committed since 1979. If a democratically elected Iraq chooses to ally with Iran, there's a portion of the Doctrine that applies: "We will make no distinction between terrorists or those who support them."

You mention the diplomacy of the eighties vis a vis our relations with Iraq as an obvious counter to Iran. I agree with you. I will also point out that it's not 1985 any more. I also hope that future administrations grasp as this administration does the mistakes we made then and decline to repeat them.

I believe we've both been posting here long enough for you to have seen one of my previous posts concerning my personal wish list concerning Iran. I won't go over the whole thing, but I still hope that if it becomes necessary to put boots on the ground that the 8th Marine Regiment leads the way.

J Thomas -

Please read "Carnage and Culture" ,"Ripples of War" (both by Victor Davis Hanson), and The Uniform Code of Military Justice before venturing an opinion on the motivations behind killing in uniformed service, as it relates to U.S. servicemen.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 12, 2004 02:18 PM

Markus -

"Valid" in my first sentence is not inteneded as condescension on my part.

And just where and when was there ever a public policy debate on 'reforming' Saddam Hussein back in the eighties? My ilk and I would like to hear about that one....

dougf -

Forest/trees. Amen.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 12, 2004 02:50 PM

KC: Clearly, they need to be "taken out" too.

MT: Um, no. Shooting civilians on purpose is a war crime. Get a grip, buddy.

Geez, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over.

Say - isn't Sadr a civilian too? Does that mean we shouldn't take him out?

I'm so confused.

Posted by: kc at August 12, 2004 04:27 PM

Please read "Carnage and Culture" ,"Ripples of War" (both by Victor Davis Hanson), and The Uniform Code of Military Justice before venturing an opinion on the motivations behind killing in uniformed service, as it relates to U.S. servicemen.

I have no intention of reading Hanson. The Code was the book I was talking about, the book that US soldiers can point to a line in as their authorisation to kill people. ;)

Posted by: J Thomas at August 12, 2004 06:32 PM

Michael, before we look at the difference between what Sadr wants and democracy, maybe we should look at what Sistani wants.

Sistani wants democracy in iraq, agreed? And he doesn't think that Mullahs ought to be running the government. This is what we've been telling ourselves about him. However, there is a catch. Sistani also believes that if he sees something the government ought to do -- like, say, ban western music on iraqi radio stations on Fridays -- he can say so and every Shi'ite member of the assembly had better vote for it.

He doesn't want to run the government, and he doesn't even want an official veto on what the government does. He just wants to be able to say what should happen, when he sees a social or religious matter that needs attention, and have the people of his faith do it.

Now, iraq is 60% shi'ite, and if that translates to 60% shi'ite legislators, it gives Sistani pretty close to absolute control, which I guess he'd get if 67% of them did what he wanted. But what makes it not-as-bad is that he doesn't want to actually do much control, he wants to stand back and pray and study while somebody else runs the government, and he'll only step in when it's necessary.

Given that this is what the good guy Sistani wants, what about Sadr? Sadr is supposed to go along with whatever Sistani wants, and he gets in trouble if it's known that he isn't going along. Where he gets so much leeway now is that there isn't any democracy and the americans are trying to kill him, and Sistani refuses to tell him he's doing right but also refuses to tell him to do otherwise when it could get him killed.

So sure, Sadr has been like a warlord. Every militia leader has, that's what it means to be a militia leader. Do you think Allawi or any of the other militia leaders didn't intimidate people and get people killed etc? It's the rules of that game. Would Sadr act the same when the rules change? I dunno, how would anybody know? If he lives that long we'll see. If he uses armed force against the government that everybody else supports, they'll kill him. The Badr guys will be right in there helping. But Allawi probably doesn't have enough support to kill Sadr now. It could break him. We might kill Sadr whether it breaks Allawi or not.

Of course the marines want Sadr dead, since his people have killed a few americans -- though we've been killing them at better than 30:1. Are we there to kill the people we want to kill or are we there to support iraq?

If they're sovereign we don't get to kill Sadr just because we want to. But we do this double-think where we pretend iraq is sovereign when it's convenient, and pretend it's our conquered base for attacking iran when that's what we want to think about. At some point we might have to choose one or the other.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 12, 2004 07:06 PM

J Thomas -

Thank you for confirming my suspicion thay you had a wilful and profound ignorance of history.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 12, 2004 10:04 PM

Michael Totten

"Global domination" ain't the name of the game, bud.

Straightforward liberal denial. All global powers in the past have aimed to dominate the world, and to suggest the US is somehow different is like denying gravity. In fact it would be irrational and against its own interests if the USA, being in the position that it is in, did not try to dominate the world. It's entirely logical for it to do so.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 13, 2004 07:57 AM

TMJ, perhaps you have confused me with Markus Rose? I haven't said anything about history recently.

Or do you figure that Hanson's revisionism is all there is?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 13, 2004 09:04 AM

J Thomas -

The word applicable to the body of Hanson's work, coming from you, could only be "revanchist", not "revisionism".

I bet you don't even have to look it up, do you?

Things are the way they are. The two critical threats to any society are putative leaders who don't or won't acknowledge the demonstrated reality of human behaviour via historical precedent and the demographic that supports them.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 13, 2004 11:53 AM
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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn