September 17, 2004

Don't Abandon Iraq

I was going to write something about why we should not leave Iraq prematurely, even though it's looking pretty grim again at the moment. But Victor Davis Hanson said what I wanted to say, and he said it better than I would have. His column is your homework for the weekend.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2004 05:44 PM
Comments

I dont find the article very convincing.

First off, he grossly mischaracterizes the argument for withdrawl (an argument that I am not making or supporting). Those who advocate withdrawl are not doing so on the basis that it is somehow too much for us - some sort of a lack of nerve or resolution - but rather that our presecence there is an impediment to a positive outcome. The way I have heard it phrased (and the claim is that this is a widespread sentiment within the upper ranks of the military and intel community) is that things will simply not get any better until we leave. So long as we are there, all of the insurgent forces have a common enemy, all nationalistic Iraqis are prone to be swayed by the call to kick out the foreigner, and the Iraqi government will never have the chance to assume a non-puppet identity, nor will they fully embrace the necessary attitudes of governing the country themselves, as opposed to relying on us.

I dont know to what extent all of this is valid, but those are the arguments - focussed on finding the best strategy to a positive outcome, not concenred with backing out of a difficult situation.

I find his later passages, about how withdrawl from Vietnam set in motion every negative thing that happened in the world for the next 30 years to be utter nonsense.

I also find his anaysis of the current situation to smack of real rose-colored-glasses syndrome. I have heard few people who sense that the elections are "on track" - to the contrary - even the optimists seem to admit that if they happen, they will be partial elections, and the resulting government will have a difficult task at claiming a mandate.
My sense of what is going on in Kurdistan is also quite troubling, not some rosy panacea. The Kurds are edging pretty close to outright conflict with the Turkomens, and they are also pushing the return of Kurds to Kirkuk, setting up a very real possiblity of conflict with the arabs there. This is where a ton of oil is, so there is plenty of reason for conflict.

Anyway, the piece strikes me as a mix of 'full speed ahead' advocacy mixed with a rosy picture at odds with what I hear from most sources, and a bit of historical misrepresentation mixed in.

I think you could do better michael.

Posted by: Tano at September 17, 2004 06:31 PM

Tano,

You think I could do better? Well, you may not agree with Mr. Hanson, but he is a distinguished classics professor and a military historian. He knows more about this subject than you and I put together. That doesn't mean he is automatically right, obviously, but I'm not exactly linking to a crank here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2004 06:38 PM

While I agree that we cannot leave Iraq now. It is foolish to pretend that we're making great progress. The fact that we are saying that the elections are on schedule, does not in any way reflect the fact that it will be an election in which violence will likely errupt and polling places will undoubtedly be bombed. Those freedom loving Iraqis who are out to vote, will die. The intelligent Iraqis will probably stay home... since a live dog is better than a dead voter.

Besides, do you really believe anyone is going to brave Fallujah to record votes?

We cannot 'exit' now. To do so would be to provide a breeding ground for terror, hate and our own demise. However, it does no one any good to put on a smiley face, say everything is OK and we're on schedule.

Honesty folks is better than propaganda (left or right), every time.

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 17, 2004 07:00 PM

Hey, if I have homework, can I have house points?

Posted by: Ben at September 17, 2004 07:13 PM

Michael,

Thanks for the pointer. I had not seen VDH's blog before, and I've added to my alternate list, so that I can check it conveniently.

I appreciate how solid you are on war and international terrorism. It is too easy to allow fuzzy thinking to overcome logic and experience, and cause bad things to happen.

I'm concerned that if elected, we would have elected the 1971 John Kerry, and we would get something like Saigon in 1975 in Iraq.

Posted by: Jim Bender at September 17, 2004 07:14 PM

Yes I know his credentials Michael. But, as you say, that doesnt mean he is right. Very often, very very often, learned folks are simply able to marshall lots of support for their argument, but the choice of the argument itself comes more from the gut, or some other place.

Chomsky is one hell of a brilliant guy, and knows more about the world then you or I also. But I suspect that doesnt weigh too heavily in your assessment of his arguments.

You strike me as someone who would put some serious thinking into the decision of what your bottom line take on the current Iraq situation is. Hanson's piece struck me as more a case of applying a deep seated attitude to a new situation, without much concern for the actual facts of this particular situation.

I would prefer, and think more valuable, the former type of analysis, rather than the latter.

Posted by: Tano at September 17, 2004 07:40 PM

Sounds like VDH has it right. He's saying that we can't let the politicians fight this war. Politicians, driven by our internal 5th column peaceniks, will lose this war, not the military, and that's what VDH is saying. It's basic common sense, hello?

Posted by: David at September 17, 2004 07:58 PM

>>>"Honesty folks is better than propaganda (left or right), every time."

It's all about emphasis. For the last year, the media has emphasized only the negative.

Emphasizing the positive isn't propaganda; in fact it may be closer to the truth than the constant neverending countdown to 1000 dead GIs the press was salivating about.

What's going on now is a Tet Offensive. It can't negate all the progress that has been made unless we let it get to us. Hanson is saying we can't let it get to us; much has been accomplished and the stakes are too high.

Posted by: David at September 17, 2004 08:10 PM

Basically Hanson is saying the US never should have withdrawn from Vietnam, and because it did so, all those bad things happened like Russians in Afghanistan, and Communists in Central America. This is total horseshit. We should have stayed in Vietnam and lost another 50,000 soldiers??? Uh???? And killed another how many Vietnamese? And where does it follow that withdrawing from Vietnam led to all those other terrible things? The Iraq war is a disaster and as soon as those who supported the war swallow their pride and admit it was a mistake, the better. Just imagine if we had never invaded. Yes, Saddam would still be around, but so what? We had him effectively contained, as we now know. I would like all of you who so enthusiastically support this war, to go volunteer for the military and/or send your children as well.

Posted by: miriam reinhart at September 17, 2004 08:45 PM

"The Iraq war is a disaster and as soon as those who supported the war swallow their pride and admit it was a mistake, the better."

Sorry, I ain't gonna admit it was a mistake. A few hitches and poor planning doesn't make it a disaster, and I ain't a pessimist like that.

"I would like all of you who so enthusiastically support this war, to go volunteer for the military and/or send your children as well."

Please use something other than the long-debunked chickenhawk argument to rebut VDH's point and those who disagree with your anti-war stance.

Posted by: Rhesa at September 17, 2004 09:32 PM

I'm not especially well versed on arguments for pulling our troops out of Iraq, Tano, but I'd not heard the particular argument you've cited until thirty seconds ago.

Posted by: Mason at September 17, 2004 09:58 PM

I wonder how many people here know ( Michael probably does ) that VDH is a Democrat. Sadly there are not many Democrats like him around anymore. This probably explains why VDH is a visiting professor at Hillsdale College ( a very fine university ), but not at Harvard or Yale, and why his columns are not likely to be found in The Nation or The New Yorker, and why he will probably never be a visiting scholar at Brookings. I suspect the careerists in the State Department are not very fond of him either.

Judging by the typical reaction to VDH's writings by many Democrats, I can only state what I have stated before: There is NO hope that the Democrats will articulate a sensible national security and foreign policy rooted in American exceptionalism until the Vietnam either generation dies off or regains their sanity in old age.

I visited the JFK museum and library in Boston a few weeks ago. I was a child when he was assasinated, but after listening to JFK's speeches about the Soviets, and being reminded of his clear belief that America had a special role to spread freedom and oppose tyranny in the world, and witnessing his obvious hatred of communism, I was struck by how much JFK sounded like Reagan or GW Bush. THAT, more than anything, demonstrated to me just how much the Democrat Party has changed since JFK and Vietnam.

The UN-worshipping, blame-America-first attitude that casts America as the global exploiter and which infected much of the Democrat Party in late 1960s and early 1970s has done more damage to that party than anything I can think of in the past 50+ years, and it continues to do so. Just look at the state of the Kerry campaign, and remember the demonstrations by those freakish protestors in NYC a few weeks ago, in case you need a reality check.

Say what you will about the neocons, Bush and Cheney. And, if you wish, continue to indulge in the rantings of the BFSWM Michael Moore and the nutty Haiburton conspiracy theories. It is a sad fact that the "blame-America" crowd today is almost exclusively on the Left. I dare you to go find a flag-burning Republican.

Posted by: freeguy at September 17, 2004 10:18 PM

Tano: Chomsky is one hell of a brilliant guy, and knows more about the world then you or I also. But I suspect that doesnt weigh too heavily in your assessment of his arguments.

True. Here's the difference. Chomsky is respected in the field of his expertise: linguistics. He is not widely respected by the "foreign policy" set. On the contrary, he is widely ridiculed in foreign policy circles.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian who is widely and deeply respected by other military historians.

I'm not trying to pull the old "appeal to authority" stunt, I'm just putting this out there for those who may not know who he is.

And, yes, Freeguy, I know VDH is a Democrat. At least he was. He is not going to vote for John Kerry.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2004 11:00 PM

>>>"This is total horseshit."

I remember the recriminations from the Left against the U.S. for "abandoning" Afghanistan 20 years ago after we helped them beat the Soviets. Now those same Lefties are asking us to abandon Iraq. They keep moving the goalposts. 20 years from now those same aged hippie Lefists will be blaming us for abandoning Iraq.

Posted by: David at September 17, 2004 11:46 PM

"The Iraq war is a disaster and as soon as those who supported the war swallow their pride and admit it was a mistake, the better."

The war is not a disaster. It is ugly. Wars often are. CNN and Fox are simply making you more aware of this fact. If they had been around during WWII, things would have seemed MUCH worse back then than anything you are seeing right now. You want a war in which all the bad guys come out and say, "OK here we are. Let's go find a safe place to go and fight- we can't have any civilians getting hurt." Good luck finding a time machine, 'cause you're gonna have to go to the 1700's to find that.

"I would like all of you who so enthusiastically support this war, to go volunteer for the military and/or send your children as well."

Enthusiastically supporting this war? You mean that if we support this war, it means we're automatically enthusiastic about war- that we LIKE war? That's the most simple-minded, uneducated accusation I've seen in awhile. I support this war and I'm serving in this war, but I'd hardly say that I'm enthusiastic about it. Nobody's happy about having to kill people and risk being killed. In fact, I hate this war. But I support it, because I understand the stakes. Clearly, you don't:

"Just imagine if we had never invaded. Yes, Saddam would still be around, but so what?"

Please don't vote in this election- people like you scare me.

I'm not sure how much time you and Michael Moore spent in uniform, but I'm going to share with you some of my unique insight on military affairs. We are not children and our parents didn't send us here. Please stop spreading these lies about us. We're not afraid, we don't pity ourselves, we're confident in our mission, and we certainly don't care to be labelled by people like you...

Posted by: $lick at September 18, 2004 06:41 AM

It is always entertaining to watch people who have no military experience debate military options. Heh.

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 18, 2004 06:43 AM

Hmmm...here's a report from a staff officer actually over there in Iraq

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 18, 2004 06:48 AM

It is equally entertaining to hear how some people believe in the notion that "Saddam was contained". What an ugly mess that idea had created. After all the oppressive misery Saddam had perpetuated upon his own people, I cannot understand how some people feel satisfied with the concept of containment. Do they not recognize their hands have been bloodied from supporting the concept of containing Saddam?

I understand why our nation's soldiers fight this war and, I too, will not be buried by the fear of dying for the cause of freedom from tyranny we hold so dear.

Containment merely serves cowards who care only that their own needs are met at the expense of humanity. Containment is humanity's ugliness, those who support this notion are the living dead.

And, Genocidal Peace and Justice for Dictators is neither peaceful nor justified.

Posted by: syn at September 18, 2004 07:43 AM

I had never really understood the REAL meaning of the word 'defeatist',until I had the opportunity to peruse the repeated postings of some blog commentators and of course our dear friends in the media.
Iraq is a problem.That is nothing but a truism.Really all things considered what else could we expect from a broken country and a broken society(broken long before we showed up last year by the way).In and of itself,that observation is meaningless except to make the legitimate point that more information is needed in the future and therefore the Intellignece Agencies need a BIG shake-up.
The question is ; Is Iraq Important?
I happen to believe that it is and am losing interest in the CONSTANT NEGATIVITY of the MSM and its like minded leftist friends.I always get the impression that for many,the issue is never really about how we can do better in Iraq;it is about how we can flee Iraq without APPEARING to be fleeing and how Iraq can be used to damage GWB.If everyone was really interested in victory and differed only on tactics,the conversations would be a lot more productive and civil.The fact that all these discussions end up at exactly the same place,indicates to me that it is not means we are discussing but ends. I cannot help but believe that this will end badly at some point in the future unless we all can agree that we are facing a common enemy who hates us ALL quite equally.

