July 27, 2007

The Rule, Not the Exception

By Michael J. Totten

I'll have another article published shortly, as soon as I finish writing it. In the meantime I'd like to promote the following from the comments to the main page.

From Steve B, who has his own blog called Educated Soldier:
Having served with an infantry battalion much like the one subjected in the post during a year in Ar Ramadi when Ar Ramadi was at its most conflicted, I can assure you that the violence is not as you might expect. Our unit suffered pretty massive causalities during our year. However, we patrolled every single day of that year. Those patrols lasted many hours. And, typically, even in then “chaotic” Ramadi, most patrols followed the same peaceful format as the one described in Mr. Totten’s post.

Even in the worst places, day-to-day activity is mundane and quiet. When attacks occur, they do so viciously. In my case, these resulted in my unit’s heavy causalities. Nonetheless, I rarely patrolled in fear. I knew that on most days, our patrol would result in an absence of action. Again, this was in a city considered to be one of the most violent of the war. This peculiar dynamic of the situation in Iraq is lost on Big Media.

It’s not totally their fault either. They can’t be privy to such conditions because most Big Media types don’t patrol everyday, get to know the citizens, or understand the social dynamics. They are reactive types instead of proactive. But we can’t necessarily expect them to be otherwise.

I just wanted to do my part to make everyone aware that Mr. Totten is not reporting the exception, but is instead becoming aware of the “rule.” I base this on my two years experience in the country, on the streets. I implore you to trust my judgment and, because of it, trust Mr. Totten’s assessment as well.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 27, 2007 06:19 AM
Comments

Michael,
I believe your Ramadi experience because it sounded plausible. I read several milblogs and compare posts to get the "big picture". Your post sounds consistent with what I've been reading lately. When Patraeus was given command and the new strategy was explained, I had a strong gut feeling that the "surge" could work. (But, hey, what do I know - I've never been there.) I read Educated Soldier's post also - interesting and believable. I look at the adjectives used by writers as a strong indicator of bias, if any. (I learned my lesson well in freshman English Comp.) Thanks for your postings.

Posted by: Peacetime vet at July 27, 2007 07:21 AM

It makes it all the more tragic that the surge will not work, that all the efforts of good people like Steve B. will not amount to a successful outcome. Why? Because we still have not been clear as to what that successful outcome will be, because we still misidentify the actors playing the game in Iraq. Until that unlikely day comes when we can identify the actors correctly, we will continue to play with the wrong tools, and thusly not have the results we desire.

Posted by: Dan at July 27, 2007 09:33 AM

The main question here has not only been avoided, but there are people here who seem to have made their minds:

can the past and present iraq policy be assessed mainly on what mjt reports, be it representative or not?

let's suppose that the surge is effective -- and it's not clear what that means -- does that guarantee a solution? that is likely to prevent a political solution, not achieve it. will we be able to leave or draw down then? should there be any delusion that the minute we leave the violence will not restart? would even such a result justify the us deaths, wounded and zillions wasted, the wearing down of its army, and the loss of its power and respect thereof and the rise of its mortal enemies in the me which it facilitated?

the us interest is not sacrificing itself to prevent sunni and shia from killing themselves; it is is keeping them divided and away from jihad, and keeping a ready army to prevent any threats.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 09:46 AM

MJT and Steve B.:

I have to admit, I'm not sure what you both are getting at here. You're both saying, as far as I understand, that the reality in Iraq is different than what we see in the media--daily life is pretty mundane and not as bad as you might think.

But so what? Why is this so important for people to know? Does it really change the reality that Iraq is an extremely dangerous, unstable country?

You have to be pretty ignorant to honestly believe that Iraq is a raging inferno every single minute of the day.

Posted by: Edgar at July 27, 2007 09:59 AM

I think people are talking past each other. It's true that the anti-war left tries to use the "quagmire"/Vietnam comparison, which is in many ways dishonest. But if you really read the NYT or the Washington Post everyday you don't get the impression that our troops are exposed to constant violence. I've read many times in the MSM just the opposite complaint - our troops are too bunkered down in their bases, not interacting enough with Iraqis, the lightly armored British approach should be our model, etc. The reality is we're not at all out war, we're occupying a country and the level of anti-American violence seems to reflect that. But it's the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence that's the real issue that determines whether we are succeeding. The argument for keeping a massive military US presence basically boils down to this - are we keeping the lid on the interethnic violence and removing the pressure slowly? If yes, then we should stay. But if in reality we're just prolonging a painful process of Iraqis killing each other and sorting things out, you could argue that getting out of the way and letting one faction resolve things quickly, while potentially bloody at first, is actually in the long-term interest of the Iraqi people. The impression you get from the MSM is clearly that the US is failing at controlling the Iraqi-Iraqi violence, this we would be an interesting topic for MJT to give us some clarity on.

Posted by: vanya at July 27, 2007 10:03 AM

Dan, who are the actors? Who do you think we think are the actors?

I can brainstorm some successful outcomes, all of which are official goals of the administration:
1) the Iraqis can defend themselves against jihadists and insurgents without our help
2) Iran and Al Queda are kicked out or so decimated that they can't disrupt people' daily lives and business and a democratic political process.
3) related: it is perceived to be safe enough that professionals return from Jordan and elsewhere, and that, say tourists want to visit
3) infrastructure is repaired and improved enough that minimum amenities like 24/7 electricity are the norm
4) related: oil production is back on track and returns wealth to the country and undercuts Saudi near monopoly
5) the government improves functioning and is a reasonable representative government.

That's just off the top of my head - what would your successful outcome be, and why do you think it can't be achieved?

Posted by: Yehudit at July 27, 2007 10:07 AM

Vanya:

That's exactly it. Compare it to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Their goals were basically to defeat one group (the PLO) and put another (the Phalangists) in power. Even those limited aims weren't realized because of the power dynamics.

Can you imagine how difficult it would have been if Israel had tried to pacify Lebanon entirely and get every group to work together in a functioning democracy?

Well, the US has an even harder task in Iraq.

Posted by: Edgar at July 27, 2007 10:09 AM

but those successful storms live only within your brain, yehudit. you live in a dream world.

if those were possible, why have they not been achieved in so many years? why what has not achieved in years with tons of resources, will be achieved now, without resources, with the us weakened and its enemies emboldened?

quite apart of the us ignorance and incomptence, the fact is that aims in the me are not those of the us, no matter how much the latter projects on the former -- which is what you do -- and refuses to accept me reality.

if there is anything that dooms the west is the refusal to accept the fundamental differences between civilization and barbarism and the arrogance that either they are just like us, or we can make them so.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 10:16 AM

You have to be pretty ignorant to honestly believe that Iraq is a raging inferno every single minute of the day.

Yeah, you're right. Just look at all the ignoramuses out there:

"More than three and a half years after the end of the Saddam regime, Iraq has turned into a raging inferno." http://www.dawn.com/2006/10/16/ed.htm

"Our terrified soldiers... were dropped in this raging inferno" http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/opinion/l12iraq.html?ex=1185681600&en=fd4baa0889c7dcb7&ei=5070

"It’s this division between Iraqis - muted under Saddams rule - which has stirred embers to a raging inferno under the blundering care of the US military." http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/sectarian/2007/0704prisoncity.htm

"..the raging inferno neocon arsonists ignited in Iraq." http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2006/December/opinion_December34.xml&section=opinion&col=

etc etc

Posted by: mertel at July 27, 2007 10:16 AM

I've read many times in the MSM just the opposite complaint - our troops are too bunkered down in their bases, not interacting enough with Iraqis, the lightly armored British approach should be our model, etc.

Which mostly isn't true either.....

if in reality we're just prolonging a painful process of Iraqis killing each other and sorting things out, you could argue that getting out of the way and letting one faction resolve things quickly, while potentially bloody at first, is actually in the long-term interest of the Iraqi people.

enough indications this would be genocide, also would create a power vacuum for Iran and Saudi to move in - exactly the opposite of our intentions.

why is it so hard to understand that changing a culture takes a lot of time, esp. when other countries are busy sabotaging that effort? How long does it take to change a culture of an enormously repressive police state to a representative government? How long does it take to develop an effective military (our military transformation, which included fighting politically generals who resisted the changes, took years)? How long has it taken verious cities to change the cultures of say their police forces (ex: NYC and Los Angeles)?

Best article(s) on this topic. Ignore the beginning quote, which is obviously wrong. But the collection of nation-building best practices is great. We are doing some of these and started as soon as the war ended, also many NGOs rushed in there as soon as the war ended.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 27, 2007 10:16 AM

edgar,

the israelis did not want to put anybody in power. they could only hope that the lebanese would solve their problems in such a way to minimize the conflict with israel. unfortunately, the lebanese cannot, they complain that they are victims of foreign regimes -- which they are -- while asking for other foreign regimes to save them.

most of the things israel does is not by choice, but imposed on it; then it's blamed for defending itself.

the us is a superpower and acts by choice. and it makes terrible choices. it's been abandoning allies all over the place. it looks like it's israel's turn, and whatever the west will pay for its current suicidally stupid behavior it deserves.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 10:23 AM

if those were possible, why have they not been achieved in so many years? why what has not achieved in years with tons of resources, will be achieved now, without resources, with the us weakened and its enemies emboldened?

"so many years." sigh See my previous post. Even large corporate culture changes (where there is no war or deliberate sabotage by outsiders) take years. All the counter-insurgency experts say eradicating an insurgency takes years, but it has been done.

aims in the me are not those of the us, no matter how much the latter projects on the former -- which is what you do -- and refuses to accept me reality.

if there is anything that dooms the west is the refusal to accept the fundamental differences between civilization and barbarism and the arrogance that either they are just like us, or we can make them so.

That's a sweeping statement which I simply don't think is true. There are many people in the Middle East who do understand the difference between our type of government and theirs. I support them, I hope their numbers and influence grow to the point where they cause a tipping point.

So let's say your pessimism is accurate. What then? drop the Big One on them? Install another strongman? Accept a bloodbath? What?

Posted by: Yehudit at July 27, 2007 10:24 AM

it's because you "don't think is true" that you live in a dreamworld. neither you understand what i say.

i am not a pessimist and you're delusional. i am a realist (not in the baker sense, though!). I know the me -- i lived in israel for 18 years, I am a political scientist who keep myself educated on it, and i understand what most in the west don't, and don't want to because they're in denial.

there wouldn't have been any need to nuke anybody if the west did not pursue suicidal policies.

it's the west's involvement which is propping up the crap and facilitates their fight against the west. ask carter and brzezinsky who made osama. or propped up saddam. or saved kuweit. or defended the saudis who took over our mosques and K12 education to disseminate wahabbism.

leave the me to its own devices and it'll stay in the 7th century (do you think iran and saudia would have gotten anywhere without the west?).

but it's too late now. the ginnie is out of the bottle.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 10:36 AM

see what i mean?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2148351.ece

the great white (french) hope -- it was a fake from the start.

and it's getting worse, not better. just watch.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 10:47 AM

In response to yesterday's comment thread in which a reader from Philly portrayed the soldiers in Michael's platoon to Robocops and made the claim that our soldiers are poor, ethnic kids who are duped into serving....

Michael and I met a pair of soldiers in Iraq last year. One, or both I cant recall, were from Seattle, WA. The younger one did seem under-educated, or at least pre-college. But the his older companion was obviously a smart guy and was probably a college grad (we didn't pry, but we probably should have). Neither one seem particularly dogmatic in their politics either. It was quite enlightening to meet real soldiers in the field and have them NOT conform to my left-wing idea of them.

Since then I have added more knowledge and experience of the military and truly changed my mind about who our soldiers really are. I worked in high tech with a truly smart and tech-savvy Navy Spec Ops warfare specialist who continually re-enlists between stints working at Intel. I know another former techy who was a Navy sailor years ago and also re-enlisted post-Iraq. Neither of these guys is stupid or poor, quite the contrary. And neither was fooled or naive about signing up during the WOT.

A political survey can be found here. And a history of the National Guard and their involvement in wars can be found here. A debunking of the racial make up of the army can be found from the righthere and the left here.

As it turns out our military is about 50% Nat' Guard and they are often older, college educated, working professionals with a spouse and kids. The other branches do have more young kids making with our college degrees, but they are most often earning money for college. They are not idiots. In fact the Army certainly does not want dolts, with today's high tech and complicated weapons and tactics they need smart kids.

And, surprisingly, these soldiers are not right wing nuts, even if many do hail from the South, from military tradition families, often from rural backgrounds. The political info linked about points out that a surprising majority probably did not vote for Bush... at least they wanted not to before the election, provided the Dems gave them a good alternative. I would guess that the older guys in the Nat. Guard might even lean to the left and at least a good junk of the younger guys in the other forces as well.

I agree that our commenter yesterday saw the world from way to self-centric a position. He projected American Lefty views onto Iraqi civilians and then extrapolated how he would feel in their shoes. I suspect that he was entirely off base. I think that Michael's post described a rather respectful encounter with men locals, American soldiers who were not feared by the locals, and instead, sadly feared the so-called insurgents. The commenter might want to keep in mind that much of the middle east is "used" to seeing soldiers in their streets, the fact that ours have a little more padding does not necessarily make them more frightening.

Thanks for the space Michael. Keep safe. -Sean

Posted by: sean at July 27, 2007 10:58 AM

To all interested:

I am the author of the comment that Mr. Totten presented above.

I first want to thank Mr. Totten for showing such appreciation for my remarks. However, I have concerns that the attention that Mr. Totten has offered to my own words might in, some way, devalue his own. My fear is that some may misconstrue the reports of our experiences as attempts to sway you towards some premeditated, politically-biased outlook on the situation in Iraq. I can assure that this was not my intention and I am also quite sure that this was not the intention of Mr. Totten as well.

Instead, I genuinely hope that you will take the portrayals that I offer and any account of Mr. Totten’s and combine them with many others to develop your own conclusions of the overall condition in Iraq. After all, even in my two years on the ground and Mr. Totten’s current journeys, we were/are only able to bear witness to a small portion of a greater dynamic. Ultimately, we fall victim to some of the same pitfalls faced by more recognizable outlets; we can only be present in a small segment of the country at any given time and, therefore, can only offer a limited view.

I would like to address some of the comments posted in response to my own above but want to do so with the declaration that I am much more adept at offering accounts of my own experiences than I am at offering predictions of what might occur next. All that being said, I left Ramadi in 2005 absolutely convinced that Iraq was on a path towards much greater stability.