Posted by: dougf at September 18, 2004 08:08 AM

syn,

I recall the Lefty anti-American slogan of the 60s and 70s "No justice, No peace" which they used to criticize our Cold War policy of propping up dictators against the red menace, and justify the communists guerrilla movements in Central America.

Apparently that didn't apply to Saddam's Iraq where evidently there COULD be peace had we not invaded, even if there was no justice.

Posted by: David at September 18, 2004 08:13 AM

slogan of the 70s and 80s rather.

Posted by: David at September 18, 2004 08:14 AM

david,
Those slogans (no justice, no peace) were not from any foreign policy movements - they were the slogans of civil-rights movements. As in "pay attention to our concerns about social justice, or we are going to continue to demonstrate").

dougf writes,
"If everyone was really interested in victory and differed only on tactics,the conversations would be a lot more productive and civil.The fact that all these discussions end up at exactly the same place"

I think that your argument is an impediment to constructive conversation. Because, as I pointed out in my first post above, the arguments for some sort of a withdrawl from iraq, whatever you think about them, are motivated by the desire for a positive outcome - what should/must we do to make the situation better. Based on the sense that our presence is actually driving the destabilization of the country.

Your refusal to accept that anyone holding these views (whether they are right or wrong) is sincerely concerned with finding a positive outcome for the Iraqis as well as us, is the force that is driving these conversations endlessly to the "same place".

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 08:43 AM

LT Smash has an email from a US Marine Corps major in Baghdad. I wish journalists would talk to and report on what the ground troops are doing instead of the green zone doomsday reporting we get.
indepundit.com/cgi-bin/mt3/mt-tb.cgi/38

I'm just another democrat who will vote for Bush and I am having a really hard time understanding why my party will not support democracy for the Iraqi people. I must have missed the secret meeting that threw our core beliefs out the window.

I look at posts like miriam's and am just amazed. Accidentalism bereft of humanity. What realm have we crossed into that allows the tyranny of Saddam to be summed up as "so what"?

Posted by: Kim at September 18, 2004 08:53 AM

Kim,
Having core beliefs in the virtue of democracy does not necessarily lead to a view that it is wise or proper to use military force to invade other countries and to impose that system.

Democracy by definition is the empowerment of the native population. Using the military to occupy a country, to choose interim leaders, and to impose a mechanism that we hope will lead to that empowerment is, in the end, an experiment. Can this approach actually lead to the desired outcome? Is the native population prepared to embrace the mechanism that we propose? Or will there be a backlash by people who feel that our experiment has led to the death of 20K Iraqis and turned their country into a chaotic battlefield?

Irrespective of the goodness of our long-term vision, there may well be a natural resentment to the notion that some foreign power has decided what is best for the Iraqi people, and is imposing that vision by force. I share the underlying notion that all people ultimately desire freedom and an equal voice in the affairs of their country, and they should have that. But most people also have an equally powerful aversion to foreign powers determining the course of thier country's history. With 6000 years of recorded history, at a crossroads of countless empires and other political movements, the Iraqis may have a very strong nationalistic feeling that can trump any possibility of embracing our vision.

Understanding these and other factors is crucial before undertaking experiments that can lead to either good, or catastrophic outcomes.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 09:21 AM

Tano,

You believe that a swift American pull-out is what's best for Iraq. That is a point of view, and I can respect that. I've been to Iraq, and I think you are very wrong. I think if you did a little more research into that option, you'd quickly agree. But that's just my opinion against yours.

You want to support your argument by referring to "widespread sentiment within the upper ranks of the military and intel community" and so you quickly grabbed my attention. I will say that I work with many high-level officers, and I know for certain that NONE of them share your view. Sure there might be a few out there (very few- I've yet to meet any), but there is no such widespread sentiment as you claim. I won't even ask you to support such an outrageous claim, because I know you can't. By making such a claim, you are essentially trying to tell me the sky is not blue when I'm looking at a very blue sky. So why do you say such things? Easy- you want so desperately to be right, that you'll spread false propaganda (no matter how outrageous) to support your theory. This is what the left is famous for. When you make false statements like that on behalf of the military, you are hurting our cause. You hurt the mission, and you hurt the troops. I tell you this, because I believe that you really DO want to help us. I believe that you genuinely want what's best for the troops. I'm telling you that spreading lies about the military is not the way to do it. Ask John Kerry- I'm quite certain he'd give you the same advice.

None of us over here are wearing your rose-colored glasses. Nobody is ready to declare victory over the insurgents/terrorists. We are realists- we know what's going on over here and it's not pretty. Your confusion is in not recognizing the difference between a realist and a defeatist. You are a defeatist. You see explosions and kidnappings on the news and you're ready to call it a day and go home. Lucky for us, you are not an American soldier. We see the the REALITY of the situation, understand the challenges that lie ahead, and press on with the mission. That's what Americans do. No rose-colored glasses, I assure you. Nobody thinks it's going to be fun or easy. We're just 100% confident in our mission. Sure, we have some defeatists in our ranks (at all levels even)- luckily they are not even a fraction of the force.

Bottom line- if you don't support us, that's fine. I believe in free speech, so I won't tell you to keep your mouth shut. Just know that when you spread lies like that in order to win an argument, you are helping our enemy to achieve their goals...

Posted by: $lick at September 18, 2004 09:30 AM

$lick,

It is not a good idea to begin your argument by telling me what it is that I believe. Especially when your assertion is directly contradicted by my own words. As I said in the very first sentence (ok, the second) of my very first post on this topic, I am not supporting or embracing the notion that we should withdraw. It is an argument that is beginning to be advance by some - interestingly, it is not necessarily by the "usual suspects" but rather by some very serious former believers of the war. I dont know what to make of it all, which is why I find the issue to be an interesting one to discuss.

So most of your post is a screed based on an obvious falsehood. I am not pushing this argument. And I specifically said that the claims about the opinions of senior military and intel people is something that I heard, not something that I have some insane desire to believe. I heard these claims in interviews with former military officers who work as consultants to the Pentagon, or in other activly involved positions in the military-political establishment. As I made clear in my earlier posts, I have not embraced those comments as true. But I take them for what they are - the opinions of some people who are not in any way invested in our failure. I think they deserve consideration.

I am glad that you and others engaged in the war on the ground have the attitude that you do. That is obviously the only appropriate attitude to have in such a position. We the people here at home however, in the exercise of our democratic rights, have the responsibility to step back and make as informed a decision as we can, about the higher-level strategic decisions about the war. That is what being a free citizen of a democracy is all about.

I find your attempts to mischaracterize my views on particular issues, and in general, to be propagandistic and offensive.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 09:49 AM

>>>"Those slogans (no justice, no peace) were not from any foreign policy movements - they were the slogans of civil-rights movements."

Tano,

I guess you're right insofar as to the origin and use, but I do remember those slogans being used when I was a central America peacenick in the 80s.

Posted by: David at September 18, 2004 09:52 AM

I'm with $lick.

100%

Posted by: syn at September 18, 2004 09:56 AM

Tano,

I have no problem with your position, whatever it may be. Sorry if I jumped to the conclusion that you'd prefer an immeidate withdrawal. My mistake. I say again- when you spread lies like that in order to win an argument, you are helping our enemy to achieve their goals. I don't care how you spread them (I think that..., I heard that..., I read an interview that suggested...)- it's SPREADING LIES. Please don't try to pretend that you don't know any better. Widespread sentiments? C'mon, Tano. It's a lie, and you're spreading it...

Posted by: $lick at September 18, 2004 10:16 AM

Sorry $lick, but I have no reason to believe that it is a lie. I have your word on one side, and I have the word of several other people, equally credible, on the other. I will take that into account.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 10:25 AM

'I think that your argument is an impediment to constructive conversation....
Your refusal to accept that anyone holding these views (whether they are right or wrong) is sincerely concerned with finding a positive outcome for the Iraqis as well as us, is the force that is driving these conversations endlessly to the "same place".--Tano

A tad defensive if I might say so.I did not directly relate this comment to you but intended it as a rejection of the MSM engendered DEFEATISM which is endless and destructive and I stand behind my comments.Is your careful distortion of my post an implication that I am 'questioning your patriotism'? Because I am not although that appears to be fallback position #1 whenever this incendiary issue is raised.I AM however,seriously questioning your historical perspective and am quite clearly alluding to the obvious practical results of these NEGATIVE efforts as highlighted more directly in later posts by $lick and others.
Sorry if find this not be be 'constructive',but I find it not only constructive but REQUIRED if we are ever to move forward in these endless debates. We must all first agree on where exactly we think we want to be before we can ever debate the means of getting there.

Posted by: dougf at September 18, 2004 10:41 AM

'We must all first agree on where exactly we think we want to be [go?] before we can ever debate the means of getting there"

I think there are two overriding goals that have been articulated for this war. There are others, no doubt, but these two are fundamental. One, the most important, is to assure the security of the United States. The second is to foster the establishment of freedom and democracy in places where it does not exist, specifically for now, Iraq.

I dont think there is any serious dispute over whether these goals are desirable. The overwhelming majority of people, on all sides of the political dispute in America, would like to see both visions realized.

And so I dispute your claim that the task at hand now is to reach some agreement on this. I think we are already, and have been for a long time, onto the second task - how do we get there.

The people who were against the Iraq war had no less a commitment to our security than those who supported it. If you doubt that, you only need look at the political playing field when the issue was a war against the Taliban - the direct supporters of those who attacked us. Although there was certainly debate - this is a free society after all - the votes to go to Afghanistan were unanimous in the Senate, and nearly so in the House. Opposition to the Iraq war was based largely on doubts as to the wisdom of that war as something that would increase our security. There was a very real sense that Iraq posed no direct threat, and a sense that the Bush argument about the theoretical threat that they might represent was simply not credible. In short, the debate was not over whether to advance the security of the US, but whether this specific policy would actually do that.

Same basic situation with the democracy project. Is a military invasion the best means to advance the prospects of democracy and freedom in Iraq? No doubt that the removal of Saddam removed an obstacle to that, but does that leave a situation that one can realistically expect to evolve in the right way? Historical arguments are always flawed, for this is a unique situation, but even so, the historical record is very mixed. Democracy emerged in Germany and Japan, but those were very different wars, and it is not clear that they are apporpriate analogies. There are many examples of dictators or monarchs being overthown and subsequent efforts at democratization failing utterly. The British experience in Iraq in the 20s comes to mind, but that too has its differences. In short, it was and is an experiment, and the debate was a means of trying to work out some reasonable odds for the success of the attempt. It was never a debate over whether or not the goal was a good one.

Debates continue today over whether the course we are on, and the emerging realities are leading us towards our vision, or away from it. Once again, the debate is not over whether the vision is desireable, but over how to get there.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 11:12 AM

'Debates continue today over whether the course we are on, and the emerging realities are leading us towards our vision, or away from it. Once again, the debate is not over whether the vision is desireable, but over how to get there--Tano

OK by me but why is it that EVERY single day I get NOTHING but NEGATIVE,DESTRUCTIVE,MORALE SAPPING propaganda from our friends in the media.I never see the type of response you just gave,I just see more disaster,more death,and more totally insincere hymns to the 'fallen'(victims of Bush's war).These images and this tone are not constructive and do not reflect to me that there is in fact the agreement that you take for granted.
Because I am lazy I am not going to track down the source,but you must be aware of the story about 2 months ago concerning the comments evidently made by a reporter for one of the big US papers.Namely that her bosses WANTED Iraq to fail so that Bush would be defeated.
I believe that the story was true and that it reflects a POISONOUS attitude which infects a segment of our society.I call it DEFEATIST but I really want to call it something else,and I'm sure you can guess what that something else is.
If the opposition was more like you and less like Mike the Whale,we could all have a Rodney King moment and just try to get along.My contention which I stand behind is that the 'loyal opposition'is much more an opposition than they are loyal.
Present company excluded except for my earleir comments on the practical effect of constant negativism which I believe should be constrained during WARS.

Posted by: dougf at September 18, 2004 11:31 AM

None of us over here are wearing your rose-colored glasses.

I was going to post something about the reasons for what we set out to do in Iraq. But then I ran across this post - A Soldier Rants at Hope and was stopped cold. The poster ends with "I hope I'm wrong about Hope." The first commenter to respond comes back with "Don't lose faith and there will always be hope."

I really do believe that keeping faith is the first gut level item. I believe that in the end, our success or failure in Iraq will be be based on the sum of faith in the project. Iraq the Model leaves us some hope that our faith in the salvagability of the Iraqi people is not in vain. Wretchard supplies some rationality to base faith in our competence in.

There may be some point after huge setbacks that I would re-evaluate and back off, but who has set that threshold? Our history as a nation tells us that 1000 dead soldiers is not it. Who here will set a level where we should quit at?