To add credibility to this account, let me tell you this: I am currently a university student. I major in International Studies on a Middle Eastern track. I minor in Religious Studies with predominant focuses on Judaism and Islam. I also take Arabic classes. These facts, in and of themselves, don’t build credibility but this might: I am following such academic pursuits in an endeavor to return to the Middle East in some capacity. I would prefer to do so via means of the State Department or some other related government agency, but if these goals fail to be met, I will happily return to the military to ensure my continued participation in a historical development that I truly believe will result beneficially for Americans and Iraqis alike. I am only convinced that the outcome in Iraq will result positively because of the results that I was personally aware of.

Among my brothers in arms, I am not alone in these believes. It has been empirically reported that the retention rates in the military are highest among those who participate most actively in Iraq. There is something to this. Much of the military is committed to success. These same individual also recognize that such success may, in fact, take longer than many outside of the Armed Forces are willing to stomach. However, if successes are occurring; if there are actors willing to participant in the active end of guaranteeing these successes and these successes ultimately lead to a safer world for future generations than I am lost in comprehending why certain parties would prefer to shortchange these possibilities.

I guess my ultimate goal is to ensure that an accurate understanding of the Iraq dynamic is available to all. If such an understanding is embraced, then educated opinions can be presented resulting in more informed decisions being rendered by those in such positions of authority. While I have, personally, submitted to a dedicated long-term commitment by Americans in Iraq and genuinely believe that such dedication will ultimately result in the greater good for our country, I don’t expect to be able to necessarily sway you towards such an attitude. I would only hope that you would understand that I wouldn’t be so certain had I walked away from Iraq convinced that no progress had been made. Your own tolerance for continued American involvement in Iraq may vary. I only implore you to be open to a grander understanding of the truths than what are fed by those lacking the experience from being on the ground, with the troops.

Thanks for you interest. In any case, I much rather participate in healthy discussion with people concerned with the interests of our country than bear witness to a community that could care less. Apathy towards the Iraq situation is my greatest fear…

Thank you.

Posted by: Steve B. at July 27, 2007 11:03 AM

Sorry about spellcheck butchering in my above comment. I trust you figured out that the word "making" was supposed to be "maybe" and the word "junk" should have been "chunk". And "men locals" should have been "local men". -Sean

Posted by: sean at July 27, 2007 11:07 AM

steve,

i don't have any reason to question positive efforts and even individual successes by the military in iraq.

my peeve is with us policies, and my doubts are with whether all the progresses in the world will be able to overcome the main and real problem in the me. in fact, whatever successes you had in iraq are despite and not because us policies.

so we will have to wait and see, but by the time we will it may well be too late.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:09 AM

Thanks for the update Steve.

(the following was not spell checked, sorry).

Steve makes my case for me, on the idea that those in the military are suprisingly smarter, better educated, and less niave than many give them credit.

I would also like to stress that one of the most annoying things for me is to read or listen to someone on (usually, but not exclusively, on the left) arguing that their rejection of the war is on behalf of the soldiers. That all they want is to bring them home, for their own good. This sentiment is usually followed up with the assertion that our solidiers are niave, poor, young black men from the urban ghettos.

It was to this segnment of society, ironically, that Bush, Cheney, and Rummy were listening to even before the war. It was fear of this post-viet nam sentiment that convinced them that the US public would not tolerate a large and long opperation in Iraq and Afghanistan (with the evidence from Somalia who can blame them). Thus they tried to rely on air-power and very few boots on the ground. Now these same people blame them for the chaos that resulted from too few soldiers in the field.

I believe that many, if not most, of our soldiers are more committed to both American democracy and the fight against and for the freedom and sovereignty of other peoples. And for that I thank them all.

I also believe that many of the Iraq "victims" that those on the left also purport to speak for are also much more hearty and less niave than ourselves. Michael and I met Iraqis who had lived through horrors that we could not even imagine. We shared a cab ride with a man whose face had been boiled purple by Saddam's poison gas, we hitched a ride with a young college student who lived for 8 years in the mountains above town because we failed to support the Kurdish uprising in 1991. These people harbored no ill-will towards us, instead they were happy that we had finally shown up to help. But they do not expect us to stay forever (they seemed to want that, but not expect it). They also expressed a will to see through more bloodshed (against the Turks) to continue to work towards the peace and self-rule of their neighbors.

Admittedly this was in the Kurdish north. However, there are other bloggers and aquaintances from the Arab south who have expressed very similar sentiments. These people were in no way happy or safe under Saddam. While the chaos might have been less, it was a slow and systematic death instead, the death of hope itself. It is certainly tough for them now, but the horrors are of a completely different kind.

That I think most of us know... even from the left... there is simply something very different in fear of a terrorist picking on your family because you talked to the Americans and fear of someone comming in the middle of the night to take your daughter away to be raped and mutilated by the "President's" son.

Anyway, if you add to the idea that the current violence is of a different sort, one that admits of hope for a future when the terrorists have been defeated by your elected government... if you add the news that even this violence is much less common and pervasive than you once thought... and it is so much harder to argue that we should just pull out and leave them to their fate.

Also, to those who point to Lebanon and say that we cannot win in Iraq... someone please correct me, but I think that Iraq is more racially segregated, larger, with more open space between. And if Iran can be controlled, and I dont know if it can, than Iraq would not resemble Lebanon, where Syria is forever stoking the fires of sectarian tension. I therefore have more hope for Iraq... worst case scenario there is three stable countries with a shared capitol... Kurdistan, Mosul, and Basra... the old territories before the British attempt at nation building.

And we should keep in mind that Germany, Japan, and Korea did work... those societies have been reformed, they are successful and peaceful democracies that help stabilize their regions. But it took a constant investment by our own people, our nation, our economy, and our military. We are still deeply involved in all three countries decades later. Why should the Middle East be any different.

The question is not CAN the Mid East be fixed, but do we really, really want to do it? Steve does. And for that I commend him and I thank him for his sacrafice on all our behalfs (American, and Iraqi).

Posted by: sean at July 27, 2007 11:33 AM

"the fight against terrorism and for the freedom and sovereignty of other peoples."

Posted by: Sean at July 27, 2007 11:37 AM

yehudit,

and again, see what i mean?

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/27/world/middleeast/27saudi.html?ei=5065&en=869eb184561c74d8&ex=1186113600&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

with iran and saudia feeding the civil war, what does the kind of results you foresee in iraq mean to the those two? and what exactly can the us military achieve? in fact, the us has both its enemy and its "friend" opposed to success in iraq.

with such policies the us military is on a fool's errand.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:37 AM

So what are your ideas and proposals FP?

Obviously, time travel isn't possible so we can't undo western involvement in the ME. Not that isolationism would work anyway in the 21st Century.

Abandoning the ME isn't realistic, unless we are willing to forsake Israel.

Continuing to support and prop up dictatorial thugs isn't viable either.

So, how do we move forward from here?

It is easy for us to sit on the sidelines and criticize those who try, but it is much more difficult to put forward realistic, viable alternatives for addressing the problems in the ME or any other part of the world.

Love him or hate him, at least Bush is trying to transform the region with democracy, freedom and hope, rather than performing the same'ole diplomatic song and dance routine with the dictator du jour.

Granted, there is a lot to criticize in how the mission has been carried out to date, but show me a war that hasn't featured mistakes and miscalculations.

Surely given your academic background and former residency in Israel, you can provide ideas and suggestions worth discussing, rather than blanket criticism of past and present policies -- criticism that fails to move the discussion forward.

C'mon FP, give me some ideas to chew on.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 27, 2007 03:22 PM

well, the stupidest the western policies became over time, the less options we are left with. so instead of "chewing" the policies and blaming the western elites incompetence, cowardice and corruption and the indifference and gullibility of the public, you demand that i come up with solutions. ask those who caused the problems to solve them.

take sarkozy's nuclear ramsom to ghadaffi. not only does the EU reward hostage taking, but provides nuclear technology to anti-western barbarians. when they'll have the nukes you'll ask me to come up with solutions and, like yehudit, without nuking them? arrange your brain correctly.

whether the us leaves or stays it's not gonna solve the real problems of the me. so it's better to leave, rebuild the army and start cunning, not dumb policies.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 03:44 PM

so instead of "chewing" the policies and blaming the western elites incompetence, cowardice and corruption and the indifference and gullibility of the public, you demand that i come up with solutions.

As a general rule, I don't sit around blaming people for things that go wrong. The blame game is a waste of time and energy that accomplishes little because there is usually plenty of blame to go around. Instead, I prefer to discuss viable solutions to the problems.

Also, I'm not demanding you do anything. I'm simply asking you to share ideas you may have for solving some of the world's problems, specifically in the ME. Given your criticism of those policies, I assumed you had actual ideas that would work, but apparently not.

...but provides nuclear technology to anti-western barbarians.

I certainly agree giving nuclear technology to the ME's dictatorial thugs and lunatics is a bad idea. No argument there. Hopefully Bush & Co. will take care of Iran's attempts before January 2009. Hopefully sooner.

when they'll have the nukes you'll ask me to come up with solutions and, like yehudit, without nuking them?

Nope, never take nukes or any other weapons off the table. Better your enemies think you are crazy enough to actually use them, than for them to know in advance that they can unleash the most horribly imaginable attrocity against you without fear of nuclear retaliation. I'm also opposed to the "proportional response" school of military retaliation.

whether the us leaves or stays it's not gonna solve the real problems of the me. so it's better to leave, rebuild the army and start cunning, not dumb policies.

And those cunning policies would be what, exactly? Care to offer any suggestions?

Posted by: Dogwood at July 27, 2007 04:20 PM

you seem to have no concept of what democracy entails: holding the leadership responsible for their fuckups. it's not just a blame game, it's how problems are resolved.

and i did not say you asked me to DO anything; you asked me for ideas for solving problems that have been made almost unsolvable.

however, if you read my posts, you will find that i did provide such ideas. but because they are likely ideas that you don't accept, because you still delude yourself that there are "good" options, you ignored them.

unless we are willing to take on iran and saudia, we better get out instead of dumping resources into a bottomless barrel for no gain. one option maybe the kurd area, but i dk enough about that.

a bloodbath is not an objection for me, but an advantage. let the iranians and the saudis go at each other and let all the jihadis participate. the more they kill each other, the less they kill westerners.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 04:54 PM

ah, about the cunning policies.

i can mention only the concepts and principles, not specifics, because they depend on changing circumstances:

no appeasement, no declarations without any backups, not delusions about "they are like us", understanding of the islamist global jihad, not playing into the hands of the jihadist (iraq is an excellent example), lessen energy independence rather than just talking about it, no undertaking of wars without stamina or ruthlessness, and a whole plethora of other things. but most of all: exploit divisions in the me rather than uniting and propping enemies, and support israel rathet than force it into concessions to jihadis who do not commit to anything in return.

unfortunately this must be done consistently throughout the long-term and it may be too late for that. it should have been done long ago.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 05:02 PM

you seem to have no concept of what democracy entails: holding the leadership responsible for their fuckups. it's not just a blame game, it's how problems are resolved.

FP, I'm a former elected official (state level) so I am well acquainted with the concept of democracy. However, my time in government taught me that too many politicians prefer playing the blame game rather than fixing problems. So, I adopted a personal philosophy of focusing on the problem and finding solutions while others wasted time pointing fingers.

Besides, Michael's blog is not a site for political screeds, it is a place to discuss ideas, concepts and potential solutions to the problems in the ME. Pointing fingers at the current or former administrations, all of whom have made mistakes, really doesn't help flesh out ideas for moving forward.

and i did not say you asked me to DO anything

These are your words, not mine: ...you demand that i come up with solutions. As I said, I made no such demand as you implied.

...because you still delude yourself that there are "good" options

I wasn't aware that I had ever started deluding myself regarding "good" options in the ME, nor have I asked for "good" options. What I'm searching for are ...realistic, viable alternatives for addressing the problems in the ME...

Seriously FP, I think I might agree with you in some areas, but its a real chore just getting past the hostility, arrogance and condescending tone of your comments. Why so much hostility directed toward someone who is honestly and openly interested in learning about and discussing possible solutions?

Posted by: Dogwood at July 27, 2007 05:54 PM

all politicians claim to be looking for solutions while "the others" play blame. yet the problems are due to their own policies. what you are saying is that the politicians fuck up and we must come up with solutions. there are reasons why we did not come up with the right solutions until now, and we continue in the same path.

most people really don't comprehened the disaster created by western policies. what we have today is the result of decades of fuckups. they they either don't know or understand much about the me, or refuse to accept the religious and cultural differences (and i include many of those who served there). the notion that they are like us and taking everything at the demopaths tell them at face value blinds them to the reality and induces the delusion that we can solve the me problems. we can't. only the ME people can and they don't wanna.

that's why practically everything that has been done in the me has achieved exactly the opposite of what was intended. despite all that, we insist keep making the same mistakes over and over again because we can't escape our prejudices, projections and denials. i mean, just look at the propping of abbas. exactly the same we did with arafat, even after worse experience. and it will have exactly the same consequences.

the realistic, viable alternatives have long been eliminated. what we are left with are lousy options, either of which involves enormous costs which I don't believe the west will sustain, not because of lack of resources, but because of ignorance, cowardice, lack of smarts and of will.

so yes, i have become arrogant and condescending when I see how people keep looking for magic wands when there are not any left; and they ignore or refuse the bad options with which we are left. all we can do is minimize the losses and pay the price, and stop believing in crap,
but nobody is willing to accept that.

and you know what: i personally gave up on the west; but i will be the first to be glad to be proven wrong on this one.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 06:38 PM

all politicians claim to be looking for solutions while "the others" play blame.

After experiencing government up close and personal, I will respectfully disagree. It didn't take me long to figure out which politicians worked their butts off to actually fix things, and which ones were quick to jump in front of a camera to posture and pose, but then failed to expend any energy or political capital trying fix the problem. As in any profession, there are some who are on cruise control, and there are some who are intent on getting stuff done.

what you are saying is that the politicians fuck up and we must come up with solutions.

Generally speaking, I expect politicians to screw up and am more surprised when they get things right, especially in the realm of foreign affairs, which very few, if any, Congresscritters have any experience at before getting elected.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 27, 2007 07:15 PM

You guys asked for solutions. I'll suggest some.