I am not inviting a refresh of the arguments on WHETHER, or critiques on HOW, I am asking for a gut check on DO.

We are there. The only valid exit plan is victory - a stable Iraq that can defend itself against the Islamofacists and not fall prey to thuggery. Support the mission. Is this wearing rose colored glasses?

Posted by: jdwill at September 18, 2004 11:57 AM

dougf,

I realize that my analysis of the situation, although I think it accurate, does not convey the actual flavor of the debate, which is ofen heated, emotional, and irrational. On both sides. I am reminded about the crack about the making of legislation - it could stand for democracy as a whole - that it is like sausage making. You dont really want to focus too closely on the details of the process - just enjoy the result.

I am sure that there are individuals who get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment, and in specific short term goals (like winning a political campaign) that they occasionally lose focus on the larger picture, and say stupid things - things that they dont really believe. Its probably a function of linear thinking - something that serves us well sometimes, but not always.

Media representations cut both ways, and they have a difficult path to hew. It is vitally important that we the public are informed of what is happening. If things are going badly, and we want them to go well, there always is the instinct to blame the messenger. I guess you see it as a deeper problem - some systematic negativity. Let me tell you though, that as one who was not convinced of the wisdom of this war, that I saw the media leap into the war project with what seemed like enthusiasm. I felt that the concerns that I had were not given enough consideration, and that the media were swept up in the trajectory laid down by the administration. They have made some admissions recently along those lines.

I guess that in the end I see the media as suffering from a serious bandwagon effect. I dont see them as pushing some ideology - rather as chasing an audience. If some issue or event catches the attention of people, the media rush to pile on the bandwagon, and drive quickly to over-exposure. Thats what gets us OJ, Chandra, TANG, Swiftboats, but also war fever, and also war negativity. Small phenomena get over magnified, and its hard to then distinguish the small from the large. Thats why I dont watch broadcast or cable news, but try to seek out more thoughtful sources.

I dont like Mike the Whale, and I certainly cant stand his opposite numbers on the other side, who are, if anything, more numerous. I think it is important to get along in the sense of holding on to some respect for different opinions. There are many opponents of the Bush administration who are very thoughtful, honest, clear-headed and who wish our country well. That doesnt necessarily make them exciting or the kind of voices who will help your network land a higher rating. The administration on the other hand, can put forth its more thoughtful spokesmen and get a hearing, because they are the government, and therefor, by definition, newsworthy. The advantages of incumbency.

The media will overdo everything, good news when that is in the air, bad news if that is what is hot. They are fallible human beings too, and operate in a profit-driven competitive arena. I hope most people factor all that in and are not swept along every rise and dip on the roller coaster.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 12:29 PM

Tano,
Military force was not the first option extended to Saddam it was, however, the last. There is no sane way you can convince me that Saddam was empowered by his native population. By my calculations this war in Iraq has come 100,000 plus lives too late.

"Can this approach actually lead to the desired outcome"? - Historically speaking, yes, it has.

"Is the native population prepared to embrace the mechanism that we propose"? - After living under Saddams rule and now having a chance to form their own government is this a serious question? It will take time for them to fully realize their potential but I think they have latched on the basic concept very well.

Your third paragraph is nothing more then projecting fear of failure. Iraq is not an experiment and failure is not an option.

Do you have what it takes to win this war? Every time we waver or restrain more Americans and Iraqi's die (and Syrian's and Iranian's, lets throw a little honesty into it).

How do we get "there?" Lets start with a few acknowledgments. The media is in an ethical crisis over reporting of the war. It started with CNN's initial apology that alluded to payoffs and blackmail, and censorship. Did that apology stop the flow of distortion and manipulation within the Media or did it bring us to the recent CBS debacle. I suspect the latter. How about the historic revisionism that has taken hold of the liberal academia? I return you to Columbia's "Mogadishu" professor. In short we should begin calling out the distortionists for their apparent abuse of authority we have entrusted in them and stripping them of it.

Let's not stop there. Let's put Syria and Iran on immediate notice that exporting their support be it $, arms or fighters will be met with a systematic air campaign that will leave them wishing they had never gotten involved in Iraqi affairs to begin with. (Notice, I'm not calling for invasions.)

I could go on but I think you get the idea. I want to win this war and discourage this method of attack by all means possible for the future of humanity. I've read your subsequent posts and I'm not playing devils advocate, I'm serious. What are your proposed solutions for getting "there"? Apologies for the late reply.

Posted by: Kim at September 18, 2004 01:24 PM

"There is no sane way you can convince me that Saddam was empowered by his native population"

Whatever gave you the idea that I was trying to convince you of that?

"Can this approach actually lead to the desired outcome"? - Historically speaking, yes, it has."

And historically speaking, it has often failed. There are precedents on both sides.

"Is the native population prepared to embrace the mechanism that we propose"? - After living under Saddams rule and now having a chance to form their own government is this a serious question?'

Yes it is a serious question. As things stand now it seems equally likely that they will go for an Iranian style theocracy, or another strongman who can provide daily security, rather than democracy.

"Iraq is not an experiment and failure is not an option."

I disagree. It is an experiment. Failure is never an option that anyone accepts going into a project, but it happens sometimes, none the less.

As for your remarks about the media, I would reiterate, that the media played a role in getting us into this war without a sufficiently critical debate about what the plan would be, what we could realistically expect, whether the threats were real etc. As to historical revisionism, I find that absolutely endemic on the right, as absurd notions about what happened in Vietnam are advanced as backdoor attempts to gin up support for this war.

"I want to win this war and discourage this method of attack..."

What method of attack are you referring to? I hope you are not confusing the war in Iraq with what happened on 9/11! Sorry to have to beat a dead horse, but neither Iraq, nor Syria, nor Iran was behind that. You want to fight a war against al-Q, and their associates? I with ya all the way.
I dont understand your fascination with bombing Iran. After the smoke clears, there will still be a nation of 70 million people there. Anyone there who had favorable feelings about the US, and would have worked to establish American style democracy, will be marginalized or eliminated. They would be seen as traitors at a time when their country was being attacked. And the dominant attitude that would emerge would be that we (they) must never let something like that happen again. Further repress internal dissent. Further work to secure the defense of the country, especially with the magic bullet of nukes. That is the way humans always react in such situations.

Posted by: Tano at September 18, 2004 02:02 PM

The first thing to realize is that there isn't an exit plan. We are going to be involved for the next 50 years or so, as we were in the Cold War - perhaps longer. We don't yet have a clearly-articulated vision of a process goal or an end state that will finish this.

You don't win against terrorism any more than you win against nuclear warfighting: you simply prevent them. That's something you do today, and tomorrow, and every day, and hope you don't fail some day. Eventually, the mechanisms you put in place to not fail on any given day are the ones that change the security situation in the world.

So the question is, what's the end state or the end process? For the Cold War, it was easy to define: either capitalism overcomes socialism and becomes the dominant economic model, or the reverse happens. MAD was the strategy for preventing the most horrible possibilities, containment was the strategy for not losing, and eventually outspending the Soviets was the strategy for winning. (The Soviets shared MAD, but had a strategy for winning from the beginning: support of revolutions across the 3rd World.)

In this age, where some of our enemies want to die (!), we cannot rely on containment or deterrence - they simply will not work. Our only option is to find a security rule set that makes terrorism as unthinkable as nuclear war. In Iraq, oddly, we are moving towards that rule set: develop the economy and a representative government, so that the people have a stake in the future; then make them clean up the mess, with US and Coalition troops to prevent the security situation from spiralling out of control.

But until a strategy is clearly articulated by our political leaders, and until it's widely accepted in the developed world, we're holding a line rather than going for a win. And it is going to be a long time - perhaps another decade - before we have a clearly-articulated strategy agreed throughout the developed world.

Courage, hope, faith and heart are all that will sustain us. If we pull out of Iraq, or later Iran or Saudi Arabia or Syria, the way we pulled out of Viet Nam, the enemy will follow us home. This did not happen in Viet Nam, but terrorists are not geographically isolated as the Vietnamese were.

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at September 18, 2004 02:17 PM

We interrupt Tano's endlist sophistry to bring two news items:
President Bush - Exclusive phone interview with the Union Leader in New Hampshire

Second item is especially germane to this thread.

Let the truth come out

U.S. must stay the course in Iraq

The President said he does not intend to send “mixed signals” to the rest of the world about Iraq.

“If the Iraqis hear mixed signals from the United States, they will become fearful,” he said. “If the enemy hears mixed signals from the United States, they will become emboldened. If our allies hear mixed signals from the United States they begin to wonder.

“That’s why it is important for me to make it very clear that we will keep our word, and that we have a vision of a peaceful world achieved through liberty.”
Posted by: jdwill at September 18, 2004 02:18 PM

Tano
"Whatever gave you the idea that I was trying to convince you of that"? - your need to define democracy and your dim view of democracy by force after exacerbating all other options.

"And historically speaking, it has often failed. There are precedents on both sides" - Which is it has it often failed or are there precedents on both sides? All of Eastern Europe is free today because of US intervention and opposition to communism. Show me authoritarian powers that have surrendered power voluntarily.

"As things stand now it seems equally likely that they will go for an Iranian style theocracy, or another strongman who can provide daily security, rather than democracy." - A few hot spots in the country = theocracy? I completely disagree. You are dismissing millions of Kurds and Shiites.

We completely disagree on whether Iraq is an "experiment" no use chewing it till the flavor is gone.

"As for your remarks about the media"... - oh please, the media predicted thousands of dead American soldiers, millions of refugees and a quagmire of epic proportion. The media didn't lead us into war it was democratically sanctioned by Congress.

"As to historical revisionism, I find that absolutely endemic on the right, as absurd notions about what happened in Vietnam are advanced as backdoor attempts to gin up support for this war." - Your not being honest in the least. If I had a dollar for every left leaning defeatist Iraq/Vienam analogy I'd be filthy rich.

"I hope you are not confusing"... - I'm not confused in the least you leapt on the dead AQ horse. Glad we agree on AQ.

"I don't understand your fascination with bombing Iran." - Your projecting again. I said put them on notice to cease meddling in Iraq affairs or else. If you think Syria and Iran aren't meddling in Iraqi affairs your deluding yourself.

We can't abandon Iraq. Any talk of exiting should be 5 years off.

Posted by: Kim at September 18, 2004 08:34 PM

Good on you, Kim.

We need to hunt down al Qaeda because of 9/11.

Without we drain the swamp where creatures like that breed, we will just be cutting one head off the hydra.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 18, 2004 11:05 PM

Tano,

You can stand by your "credible" unnamed sources if you'd like. As a US Army officer, I can assure you that our enemy appreciates your efforts...

Posted by: $lick at September 18, 2004 11:26 PM

There's something kind of grotesque about the fuckwits who got us into this mess pompously lecturing us on how terrible it would be to take any steps to minimize the cost of their disastrous mistakes.

It may be that least worst solution is to stick it out a little longer, but there are certain voices whose demonstrable idiocy the first time around disqualify them from being taken seriously when we're trying to work out how to minimize the extent of the disaster they have caused. Victor Hanson is one of those.

Posted by: Mork at September 18, 2004 11:42 PM

Mork,

I'd sure hate to live in your world...

Posted by: $lick at September 18, 2004 11:56 PM

Thanks for contributing, Mork.

It's an honor to be a fuckwit, if the label comes from you.

VDH has spent his life studying conflicts, cultures, and resolutions. What's your credential?

I don't think having your personal worldview invalidated if we win counts.

Have a fine one.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 18, 2004 11:58 PM

WTF do "credentials" have to do with it?

The guy was completely wrong about Iraq. Because of him and people like him, thousands of people have died for nothing.

And we're supposed to excuse him because he spent a lot of time in academia in order to develop his idiocy?

Posted by: Mork at September 19, 2004 12:11 AM

"Because of him and people like him, thousands of people have died for nothing."

Wow, Mork. That's a strong opinion you have.

They died for nothing, huh? Well, that's a nice slap in the face to anyone who lost a loved one over there. Please don't be offended- I'm sure you're loaded with facts to support that claim, but I'm going to let history be the judge. I think our brave soldiers and all those Iraqis that line up in order to defend their newfound freedom deserve at least that.

Blame VDH for the current situation all you want. Blame Bush, Republicans, Democrats who haven't flip-flopped, scholars, soldiers, whoever- I'll blame the bastards who drive car bombs, fill mass graves, blow up busses, and shoot kids in the back. Let's agree to disagree on this one.

I've read many of your posts, and I have seen many angry rants aimed at Americans and American policy. I've not once seen you direct any of that anger towards islamifascists or terrorists. I think that's a pretty good indicator of where you stand. Now please call me a fuckwit- I'd expect nothing less from you...

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 03:06 AM

thousands of people have died for nothing

Only if we let a JOTOS like you gnaw into our resolve.

Posted by: jdwill at September 19, 2004 03:23 AM

Generally speaking, $lick, Michael and the people who comment on this site don't write posts advocating in favor of Islamic extremism. If they did, I'd be the first to jump down their throat. The topic here was American policy, so that is what I have discussed.

As for whether my observation is a slap in the face for those who have lost people they loved, well, that's for them to judge, and I can understand why they would do anything to resist the conclusion that the sacrifice was in vain.

But when it comes to actually making and judging policy, I'm afraid that sentimemtality has to yield to truth, and the truth is that we are worse off than if we had not invaded Iraq.

This may sound harsh, but the lives and dollars lost are a sunk cost, and should not affect our calculation of what is in our best interests from this point forward.

P.S. - "thousands of people" include a great many more Iraqis than Americans ... many thousands more people than Saddam would ever have killed. When we congratulate ourselves on this "liberation", that's a moral responsibility that rests on our shoulders.

Posted by: Mork at September 19, 2004 03:35 AM

Only if we let a JOTOS like you gnaw into our resolve.

If that's meant to mean what I think it means, you can go fuck yourself.

I think that the policies you support are idiotic, have cost needless American lives, have made the rest of us less safe and have directly benefited our enemies.

But at least I am able to recognize that however moronic and illogical you may be, you do, like everyone who comments on this site, want to make America safe and to defeat our enemies.

If you're not prepared to work from the same assumption, then up yours.

Posted by: Mork at September 19, 2004 03:43 AM

Of course the US has already been forced to withdraw from large swathes of Iraq. A number of opinion polls have shown that large majorities of Iraqis want US forces to leave. The Iraqi workers' movement and left is united in calling for an immediate withdrawal and immediate elections. How do those who are saying that US forces should stay for five years regard Iraqi public opinion? Would they simply ignore the wishes of the Iraqi people? Why not hold a referendum of withdrawal and let the Iraqi people themselves decide? And if a government demanding withdrawal is elected in Jnauary, why not be prepared to repect its wishes?

Posted by: Jono at September 19, 2004 04:10 AM

"the truth is that we are worse off than if we had not invaded Iraq."

I would hardly call that truth. It's not a harsh truth, a half truth, or anything resembling the truth- it's your opinion. You're entitled to it and I respect that. You think that thousands of people died for nothing. That's your pathetic view of reality, and it's one that (thankfully) most Americans disagree with. I'm sure you enjoy congratulating yourself for being so much smarter than most people everyday, but I'm going to call you out when you offer your warped opinions as the "truth."

The issue for us isn't pre-invasion Iraq versus TODAY, as it obviously is to you. We're fighting for the future- a future that you either don't care about or choose to ignore. I'm guessing you don't have any children, and I REALLY hope I'm right...

"'thousands of people' include a great many more Iraqis than Americans ... many thousands more people than Saddam would ever have killed."

That's another opinion- and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have no clue what you're talking about.

"When we congratulate ourselves on this 'liberation', that's a moral responsibility that rests on our shoulders."

You're right- Saddam and Zarqawi had nothing to do with any of their deaths. Once again, you blame America for the actions of terrorists and totalitarian dictators. You hate America, Mork. Embrace it.

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 04:14 AM

'remember the demonstrations by those freakish protestors in NYC a few weeks ago'

Who is this referring to? Maybe there were some people who looked strange to you on that demonstration. That's not surprising - there were 400,000 on it. I do know that there were tens of thousands of workers protesting job losses under Bush, and hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi veterans and families protesting against this war. Funny how the right idealises soldiers then turns on them if they express politically incorrect opinions.

Posted by: Jono at September 19, 2004 04:17 AM

Jono,

Of course most Iraqis want us to leave! None of them want us to leave more than the American soldiers themselves. What you fail to consider is the amount of Iraqi people who want us to leave BUT understand why we have to stay until a stable government is in place. If the Iraqi GOVERNMENT told us to leave- trust me, we'd start pulling out the next day. It won't happen, because the government of Iraq is made up of the most educated, level-headed thinkers in Iraq. They have college educations and a sound understanding of the current situation. The VAST majority of Iraq is completely uneducated, and most of them get their news from Al-Jazeera-style progaganda machines that portray Americans as rapists and oil-thieves. This is the main reason why Iraq can't have a fully functioning "Democracy" as we think of it today. They have a long way to go before they can get there- they need to educate their people, build the foundation of a free society within their government, and ultimately weed out the lunacy. People would like for this to happen overnight, but it's just not possible...

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 04:27 AM

You hate America, Mork. Embrace it.

I'm tempted to respond to that with the contempt you deserve, but I understand a little of human psychology, in particular the powerful instinct people have to invent reasons to justify ignoring information that would otherwise require them to question their assumptions.

That's the reason why it's easier for a person like you to believe even an absurd proposition like what you suggested rather than admit into your consciousness even blindingly obvious facts like the failure of the experiment in Iraq.

Obviously, you have a great deal emotionally invested in what you believe.

Me? I believe something up to the point when the facts prove something different, then I move on. I thought the Iraq war was a good idea at the time. But I'm humble enough to look at reality with a clear eye an acknowledge that I was wrong.

People can make mistakes for honest reasons. That's one thing. It's the wilful failure to learn from them, compounded with the determination to not only deny the truth, but to demonize those who point it out, that pisses me off.

Posted by: Mork at September 19, 2004 05:40 AM

If you're not prepared to work from the same assumption, then up yours.

No I'm not.

I think that the policies you support are idiotic, have cost needless American lives, have made the rest of us less safe and have directly benefited our enemies

Check.

Posted by Mork
Michael, you would think that given how wrong you have been about Iraq and how right professional Arabists, including Robert Fisk, were about the consequences of invading, a little humility might be in order.

Paul McGeough is a fine, widely respected journalist, who has been in Iraq since before the war and has been writing about the middle east for years before that.
Yeah right, another one McGeough's work
Other searches show whose boy this is.

On Hitchens - I've never found him so maddening as on the occasion I agreed with him most profoundly - going after Henry Kissenger. ... Which unfortunately means that he tends to be more court jester than public intellectual.
OK when he goes after Kissinger, jester otherwise. Leftist bonafides right there.

You may think my pejorative was extreme, but my sense of you is that you are at best a moralistic scold, an I-told-you-so. What positive contribution do you have to make? While you mostly hang at the crease and take few solid positions, you only bite in one direction.

Prove me wrong. Are you a balanced intellectual, or merely a leftist?

Posted by: jdwill at September 19, 2004 05:50 AM

I don't deny the truth, Mork. I deny your claim on the truth. When people like you insist that your opinon is the truth and anyone who disagrees is a fuckwit, it pisses me off.

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 06:18 AM

"Me? I believe something up to the point when the facts prove something different, then I move on. I thought the Iraq war was a good idea at the time. But I'm humble enough to look at reality with a clear eye an acknowledge that I was wrong."

Just imagine if our nation's greatest leaders had a similar mindset. Washington, Grant, Eisenhower, McCarthur...it scares me to even think about it. Mork, I'm just thankful that we don't have people like you in charge over here...

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 06:27 AM

'If you're not prepared to work from the same assumption, then up yours'--Mork

Actually Mork,in your case, I too am not prepared to work from that assumption either.You are almost invariably DEFEATIST and NEGATIVE in your posts and at a time of National Crisis offer no helpful suggestions whatsoever.My earlier comment which engaged Tano in a long running debate really applies to YOU.I was not going to comment on you, but I did not want $lick to have all the fun.I still highly recommend the Roger Simon option.

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 07:56 AM

Mork is a defeatist and Al-Qaida's best friend. The reasons are obvious and they've been amply explained on this and other threads.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2004 07:57 AM

I don't consider that Mork or Tano are anti-American. I do think they are severely deficient in their sense of the passage of time.

Review: The goal in Iraq is a stable government that answers to the will of the people and allows them to enrich themselves by empowering them. The way we know how to do that is republican democracy, so that's what we're trying to establish. The reason we want that is that, historically, people who are empowered and enriched don't go bombing things, so we want the minimum number of unempowered and poor possible. And the reason we choose that strategy rather than "going after al Qaeda" is that while whack-a-mullah may be fun for those who think revenge is the right way of doing things it doesn't change the underlying situation in any way -- and it's the underlying situation that causes the problem.

On the way to that goal, it's useless and in fact counterproductive for the US to provide "security" to Iraq; the Iraqis have to provide their own security, or the notion that they have a government of their own is stupid. To that end, the consistent tactic after the initial confusion has been to train, empower, and employ Iraqis as peace-keepers and security providers, with American troops as backstops. There have been some notable failures of this tactic, particularly Fallujah; but, if one follows the Iraqi bloggers and the milbloggers, there have also been incremental, unspectacular successes demonstrating a continual increase in Iraqi capability to clean up their own messes. This process by its very nature is going to be frustratingly slow, and for Americans used to having a completly different cellphone infrastructure rolled out and the old one torn down in a year or less it seems glacial.

When an American volunteers for military service, he or she goes through three months of boot camp. Having finished that, the next step is four to twelve months of training in the specific job the new soldier will do: AIT for Marines, for instance. At the end of that half year, more or less, the new, green soldier reports to a unit that has been organized for decades if not a couple of centuries and has a large complement of experienced people to bring the new guy up to speed in the reality of the situation. Officers take even longer, and for specialized troops like special forces -- and difficult jobs like urban security -- it needs two years or more.

Word is filtering out that during the operation in Najaf against al-Sadr, an Iraqi unit of significant size was operating independently and did a pretty good job. This frankly astonishes me -- it's far too early. Iraq does not have an established, trained military or security/police forces to which a green recruit can report and begin learning the ropes; it's all being created from scratch, with everybody from privates to Generals being completely new at it. (Yes, there was something resembling an army before. You saw, and the Iraqis saw, just how effective that was, twice. Americans teach something completely different).

I really didn't expect effective Iraqi units to start emerging until later this fall, maybe even into the winter. This is not to say that Iraqis are stupid; it's to say that they began 'way behind start, and it takes time to get the new system in place. Progress is being made, and remarkably quickly from a historical point of view. At this point in the aftermath of WWII we were still getting our act together, and John dos Passos was excoriating our "failure in Europe" in much the same terms Mork uses.

The Bush Administration gets scored for not having an effective plan before going in. In a way that's a fair criticism, but an axiom in the American military is that "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy," and realists add "...that's why they're called 'the enemy'." Whatever plan they might have had would have failed in important ways as soon as the actual form of the opposition emerged from the chaos. I myself think they went in with a rose-tinted view of the future similar to what Mork and Tano espouse; I think that set of filters didn't last long, and that the new, more detailed and effective plan began being formed as soon as the situation became clearer. We're groping toward the SysAdmin Force as specified by Thomas P. M. Barnett, and doing it in the middle of a very fluid situation is harder than sitting in a think-tank creating "alternative views." On the other hand, a real-time experimental situation tends to generate more realistic alternatives and tactics.

Bottom line: it takes time. It also may require that American forces intervene in ways that temporarily derail the intended strategy. We don't want to fix Fallujah, we want the Iraqis to do it. They may not be capable soon enough, so it may be necessary to employ American forces to that end. Americans reducing Fallujah would be a failure of the plan, not a success.

That last sound remarkable? It's not. If Americans are the ones who provide security, Americans become the government de facto. The Bush Administration doesn't want a dependency or a colony in Iraq, for multiple reasons. That's why the Iraqi strategy is to build Iraq, not to go in and whack bad guys, as a primarly thrust. The last thing we want is to have to run Iraq. Suggestions that we do so are ultimately imperialist, and imperialism is not the aim whatever the lefty reactionaries may shout.

Time. Patience. Time exists, patience is in short supply, at least partly because of the filters between Iraq and the American people that emphasize failures and bad news, whatever the motive for such filters may be.

A final note: depending on the opinions of retired generals and the like may not be the best way to decide. New tactics and strategies are emerging in the hot forge of actual contact with the situation. People trained in Cold War thinking and assessment of the Soviet Union, and with little or no day-to-day contact with the current situation on the ground, may very well be using the wrong set of criteria to judge success or failure: "last war" syndrome in its most basic form.

Regards,
Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke at September 19, 2004 08:37 AM

I don't mean to single out Tano or Mork and I appreciate the honesty of their opinions but this democrat can't reconcile past core beliefs with what her party has become. This comment...

"This may sound harsh, but the lives and dollars lost are a sunk cost, and should not affect our calculation of what is in our best interests from this point forward."