First, we must make policies to encourage the development of cheap energy that doesn't come from fossil fuels. This is central. With expensive energy we will not have much of a middle class. With expensive energy we will wind up a third-world nation -- a whole lot of impoverished people, a small middle class that works hard doing middle-class things, and a tiny group of super-rich people. That isn't america.

For us to survive as a recognisable USA, we have to get cheap energy. And so far we don't particularly know how.

So we need the government to fund a lot of little project that look promising. Most of that money will be wasted, but we can hope to get a few successes out of it that more than pay for the rest.

And we need to encourage new technologies. That's hard when the old technologies have the advantages of economy of scale plus a giant installed base plus lots of cash to spend as they like. So here's one suggestion -- put a high tax on fossil fuels. The tax gets passed along through each step in the production cycle until it reaches consumers who pay more depending on how much fossil fuel was consumed to make the products they buy.

The tax ought to be enough to add a couple of dollars to each gallon of gasoline that a citizen buys. However, we collect the money and then we distribute it all to voters, equally.

So if the tax takes in 300 billion dollars, we send each voter a check for $250 every quarter. If it takes in 3 trillion dollars that's $2500 per voter, per quarter. You get your money and you spend it on what you like. If you need to spend it on gasoline then it pays back the tax -- provided you're using the average amount of gas. If you use more gas than the average then the tax doesn't pay your bills. If you use less then you get extra money you can spend as you like.

So on average it doesn't hurt consumers at all. But it gives consumers a strong incentive to cut back their use of fossil fuels, including hidden uses. Find a way to use an alternate fuel and you don't can produce stuff cheaper.

The less we depend on middle east oil the better off we are. The less the world depends on middle east oil the better off we are. The less the world depends on fossil fuels the better off we are, unless we get behind the curve on that.

This is a fundamental problem we have to solve. Lots of our other problems come from this one. If we get cheap energy that doesn't come from fossil fuels then we get a big breathing space to solve our other problems. Things that are catastrophes if we don't solve them turn into noncatastrophes with cheap energy. Like, our foreign exchange rate. We can't afford to let it go like this, now, but we don't have any good choices. If we had cheap energy we could fix it.

When we have fundamental problems it's easy to ignore them by getting into a dispute. "I can't deal with that now, somebody's trying to kill me!" "There's no point living on a budget when I could be dead tomorrow, I have to win the war first and handle everything else later!" Sometimes there's really no choice. The british became an ex-superpower that way, but they did survive. We could become an ex-superpower the same way.

Still, if we want to survive as a powerful nation, we need cheap energy. And we can't depend on leasing the technology from china. The insignificant muslim threat is a distraction from our desperate needs.

More later if I get interesting responses.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 27, 2007 07:21 PM

let me get this straight: this is some sort of new, previously unknown solution? do you think there are any reasons why it has not happened to date? certainly not because it was unknown.

this is a long term solution and it is not guaranteed that technology will save the day. but even if it does, life in the US as we know it will no longer be sustainable. there will be huge economic, social and political disruptions which may turn the us into something it is not. that is why the system has resisted doing what you suggest and preferred to be in denial and to promise that we can go on forever like this. not to mention the huge interests in the status quo both in the us (why was the train system destroyed?) and outside to prevent such a solution. see:

http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7/

but anyway, even if it is done now, it's not clear that it will yield results in time to save our butt.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 07:49 PM

Excellent article.
Excellent discussion(s) in the comment section.
In one, a couple of people (maybe 3) were arguing, and I seemed to be agreeing with both (all?) of them. I think they were basically in agreedment.
Very interesting and informative.
Thanks guys / gals.

Just discovered this web site yesterday.
Michael is adept at writing, and a damn good photographer to boot & is covering the "surge", probably the most inportant event since 9/11.
I'll donate to his cause after 8/8 (a new credit card cycle).

This next year & 1/2 will be interesting.

Iran?? what to do? A carrier left Norfolk yesterday heading for the middle east (will be the 3rd in the area). Go for broke? Bet it all
including the farm? Shoot the works? LAUNCH THE CRUIZE (plural).

Iraq?? Surge works? Tet? Cut off funding?

Posted by: Tom at July 27, 2007 08:27 PM

Re previous post: Where's my spell checker? "agreedment" should have been "agreement". "inportant" should have been "important?. I think.

Posted by: Tom at July 27, 2007 08:36 PM

as a political scientist i once wrote a paper "amateurs and professionals in politics" in which I discussed what you are describing. amateurs tend to be the new politicians -- those who wanna do things. they either become professionals -- those who want the status quo -- or get kicked out.

the point is that with due respect, i know something about politics.

the problem is that the west has bought into the notion that democracy = elections, which is false. it's not true in the US and not true in the west, hence the gap between policies and the public and the corporate welfare state. the public is marginalized and it accepts it.

most of the US policies are not in the national interest or the public interest. the public accepts them and in many instances is manipulated thoroughly due to gullibility. in some instances it realizes it too late and even then it not always holds responsible.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 08:51 PM

in europe the elite found even a way around elections:

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2266

which is a much more extreme version of what the repugnicans and the dhimmicrats have achieved here. and the public has accepted even that contempt. that's why:

http://www.pressdispensary.co.uk/feed/991294.php

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 09:00 PM

The surge will never work. The military can easily defeat the Islamist enemy but they can't beat the enemy (traitors) in the United States Congress and other democrat traitors spread around this country. Just like Vietnam you can win the war and pull the troops out and the democrazies will still give the war to the enemy. As a Vietnam vet I watched it happen and saw hundreds of people (Hanoi Jane and Hanoi John included) that should have been tried for treason and shot. Instead the left wing democrats make them millionaire's, hero's and in Hanoi John's case, a member of congress. This country cannot survive another specticle like that but the dhimmi's are too dense to see it will destroy them and their families along with the ones they hate so bad. Makes me real happy to be old so I won't have to suffer the effects of the traitors actions for too many years.

Posted by: Scrapiron at July 27, 2007 09:57 PM

"most of the US policies are not in the national interest or the public interest. the public accepts them and in many instances is manipulated thoroughly due to gullibility. in some instances it realizes it too late and even then it not always holds responsible."

Posts without capitalization indicate a certain sloppiness that makes it impossible for me to take the writer seriously.

It's like someone scheduled to give a speech to Congress, and he shows up wearing shorts and no shoes. You just aren't going to listen to him the same way you would if he took the time to dress for the part.

Posted by: Tom W. at July 27, 2007 10:17 PM

As to the original post, Smeper Fi!!

Posted by: Pete L. at July 27, 2007 10:41 PM

Sorry, not a great speller all the time, correct quote is "Semper Fi".

Posted by: Pete at July 27, 2007 10:44 PM

fp should just get out of the way and let people who might have reasonable solutions get at the problem without all the nattering negativism and doubts he/she throws like tire irons in bicycle spokes. That's the problem with people like fp, they're always the doubting Thomases because it makes them look smart in a less than perfect world where it is impossible to achieve some kind of utopian perfection, a perfection they demand to be "proven wrong." Convenient sophistry, no?

If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem and all fp and other know-it-all posters are doing is obfuscating, banking on the fact there will always be some level of violence in Iraq (just as there is in America and we've been trying to perfect our form of constitutional democracy for over two hundred years) and they'll be anonymously tapping on their keyboards ... "I told you so."

Yeah, well that's just great. These nattering nabobs need to stand aside and let more creative men and women get at the problem without having to deal with all the white noise in the background.

BTW, I think it's pretty clear that the average Iraqi understands its to their benefit for American troops to be working with Iraqi police and security forces. The American presence is no more ramping of the violent tendencies of the average Iraqi citizen any more than a police presence in American cities can be blamed for gang violence.

After the spectacular military success in deposing Saddam's regime in less than month back in April/May 2003, it is true the administration and its top generals in Iraq were slow to adjust to the reality that al Qaeda and other freelance jihadists were committing themselves to turning Iraq into a battlefield. The "small footprint" approach of Casey and Abizaid clearly wasn't working and it must may be that, like Abraham Lincoln, President Bush may have found his U.S. Grant in one General David Petreaus. We can't afford to "lose" in Iraq and it's my belief the only way we can lose is to simply quit. You can never win when you quit and Congressional Democrats know this, hence their current cut-and-run and then blame it on Bush strategy. I believe history will ultimately judge this political sedition.

Posted by: Hankmeister at July 27, 2007 11:05 PM

thus not considering the substance due to form -- indicating that form is more important -- are not the ones i care much to address anyway.

but given what you quoted, i suspect it's the substance you don't care much for, regardless of form.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:08 PM

meister,

bs. if there's something wrong with my reasoning, point out. labeling it "negativism" and not coming up with any alternatives but asking others too is grinding water.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:10 PM
FP wrote:
if there is anything that dooms the west is the refusal to accept the fundamental differences between civilization and barbarism and the arrogance that either they are just like us, or we can make them so.
This seems to me to be an important point. I have no direct, personal experience of the ME but I have long thought the region to be influenced by barbarity more so than other developed or less developed regions of the world (such as Europe, China or large bits of Africa) that I do have personal experience of. That leads me to question whether my perception of barbarity is the result of my personal ignorance or whether it is a valid recognition of some real aspect of some ME societies.

If you have time, FP, I would be interested to know what you think those fundamental differences are that allow us to define "civilisation" and "barbarity". What, in your opinion, is it that "fundamentally" distinguishes the imperfect western society from the imperfect ME societies?

Do you think that there are any other (non-ME) societies that are barbaric?

Thank you.

Posted by: Mark_S at July 27, 2007 11:15 PM

had there been no war, there wouldn't have been an opportunity for dhimmicrats to subvert it.

the military can kill a lot of "enemy" without being able to take on the feeders, but it cannot
put iraq together again. it is therefore not clear what a win is in this situation.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:18 PM

the only real society in the me is israel. the rest are creatures of colonial powers, where the loyalty is to clan, tribe, religion not the nation.

i don't think i can within a message here define civilization and barbarism. I can only refer you to my blog where i provide links to articles that, if you read, you will get a feel for it.

http://fallofknowledgeandreason.blogspot.com/

I also provide links to sites that document the distinction from civilization. I recommend the postings on this site in particular:

http://www.theaugeanstables.com/

and there is a full page of recommended books on the subject. for now i recommend the following two:

Civilization and Its Enemies
http://www.amazon.com/Civilization-Its-Enemies-Stage-History/dp/0743257499/ref=sr_1_2/103-9669838-7818216?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1185550538&sr=1-2

The Suicide of Reason
http://www.amazon.com/dp/046500203X?tag=databasede095-

If you then have specific questions i'll try to answer them.

Posted by: fp at July 27, 2007 11:31 PM

"can the past and present iraq policy be assessed mainly on what mjt reports, be it representative or not?"

Let's try again..

1) Is what Michael and Steve B report representative?

2) If so, would that affect an accessment of past and present Iraq policy?

Posted by: John at July 28, 2007 12:39 AM

Good news. The surge is working!

Iraq security developments - Friday:

Iraqis reported killed: 175. Iraqis reported wounded: 150. U.S. troops reported killed: 8.

Iraq security developments - Wednesday:

Iraqis reported killed: 109. Iraqis reported wounded: 176. U.S. troops reported killed: 1.

Iraq security developments - Tuesday:

Iraqis reported killed: 58. Iraqis reported wounded: 107.

Iraq security developments - Monday:

Iraqis reported killed: 81. Iraqis reported wounded: 109. U.S. troops reported killed: 3. U.S. troops reported wounded: 2.

Iraq security developments - Thursday:

Iraqis reported killed: 54. Iraqis reported wounded: 13. U.S. soldiers reported killed: 1.
British soldiers reported killed: 3.

Iraq security developments - Wednesday:

Iraqis reported killed: 82. Iraqis reported wounded: 68. U.S. troops reported killed (Tuesday and Wednesday: 7. U.S. troops reported wounded: 4.

Iraq security developments - Tuesday:

Iraqis reported killed: 168. Iraqis reported wounded: 86. U.S. troops reported killed: 2.

Iraq security developments - Monday:

Iraqis reported killed: 158. Iraqis reported wounded: 268. U.S. troops reported killed: 2.

But of course all of the above are the "exception" rather than the rule. It's a liberal media conspiracy! Show us more Iraqi men and children smiling and loving their occupiers, Michael. Good journalism!

Posted by: amused at July 28, 2007 12:55 AM

I think that fp quite correctly points out the numerous errors the West has committed in the ME. He may not be a creative thinker, but voices like his are necessary as well. It is absolutely crucial to acknowledge these mistakes, the greatest of which is the fallacy that the ME can sustain a true democracy. It can't and it won't. Democracy, as practiced in the West, was built bit by bit over centuries. It cannot be transplanted, it has to grow from within. With the surge of islamism all over the region, there is little hope for progress in that direction. If you are in search of solutions, I think that you should acknowlege this fact and built upon it.

Posted by: Eva, Canada at July 28, 2007 12:56 AM

I think that fp quite correctly points out the numerous errors the West has committed in the ME. He may not be a creative thinker, but voices like his are necessary as well. It is absolutely crucial to acknowledge these mistakes, the greatest of which is the fallacy that the ME can sustain a true democracy. It can't and it won't. Democracy, as practiced in the West, was built bit by bit over centuries. It cannot be transplanted, it has to grow from within. With the surge of islamism all over the region, there is little hope for progress in that direction. If you are in search of solutions, I think that you should acknowlege this fact and built upon it.

Posted by: Eva, Canada at July 28, 2007 12:57 AM

fp, having my own blog that few others read, I know how tempting it is try to highjack somebody else's successful blog. You are being half-trollishly rude.

Really, why don't you limit yourself to a couple posts (2) max, on any one thread of Michael's blog?

Make them long (as I do, too often), and infrequent, and let others talk here. Do lots of little comments on YOUR blog, and if few read you (like few read me, sigh), meditate on what that means. About you.

You certainly are a nabob of negativity, even when I agree with you -- I wanted Bush to fight in Sudan to stop genocide and promote democracy.

I now think the US should be looking at the tribes in Iraq, and choosing which tribal leaders to support with respect, cash, trust -- whatever helps. And if a chosen ally goes bad (see M. Yon last month on the US arresting a competent but corrupt general), the US needs to cut such folk off.

We can not choose to win or lose, we can only choose to fight or not fight. If we don't fight, we lose -- but the choice was ours in not fighting. If we fight, and keep fighting, for years and maybe decades, then the other side will lose. When they choose to stop fighting. After all the leaders willing to fight to the death, have died. Leaving only leaders willing to have others fight to the death, or leaders willing to stop fighting and live with a peace.

Israel's Lebanon problem was in supporting a single, sectarian side (Phalangist), rather than real democracy and human rights. The US seems to have been avoiding this mistake, so far. The US mistake of centralization hasn't been corrected, but still can be. Too bad the US didn't immediately set up an Iraq Oil Trust Fund for all voting citizens (ration cards followed by verified census), but Bush & Bremer let their love of central power be projected into Baghdad.

Only Iraqis will, eventually, win in Iraq. We can help support those we think are most worthy, in opposition to those Iran likes (Sadr).

In handling Iran, we should be arming the new Iraqi Army & Air Force with weapons for the upcoming democratic Iraq war against a threatening Mullah dictatorship in Iran. We should also be increasing the size of our airbases, and asking for a big ME base in Kurdish Iraq. Big as in transferring out of safe Frankfurt and into the ME.

Iraq is not a TV program, and there's no Chance the Gardner with a remote able to change channels or stop. We should stay until the Iraqi democratic human rights supports get popular support and political power. 5 or 50 more years -- we're still in S. Korea!

In fact, while we might have had a window of isolation possibility after WW II, by the Yom Kippur War and our support of Israel, the Libertarian isolationism (of Ron Paul) means accepting genocide. Which I'm no longer prepared to do -- so what is the best engagement policy.

I ask that you continually make the case for what you think the US should do NOW, and focus your discussion about how that alternative is better.

One thing I'd like is if a class action suit by survivors of military dead would be brought against the NYT and WaPo for illegally publishing info about the US gov't actions against terrorists. But that's another rant...

Steve B -- GREAT work! Thanks (and to you again too, MJT).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 28, 2007 01:36 AM

Nice Post Tom Grey. Not sure if it will do any good becauce FP REALLY wants you to drink his kool aid. I agree, if he has a powerful message, then people are welcome to visit his flog (oops, sorry, blog). I so tire of wading thru his numerous posts. If MJT weren't so darned good I would not come back again and again to this site. Thank God M.Yon would not allow people such as FP to disgrace his comments section. Amongst other reasons, I understand why sites such as Instapundng do not even allow posts.

Posted by: ron snyder at July 28, 2007 02:26 AM

0530, no coffee yet, sorry for misspellings/grammer. Getting ready for tee time.

Posted by: ron snyder at July 28, 2007 02:29 AM

"and the arrogance that either they are just like us, or we can make them so."

FP - this is in fact borderline racism.

It also relies upon a logic that the great mass of Iraqis and Arabs share the same views and convictions of the terrorists. If the bulk of the Iraqi citizenship were indeed barbarians we would be seeing a war with vastly larger casualties.

Posted by: the nailgun at July 28, 2007 04:28 AM

Yehudit +1.

MJT's experiences line up precisely with my colleagues' who have been in and out of Iraq. I also stopped by the Iraq Slogger site linked above by "amused". It looks like someone just searches for every piece of bad news and every rumor on the Internet and posts it in one big piece. I saw no retractions on that site for rumors of killings that turned out to be false. That strongly biases the numbers upwards.

By the way, imagine running a similar blog for Detroit or New Orleans. Ouch!

In any case, military and political events unfold at much different speeds. All of this impatience for the Iraqi political process to produce an enlightened democracy seems a bit counter-productive. Will they be just like us? Probably not. But we aren't "just like us" from 30 years ago, either.

The locals are clearly turning against the foreign terrorists. Many Sunni warlords are laying down their arms and joining the cause of a united Iraq. That sounds like progress to me. Iraqi government sessions aren't Yuma, Arizona city council meetings yet, but then again, I didn't expect them to be. We've carried the war to the enemy and they seem to be losing. Good enough.

Posted by: K T Cat at July 28, 2007 05:13 AM

So bascially what fp is saying is that Iraq will never work as a functioning democracy because fp is a political scientist who lived in Israel for 18 years.

Posted by: syn at July 28, 2007 06:07 AM

Eva wrote....It is absolutely crucial to acknowledge these mistakes, the greatest of which is the fallacy that the ME can sustain a true democracy. It can't and it won't. Democracy, as practiced in the West, was built bit by bit over centuries. It cannot be transplanted, it has to grow from within.

The problem with this argument, Eva, is that democracy has been successfully transplanted throughout Southeast Asia. So there is a well-established track record of success.

Now granted, it will take a long time to take root, at least a generation I'd say, but we've done it before in other cultures with no history of democracy.

The fact Iraqis showed up in overwhelming numbers to vote in elections clearly demonstrates a willingness to participate in selecting their own government. And from what I read at the time, video of Iraqis going to the polls had people in other ME countries asking themselves why Iraqis had the vote but they did not.

FP is correct in stating that the U.S. needs to deal with the interference of Iran, Syria and the Saudis, but that day will come given proper leadership from Washington. Notice that in the last week the administration met with the Iranians and criticism of the Saudis went public.

Now, to the average layperson, those events may not mean much, but they are steps toward addressing the problem of outside interference. Now cross your fingers and pray for follow thru.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 28, 2007 06:19 AM

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Posted by: Steve at July 28, 2007 06:34 AM

fp - You have already decided that of the three reasonable options for dealing with the middle east, that reform is completely off the table. Which leaves quarantine or annihilation.

Or do you really mean to imply that if we had never found oil in the middle east, and therefore never got involved post WWI that we wouldn't have the world-wide Islamist problem?

Basically, what you want to do is write off 1/4 of the entire human population of the world on the basis that they either can not or will not change their religious belief structure to accommodate peaceful co-existence.

Frankly, we don't have that option. We can't even keep people from sneaking across the southern border of the US, so keeping the entire middle east bottled up is not plausible. Technology leads to an ever-shrinking world, so the tech that we have, they will inevitably get.

So, you really have two options - we try to force them into the modern era, or we wipe them off the face of the globe.

Do you really mean to support a genocide of that degree?

Posted by: brian at July 28, 2007 06:39 AM

The common experience of the PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry) is days of boredom, moments of terror. It is to the credit of the current administration, and to the soldiers who loyally serve, that to date the price has been low.

The US pacified the Muslim tribes in the Phillipines, with a combination of cash (bought out the Sultan) Combat (killing off most of the hard liners) and cooperation (building up local institutions.

The locals protested when the US announced its intention to move the PI to independence. The Muslims wanted to remain part of the US.

We still have men in Cuba 109 years after the Spanish American War. We have over 72,000 soldiers in Germany and Japan 62 years after the end of WWII, and soldiers in Korea 57 years after Korean war.

The base in Cuba is no longer needed. When Cuba has a democratic government we should withdraw from it. The Governments in German and Japan are strong, and need not our protection. Withdraw from them. Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea benefit from our continued presence. We should stay in those countries for the long haul, for our mutual benefit.

Posted by: Don Meaker at July 28, 2007 06:56 AM

fp, I don't need to point out the flaws in your "reasoning", others have and you flatly reject their analysis. That job was done before I even posted.

Why should I waste my time with someone as closed-minded as you? Review the posts and see that I'm right ... but then you'll simply deny I'm wrong, you haven't been refuted point-by-point because in the final analysis you're always going to be right in your own mind. How about being fair and balanced for a change an engage in some of that "progressive" nuance people like you pride yourselves on. You're like an intellectual bull in a china closet, that is until you're defending your own sacred cows.

There are none so blind as those who won't see.

Posted by: Hankmeister at July 28, 2007 06:57 AM

Change "deny I'm wrong" to "say I'm wrong". Sheesh, where's the coffee. And yes, fp is starting to exhibit the classic troll syndrome, particular with the foppish all lower-case postings.

Until next month - before I'm accused of being a troll.

Posted by: Hankmeister at July 28, 2007 07:02 AM

I thank Mr. Totten for his work and in helping to understand the Mosaic of Iraq... this view that gets built up across many views and comes to show the way things are there. Not in broad, MSM-ish overview from orbit, which often mistakes clouds for continents, but from those on the ground looking and telling of what they see. It is that view that helps me to understand this place called Iraq, and understand what has happened there through years of dictatorship, totalitarian rule, authoritarian rule and then, before that, being a province of an Empire for centuries. Without that we have problems understanding just what the problems in Iraq are, and these myriad views from those who just report what they see give us, as citizens, a harsher view based on what they see.

From that I will only make slight input to the 'Realism in Foreign Policy' concept. If it is such a good idea, then why has the world ended up in such an awful place? We could just stop supporting dictators, tyrants and despots, uphold liberty and freedom and support those sharing in those ideals. I actually like that as a Foreign Policy outlook as opposed to 'realism' which tends to broker away liberty and freedom for ephemeral goals of peace and stability, usually buying neither and losing some of the former. That does mean standing by those ideals and those who share them, however, which neither of the two sides of the political 'spectrum' seem to want to do. And admitting that 'realism' was a daft thing for a Nation of free people to pursue. Instead of setting goals, outlooks and objectives... then let policy grow from that to link back to those ideals. Not the other way around which puts forth 'realistic' goals, but doesn't seem to wind up supporting liberty and freedom, overmuch.

But that is just me, and I do think strange thoughts.

Posted by: ajacksonian at July 28, 2007 08:26 AM

grey,

you post because you like to hear yourself talk. i post in response to others. big difference.

unless you show that the sources I provided for civilization and barbarism are irrelevant, your accusation of hijacking is bunk. given the nature of my blog -- I only point to other sources -- what ulterior interest would I have to push it? don't project from you to me.

as to your solutions, they are the proof that you're one of those who does not know what you're talking about.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:19 AM

eva,

as i pointed out, it's not my creativity that's at issue, but the fact that the policies pursued don't leave any slack.

for example, the main reason the arab-israeli conflict has not been resolved is the west and particularly unrwa perpetuation of the "refugees" and the jizya paid them that did killed incentives to resettle them and turn them into economic players, but rather into jihadis.

and each time terrorists were on the ropes -- then arafat, now abbas and hamas -- the west has resuscitated them and pumped them up. both osama and saddam were propped by the west.

practically EVERYTHING the west has done was ignorant, cowardly and dumb. the chicken are home to roost now.

it's like pushing oneself to the edge of the abyss, giving him the last push and then expect creativity in not falling in.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:32 AM

ron,

tut, tut. my posts distress you, huh? poor baby.

i now see your creativity: trying to push mjt to shut me up by threatening not to come here.

there are dozens of people here who post looooong comments that I simply ignore. it does not occur to me to insinuate that they should shut up.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:36 AM

nailgun,

i suggest you educate yourself on what racism is.
last time i looked, there is a distinction between culture/religion and race.

racism is in how arabs/muslims treat jews, christians, hindus, etc. not the other way around.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:40 AM

syn,

if that's what you understood from my posts, you're a moron.

interestingly, the snyders of this site don't have much problem with the crap you're posting.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:42 AM

meister,

>There are none so blind as those who won't see.

could not agree more, which is why i'll ignore you from now on.

i'll let others judge who is close-minded, but in any case at least i have a mind. what's your excuse?

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:45 AM

brian,

there is complaints of MY lack of creativity, and yet you're not creative even at understanding what I am saying.

watch my "lips": western policies carry the major responsibility for the situation we are in now with the me and terror. the west has caused all this to happen, eliminating any reasonable option.

even you shoudl be able to understand something this simple.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:50 AM

those who want creativity, check out jacksonian. he's got it.

it would be funny if it weren't so damn sad.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 09:52 AM

i rest my case:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/28/washington/28weapons.html?_r=3&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1185633083-XyRAycOdDRycyGneRlOpHA&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 10:03 AM

Clear evidence of success in iraq:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0727/p01s05-wome.html

sean, steve b, anything you can do about this?

mjt?

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 10:35 AM

fp wrote: "you post because you like to hear yourself talk"

Hahahaha. You left 27 of the 71 comments. None of them were interesting.

Posted by: mikek at July 28, 2007 10:41 AM

they cannot be interesting except to people with a minimum of intellect, which you don't possess.

what makes you think that dumping long lectures full of crap are interesting and ok and succinct messages in direct response to others, backed by evidence are not?

but why am i asking u? u can't tell the difference.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 11:02 AM

While I don't ever read fp's comments, I'm astounded at the sheer number in this thread. Impressive.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 28, 2007 11:34 AM

and here's another one showing the success of us policies in the me:

http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56889

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 11:41 AM

Since seeing my comment posted on the front page, I have continuously read every comment left here. Many of the remarks have left me frustrated – not because I disagree with the observations’ originator, but because – more often than not – I have no good answers for the intensely complex questions frequently posted here. However, the resounding sentiment that I am left with upon reading the comments is excitement; more specifically, a combination of excitement and pride. The continued conversation on the situation in Iraq is a vital one. And whether your sentiments align with mine or oppose my own, I am overwhelmingly satisfied to know that there are still citizens that consider this a situation worthy of such intellectual debate. As I have commented on other sites, regarding the Iraq situation, apathy of the American people causes me the greatest apprehension.

However, I still take great disappointment in the fact that I can’t provide both portrayals of my experiences and the related conclusions that must me made. While I feel that I have a restricted, but nonetheless existing, working understanding of the Middle East dynamic, I don’t have the confidence in my own knowledge to attempt to answer all your questions. For example, I want to be able to speak with some tone of academic reasoning as to why the current Iraqi government is having difficulty passing essential benchmarks. And, while I have pretty ingrained opinions on the issue, they are still short of quality end-all answers. As much as I want readers to understand the achievements that are being made in Iraq, I reach my own shortcomings in answering some of the more complex questions with heart-wrenching personal effects.

In the end, as I said before, all I can offer is an assortment of experiences and maybe some limited opinions. Mr. Totten can only do the same. The same is offered by the greater news media. Take what you read here, read on Educated Soldier, see on television, and hear on radio and combine these ideals from all sources to develop some sort of truly comprehensive outlook on what is occurring in Iraq. By doing so, you will probably arrive somewhere near the truth. You’ll still be off by a great number of degrees but, short of living in the country, there is no greater attempt that can be made in the pursuit of truth.

While I am reaching inconclusively for answers to most of your questions, I do want to directly respond to one commenter. “Amused” cited data from Iraq’s Logger to depict the level of violence currently occurring in country. “Amused” used sarcastic terms that, after removal of such sarcasm, stated that these statistics suggested that the surge was failing to be successful. However, I feel that “Amused” only drove home the point that I have been attempting to portray throughout my Blog posts and comments here.