Since when did we as democrats put cost benefit first over human life. It doesn't sound harsh it's sounds undemocratic. Our best interests are free elections in Iraq. You can lump me into the fuckwit category all you want. As you seek to minimize our success in Iraq I seek to maximize it for the good of the Iraqi people. These people finally have hope and to watch my party tear it down revolts me.

Posted by: Kim at September 19, 2004 08:52 AM

Tano said, "Anyway, the piece strikes me as a mix of 'full speed ahead' advocacy mixed with a rosy picture at odds with what I hear from most sources, and a bit of historical misrepresentation mixed in.

"I think you could do better michael"

I fully agree. Michael could do better than that. The guy didn't use his expertise, if it applied.

Even I can do better. I will, now.

After all we've sacrificed for iraq it would be shameful to throw it away. We must stay the course and eventually win, whether it takes 5 years or 10 years or 50 years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can win, and if we're resolute we will win. We must let no obstacles stop us. If necessary we will institute a draft and conquer syria and iran. And turkey.

Never mind if the british give up. We don't really need them, we can replace them with americans who don't whinge so much.

As long as we're willing to supply the men and the money, the JDAMs and the aircraft, artillery and tanks, we can't lose. We will never lose unless we give up. We can fight in iraq for hundreds of years if we have enough resolve.

The people who want to pull out are quitters, they've already surrendered. They don't really deserve to be americans -- true americans never surrender, we never give up, we never quit.

In the worst case we might have to kill 90% of the iraqis before we can make iraq and the free iraqis safe for democracy. But we can and will do it if we simply maintain our determination.

Don't listen to quitters. Don't listen to the media. Don't listen to senior military officials who lose heart. Hold the faith, and someday we can't help but win.

Pretty good, huh?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2004 09:02 AM

J Thomas,

fight for "hundreds" of years? Kill 90% of the Iraqis? Obviously your strawman has to be hyperbolic to make any kind of impact.

If the facts plainly and simply stated don't support your cause, it's probably because your cause is bankrupt.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2004 09:29 AM

Ric -

You might mention the success of the progressive model of nation building - U.N. babysitting.

Kosovo is going on eight years and there have been no elections, and there's not even a hint of when they may eventually happen. That fact never gets mentioned, does it?

We are seeing U.S. casualties spike in Iraq precisely because of the threat the Bush Doctrine presents to the fundamentalist Islamic movement. Not because Iraqi nationalists are gathering on the green or because anything approaching a majority of Iraqis are dead against democracy, but rather because Iraq is become the battlefield on which the war against terror will be won or lost.

The enemy knows it. Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia all know that the existence of a viable Iraqi democratic republic will stand as a beacon to their own oppressed populations. Iraq has a resource base superior to any other middle eastern country. The strengths inherent in democracy - most notably the empowerment of individuals to participate in the forumulation of government policy - are direct benefits to individuals. Once it starts to work the individual benefits reinforce the commitment of the citizens to protect and nurture it.

The trick is in getting to the point where voting replaces murder as the mechanism of deciding issues. Until we've killed or captured those elements still committed to the traditional tribal/jihadist paradigm that can't happen. The fact that the leadership and much of the manpower behind the insurgency is foreign is routinely overlooked by the "They'd be better off without us" crowd.

We aren't there to do the Iraqis a favor. We are there because we are seeking a practical solution to the constant stream of murderers that trickle out of the entire region to prey on our citizens, friends, and interests. The strategy we have selected does benefit the Iraqis, and all the middle eastern people by extension, because if we weren't making this effort we'd be limited to executing a gunboat diplomacy on a scale never before seen. Fundamentalist Islam is a parasite on the muslim world. It staggers along, propagating misery, ignorance, repression, and death...and we are attempting to cure the host without killing it.

If we fail in our efforts to give the people of the muslim world a livable option (which can only happen through lack of will) the parasite will grow in lethality to the point where the response will move past curing the sick animal to putting it down.

We will not live in the shadow of random murder.

Now which future is 'better' for the Iraqis - any of the muslim populations - the one where they are coerced into achieving a level of civilized behaviour that allows them to coexist among nations, or the one where they are erased for being too great a threat to tolerate? Both are realistic options. Tit-for-tat is not.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 19, 2004 09:33 AM

Dork says:
"There's something kind of grotesque about the fuckwits who got us into this mess pompously lecturing us on how terrible it would be to take any steps to minimize the cost of their disastrous mistakes."

Heh. Ain't that pot calling the kettle black.

And:
I think that the policies you support are idiotic, have cost needless American lives,..

First, crocodile tears for dead soldiers.

...have made the rest of us less safe and have directly benefited our enemies...

How is anyone 'less' safe than they were on 9/11/2001? And if the current casualties to our enemies are anything to go by, then by all means, keep piling on the 'benefits'.

In reality though, Mork has become the enemy, he just doesn't know it. (Or maybe he does).

Posted by: Eric Blair at September 19, 2004 09:37 AM

David said, "He's saying that we can't let the politicians fight this war. Politicians, driven by our internal 5th column peaceniks, will lose this war, not the military, and that's what VDH is saying."

Some of our senior military leaders have said we can't win this militarily. We can't lose militarily either. All the military can do is provide sufficient security for the civilians to do their jobs -- reconstruction, elections, government.

And there's a question whether our military is doing that. We provide a single focus for everybody to object to. Nobody wants us there. People who otherwise wouldn't agree about anything can cooperate to attack us. People who would normally be out doing things get to complain that we aren't doing them -- because with us there, it's our responsibility.

The government looks like a puppet government so people who'd otherwise be working with it don't.

It's plausible that iraq would be better off without our military. Maybe they'd get attacked by some neighbor. Say they got attacked by turkey, and the other iraqis helped out the kurds, and we did airstrikes and such -- that would do a lot to bring the country together, unless they lost. Getting invaded by iran would be harder to deal with.

But even though it's plausible we should leave, it isn't certain at all. What if we left and something bad happened? It would be our fault for leaving. Politically we can't afford to leave iraq unless we can guarantee that nothing bad will happen, or unless we've already lost so badly there's no question. But we can't lose militarily, not as long as the politicians provide enough money and enough draftees. We can win every battle provided the politicians let us pay for it. It comes down to politics, both for us and for the iraqis.

I say it would be wrong to leave until sometime after the iraqi elections in january. If the elections fail and we see that iraq is not making much progress toward democracy, that's a good time to pull out. The neocons said it would be easy. They said iraq would be the example that would spread democracy all across the middle east. If they're as wrong about that as they've been about everything else, it will be time to pull the plug.

I've heard people argue that we should hang in there to show the rest of the world that we don't give up. That's stupid. If it's stupid for us to do it, we don't get bonus points with the rest of the world by showing them we're too stupid to quit. Better to show the world that we'll do what we want and they can't stop us, and they can't make us keep doing stuff when we don't want to either.

So, if the iraqi government fails we should bail out. We can't just overthrow it and start over, we gave it sovereignty.

If the iraqi government is a success and they tell us to go away, then we should leave. What else would we do, overthrow the successful representative government so we can keep occupying the place?

So the third possibility is they do well but for some unknown reason they don't tell us to leave. Then we should be staying in their under their command. They're the ones who know what kind of counterinsurgency they need. We'll be working under their aegis, unless we decide we don't want to and leave.

Slick argued that the government is going to be run by educated people who know that iraq needs us, while the masses of people don't know that. So they'll keep us even though the people who voted for them won't understand. This is a recipe for disaster. Iraq doesn't need a big battle between educated and uneducated, rich and poor, at this point. If the rich guys in the iraqi government don't represent their people they're going to look like another puppet government and they'll fail.

So I'm pretty clear that if things go reasonably well we'll be asked to leave within a couple of months after an elected government. The worse things go in iraq the more likely we'll have the chance to stay.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2004 09:39 AM

Slick wrote, "You want to support your argument by referring to "widespread sentiment within the upper ranks of the military and intel community" and so you quickly grabbed my attention. I will say that I work with many high-level officers, and I know for certain that NONE of them share your view."

Slick, I understand. It's your psy-ops duty to put a good face on it no matter what. No matter how desperate it gets, it's worse if the american public doesn't support the war.

So it's your duty to try to make it look good. I can't blame you, you think you're doing the right thing.

The trouble is, in the long run this is bad for the nation and for the Army. The more often citizens catch the Army lying to them, the more they'll believe rumors instead of you. There's no particular reason to believe rumors -- but when there's no particular reason to believe you either....

So please, think it out and choose whether this is actually your duty, or whether it's another mistake.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2004 09:49 AM

David, you have missed the point.

We cannot be defeated provide we have the will to fight on no matter what. As long as we supply enough men and enough weapons and enough money, we can keep fighting and never accept surrender.

We cannot lose unless we admit we've lost. As long as we're willing to keep bombing iraq we haven't lost yet.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2004 09:54 AM
Pretty good, huh?
golf claps, softly

As David said, a hyperbolic strawman. But not a useless one.
We have two extremes:
A. Cut and run in six months
1. Reinforce the world view that we can't be trusted
2. Ask for the war to come to us
B. Stubbornly demand victory as in WWI, feeding vast quantities of lives to the conflagration to satisfy the honor of those who went before.
1. Possibly become the new Nazi's and have the world rise up against us
2. Possibly succeed anyway, but lose our soul in doing so.

Clearly, any solution must exist between the end points? Agreed?

As to Iran and Syria, destabilizing them should be a long term goal.

Posted by: jdwill at September 19, 2004 10:01 AM

News report yesterday that sums things up nicely. One of the current hostages in Iraq was grabbed as they came out in the morning to start their generator. This was in the Al-mansour district of Baghdag. After 18 months one of the best districts in the capital is still without reliable electrical service.

But VDH still thinks we can turn this around.

With 3 or 400,000 troops, competent civilian leadership and a plan we had a chance - 18 months ago.

Now, there is no way this turns out well.

Posted by: alan aronson at September 19, 2004 10:46 AM

jdwill -

Sorry, I missed the part where democratization works? Are you saying that that is de facto impossible - or beneath consideration? That is the goal of the operation, after all. Did your opinion arise from thoughtful analysis over the course of time, or have you embraced a pet theory from before the first shot was fired and are now fighting to see it validated?

I don't predict success or failure yet. I reject outright that we have come close to approaching a decision point; we have spent less time attempting to pull the nation of Iraq out of the swamp than a small city here would spend investigating and permitting a site for a landfill.

I can't believe you brought up WW1 as a meme, either. Where have twenty thousand U.S. soldiers died on a battlefield before breakfast got cold in this conflict? Based on attrition rates, the same population of men and women we have fighting in Iraq would be sustaining more fatalities driving home from Grandma's house over here over the same time period we have been in theater...

Granted, the situation is somewhat different for the opposition. A trench warfare scenario is only possible where we decline to apply the force at our command to known targets. Fallujah 1 and 2, and the subtleties of the Najaf operations leave themselves open to exploitation as failures, but the ultimate end of those stories is not near, either.

The domestic opposition to our war on terror isn't rooted so much in idealistic or principled objection to the goals or strategy of the war as much as it is become the last flailing whine of a failed school of political thought. Desperate to bring down the party that has that has superceded them in the trust of a majority of the electorate, they have abandoned offering any workable alternatives (because they have none) in favor of praying for failure they can exploit.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 19, 2004 11:07 AM

Whoa! Don't hurt me, big guy!

I was trying to bracket J Thomas's strawman that put sarcasm upon my earlier keep the faith argument (in this thread).

Somewhere along that spectrum between quitting and slogging forever is the likely solution of a stable, though imperfect Iraq that can stand up to Iran and Syria. And I am not giving up on the original goal of sending our own 'blowback' to Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: jdwill at September 19, 2004 11:16 AM

'If we fail in our efforts to give the people of the muslim world a livable option (which can only happen through lack of will) the parasite will grow in lethality to the point where the response will move past curing the sick animal to putting it down'--TmjUtah

Exactly !!!!
The 'cut&run' brigade headed by the bankrupt leadership of the Democratic Party such as JFK,Dean,Kennedy,Pelosi,Harkin,et al,have no actual plan to combat Islamofascism.Their idea is to 'take the hits' and basically hope for the best while 'arresting'anyone unfortunate and/or incompetent enough to actually stumble into our clutches.
Because I believe that the 'best'result in this type of scenario is a disaster,I support the efort to turn Iraq into a modern country.If this effort fails for one reason or another,the only option in the end will be PLAN "B". I think we ALL know what that plan entails and not just for Iraq.

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 11:19 AM

I don't want to babysit here. I've had honest intelligent arguments with Tano, Mork, $lick, David, and everyone else on this thread. So let's see if we can keep accusations of "idiot," "fuckwit," and "the enemy" to a minimum and see how that works for us.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 11:26 AM

'I don't want to babysit here. I've had honest intelligent arguments with Tano, Mork, $lick, David, and everyone else on this thread. So let's see if we can keep accusations of "idiot," "fuckwit," and "the enemy" to a minimum and see how that works for us'--MJT

Ooops? Busted!!
Are lesser terms of unendearment OK as beating dead horses becomes tedious after a certain point?