Consider:

Iraq has an area of about 170,000 square miles. The country is home to nearly 27 million people. On top of all that, there are about 150,000 confirmed United States service members in country. Not included in this total, is the population of contracted security personnel, whose numbers I have seen suggested to range from 100,000 to 200,000.

“Amused’s” data suggest daily violence. The data I have presented above depicts a large country with a high number of very active occupants. The only way to make sense of either dataset is to consider both, together. When combined, they depict something much more sensible than the separation of their parts. I have requested repeatedly, to consider my own experiences as part of a greater depiction. One must also do so with any set of data presented concerning Iraq. When one takes the time to really understand comprehensively, the data only then begins to resemble some actual portrayal of reality.

Thank you.

Steve B.

http://educatedsoldier.blogspot.com

Posted by: Steve B. at July 28, 2007 11:59 AM

"fp" must be an academic. No other group displays this kind of neoteny: "Don't ask me for solutions... ask the guys who made the problem. Waaah!"

Grow up. You can snivel until doomsday about how messed up things are, and post all the links you like from the New York Times's crack team of Green Zone bar rats, but if you haven't got a solution to suggest it just looks to adults like a tantrum.

Bush, Petraeus, and many others are actually working on a potential solution. And all you can do is replay the slogans of the Times and the Congress with an Animal Farm whine: "Baaaaad! Baaaad!"

OK, we got your message. Now put a sock in it. Until you have something constructive to add to the grown-ups' conversation, you belong at the kiddie table.

cheers

=K=

Posted by: Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien at July 28, 2007 12:41 PM

I think I just worked out what 'fp' stands for

Posted by: mertel at July 28, 2007 01:11 PM

at 12:56 AM 28 Jul, eva_canada wrote:

"It is absolutely crucial to acknowledge these mistakes, the greatest of which is the fallacy that the ME can sustain a true democracy. It can't and it won't."

Actually there are two democracies in the ME at present: Israel and Iran. The former built on a quasi-socialist model, the latter republican with theocratic features.

I was 180º against the war prior to its start and until recently a troubled -160º the difference regretful and angry acceptance (resignation) that, like it or not, we were committed-the stone was rolling downhill to inevitable long-term occupying presence -for a generation or longer (i.e., 10-30+ years, the latter figure more likely).

Now I am guardedly optimistic about the outcome of this phase of the war, having at long last arrived at counter-insurgency. I hope it is successful, as it holds some promise of planting and tending seeds for stabilization and reconstruction. It took four years to reach this point, which I think of as the end of the beginning phase of the longer-term commitment.

Those who put such heavy store in Americans' extraordinary capacity and zeal to fix problems, to the extent they believe we will eventually "solve" the problems of the ME, are certainly optimists (who shouldn't be squelched I might add) but are also naive. The fate - or destiny - of the ME is emphatically not in our hands. We can do our part to help in transforming the region if it is eventually to transform into more democratic forms of government - this is a realistic goal - but we are not equipped to be guarantors, even bringing to bear all of our resources and willingness. The ME has its own destiny that is decidedly not our own, and if we do the responsible thing, to finish what we started by giving Iraqis a chance to decide for themselves how they will be governed and survive, we will have done a very good thing.

Lastly, I don't think it is helpful to characterize Democrats as wanting to pull out really. Not one of the major candidates takes a unqualified commitment to bring it all home, and they won't do that. The cant in the Democratic party is geared toward the election next year's domestic political goals. Once in power (if they win the Presidency) the new leadership will have to deal with the same realities the Bush administration faces now, and know we couldn't fully exit without ending the war as disastrously as it began.

Posted by: TomEG at July 28, 2007 01:19 PM

One other point. Iran is an enemy in Iraq, but it is not implacably our enemy in the region. They are our competitor (for hearts and minds, and influence). Understanding this dual role Iran plays is really crucial in seeking an eventual accord (or a least a manageable conflict).

Posted by: TomEG at July 28, 2007 01:33 PM

TomEG:

Actually there are two democracies in the ME at present: Israel and Iran.

I have an Iranian democracy in my living room. All Iranian citizens are allowed to vote in my elections. As Supreme Leader of my living room, I shall vet the list of candidates. Any who are not me will be rejected.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 28, 2007 01:55 PM

"Rigged" ballots or not, nevertheless Iran does hold regular elections in which a large majority of eligible voters do vote. Moreover, they have a freely elected parliament. You and I may not like their party system - many if not most Iranians don't like the politics practiced there, much as many don't think much of the politics in our own country.

You can object to their brand of democracy, but democracy it is, by definition.

Posted by: TomEG at July 28, 2007 02:17 PM

It is good to remember the "surge" is not just about the clearing of areas. It only succeeds if the hold and build works. I never doubted the American military could succeed if their mission mission was clear. They are a marvelously adaptive organization, given the right leadership. Ultimately, the success of the surge is dependent upon the Iraqi civil and military being able to hold and build. We don't have an army big enough to do all three steps. While the American portion of the new tactics will succeed, the surge will ultimately fail because the Iraqis have no cultural or institutional capability to take the hand-off from the American military. I fear for the fate of the good Iraqi citizens who have remained in their country. (over 4 million have left or are internally displaced) We can delay an ethnic civil war. Ultimately, we can not prevent it.

Posted by: Jim B at July 28, 2007 02:25 PM

TomEG,

Iran does hold regular elections in which a large majority of eligible voters do vote.

Syria also holds regular elections in which a large majority of eligible voters vote. Turnout was 95.86% in the 2007 presidential election.

Moreover, they have a freely elected parliament. You and I may not like their party system

The legislators in what you describe as a "freely elected parliament" cannot run for office unless they have passed muster with the Guardian Council. Of the Guardian Council's 12 members, 6 are appointed directly by the Supreme Leader. The other 6 are nominated by the head of the Judicial System, who is in turn appointed directly by the Supreme Leader.

democracy it is, by definition.

If you consider a democracy supervised by a dictator a democracy, you have low standards.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 28, 2007 03:26 PM

...the surge will ultimately fail because the Iraqis have no cultural or institutional capability to take the hand-off from the American military.

They may not have the capability today, but that doesn't mean it can not be developed over time. One of the main goals of the counterinsurgency strategy is to provide enough security and stability so the Iraqis can develop those capabilities, rather than focus their time and energies on survival.

Iraqis are human beings who have the same capacity to learn as everybody else in the world, the question is will they, over time, step up to the challenge when given the oportunity to do so?

The only way to answer that question is with time...lots and lots of time.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 28, 2007 03:35 PM

FP - I am truly curious as to why you never use your caps key. Did someone yell at you for posting with Caps Lock on in the past? It makes it really difficult to read your posts, or take them seriously. Also, could you refrain from flashing your credentials? No one cares on the internet... we could all be nearly anyone. Meanwhile, the "wired generation" has to be the least impressed by authority figures in eons. No one cares if you are a ditch digger or a college professor (or a political scientist). Just make your argument and move on.

As for the bad news in the Middle East, the numbers of dead, or the collapse of this government or that.. Hey, Europe wasn't a picnic for centuries itself. Iraq is in the middle of a confessional civil war and the subject of regional brinksmanship. It is a lot like France in the 16th century...

During the Huguenot Wars Germany played a role similar to Iran's today. They agitated the religious split in France between Catholics and Protestants and both helped and hindered the French government as suited their own goals. The French government often persecuted both Protestants and Catholics and was itself a bauble fought over by many local strongmen (eventually being taken by force by Henry of Navarre).

After nearly 50 years of bloodshed the French finally won religious freedom with the Edict of Nantes in 1598. But, this right was rolled back by Louis XIV some 100 years later and not restored in the 18th century. Since that time France has seen governments come and go, moving from a democracy to an autocracy every few decades.

A nation's path is not perfectly linear, nor calm, nor would it be a "good thing" necessarily. France would not be such an important nation in the history of the West, and of the world, if it had stood still and quiet over the last 1000 years. In know that sounds glib and the people who live through "interesting times" have a different view of the scene. But honestly, you and I are discussing these issues as bystanders.

So Iraq is a mess right now and the region is aflame. The people of the Middle East are struggling to reconcile a religion that claims that everyone else is wrong and will eventually vanish from history with a reality in which their region is one of the poorest and least powerful in the world, the infidel is apparently on top, and the Jews are back in their homeland - for them it is a world stood on its head, a living negation of their very faith. One logical response is violence and aggression towards that world.... think 9/11.

Another response would be to reform the faith itself and race to catch up with the rest of the world. This was the successful choice of the Catholic Church when faced with the scientific revolution of the Renaissance. With out the tacit approval of the Church the Industrial Revolution might not have been in the West. Today the Pope announces that evidence for Evolution is beyond question and moves on to discuss the spiritual significance of global climate change.

So the Middle East probably just needs to either collapse under the weight of its own philosophical burdens or reform them. And the rest of the world should be greatly interested in the outcome as it will effect us all economically and environmentally, if not in political and spiritual ways as well.

I visited Ireland both before and after its recent development, I visited Northern Europe and the Middle East, and I saw southern Turkey and then northern Iraq. I think there is a correlation between technical advancement and political advancement. When Iraq has national power and sewer it will get a stable government, not before. We may be the ones who have to provide the infrastructure and the military might until then. If we are not willing to extend this service, if we must retreat, than we can expect the region to remain backward and bloody.

If Malaki's government in Baghdad collapses today, then that is the natural order. If the Iraqis end up having to fracture their country to get stability and security, ok then. If the Arab parts have to live with another dictator or even Islamic fascists, well, ok. But we should always be clear about what direction we want them to head and in offering clear, effective, and honest support for as long as it takes.

Unlike other commenter in this thread I do believe that democracy can be "transplanted" to the Middle East.

We might want to recall that democracy is NOT an unknown concept there. In 522 b.c. Darius, Otanes, and other military leaders in Persia considered democracy for their new nation until someone lost their head and they ended up with an autocracy instead. But even way back then it was not an unknown concept in the Middle East. Some years later Darius and later Xerces met democratic forces in Greece and were suitably impressed (and defeated) by them. And at the local level, from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, most affairs are in fact handled by "democracy" where the heads of local families meet, discuss, and vote on issues. - just as Darius and his friends did thousands of years ago. So the ME has the same exposure to demcracy as the 13 colonies did in America in the 18th century.

As another person here pointed out we did manage to import our democratic system to the Philippines in the early 20th century. And that really seemed to take, they still have a President, Congress, Supreme Court, and even a Joint Chiefs today. Although they have had some controversial elections and threatened coups they have held up reasonably well. But it did take 10 years of counter-insurgency effort on our part, and some brutal tactics that we probably cant and shouldn't use today. And in the end we still have no guarantee that they wont go the way of France, suffering several coups and Islamist takeovers along with a sex scandal or two. But I don't think that we should have handled them any differently after "winning" the islands from Spain a century ago.

So, I am not happy about our political willpower failing us here at home on Iraq and the WOT. I think we should learn to have a bit more spine. I think that we could better deal with the very finor casualty figures coming from Iraq and put things into better perspective. Yes, their government is a mess. Yes, there are both local "dead enders" and foreign terrorists at work in the country. So, we need to send a few more soldiers perhaps, spend some more money on aid and bribes to the locals, and hold on long enough to give the good guys confidence and incentives to stand by us and our favored strongman, and hope for enough technical improvement to allow social improvements as well. It is possible to help them reform their country and their society, it is even possible that this will allow them to reform their religious faith as well, or vice versa. I don't know if these ideas will work or not.

Posted by: sean at July 28, 2007 03:43 PM

"they cannot be interesting except to people with a minimum of intellect, which you don't possess."

Oh noes!

Posted by: mikek at July 28, 2007 03:45 PM

FP: I haven't had time to read all entries but your criticisms of Yehudit's very constructive first post are not only rude but wrong. These scenarios do not exist only in what you characterize as her fevered brain: many of the objectives she talks about have been obtained or partly so. Others are on the way there, and we'll get there if we keep pushing hard enough.

What is particularly disturbing is the way you have washed your hands of these people and characterized them as barbarians unworthy of our efforts. Firstly our efforts are in great part defensive, to preserve a political system that depends on freely entered social contracts instead of terrorism and war-lordism. This is in our interest, in the interest of civilization. Secondly there are forces in every society who strive for progress, who want to conserve the best of tradition, and those who seek power through corruption, threat and blood. Other nations have been tamed, mankind has tamed itself and these Babylonians are no different than other human beings. It is our obligation to raise the human race by lifting the bottom up. To do so we must go to the bottom, we must go to hell, to war, and never quit till we've won. for us and for them.

Your hostility of the US and the hint of "Jewmerica" paranoia ("the fact is that aims in the me [Middle East, I guess] are not those of the us [U.S. I figure], no matter how much the latter projects on the former -- which is what you do") is equally disgusting. My guess is you talk to yourself to speak to someone you like.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at July 28, 2007 06:10 PM

I always find Totten's post illuminating. And the resulting commentary somewhat fascinating and educational.

Germany has become a democracy
Japan has become a democracy
13 colonies became a democracy.

There is no reason Iraq can not function democratically. One of the required foundations for a democracy is that the losing parties in an election do not have to fear for their liberty. Nor do they feel the need to kill their opponents. They can feel honor and pride in waiting out the election cycle for another go at it. A democracy in birth in a violent nation does require an authoritarian control of behavior until the violence is reduced to a smoldering pile.

The West arose out of the Middle East, it's roots stretch back into Iraq and Egypt. The market economies and slavery, the good and the bad, both migrated out from these cradles of civilization and refined and reformed themselves in a new country that was unbound by the yokes of the past. And now it returns to the place of it's birth. However much some want to think "impossible!!!" I am afraid the message has arrived. People are at points in their lives where it is important to make wise choices.

Posted by: jd at July 28, 2007 06:41 PM

FP - I am completely uninterested in what you think the textbook defintion of racism is the fact is you made sweeping claims that the bulk of the ME populace are barbarians and incapable of democracy.
Quite clearly they are human beings and given the right set of circumstances and chance of course they can run and operate a democracy.
People like you rely solely on the fact because they have never been given the chance to run democracy that means they can't. Circular nonsense.

Posted by: the nailgun at July 28, 2007 07:47 PM

Dogwood, the fact that Iraqis attended the elections "en masse" is not in itself an indication that American-style democracy can succeed. I'm worried about the endless optimism on this site while the current trend in the ME clearly points away from democracy. Even Turkey is folding down under the weight of Islam. Elsewhere, it is much the same. Give average people a vote and they'll carry it to the nearest imam. How do you expect this to work?

I have no doubt that ME will achieve true democracy sometime in the future, just don't expect it in your lifetime. As Sean has correctly pointed out, democracy and secularity in Europe have grown from a prolonged bloody struggle. The ME countries still have to go through the process.

As for the American successes in Japan and South Korea, it is important to note that both countries are monolithic in culture and ethnicity and none of them have problems with leakage of Islam. The same cannot be said of the rest of South Asia, where difficulties with Islamists are piling up.

Another requisite for successful democracy is the nature of the voters. Where, I ask you, is democracy in Russia these days? The media are muzzled, dissenters are being murdered in exile and Putin is training his own kind of hitlerjugend. Clearly, the Russians are not made for democracy. While the Russians, like dumb beasts, accept the return to dictatorship the ME has its own characteristics, the chief of which are excitability and short fuse. That's another thumb down for democracy.

These are then the givens which should be taken into consideration for long term plans. All the US can do is plant the seeds but don't expect harvest any time soon.

Posted by: Eva, Canada at July 28, 2007 08:06 PM

nailgun,

what your definition of racism is does not interest me, because you are an ignorant moron.

i don't care if those people are inherently capable of democracy or not. there is a reality out there that ALL their societies have been primitive since inception, their religion is a barbaric one from the 7th century, and any attempt at democracy has failed.

until they develop ONE modern, democratic society spare me your crap. in the meantime go and educate yourself on what the jihadis do in and from those societies. but i won't hold my breath.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:07 PM

eva,

these people are likely multiculturalist and either ignorant of, or in denial of reality.

it's quite a waste of time to argue with them, because they are not about knowledge and reason. the extent of their knowledge is that they know what they think.

it's not the islamists that endanger the west, is the west itself that, through them, undermines itself.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:11 PM

jd,

what exactly do you know about germany, japan and the colonies and the me? what systematic comparisons have you performed on the basis of which you can project from those to the latter?
what is your education on it?

stop talking thru your hat if you want to be taken seriously.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:15 PM

nudnik,

your alias fits you quite well

it appears that those schemes exist in a few fevered brains, including yours. not surprising.

one small problem: the empirical evidence ovewhelmingly contradicts your brains. you are simply blind to it -- it's called denial to avoid cognitive dissonance.

i have news to you: if somebody is wrong and delusional, exposing that is not wrong or rude, but an obligation, given that such delusions are behind the hole that the west is putting itself in.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:21 PM

mikek,

it escapes you that your contentless posts validates my characterization of you to a tee.

you can't realize even that.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:23 PM

Fp, you must be tired. Take a rest, please.

Posted by: Eva, Canada at July 28, 2007 08:24 PM

sean,

sorry, but we will have to agree to disagree.

while i back up my position with evidence and sources, you don't provide any but your own opinion without any gounding, which is not compatible with reality.

it is, therefore, understandable, why you dismiss credentials and want everybody to be the same: it's rather difficult, ain't it, to argue out of little knowledge beyond personal experience with those who have both the experience AND studied the subject systmetically.

democracy is good in politics, not in intellectual exchanges about empirical subjects, social analysis, etc.

btw, if you read carefully those instances where I "flashed my credentials", you will see that there was a good reason for it and it was provoked.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:30 PM

Don't try and discuss anything with Fabian Pascal (FP); either you must agree with him or you are an ignorant moron who doesn't understand his view of "Knowledge & Reason". Look at his history of internet posts and you will find a consistent pattern. It is unfortunate that he has attached himself like a leach to one of the better blogs on the Middle East.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at July 28, 2007 08:30 PM

and K must be a moron. you can't grow that up.

the fact that academia is filled with mediocrities who are activists rather than intellectuals and are jihad supporters and anti-semites does not mean that anybody you disagree with or don't understand is an academic.

it so happens that i left academia precisely because it has more or less collapsed -- particularly in the ME field -- here's just one example:

http://web.israelinsider.com/Views/11769.htm

try to google normal finklestein or ward churchill.

but the problem is not with academia per se, but with the corruption of academia, a distinction that you have no clue on.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:40 PM

mertel,

i would be surprised if you did. or you would have stated it.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 08:42 PM

Just google "fabian pascal". He's not hard to find. Here's a snippet from another blog comment where he signed his full name.

Even though you have been advised of the distinction, you don’t seem to comprehend the difference between stupidity and ignorance. Aside from that you were exhibiting the latter; but given the insistence to confuse the two, you’ve now displayed some of the former too. The fact that you have no clue as to what is wrong with your statement is further validation to that effect.

That's our fp, all right!

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 28, 2007 10:03 PM

snyder baby,

you would not know knowledge and reason if it bit your ass.

if there is no reason to agree with me, you should be able to prove it. instead, you just declare it -- now why is that? because you can't, you want others to disregard me, or mjt to ban me. quite intellectual of you.

why don't you post your own comments, i'll post mine and let each person decide who makes sense and who blows smoke. if you make sense and i don't, people will figure that out without your "guidance" won't they?

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 10:04 PM

it's just like you creamy baby to contribute nothing.

the comment per se makes perfect sense if indeed the person i was responding to confused ignorance with stupidity. which is precisely why you left it out. so what exactly have you proved, other than your own intellectual weakness?

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 10:08 PM

eva,

takes more than a bunch of morons to tire me. it's nothing to handle them.

it's they who can't handle me and should desist.

Posted by: fp at July 28, 2007 10:11 PM

Wow! FP, it is now extremely hard to take you seriously. Not backed up with evidence? Let's see, I quoted actual historical events, names and dates, and personal experience. You want more? you want credentials? Visit my website, read my bio, I am quite up front with who I am. -S

Posted by: sean at July 28, 2007 10:28 PM
Anybody else thinking Asperger Syndrome?
Some positive characteristics include things such as enhanced mental focus, excellent memory abilities, superior spatial skills, and an intuitive understanding of logical systems. These characteristics can often lead to fulfilling careers in mathematics, engineering, the sciences, music, art, or language...

3. Being considered disrespectful and rude: prone to egocentric behavior, individuals with Asperger's miss cues and warning signs that this behavior is inappropriate.

4. Honesty and deception: children with Asperger's are often considered "too honest," and may even proclaim themselves to be "honest" or "frank" as a way of explaining their behavior...

9. Managing conflict: being unable to understand other points of view can lead to inflexibility and an inability to negotiate conflict resolution. Once the conflict is resolved, remorse may not be evident.

11. Awareness of hurting the feelings of others: some Aspergers exhibit a lack of empathy, which often leads to unintentionally offensive or insensitive behaviors.

15. Coping with criticism: people with AS are compelled to correct mistakes, even when they are made by someone in a position of authority, such as a teacher. For this reason, they can be unwittingly offensive.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 12:47 AM

Sean, there's no point in arguing with someone who may be a fool. Other people may not know the difference.
Steve B, thank you for your contribution to freedom and democracy in Iraq and to education here on the internet.
Michael J T, what can I say? As always, it's a pleasure.

Posted by: Paul MacPhail at July 29, 2007 01:45 AM

Eva said: ...the fact that Iraqis attended the elections "en masse" is not in itself an indication that American-style democracy can succeed.

I'm not expecting "American-style" democracy to succeed. I am, however, hopeful that some type of representative democracy can succeed.

I have no doubt that ME will achieve true democracy sometime in the future, just don't expect it in your lifetime.

I think I've mentioned in a previous post that I expect it to take at least a generation, which means it might happen at the very end of my life. My guess is it will take 30 to 50 years to get there, but we have to start the process somewhere at some point in time, and that is what is occurring in Iraq. I don't think we can afford to sit back and wait for democracy to spontaneously develop out of nothing. If we want it to happen, then we have to pursue it aggressively.

All the US can do is plant the seeds but don't expect harvest any time soon.

I completely agree. In the end, the people of the ME will have to step up and make it happen, but how do they do that when they are brutally suppressed by dictatorial thugs?

Look, I know establishing democracy in the ME is going to be very difficult. I understand there are ethnic, tribal and religious hurdles that have to be overcome. I'm not denying those difficulties.

All I'm saying is that if the region is ever going to be stable and peaceful, it will become so as a result of the spread of democracy that allows people to address their grievances through elections, rather than at the point of a gun.

The difficulty of making democracy work is why I get so frustrated with people who complain about the Iraqi government's inability to reach political compromises. They have to learn how to trust, how to cooperate, and how to compromise, all of which were nonexistent qualities under Hussein.

Democracy is hard folks, so let's stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqis for as long as it takes. The alternative isn't very pretty.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 29, 2007 07:14 AM

Dogwood,

The alternative isn't very pretty.

I'm skeptical.

Democracy has been spreading and will continue to spread with or without active American military intervention, simply because it's a better system than all the alternatives. However, it is exceedingly costly for us to impose democracy at the point of a bayonet and we would do well to suppress the messianic urge that leads us to try. Attending to our own affairs and leading by example is vastly more cost-effective.

I backed the war in 2003, but primarily because of WMD. If I had known the true state of Saddam's arsenal, no way would I have supported invading. You might make the case that we're stuck there now, but I'm not happy about it. It costs us money, it costs us lives, it ties up our military, it monopolizes our attention, it limits our flexibility when dealing with other pressing concerns.

All that, and ultimately, we don't have that much control over what happens, at least not outside Kurdistan. If the Kurds are intent on joining the modern world, we can provide the crucial defensive garrison and diplomatic support that keeps their light alive. But if the Arabs are hellbent on tribal slaughter, we probably aren't going to deflect them. The surge is going to recede sometime next year; if we want to consolidate the kind of gains that MJT is reporting, it's going to take a long-term, Shinseki-level troop commitment we aren't presently planning to make and no politician has the courage to make the case for.

I can think of many other ways I'd rather be spending our resources than on an enormous gamble with a miserable ROI -- can't you?

The only people for whom withdrawal would be a guaranteed worse outcome would be the Republican administration that led us into this debacle. That's fine with me. The catastrophic intelligence failure they presided over deserves to be punished.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 09:08 AM

Eva, before you get too down on the prospects for democracy in South Asia, consider that India is at the center of South Asia. And has a mix of ethnic groups, but has managed to build a vibrant democracy even so. Not without difficulties, and not without problems. But functional none the less, and showing no signs of falling into a succession of military coups and dictatorships. So a monolithic culture is obviously not a prerequisite, even in Asia.

Posted by: wj at July 29, 2007 09:15 AM

Optical Illusions: A Dissent

I'd put this on my own blog, but I don't have one.
I can't email this to you right now, Mike, either, without access to my anonymous mailbox, although I probably will, sometime later.

I'm a liberal against this war from the beginning, and I still am. As one, I'll say thanks to Mike Totten for his original reporting. I'm here to start by freely admitting that this kind of material challenges my beliefs. It leads me to feel obligated to re-ask myself the question: "What with these good things that we're now alledgedly doing, why be in favor of evacuation? Why not stay and make Iraq a great place to live, make the region love Americans for building a great Iraq, etc. etc.?"

I understand, and sympathize a little bit with people who have limited their information intake to websites where disavowal of mainstream information sources is standard. Reading Mike Totten and Mike Yon, you really could come to believe that Iraq is a hopeful place, looking up, with the insurgency on the way out, and headed for a happy ending in two years if we might just stick around.

I don't believe it. And even if I did, I wouldn't change my opinion that the war is wrong, the occupation is wrong, the police action is wrong, call it what you will.

I don't doubt Mike when he says that he reports what he sees, has no agenda or pre-formed conclusions, and tries to get straight talk from everyone. But whenever I'm here, I'm reminded of how much more limited the abilities of a single reporter on a limited budget are to really get information, no matter how hard they try, compared to a genuine organization.

Pardon me for any factual errors of ignorance here, but as I understand it, Mike can fly into the country, show up for appointments with the American military, ask questions of people who are chosen to be made available to him, and visit places he is taken to.

This is not a suggestion that every single Iraqi we're seeing on these trips was pre-selected. I'm sure the logistics of that would be too much trouble. Not only that, it's not too much for me to imagine that when lots of U.S. troops swoop into an area fraught by sectarian killing and the sectarian killing pauses, people are grateful to the U.S. I've heard quotes from Iraqis grateful to the U.S. in the MSM. Of course, there I also read stories about people grateful to the U.S. who are then gunned down.

But the larger point stands that Mike is seeing a picture that was chosen for him by an agency with a mission of getting the best, happiest information out to the U.S. public, and avoiding the unhappy information. If you live in Baghdad for months on end and have a staff of Iraqi employees who can travel to dangerous areas, you can hope to have a non pre-selected view. With Mike, you have an independent reporter looking through a window provided by the military.

And I don't trust the military to give me a balanced picture. Why should I? No grudge against them. But their job is to put events in the best possible light, period. General Casey never said anything other than a variant of "we're following a strategy for success even when, thanks to the media and the data, it was clear that we were not.
General Petraeus will never stand before a press conference and say, "We're doing this, but it isn't working, and it's not going to work", even if his own independent judgment would lead him to believe that. If he wants to say that, he can resign. No one in the military charged with executing a mission is free to say that they're going to fail, even if the odds are high that they will. That's why we have not just a DOD, but an American public, among other reasons, to get the military out of bad situations that its own dynamics, values, and system of reward/punishment inhibits refuses to let them come away from themselves.

So why isn't Mike's testimony enough to turn around and support the surge? Because Iraqis have been glad to see us before, in 2003. And in Tal Afar in 2005. Who knows, maybe even in Fallujah, although it didn't seem like it.

Because it's clear that by concentrating overwhelming force in small areas of the country, the U.S. military can temporarily stabilize bits and pieces, and send reporters to those pieces that can show temporarily happy people - but in the rest of the country, the violent insurgency still marches on. I'm sure that for an American soldier, even in the heart of the most dangerous places, 95 out of 100 days are quiet. That's the fun of being the dominant force. But read the blog of Nabil, Zayed's brother from Healing Iraq, and you'll see that 95 of 100 days for an Iraqi civilian are not peaceful.

Why not support the surge, because we can produce quiet neighborhoods? Because some of the people smiling in these pictures will be dead in a year because they were seen hugging U.S. soldiers. Because the national numbers show a picture of violence that has not declined in any significant manner. If this surge had been marked by a 50% nationwide decline in insurgent attacks and civilian casualties, I might have thought about giving it another six months to see if that 50% could become 99%, although I'd have been highly skeptical, because suppressing an insurgency and eliminating it are completely different things.