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 11:39 AM

Dougf,

I dunno. Just keep it cool. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 11:43 AM

jdwill -

Forgive my leap; once again you show that the aimed shot is always better than the clip sprayed from the hip.

MJT -

Point taken on civility. I will remember.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 19, 2004 11:51 AM

Comparing Chomsky to VDH?

Unlike the vast majority of academics, VDH writes clearly and unambiguously. They're coming out with History Channel-VDH this winter.

Chomsky came up with two ideas almost 40 years ago- some linguistics thing and america is satan and the cause of all the world's problems. He hasn't done a thing since. To him the world is static; there's never been even a hint of evolving with the times. He's cut and paste and preaches to a choir of gender neutral europeans. He never subjects himself to any criticism.

I do respect you Tano. You're doing what's expected of you for the cause, there's nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: Raymond at September 19, 2004 11:51 AM

Raymond: They're coming out with History Channel-VDH this winter.

Really?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 11:52 AM

John Kerry has sent his sister to Australia in order to convince THEM to abandon Iraq.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10797507%255E2703,00.html

The obvious reason for this is that the Australian election is on October 9 and if Howard loses, Kerry can accuse Bush of losing our allies.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10606700%255E12377,00.html

I've been convinced for a long time that Kerry is scum. But just when I think he can't sink any lower he does.

John Kerry is DELIBERATLEY undermining one of our most important alliances in order gain an advantage in this election. How the HELL how can ANY loyal American vote for this bastard?

Posted by: HA at September 19, 2004 12:50 PM

P.S. The link to Kerry's sister's Australian gambit was found at Captain's Quarters

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/002562.php#comments

Posted by: HA at September 19, 2004 01:06 PM

HA: How the HELL how can ANY loyal American vote for this bastard?

I'm going to ask you again to keep the Ann-Coulterish rhetoric out of here. I am sick and tired of it, HA.

I don't think you have any idea how you come across to other people sometimes. And I agree with you that what Kerry's sister said and did was atrocious. And guess what? My pro-Kerry wife would agree, too. You need to think about that before labelling everyone who is not voting Republican a "disloyal American."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 01:08 PM

MJT,

I don't think you have any idea how you come across to other people sometimes.

I have no doubt that I come across as a complete asshole. But I feel like I have to SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT to make people see Kerry for what he is.

WHY, WHY, WHY can't people see Kerry for what he is? It completely boggles my mind. Surely this trip to Australia by Kerry's sister HAS to reveal him for what he is.

You need to think about that before labelling everyone who is not voting Republican a "disloyal American."

If the Democrats had nominated Lieberman, Gephardt, Edwards or even Dean, I would have nothing to question. But they nominated Kerry who has without question the most appalling record, and has done more damage this country than just about any politician in modern history. He is up there with Nixon and McCarthy and I call on Democrats to reject him for the good of the nation and the Democratic party.

And for the record, I voted for Gore in the last election, and I voted for Clinton twice before that. The problem isn't voting Democratic, the problem is voting for Kerry.

Posted by: HA at September 19, 2004 01:24 PM

Oh well,I see that the 'tone'is still perhaps a bit over the top in some posts.
But this issue needs to be addressed in a more profound way than the imposition of 'politically correct' terms of engagement.In my jaundiced opinion,these outburts are the DIRECT result of a fundamental difference in outlook and situation valuation.
For clarity I am listing below the points I believe are involved and I have also said on frequent occasions that 'things will get worse' if objective conditions don't change.If the terrorists strike the US again,all hell is going to break loose and what we are seeing today is just a preview.
Questions to Ponder :
A.We are or are not at war with Islamic terrorists?
B.If yes, are these terrorists less motivated by our deeds than by our mere presense in their world?
C.Can we appease our way to victory over them or explain them away?
D.Given the parameters in place,will they tend to disappear of their own volition ?
E Is armed struggle a neccessary but not sufficient, component of the war against these creatures.?
F.Is Iraq for better or worse a very important and perhaps the most important,at this time, facet of this ongoing war?
G.Will failure in Iraq will be not only a serious setback to us but also likely be a disaster on many many levels?
H.Is anything that encourages our enemies and discourages our friends and our armed forces by definition a priori a BAD thing?
I.Is there a difference between loyal dissent and a constant stream of negative commentary?
J.At some point,is it legitimate to question whether opposition without end and without the presense of a viable alternative,can fairly be labelled as DEFEATIST?
K.Is this a struggle that we can afford to lose?
L.Is DEFEATISM a viable tactic in the enabling of victory?
M.When is it legitimate to use perjoratives to describe an opposing viewpoint?

I'm sure there are many more issues,but the essence of what I am trying to get at it is: If we are engaged in a life & death struggle here the rules are vastly different than if we are engaged in a border skirmish with some quiant barbarian hoard.Is this WW2 Britain or is this Lebanon under Reagan before we knew what the world might actually look like? Sad to say it does make a difference.
Which is it ?

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 01:46 PM

dougf,

A.Yes.
B.Presence, if you consider globalization, i.e., the MTV meme.
C.We could convert. That is all.
D.Tricky - They kill more Muslims than anyone else. Maybe the other Muslims will develop an immune system.
E I believe the current hardcore Jihadi's must (and want to) die.
F.It is the entry we have chosen. Daniel Pipes, etal, disagreee with this. But here we are.
G.Serious, but not necessarily fatal. As long as we don't lose Face.
H.Well, yeah.
I.Tough one. Criticism should be constructive [We should be ...] within the domain of the feasible.
J.DING DING DING DING - We have a winner!
K.No.
L.Only in the sense of a contained labratory strain used to develop immune systems.
M.Hah. Thought to trick me! Not Here.

Posted by: jdwill at September 19, 2004 02:10 PM

HA: I feel like I have to SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT to make people see Kerry for what he is.

But you don't. Sometimes screaming your lungs out is effective. Other times it just makes you look like a guy who is screaming his lungs out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 02:14 PM

HA -- please calm down!

I, too think Kerry is terrible. But getting MJT to change his wife's vote is NOT POSSIBLE by shouting; and may not be possible at all.

For one thing, anybody who really doesn't like Bush can find reasons not to vote for him; even if they may seem not as logical or important as reasons not to like Kerry.

Certainly anybody who favors abortion on demand, including partial-birth abortions, can be upset at the increasing pro-life importance in the Reps -- something I like & favor and know MJT doesn't (and his wife even less?).

What I really don't like is the fact that Bush-hate has drowned out almost all real criticism of Bush policies; and even most discussions of advantages and disadvantages.

Michael, I think you're doing one of the best jobs (so I'll keep coming back) VDH is often great, too.

We ARE making great progress in Iraq -- as compared to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia ... Where has nation building been better? (Another thing that's terrible is lack of alternatives, in any believable detail.)

The press, so full of Bush-hate and PC, doesn't want to show this. Does NOT want to show the American soldier as a liberator, not an occupier. How often has the press mentioned Kerry as a 1971 anti-War protester -- who's arguments won, and the US left, and SE Asia got genocide?
1000 / 18 months is "not so many", "too many".
How many deaths should America be willing to "expect" in order to stop genocide? Clinton had 0 American soldier deaths in Rwanda -- I think that was too few.
Yes, every death is a tragedy; including the 600-800 000 murders that were not stopped; and the 3 million in SE Asia that the US retreat allowed.

Posted by: Tom Grey at September 19, 2004 06:48 PM

Tom Grey: Certainly anybody who favors abortion on demand, including partial-birth abortions, can be upset at the increasing pro-life importance in the Reps -- something I like & favor and know MJT doesn't (and his wife even less?).

I think abortion is horrible. So does my wife. But neither of us want to ban it outright.

She doesn't think much of Kerry at all. She thinks less of Bush for various reasons, but she isn't hysterical about it.

When she hears conservatives lump her in with the flag-burning crowd it just pisses her off. She agrees with me about the anarchists and the jerks in International ANSWER. Unlike some lefties, she does not get offended when I take them to the woodshed on the blog. But she does get offended when she is considered one of them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 07:01 PM

J Thomas,

Not sure if I completely understood your post, but I think you accused me and/or the Army of lying to the American people. That's a strong charge. The officers that I serve with have shown no indication that we need to surrender. The higher ranking they are, the more resolute they appear to be. It's not "putting a good face on it," J Thomas. It's simply stating the truth. If I do come across a high-ranking officer who shares your defeatist view (it certainly might happen), I'll let you know. It certainly won't change MY perspective on things, because I know the prevailing wisdom- which often runs counter to the sensationalist-driven MSM. Nobody thinks this is going to be a walk in the park. It's going to be a long painful struggle, and we're prepared to deal with that. That may seem absurd to you, but to anyone in the military (especially the higher levels), it's nothing new. I think history proves that overwhelmingly. If I thought victory was impossible, I'd be the first to admit it. By refusing to comply with your defeatist view, I am not "putting a good face on it"- I'm stating what I truly believe based on my first-hand experience and everything I've learned. If my first-hand experience conflicts with the news you've read then let's agree to disagree, but please don't accuse me or the Army of "lying to the American people" just because we believe we can win.

You seem convinced that many high-ranking Generals and retirees feel we should call it quits. Not sure how you arrived at that, but my experience brings me to a completely different conclusion. I've spent weeks travelling around Mosul with LTG Petreaus. I recently helped MG Taguba with his Abu Ghraib report (he was my DCG until 2 months ago). I now work with LTG McKiernan, MG Speer, and dozens of Generals and Admirals pass through my headquarters every week. I speak with them about any number of issues, and I see nothing but confidence and determination. None of them think this is cake and sugar. They view this as something that MUST be done. That's the prevailing sentiment around here, and I'm sorry if that pains you.

If you think that the qualities that led our military to win two World Wars is bad for the nation and for the Army, then I'll respectfully disagree.

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 07:08 PM

'If you think that the qualities that led our military to win two World Wars is bad for the nation and for the Army, then I'll respectfully disagree'--- $lick

I am honoured to be essentially on the same wavelenght and am grateful that there are men out there doing what must be done while we here just sit around second guessing.
Thanks.

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 07:14 PM

Jdwill said, "We have two extremes:

A. Cut and run in six months ....
B. Stubbornly demand victory as in WWI, feeding vast quantities of lives to the conflagration to satisfy the honor of those who went before. ....

Clearly, any solution must exist between the end points? Agreed?

I say neither endpoint is an adequate solution. I'm not clear that good solutions will be between these two. Better ideas may be somewhere on axes that are orthogonal to this one.

We likely aren't agreed on the problem we're solving. I don't see that iraq has much to do with international terrorism. Most of the insurgents are locals. All of them are fighting against US occupation of iraq. They are fighting for various ideals. If we can get them to the point where they're busy arguing with each other about their ideals and trying to persuade voters instead of shooting, we've won whether the US army is in iraq or not.

A democratic iraq would be some use in the WoT. A failed state there could become a haven for international terrorists; we can avoid that. They might provide hope to other moslem nations that have oppressive governments. And they would help persuade our own nutcases who want to nuke the whole area to wait. But iraq is mostly a subtle indirect effect. Iraqis are not likely to sneak into the USA and car-bomb a police station whether or not the US Army is in iraq at the time.

There's the question whether pulling out of iraq would make third parties think we're weak. I say, be very careful when you let illusion trump reality. If the occupation does make us weak, it's risky to depend on third parties not to notice. If we stay strong and they think we're weak that's not ideal but we can prove it -- we aren't bluffing. Be careful about bluffs, they can turn into an Emperor's-new-clothes situation. So I haven't proven that occupying iraq weakens us, and possibly it doesn't. But that's the important part. What people think of us is less important when we're strong for real.

Anyway, I say keep the troops in at least until we see how the elections turn out in January. Make a decision about that no sooner than March. It's possible things can still work out even if the elections fail. Say the sunnis generally say that they can't have honest elections under occupation and don't vote. The elected government asks us to leave. Then they invite the sunnis to vote. It could work out.

We aren't running away if the elected government asks us to leave. In that case we are following international law etc. We aren't running away if our troops withdraw to isolated areas and protect the borders and protect the nation from invasion. The iraqi government could allow militias to operate, and replace them slowly. Provided the militias don't scrap among themselves too much (and the ones that do weaken themselves relative to the others) it needn't cause too much trouble. The ones that do cause trouble can get hit by the national guard, and whatever other militias agree to join in, and possibly US airstrikes.