But we've seen nothing like even a 50% decline in national violence. We've seen, like, a 3% decline. Mike's happy moment here is, as far as I can tell, a straw in a hurricane.

If someone showed me a national opinion poll that showed an overwhelming majority of Iraqis wanted us here for the decade it might take to crush or exhaust the insurgency, I would think about changing my mind. But all the ones I've seen say the Iraqis want us out, soon, don't approve of us or our presence, and support attacks on us. How to square that with these pictures? I don't know, but I don't believe the pictures represent the genuine feelings of most Iraqis, or even tell me clearly what those feelings might be.

So nothing in this very, very, very small snapshot tells me that a U.S. military presence can give Iraq a future without massive violence. And make no mistake, the violence in the past two years especially has been much worse than anything happening to Iraqis in the years prior to the invasion. You can read Human Rights Watch on Iraq reports from the late 90's, read about very real and often savage abuses from that era, but quickly deduce from the scale of the incidents that Iraq was not killing, oh, 100,000 of its own civilians a year. Like Iraq is doing now. And those are conservative estimates.

So, I don't think these pictures give someone carefully studying the situation a reason to believe that the American military can calm Iraq in the near future. Until then, the country is much more violent with our troops in it, than it was before our troops were in it. Cutting through the b*llshit, and there's waves of it, I believe from my study of war and peace that the departure of foreign troops and foreign involvement - meaning us, as well as the Iranians and the Saudis, but also us would make the civil war get smaller and stabilize. I don't believe that our leaving Iraq will make things worse, although it's possible, and also possible that we could provoke it out of misguided and inflexible security demands on Iraqi political parties and agents. As it stands, I think less Iraqis will die if we leave than if we remain.

That doesn't mean I'm entitled to avoid looking at these happy Iraqis in Mike's pictures, though. And feel sad that the illusion of progress is easier to create than the reality of it. And sad for the genuine good intentions of everyone trying to fit the square peg into the round hole that is trying execute a humanitarian mission with an army in a violently hostile country.

Yes, the Middle East needs to reform itself, and it needs the US as an active and willing partner. This is not, however, the right way to provide that support.

PS: Why would I not support the war even if I did think the surge was about to bring the whole country around? Because even a stable Iraq in 2008 or 2009 does not excuse or justify the wreck we made of the place for the five preceding years before that. It's not okay to wreck a house just because you later rebuild it. It's not okay to wreck a country just because you later rebuild it. The US army is, or should be, a tool for killing bad guys, not for rebuilding societies. The US may need better tools for rebuilding societies, but as of right now the lines between killing people and helping people have become dangerously blurred, leading to a country the rarely puts all the pieces of the puzzle together to understand the consequences of its own actions. So I believe.

So a 'success' in Iraq would only encourage us to attempt similar successes, with the costs borne by those we've arrived to liberate. We don't have the wisdom or the resources to run the world. Better to be finding out now the limits of our power than to be finding out even further into debt.

Thanks for your reporting, Mike.

Sincerely,

glasnost

Posted by: glasnost at July 29, 2007 09:49 AM

FP did propose a particular approach to the whole middle east.

He proposed that we first withdraw from iraq, and then work on "cunning" plans. And it turns out that his idea is that we do our best to play off one arab or muslim state against another -- that the more they kill each other, the better off we are. Also, we should give unconditional support to israel.

In short, he is a zionist. Once you get that, I don't think there are any surprises here.

In response to my proposal he explained that senior politicians always try for the status quo, whatever the status quo happens to be, and there is nothing that can be done about that. The implication appears to be that anything new must mostly fail. It took a tremendous effort for Bush to get the iraq war started, and it would take a tremendous effort to stop it after it became the status quo. If we need to do anything new, we mostly can't. We are powerless spectators in a system that appears to be a democracy, and there's nothing we can do about it.

I would ask fp to suggest what we could do to change the system around to something that was responsive to our needs. Revolution? What kind of revolution? But he has already explained -- he's hopless about western civilization. We're unable to adapt and there's nothing to do about that but weep.

I don't know whether he's right or not, but I see no point in supposing that he might be. Just like when you're playing bridge and you have to hope the other players' cards are distributed just so or else you can't win, so you might as well proceed on that assumption. If we accept fp's analysis then there's no hope. Better to hope he's wrong and try things that assume he's wrong, because we have very little to lose by doing that. The worst that happens is we waste our efforts trying to get a result that was impossible from the start, and then we fail. All we lose by doing that is we miss the chance to sit back and enjoy our decadence for awhile before it slips away.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 10:42 AM

glasnost said:

If someone showed me a national opinion poll that showed an overwhelming majority of Iraqis wanted us here for the decade it might take to crush or exhaust the insurgency, I would think about changing my mind. But all the ones I've seen say the Iraqis want us out, soon, don't approve of us or our presence, and support attacks on us.

Ignoring for a moment the unsupported assertion that it will take us a decade to "crush or exhaust the insurgency" -- a claim for which you've provided no evidence -- John Burns, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times who reports from Baghdad, had this to say about those opinion polls:

JB: Yeah, I need to say something about opinion polling in Iraq, because opinion polls tend to tell you something different. But I think opinion polling in Iraq is extremely misleading, because opinion is intimidation led. It was under Saddam. If CNN posed a camera in the face of somebody on the street in Baghdad in the fall of 2002, when the war was looming, and they said are you with Saddam or are you with George Bush, well of course, 100% of all Iraqis who were asked that question said they were with Saddam. What else could they do? They didn’t…they were going to end up in Abu Ghraib on the end of a rope. Of course the situation changed somewhat, but any Iraqi who is asked now a question like do you regard American troops as occupation troops, do you want them out, is wise, given the fact that American troops may be in the neighborhood for 30 minutes, but the bad guys are in the neighborhood for 24 hours, it’s wise to give a heavily, carefully calibrated answer, which does nothing to upset the bad guys.

You can read the whole interview here: http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=ecba6516-396c-4eb4-b7e4-4bc791ccd0c8

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 29, 2007 11:18 AM

glasnost said:

PS: Why would I not support the war even if I did think the surge was about to bring the whole country around? Because even a stable Iraq in 2008 or 2009 does not excuse or justify the wreck we made of the place for the five preceding years before that.

What a very revealing statement. In other words, once we've done the wrong thing in the past, we have no right to do the correct thing in the present or in the future. According to you, once we mess up an invasion and occupation, the only moral thing to do is leave it a mess and allow millions to suffer so that nothing will dilute the evidence of our mistakes.

This statement tells us a great deal about the mentality of the anti-war crowd. The terrible problems we've experienced in Iraq have been a godsend to their movement. What they are afraid of now is that a successful conclusion to the war will mean it won't be so easy to use it as proof that war never works. They desperately want this to turn out as badly as possible.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 29, 2007 11:29 AM

glasnost said:

Reading Mike Totten and Mike Yon, you really could come to believe that Iraq is a hopeful place, looking up, with the insurgency on the way out, and headed for a happy ending in two years if we might just stick around.

I don't believe it. And even if I did, I wouldn't change my opinion that the war is wrong, the occupation is wrong, the police action is wrong, call it what you will.

Thank you for admitting this. It is an additional admission, like the one you made in the post-before-last, of just how invested you are in seeing this war end disastrously.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 29, 2007 11:39 AM

glasnost said:

Cutting through the b*llshit, and there's waves of it, I believe from my study of war and peace that the departure of foreign troops and foreign involvement - meaning us, as well as the Iranians and the Saudis, but also us would make the civil war get smaller and stabilize.

You know, for years I've listened to pacifists argue that we should not attack our enemies because such an attack will only "radicalize the population and unite them in resistance against the attacker".

Well, that didn't happen when we attacked Iraq, did it? The Iraqis didn't unite against us -- they took up arms against each other.

Now, I get to listen to the claim that our presence is helping drive them apart. I find it interesting how conveniently the claims change so as to always argue against the use of military force.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 29, 2007 12:01 PM

glasnost said:
Why would I not support the war even if I did think the surge was about to bring the whole country around? Because even a stable Iraq in 2008 or 2009 does not excuse or justify the wreck we made of the place for the five preceding years before that.

Well, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that the invasion was a mistake. And assume that the way we handled the occupation was a long series of mistakes. Still, whether we were right or wrong in the past, where we are today is where we are today. And, to paraphrase you, the mistakes we made in the past do not excuse making new ones in the future.

Now if you think that our continuing to be in Iraq will make things ever worse for the Iraqis, then leaving is a good idea. If you think our being in Iraq will make things in the world ever worse for the United States, then leaving is a sensible idea. But to say that even if what we are now doing will make things better, we should leave and let them become worse...? To me, that says that all that is important is making a philosophical (or perhaps political) point about actions in the past -- even if we have to behave immorally to do so.

Now, if you have a plan that will, as we exit, save all the Iraqis who are at risk because they have helped us, or who have just been seen smiling at us. If you have a plan to continue to support the Kurds, rather than betraying them again. Then calling for a departure is fine. But I, for one, don't see any practical way to do the former; nor any sign of intention to do the latter. Or am I missing something, glasnost?

None of which is to say that you should say anything positive about the decision to go into Iraq, if you think it was a mistake. Nor should you say anything positive about the way the occupation was conducted for the first several year, if you see it as a fiasco. You don't even have to say that you think the current approach is a good idea, if you don't think so. But to say that we should pull out even if we are finally doing things somewhat right....

Posted by: wj at July 29, 2007 12:12 PM
Michael Smith:

This statement tells us a great deal about the mentality of the anti-war crowd. The terrible problems we've experienced in Iraq have been a godsend to their movement.

If the pro-war crowd hadn't led this country into a position of weakness, the anti-war crowd wouldn't be ascendant. I look around the Middle East and Asia for countries in play, and I see bright hope in Kurdistan, a decent shot in Lebanon, a long-term, low-intensity slog with an uncertain outcome in Afghanistan, and an exorbitantly priced crapshoot in Arab Iraq. If it takes a Democrat to cut our losses and focus our efforts on ventures which have a better chance of succeeding, so be it.

You know what I'd like to see is an American president who doesn't have to kiss Vladimir Putin's ass because we've over committed and can't afford to lose Russian diplomatic support.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 12:12 PM

...and can't afford to lose Russian diplomatic support.

Didn't realize we had it.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 29, 2007 12:43 PM

Trés snark, Dogwood. As a politician yourself, you're well aware that Putin could be making things worse for us in all sorts of ways, the most obvious being UNSC votes on Iran.

But Putin's content to purchase the unmolested expansion of his gangsterland rule over Russia with a few US-friendly foreign policy chits. And rather than protest the rollback of Russian press freedoms or the assassination of dissidents, our feckless president takes him on cigarette boat rides in Kennebunkport.

If we hadn't blown our wad on Iraq, we wouldn't have to witness that humiliating sight. It's going to take someone for whom a tactical retreat in Iraq doesn't mean instant domestic political suicide to restore a semblance of our former influence.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 01:26 PM

fp, please stop hogging my comments.

Thank you.

I have no time to moderate right now, but I can see that nearly a third of the comments are yours. That's waaaaay too many.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 29, 2007 01:54 PM

Michael Smith, the polling story doesn't make sense. Of course, sometimes reality doesn't make sense. But still....

Imagine you're iraqi. You talk to some pollsters. How do the insurgents know what you say? Do the pollsters tell them? The pollsters aren't supposed to tell anybody what you said. Are they more likely to tell insurgents or the iraqi government or americans? I'd expect one of the latter two.

That's why in early polls, when asked how long they wanted the US military to occupy iraq 10% gave no answer and 5% said "As long as the US military wants". They didn't trust the pollsters not to turn them in to the secret police. They still had Saddam reflexes.

Similarly, in 2006 iraqis who were asked what they did to keep safe gave as the single most likely answer, stay away from US troops, and as the second most likely answer, stay away from government buildings. It's rational that they're most likely to get killed when they're near US troops, either by the US troops or by people trying to attack US troops. But the government building thing was a holder from the time when the secret police were likely to detain anybody who lingered near a government building.

It's silly to think that they'd lie to pollsters to stay out of trouble with insurgents. The pollsters stay away from places that pollsters are in danger. So what if a poll got printed in the USA and an insurgent saw it. "Hmm. 70% of baghdadis want the US troops to stay. We'd better go kill the guys who answered that poll." Just plain silly.

It isn't insurgents who passed a bill calling for a deadline for US troops to leave. It was the iraqi legislature. Their public has been calling for that for years, and they finally did it. Now the PM is blocking a vote on when the deadline will be.

If you want to question the polls, here's a valid criticism. Saddam claimed the iraqi population was 50% shia, 35% sunni, 12% kurd, and 3% other. The CIA thought he was faking that. They decided without a census that the correct numbers were around 60% shia, 20% sunni, and 20% kurd. Pollsters have tended to get different ratios, and they adjust the numbers to show the results they would have gotten if they had 60% shia, 20% sunni, and 20% kurd. They tend to get more like 55% shia, 30% sunni, 12% kurd, and 3% other. It looks like maybe Saddam was fudging it but not nearly as much as the CIA thought. But the result has been to inflate whatever the shia say (and kurds too) at the expense of sunnis.

But it isn't quite that simple. Since they track results by city or by province, they go by estimates of population in each city or province. And those are likely wrong too. Around 20% of the population has moved since 2003, fleeing violence, sometimes fleeing the country. Nobody really knows how many people are in each city or each province. They've been adjusting by the old numbers.

So even if you look at the raw data -- 812 polled in baghdad, 589 in samara, etc, you can tell what the people they actually talked to said, but you don't know quite how to extend that to the whole population. How do you compare the votes in baghdad with the votes in samara? You just don't know.

But there's no reason to think that a majority of iraqis want us there more than another year from last april. We can argue about whether it's 75% that want us gone or 5%, but it's clearly way over 50%.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 02:31 PM

Creamy G, nice note at the end -- but I don't think Bush has to kiss butt yet; he might be doing so, but he doesn't have to.

Glasnost, thanks for a clear and revealing Left oriented statement, I hope fp's highjacking doesn't make Michael ignore it. M. Smith and especially wi have noted most of my own objections.

But let's also be clear what this means your position on genocide in Darfur means -- no American military ground support to liberate or save the hundreds of thousands of poor black Muslims who have been killed (and often raped), or remain at risk and so many have had villages burnt.