There are various ways democratisation could work without US ground troops. That's the goal. US ground troops are a tool toward the goal. Use them if they work, pull them out if they don't work. We might be truly better off if we pull them out and the iraqi government (reflecting their voters) asks us to bring them back. They don't need to say anything nice about US troops when we're occupying them and they have no choice. If they invited us back we'd have a lot more political leverage.

So there are lots of ways it can go. No need to second-guess the guys in charge unless we're sure it isn't working and they look clueless. (Which is how it looks to me now.)

Posted by: J Thomas at September 19, 2004 07:27 PM

J. Thomas,

"We likely aren't agreed on the problem we're solving. I don't see that iraq has much to do with international terrorism."

heavy sigh

Let's try this one more time.

Iraq's involvement with international terrorism is and was peripheral. It was a place where the terrorists could cross paths, meet, change their money, take a vacation, and the like, and Saddam subsidized Palestinian suicide bombings, but there were no Iraqis among the 9/11 terrorists, and not many of the other recent terrorists were Iraqis. That is, Iraq was not an imminent danger. Stipulated, agreed to, no problem, why are we still bringing this up? Anybody who argues otherwise is shooting at straw men created by the lefties.

So why Iraq?

Because the problem is not terrorism; terrorism is a symptom of the problem. The problem is failed states in a dysfunctional culture, leading to lots and lots of people with no jobs and no prospects looking for something to do. This is the core truth that makes the lefty "it's all our fault" argument resonate. It's not our fault; we didn't create the dysfunctional culture from which the rest of it springs. But if you accept the capitalism/imperialism/zero-sum economics tripe the Left depends on, it's easy to make it look like we've done something to hurt them when we have not.

Chasing down terrorists after they've done their dirty work is useless, even counterproductive. This is why the hunt for Osama has been de-emphasized compared to Iraq, which gets criticized as "wasting resources on Iraq." In the first place, we can play whack-a-mullah for as long as we want and as soon as somebody puts more quarters in the slot the game starts over. So long as the dysfunctional culture which underlies all of this exists, there will be a steady stream of re-supply; more quarters for the slot. In the second place, the "hunt 'em down" meme slots neatly into the preconceptions of the culture as a simple variation of the cycle of revenge they already live with. Achmed whacks Ali; Ali's son whacks Achmed's son; rinse and repeat ad infinitum. Joining them in their futile murderous games will accomplish precisely nothing.

What has to be done is to modify the culture. We are already doing that, but slowly. Some wag remarked that the War on Terror will be won using Barbie dolls as ammunition, and that is in fact (an exaggerated version of) the eventual outcome. Our culture is not dysfunctional, taken as a whole, and it is gradually displacing the dysfunctional one and will win in the end -- but this is precisely the complaint that leads to the existing big frogs in the culture recruiting terrorists. It doesn't -- can't -- work fast enough. By the time our culture displaces enough of Arab culture to get them on board with the world, we lose New York to an Iranian bomb. Not Acceptable.

So a way to hurry the process along must be found. This will inevitably involve force; the question is, where to apply the force. Candidates are Libya, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, all countries of large-to-major importance in the Middle East.

  • Libya: not central enough, both geographically and philosophically. Qaddafi is a nutcase, even to Arabs, and there are no major religious figures based there, either now or historically. Changing Libya doesn't give enough bang for the buck.
  • Egypt: too disruptive, may interrupt trends already working in our favor. The Egyptians have made a semi-accommodation with Israel (in return for a hefty bribe) and have lost enough tourists to the Islamists to have a real incentive to work against them. Egypt is almost as peripheral to the Arab world as Libya is, and it's moderately prosperous and stable; not a totally failed state.
  • Syria: a serious candidate. Pass for further consideration.
  • Saudi Arabia: you must be kidding. Much of the propaganda Osama was able to use related to the mere presence of infidels in the country that has custody of the Moslem holy sites. Attack Saudi Arabia, and sooner or later you'll have to bomb Makkah and/or Madina, and if Islamic moderates exist you've just lost them at that point. We want to make things better, not worse. In addition, Saudi Arabia is a thin skim of modernity over a vast desert populated by primitive tribes. There's nothing to work with to build a modern, functional society.
  • Iraq: Serious candidate, pass for later examination.
  • Iran: Another "you must be kidding." The mullahs keep themselves in power the old-fashioned way: by pointing outside the country and screaming "they're going to attack!" Confirming that loses the war immediately. There's also the fact that there's a goodish population of Western sympathizers there, which the mullahs take great care to keep suppressed where possible, and the possibility that they may be able to take care of business on their own if we don't interfere and raise up patriotic enthusiasm. Not Iran.

So we're left with two candidates: Syria and Iraq. Both are central, both geographically and philosophically. But: Iraq has a large, diverse population of well-educated people from which a civil society could be constructed; Syria has a small minority of such and a plurality of tribespeople. Iraq is literally the birthplace of Islam; Syria is an Arab, Moslem country but is not regarded as an example by anybody. Iraq has a semi-credible army; defeating it will "send a message." Syria has a small army mostly focused on internal affairs and opposing Israel, which has defeated it handily -- our beating Syria will generate a ho-hum reaction. Assad is a sonofabitch, but he's a quiet sonofabitch, where Hussein is a loud-talking braggart with a great line of pan-Arab bullshit. We can argue "Anybody But Hussein" and seem reasonable given the mass deaths, tortures, etc. Iraq already has a minority (the Kurds) which is more or less on our side and can serve as entree. And mirabile dictu, we actually have an excuse under international law: the 1991 war did not end with a treaty, and in fact is technically still under way.

That's "why Iraq." The goal is to destroy (one part of) the dysfunctional society that generates Islamist/Waha'abist terrorists and try replacing it with something better. It simply happens that Iraq is the number that comes up when you look for a place to start -- the loose corner of the label you want to pry off. Given a few minor changes in the Middle East, and it could have been Syria instead. Militarily Syria would have been preferable -- plenty of access for beach landings along the Mediterranean, and the Israelis right next door to watch our backs and lend a helping hand now and again, where Iraq is almost landlocked and the only possibly-helpful neighbor is the Turks, who aren't very dependable. Offsetting that (from a military point of view) doing Iraq sandwiches Iran, a real military, social, and monetary threat, between Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Iraq qua Iraq is not, and was never, the point. The goal is to modify the culture by introducing what T. P. M. Barnett calls a "system perturbation" -- let's push here and see what happens. Iraq happens to be the best place to do that.

And the culture has to be modified if we are not to spend the rest of history looking over our shoulders. There is no combination of appeasement and bribery short of capitulation that will make the Islamists, particularly the Waha'abists, leave us alone. America won't capitulate.

It has to work. Any other road means terrorism forever, and terrorism forever means that eventually the terrorists will come up with an outrage that eclipses 9/11. When that happens -- nuking New York comes to mind -- American outrage will demand that something be done, and at that point the only thing left will be Option Zero: green glass from the Jordan to the Hindu Kush. I don't want that. Nobody I would credit as sane genuinely wants that. But if the dysfunctional culture of the Middle East isn't modified into something more connected to the Western world that's what's at the end of the road, so I prefer to take the other fork despite the obvious costs.

Regards,
Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke at September 19, 2004 09:14 PM

J Thomas said, "Slick argued that the government is going to be run by educated people who know that iraq needs us, while the masses of people don't know that. So they'll keep us even though the people who voted for them won't understand. This is a recipe for disaster. Iraq doesn't need a big battle between educated and uneducated, rich and poor, at this point. If the rich guys in the iraqi government don't represent their people they're going to look like another puppet government and they'll fail."

Sorry if I left so much room for confusion. I never suggested class warfare- the rich have been brutally oppressing the poor for decades now. What I'm suggesting is that the rich must allow the poor to get educated and start creating a middle class. This will take many years, but it's the ultimate long-term goal. The people will elect officials that know what's best for them, and hopefully those officials will honor their position and move democracy forward. The government will appear "puppet-like" initially- there's no way around that. Only time, determination, and ethnic/tribal cooperation can bring the aura of legitimacy. The people may not understand the situation completely, but most of them understand why we're there. The people in Samarra just figured it out. If the rest of the Sunni strongholds decide to follow their lead, we'll be out of there sooner than later. With the temperature starting to cool off and the elections coming up, we're now gearing up for the showdown in Fallujah. Everybody knows it's coming, but what's few know about the plan for after we take it. It's going to be different this time- I can't go into detail about it, but stay tuned. Taking back Fallujah will be the key to the whole process. When the Iraqi people cast their votes in January- it will be the first time that the masses make their voices heard. Up until that point we'll have only heard from the insurgency. The masses are about to drown them out, and that's why we're seeing the escalation from the Zarqawi camp. The government will know when it's time for us to leave, and we'll happily comply when the time comes...

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 09:31 PM

Ric Locke -

Agree. Especially your last paragraph - but the entire post is a keeper.

slick -

I believe the increased tempo of the last few weeks is aimed squarely at an attempt to disrupt our election. It's a wasted effort thus far.

They cannot maintain this pace all the way through January. I exchange email with a few folks in some bad places and they have all referenced the costs the enemy is paying in order to attract the attention of our media. It beggars belief. I never ask for operational details; I made a conscious decision years ago that the ability to reach across oceans and ask for opinion would be poorly used if I allowed the gift to be used for soliciting war stories. I ask for general opinion and offer encouragement where I can.

Bush up in the polls is bad news for the terrorists but that will be as nothing compared to even remotely successful elections in Iraq.

By January there will be thousands more trained and equipped (and vetted, which is probably more important) ING and police forces operating out there. I don't think that CNN will be backseating the Iraqi cops when they go knocking on doors.

The entire thrust of our rebuilding/transfer of sovereignty effort has been to accent the necessity that Iraq rule itself. The U.N. carpetbaggers and the yeast-like infestation of NGO's that normally freeze a blighted region into basket-case status have been treated precisely as they deserve in Iraq.

I have seen your posts before but don't recall any more biographical info than that you are a serving officer in one of the branches. God bless and keep you, and thanks for your duty.
Semper Fi USMC 80-88.

Posted by: TmjUtah at September 19, 2004 09:54 PM

TmjUtah,

Your military experience is obvious by virtue of your sane assessment of current events (especially WRT the NGOs!). Glad your buddies in Iraq are sharing their experiences as well. We have to get better at telling our story, because the MSM can't/won't do it for us. I recently contributed to a book that's being written by a guy named Eric T. Holmes. He sent me the chapter that includes imput from me and many many others who were over there. I'm in Kuwait now, so life is much easier for me these days. But our troops up north are fighting the good fight and we all appreciate your support.

On a completely unrelated subject, I thought I'd announce to everyone that I had lunch with Stuart Scott and Steve Levy (ESPN Sportcenter) last Saturday following their last taping of "Salute the Troops" from my home here in Camp Arifjan. I got a T-Shirt and a hat, and they both signed them. It's not ALL sand and hell over here!

Posted by: $lick at September 19, 2004 10:36 PM

'What you fail to consider is the amount of Iraqi people who want us to leave BUT understand why we have to stay until a stable government is in place.'

Is this sophistic or what? If the Iraqi people understood that the US had to stay in Iraq, then surely they would not want the US to leave immediately. Yet, as you yourself concede, a series of polls has a large majority of Iraqis wanting immediate US withdrawal. This is also the position of the Irqi trade unions.

'The VAST majority of Iraq is completely uneducated...This is the main reason why Iraq can't have a fully functioning "Democracy" as we think of it today'

Are you pulling my leg here? Iraq gave the world the first written language and has an amazingly sophisticated culture. There are universities all over the country and a nearly 100% rate of literacy. Does this not count as educated? Democracy ahs never taken hold in Iraq because every time the Iraqi epople have looked like liberating themselves a colonial yoke - Ottoman, British, US (via Saddam, whom the CIA installed, and now Allawi) has bene put in place.

Here's another gem:

'As long as we're willing to keep bombing iraq we haven't lost yet.'

With an attitude like that, you've lost before you begin.

Posted by: Jono at September 20, 2004 04:11 AM

I'm sorry, Jono. I didn't realize we were talking about 3000 BC. You're right, I'm wrong...

Posted by: $lick at September 20, 2004 05:05 AM

Jono, I'd feel silly if I didn't offer you some fact-checking assistance. If 40% = nearly 100%, then you're right on about the literacy rate.

The sad truth is that after 2 wars, Saddam's Iraq suffered mightily in the education department. During the 90's, primary school enrollment was about 75%, secondary school about 38%, and college was a gift from the Ba'ath Party (about 10%). The amazing thing was that many of the Ba'ath Party scholars were brought in from OTHER Arab countries! Sons of rich oil tycoons from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, etc. It was Saddam's way of building support abroad. I'm sure his poor masses appreciated THAT! Sure there are Universities all over the country- I had the honor of working at Mosul University. Many of the professors I worked with had pHD's, and many were educated in the US or England. None of THEM wanted us to leave. In fact, they BEGGED the 101st not to leave, because they didn't trust that the "new" guys (3/2 ID Styker BDE) would protect them from the "mindless insurgency" as well as we did. The Strykers are doing a fine job, and I get emails from many of those professors even today. I would like to say that they represent the majority of Iraqis, but it's not even close. Most Iraqis are uneducated (not stupid), and that's just a fact of life. They have an extremely warped perception of reality, which is exactly how Saddam needed them to be. Give them some time to get into the classrooms and away from the radical clerics and jihadi-propaganda machines, and THEN start reading and analyzing your Al-Jazeera polls...

Posted by: $lick at September 20, 2004 06:19 AM

"There are universities all over the country and a nearly 100% rate of literacy."

I saw the nearly-100% literacy rate too. But when I checked the CIA World Factbook they claim the literacy rate is 50%. Somebody has it wrong.

If the literacy rate was 100% 14 years ago, they'd have to have completely stopped teaching any kids to read to get it down to 50% by now. So those numbers are simply not compatible. At least one of them is wrong.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 08:35 AM

Ric Locke wrote an interesting and provocative post. Thank you!

I want to summarise it, and see if I got it.

The central problem is failed states in a dysfunctional culture. Then people with no prospects become terrorists.

The solution is to do cultural engineering. We will change their cultures around so that people have great prospects, and then they won't be terrorists.

We've been successful at that by spreading materialist culture -- Barbie dolls, Baywatch, Penthouse magazine, vodka, bacon cheeseburgers, internet porn, etc. Once enough people in failed states get jobs at McDonalds serving bacon cheeseburgers or jobs making internet porn or whatever, they can spend their spare time and money buying stuff, and the problem of dysfunctional culture is solved. But this is slow. (Partly because failed states tend not to have great economies so it's hard to get material success, but easy to look at it through the glass TV screen and see what you're missing.)

Since we're destroying dysfunctional arab and moslem cultures too slowly the natural way, we will have to do it with military force. For an invasion it's better to limit it to one country at a time and for tactical reasons iraq is the best first choice.

Since we don't actually know how to intentionally do cultural engineering, we're trying the "vending machine" approach. If it doesn't work, give it a good swift kick and see if that helps.

The theory is that unless we change the arabs, they'll do terrorism on us. And if they keep doing terrorism on us we'll get tired of it and nuke them all. Giving iraq a great big kick in the ass and hoping it makes them a better nation is far better than nuking the entire middle east, and since that's the backup plan if this one doesn't work, we'd better hope it works.

Do I have it right?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 08:56 AM

The theory is that unless we change the arabs, they'll do terrorism on us. And if they keep doing terrorism on us we'll get tired of it and nuke them all. Giving iraq a great big kick in the ass and hoping it makes them a better nation is far better than nuking the entire middle east, and since that's the backup plan if this one doesn't work, we'd better hope it works.
Do I have it right--- J Thomas

BINGO !!!

Posted by: dougf at September 20, 2004 09:05 AM

J Thomas,

The CIA fact book probably used good ol' fashioned intelliwisdom and took an average of several estimates. The rate was much higher until the 80's (and the Iran War). Since 1980, the dropout rate (and literacy rate) began to plummet. Therefore, you'll find a fair number of "older" Iraqis who can read, but don't forget that a great many of those "educated" folks from the 60's, 70's , and 80's perished during Saddam's wars and purges. The adult literacy rate is thought to be around 58%. The school-age literacy rate is much lower (closer to 40%). There are many more of these younger 40% than the aging 58% folks, so I'd go with some of the lower estimates I've seen- closer to 40% than 50%. Don't forget that these estimates don't take into account male/female disparity. Most estimates put today's Iraqi female literacy rate below 30%. No matter who's estimate you go with, you're not going to come close to "nearly 100%". No way no how. They are "uneducated" and therefore very succeptable radical clerics, conspiracy theories (you wouldn't BELIEVE some of the stuff they come up with- it's almost comical at times), and of course Al Jazeera, the voice of the Jihad. This is why education is so critical to the mission....

Posted by: $lick at September 20, 2004 09:12 AM

Slick, I tend to agree with you but I haven't looked into it in any detail.

I don't understand why the literacy rate would be so low. They have nearly a phonetic alphabet, and the religion encourages literacy as well as language conservatism. It should not take long to teach people to read. People could be teaching each other to read in coffeehouses and barracks and wherever.

Learning to read would be a minor part of schooling, it ought to be fairly easy. Various places have boosted literacy a whole lot quickly, particularly during times of social change. This might be an ideal time for iraq.
http://www.newint.org/issue122/one.htm

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 10:16 AM

J Thomas,

Believe me, I wondered the same thing while I was there. Of course I asked many Iraqis your exact question. First, let's remember that literacy does not = educated. It simply means they could read. If 50% were "literate," I'd estimate that fewer than 30% were what we would consider to be "educated" even in the most liberal sense of the word. The reasons they gave were many, but the most common was the economic devastation brought about by the war with Iran, the Gulf War, and of course the devistating sanctions. Children were forced to work instead of go to school. The quality of schools and teachers deteriorated rapidly. This I saw first hand, and it was pathetic. I actually read a 3rd grade English book that had one page in Arabic and the opposite page it's English translation:

"Saddam Hussein is a great man and Iraqis love him. He is the leader of Iraq's Army. Iraq's Army is strong and powerful, and they protect Iraq from evil invaders who wish to steal Iraq's oil. Iraqi people love Iraqi soldiers."

I'm not kidding- it actually said that! An Iraqi kid handed the book to me and asked me to read it to him. Great education they were getting, huh? Every book in every bookstore had a full-page picture of Saddam on the first page. Every single one. Even the day planners! I bought about 5 of them and brought them home.

The good news- they are HUGELY intelligent people. Once their economy and education system get off the ground, I expect quick progress. In fact, we were seeing some amazing signs of progress already during the past school year. The insurgency's gonna be super ugly during the next 6 months at least, so progress may stall for a while, but they got a taste of it. I'm certain they're hungry for more. They want desperately to learn and they're amazingly curious about the world that has for so many years alluded them. The best evidence of this is the sattelite dishes. As soon as Saddam jumped shipped, sattelite dishes (illegal under Saddam's rule) appeared on nearly every rooftop. They sprouted almost overnight- like wildflowers. These people could barely afford the food they ate, but somehow damn near everyone got a sattelite dish. They sold them on every market street in Mosul. Me and my tent-mates bought one (TV and "scrambler card" included) for $75. I'm not shitting you- every tent on Mosul airfield had a TV and sattelite dish by mid-July! Of course they're all living in Halliburton trailors now, but I digress. Sometimes, I almost think I miss that nutty crazy place....

Posted by: $lick at September 20, 2004 11:50 AM

J Thomas: (I hope you see this, I have a have a big work load and can't post as much as I'd like)

I say neither endpoint is an adequate solution. I'm not clear that good solutions will be between these two. Better ideas may be somewhere on axes that are orthogonal to this one.

I agree. In fact, the analogy of a mathematical n-space may be a good way to discuss the problem. I think many of the points you make could be used to illustrate the vectors that could be analysed.

Most of the insurgents are locals.

But probably funded from elsewhere. Stories of the guy that gets money to feed his family by popping a few mortar rounds are abundant.

They might provide hope to other moslem nations that have oppressive governments.
Bingo.

Be careful about bluffs, ...

Agreed.

Anyway, I say keep the troops in at least until we see how the elections turn out in January.

I think it is more important to get a strong and nationalistic military going. This is the foundation of Turkey, and it may be the best short term goal point we should pivot towards. $lick has spoken of this being a top priority.

There are various ways democratisation could work without US ground troops. That's the goal.

Again, I think that we should focus at a stable government that is stable, provides economic opportunity, and is resonably uncorrupt. Corruption is ignored too often as the strangler of freedom. Democracy may be a goal, more than a method. Not sure.

Here are some axes that I think might be relevant. I am interested in what the others here think about constructing such a model. I will evaluate Bush (or Kerry if he wins) by how well they score simultaneously on each of these. I also posit that more constructive discussion would follow if some set such as this could be agree on.

A. Geopolitical blocking of Islamofacist influence/communication. Iraq is a center point.
B. Idealogical pressure by economic example by Iraqis on other Muslims to compete with Islamists.
(this was a critical factor in the cold war)
C. Nature abhors a vacuum, we should too. Iraq was a failed state before we invaded. See Sudan.
D. Non-Military pressure via economic and diplomatic channels.
E. Military intimidation. Kill the hard core Jihadi's ruthlessly and don't be squeamish.
F. Propaganda - message message message.
G. Nationalism - avoid as a negative, leverage (see F)

Posted by: jdwill at September 20, 2004 03:34 PM

Ric Locke -

I wrote my post before I read yours. I should have.

Posted by: jdwill at September 20, 2004 03:50 PM

Most of the insurgents are locals.

But probably funded from elsewhere. Stories of the guy that gets money to feed his family by popping a few mortar rounds are abundant.

I'm not clear where to go with that. Saddam had a whole lot of money stashed away, that might have been some of it. Was it true? If you get caught alive after mortaring american positions and they start interrogating you, would that work? "I'm not an insurgent, but I can't feed my family and from one strike I could make enough to feed them for six months." So they ask who paid, and you give them the name of your richest personal enemy. Stick to that story well enough and maybe they'll lose interest in you.

Say that somebody outside is financing it, who would benefit from increased insurgency in iraq? My short list is iran, syria, russia, china, israel. Plus various nongovernments.

I think it is more important to get a strong and nationalistic military going. This is the foundation of Turkey, and it may be the best short term goal point we should pivot towards. $lick has spoken of this being a top priority.

That's what iraq had before. If we do want that, we should put it under Allawi's command, or whoever's prime minister after the election. Then if we do combined military ops with it, coordinate the way we do with allies. If we were training an army to defend iraq against foreign armies, maybe it would be OK to have americans commanding it. But you aren't going to get a strong nationalist army that fights iraqis under US command. It just isn't going to happen.

There are various ways democratisation could work without US ground troops. That's the goal.

Again, I think that we should focus at a stable government that is stable, provides economic opportunity, and is resonably uncorrupt.

If iraq gets a truly democratic government, they have a lot less incentive to fight their government. Say you don't like how things are going. you see how many representatives in the Assembly agree. That gives you an incentive to see how many of their voters agree. If a whole lot of people are against you, that's a sign maybe you shouldn't revolt. Take over and your minority has to rule the country afterward, and you have problems (unless there's a strong nationalist government that supports you). Better to persuade more people than try to suppress the enemy who's stronger than you right now.

It's potentially stable. The USA used this approach from the beginning until after WWII, without keeping much of a standing army, and it worked very well with only one major exception.

I don't think a sunni-controlled strong army would actually be stable any more. The others had a time of freedom to compare notes and see who got killed last time. They might play Animal-Farm again but not with the same farmer.

Economic opportunity is good. Reduced corruption is good, and it requires new traditions. I'm not clear how to do it. How do you go from a culture that expects government officials to be corrupt to one that doesn't? Some sort of social engineering.... It isn't clear how much corruption we have here. You can't get to the head of line in a government office by slipping a civil servant a fiver. And we really enjoy it when we hear a story about a traffic cop stopping a drunk driver who says "My grandfather is Prescott Bush" and they arrest him anyway. But I don't know how to get any statistics about how often it goes the other way.

A. Geopolitical blocking of Islamofacist influence/communication. Iraq is a center point.

We can hardly expect to block their communications. We can provide conditions so that what they say turns irrelevant.

B. Idealogical pressure by economic example by Iraqis on other Muslims to compete with Islamists.

I'm not sure I understood that. If we give iraq enough goodies they'll persuade other nations to fight us and lose so they can get reconstructed too?

Islam like christianity says that the important goals are spiritual, and material prosperity is secondary -- pleasant but not really important.

On the other hand, an arab nation that successfully industrialises, that makes its own tanks as good as Merkavas and its own automatic weapons as good as uzis would surely impress the others.

C. Nature abhors a vacuum, we should too. Iraq was a failed state before we invaded.

I'm not sure I understood that one either. Iraq was doing pretty well before Saddam tried to switch from being a soviet client state to being a US client state. We were angry at our former client state next door, iran, and it must have seemed like the slot was open for him to fill. But it wasn't, exactly. We wanted him to fight iran, and when that wore down we still put kuwait ahead of him, and we dumped him completely. But Saddam managed to keep a lid on the problems right up until we gor rid of him.

If we want iraq to not be a failed state, we can try for a government like Saddam's that represses everybody who doesn't support it, or we can try for a democracy that lets them argue it out. I strongly prefer the latter, if they can manage it.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 21, 2004 12:56 PM
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