The pro-war crowd was, I included, too optimistic. The successful rebuilding now going on in Kurdish Iraq is what most neo-cons wanted for all of Iraq, and was possible. But it was dependent on Iraqi leaders accepting limits on their own power and working together. Since, after 220 years, US leaders still can seldom work together, it should be no surprise that Iraqi leaders can't, either. But is was a surprise.

All the US needs to do to "win" is to stay, to keep fighting/ stop any other military power from winning, until the Iraqi people elect leaders who are willing and able to work with other leaders they disagree with. 5 - 50 years.

Glasnost, I hope you keep focusing on the money, because I think lots of folks will agree there is far too much waste. Where are the full tender bids on the internet? Why aren't there Iraqi city bonds, borrowing against the future for cash today? A big mistake was to push for aid money instead of loans, when there was a question about it in 2003. It's never too late to switch -- all reconstruction should be with loans, that Iraqis promise to repay, and Iraqis control. Including waste and fraud and corruption -- but hopefully with systems that publicize it and reduce it.

The lack of local responsibility for reconstruction is a problem in the Palestinian Authority, as well -- and semi-socialist Israel (80% or more of the land is owned by the state) could do a lot more about supporting responsible private ownership.

Steve B -- Please suggest possible solutions, and other comparisons. Like, what is the daily death rate in NYC from violence?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 29, 2007 02:46 PM

Tom,

"The pro-war crowd was, I included, too optimistic. The successful rebuilding now going on in Kurdish Iraq is what most neo-cons wanted for all of Iraq, and was possible. But it was dependent on Iraqi leaders accepting limits on their own power and working together. "

They failed, no doubt, because they completely misunderstood Muslims and the dynamics of the tribal, and religious contentions centuries old. Hubris is the word here. Its silly anyway, the neocons had their sights on Iraq before Bush was even president, having won the Cold War, they thought , they had the power and the right to do as they please. Oil in dem dar hills...

Posted by: Russ at July 29, 2007 03:20 PM

Creamy,

I don't think Bush cares about the UNSC vetos. Let's be honest, every country uses the UN when it is to the country's advantage, and every country ignores the UN when it is to the country's advantage.

If Bush can use the UN, great. If he has to proceed without it, that's fine too.

Note that Russia is proceeding with the Iranian nuclear reactor even though the west is throwing coniption fits over it, as we should be. There is not a sanction in the world the UN can pass that will change Putin's mind.

Look at it from Putin's perspective.

He gets to sell nuclear reactors to Iran and pocket the cash (probably literally if Iran ever gets around to paying the bill).

Meanwhile, Putin stands aside and allows the UNSC to pass resolutions expressing grave concerns about Iran's nuclear activity while making empty threats Putin knows the UN can't enforce.

In short, Putin gets a nuclear customer and an ally in the ME without alienating the west by vetoing UNSC resolutions. Its the best of both worlds.

It's going to take someone for whom a tactical retreat in Iraq doesn't mean instant domestic political suicide to restore a semblance of our former influence.

How does failing to complete what we started in Iraq going to "restore" America's influence in the world? If surrendering is the only way to make western Europeans like us again, then I'm not interested.

I'm sorry, but I've never understood the "America must lose if we want the world to like us and respect us again" school of foreign policy, especially since the world, through the UN, authorized member nations to take whatever steps necessary to enforce UN security resolutions against Hussein.

And with that, I'll let you have the last word because I think I've commented enough on this thread. Don't want Michael kicking me out, I enjoy the discussion too much!

Take care.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 29, 2007 03:52 PM

Tom Grey,

The successful rebuilding now going on in Kurdish Iraq is what most neo-cons wanted for all of Iraq, and was possible.

In 2003, it was too difficult to see into Iraq's closed society and assess the prospects for a successful nation-building enterprise. In any case, regional transformation was originally a secondary concern -- it was only after WMD failed to materialize that it had to be promoted to primary justification in order to obscure the tremendous blunder we had just made.

Glasnost may be characterized as left-leaning here, but ironically, his skepticism with regards to nation-building is the truly conservative position. Conservatives would do well to rediscover it.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 04:13 PM

Dogwood,

How does failing to complete what we started in Iraq going to "restore" America's influence in the world? If surrendering is the only way to make western Europeans like us again, then I'm not interested.

Any commander who cannot differentiate between tactical retreat and surrender does not have my confidence.

Any politician who stupidly discards either diplomacy or military intervention does not have my vote.

We are not being overrun. There are many theaters of battle. We should concentrate our resources where they will do the most good.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 05:03 PM

Where the fuck are the videos we were promissed in return for our donations?

Posted by: WTF at July 29, 2007 05:16 PM

(sigh.)

Please remember, folks: don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 05:43 PM

Who is discarding diplomacy? We tried that with Hussein for 12 years and it didn't work because diplomacy minus a credible threat of economic and/or military action is nothing more than happy talk. Of course, the French were taking oil bribes, so that didn't help matters much.

Al Qaeda doesn't care about diplomacy, so that approach won't work with that group.

Iran doesn't care about diplomacy either. They are a rogue nation pursuing nukes and the west seems content to negotiate with a madman who has nothing to lose by pursuing nukes and nothing to gain by negotiating, except time to complete the nukes.

Killing thousands of Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be a very good use of resources. Its easier to kill fanatics when they willingly congregate in one place rather than scatter around the globe.

Al Qaeda has chosen to make a stand in Iraq, and I believe it is in the best interest of the U.S. to oblige. Sometimes you just have to stand and fight.

Finally, please don't call me a troll. I have been participating in this discussion without name calling or demagoguery. There is no need to resort to such tactics.

I simply disagree with your approach, which seems to be willful surrender in Iraq followed by a reallocation of resources to other, undefined theaters using unknown tactics to accomplish unstated goals...other than to win the love and affection of other nations that are pursuing their own national interests.

Sigh.

Posted by: Dogwood at July 29, 2007 06:35 PM

Michael, how reliable is electric power for air conditioning in Iraq? Does power go out in a controlled rolling blackout or do lights flicker and go dim before power goes out suggesting less control? While we argue about politics, I bet many Iraqis just want relief from the summer heat.

Posted by: George B at July 29, 2007 07:23 PM

Where the fuck are the videos we were promissed in return for our donations?

Most of the video I shot is still, I am sorry to say, awaiting Kurdish translation.

I will have some video from this part of Iraq that doesn't need to be translated, but it is not physically possible for me to edit and upload it in country. Internet connections here are savagely slow, and I have very strict time limits. I can barely upload small photos.

Sorry. I'm doing what I can.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 29, 2007 10:47 PM

Dogwood,

Iran doesn't care about diplomacy either.

If we hadn't botched it and gone after phantom WMD in Iraq, we might have a credible threat of force to bring to bear against Iran. Instead, we're tied down and they know it.

Killing thousands of Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be a very good use of resources.

Their ranks don't seem to be thinning, so it looks like we are manufacturing jihadis at least as quickly as we are killing them.

Digging holes then filling them in is not a good use of resources.

Finally, please don't call me a troll.

Not you... Mr. "WTF".

There, now we've gone and fed him. (sigh.)

I simply disagree with your approach, which seems to be willful surrender in Iraq followed by a reallocation of resources to other, undefined theaters using unknown tactics to accomplish unstated goals

A good use of our spent military right now would be to draw down and regroup. Not that we have much choice. The surge is logistically unsustainable past the middle of 2008, so we should prepare for the inevitable.

Maybe Colin Powell is right and a sectarian bloodbath looms that we are powerless to stop. Or maybe Irfan Husain is right: "if, as seems likely, it is the allied presence that is causing much of the violence, then the exit of American troops might be the least bad thing for Iraq." I can't say with any confidence which is more likely, but either way, Iraq's fate is largely out of our hands.

The sooner we consolidate our gains in Kurdistan and reconcile to withdrawal from the rest of Iraq, the sooner we will be able to focus on other concerns. At the top of my priority list are:

  • Kurdistan -- protect it from hostile neighbors, probably by deploying "tripwire" US forces a la South Korea.
  • Lebanon -- ensure that the Hariri Tribunal reaches its conclusion, delivering a staggering blow to Syria.
  • Georgia and Ukraine -- counter Putin's energy extortion and shore up these fragile new democracies.
  • Afghanistan -- don't screw it up.

All of these prospects offer greater hope at far lower cost than Arab Iraq. The only reason to prioritize Iraq ahead of them is the potentially high cost of failure -- but we may not be able to avoid that cost regardless.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 10:48 PM

In any case, regional transformation was originally a secondary concern -- it was only after WMD failed to materialize that it had to be promoted to primary justification in order to obscure the tremendous blunder we had just made.

Simply not true. Read Bush's speeches from 2001 onwards, all the reasons for deposing Saddam were advanced each time, all the speeches are consistent. And all are almost identical to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, approved by Congress under Clinton.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 29, 2007 10:48 PM

Why would I not support the war even if I did think the surge was about to bring the whole country around? Because even a stable Iraq in 2008 or 2009 does not excuse or justify the wreck we made of the place for the five preceding years before that. It's not okay to wreck a house just because you later rebuild it. It's not okay to wreck a country just because you later rebuild it.

We didn't make a wreck of the place, Saddam did. The infrastructure wasn't wonderful when we got there. Saddam's tribe and cronies got electricity 24/7, and everyone else didn't. He took aid money for food and meds and gave it as bribes and to build palaces. He massacred a couple hundred thousand Shiites who rose up against him in the aftermath of Gulf I, expecting us to help them. Many of them fled into the southern marshes, which Saddam drained, creating an ecocatastrophy you could see from satellite and threatening the habitat of the marsh Arabs who had lived there for 5000 years. Right after the war we unblocked the dams and the marshes are coming back, you can see that from satellite too.

The US army is, or should be, a tool for killing bad guys, not for rebuilding societies. The US may need better tools for rebuilding societies, but as of right now the lines between killing people and helping people have become dangerously blurred...

The kind of war we are fighting is not two armies on opposing hilltops with uniforms. War will never look like that again. Rebuilding societies is part of the deal, as it was in WWII. Your last sentence doesn't make sense.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 29, 2007 11:13 PM

If we hadn't botched it and gone after phantom WMD in Iraq, we might have a credible threat of force to bring to bear against Iran. Instead, we're tied down and they know it.

We're not tied down, because it would not be useful to invade Iran. All we want to do is take our their nuke facilities, we can do that from the air. We have ground troops in Iraq, we have aircraft carriers cruising around the Gulf. We can do both at the same time. And I think Iran knows that too.

About fp - I initially didn't think he was a troll, sometimes serious people are verbally abusive and they are still worth reading. But I've read enough comments by him that it's clear he doesn't want to engage any of the arguments others make. He certainly doesn't come across as an expert in ME politics.

But it's refreshing to be to the left of someone for a change. Like GWB I believe there are Arabs who aspire to political freedom, that makes us both squishy liberals to fp.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 29, 2007 11:20 PM

Yehudit,

Simply not true.

I stand by my assertion.

In this Bush speech from 2002, paragraphs 3-39 are concerned with WMD and terrorism. Paragraphs 40-44 cover human rights and the suffering of the Iraqi citizenry. It is clear which is the primary and which is the secondary justification.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 29, 2007 11:20 PM

"In short, he is a zionist. Once you get that, I don't think there are any surprises here."

Yeah, one of those evil, cunning Joooos, I mean hook-nosed cosmopolitan Trotskyist neocon wire-pullers.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at July 30, 2007 12:10 AM

Uh Cat...
How many Yuma, AZ, City Council meetings did you sit through? I used to cover them as a reporter for the local paper and, well, let's just say it was an interesting experience.

However it does put me in mind of something relevant. There was a little old lady down in Yuma who used to attend every council meeting. She was obviously concerned, she was vocal and she was mostly confused. Typically there was a point in there somewhere but she simply hadn't thought things out to the point of clarity.

Mrs. N. could tell you at great length what was wrong, but it was much harder to follow her when she tried to suggest what should be done.

In short, Mrs. N. reminds me of our buddy fp.

Posted by: Rick Cook at July 30, 2007 12:55 AM

Creamy Goodness wrote:

If the pro-war crowd hadn't led this country into a position of weakness, the anti-war crowd wouldn't be ascendant. I look around the Middle East and Asia for countries in play, and I see bright hope in Kurdistan, a decent shot in Lebanon, a long-term, low-intensity slog with an uncertain outcome in Afghanistan, and an exorbitantly priced crapshoot in Arab Iraq. If it takes a Democrat to cut our losses and focus our efforts on ventures which have a better chance of succeeding, so be it.

What ventures would those be?

Wherever we choose to fight them, the jihadists will use the same tactics against us that they are using in Iraq. Wherever we shift the battle, the enemy will still consist of a few thousand fighters staging road-side attacks with IEDS and a few hundred suicide bombers staging spectacularly deadly suicide car bombings, with a sprinkling of kidnappings and assassinations thrown in to maximize the terror. This enemy will continue to target any civilian population suspected of aiding us and will continue to sow discord among the civilians by trying to turn one group against another. As near as I can tell, the battle you see in Iraq is the type of battle we will have to fight against these guys wherever we confront them.

So what will we gain by shifting the battle to another area? What area would you suggest?

It takes an enormous logistical chain to support a US army in a foreign country. That chain is in place now across Kuwait and Iraq. You want us to dismantle that chain and rebuild it somewhere else?

You say Lebanon “has a decent shot”. Are you suggesting we try to fight al-Qaeda there? If we do, and if al-Qaeda makes Lebanon “the central front in the war against the west” as they have declared Iraq to be, how would the resulting battle be any different than the one we face now in Iraq? The government of Lebanon may be friendlier towards us than the government of Iraq -- that’s a point in Lebanon’s favor -- but the presence of Hizbullah and their thousands of rockets would seem to cancel out that advantage.

And if we withdraw from Iraq for purposes of engaging al-Qaeda (and their associated terrorist groups) elsewhere, what guarantee do we have that al-Qaeda will oblige us by agreeing to shift the battle to the new location?

Sooner or later, we have to demonstrate an ability and a willingness to win this kind of battle against these guys -- and win it big. The alternative is to quit and thereby validate Osama bin Laden’s claims about America -- namely, that we are nothing but a paper tiger who cannot stand up to pure Islamic fighters. Conceding that point will be an enormous victory for bin Laden and the international jihad. With that victory in hand, they are not simply going to go home and leave us alone.

You say the battle in Iraq is “exorbitantly priced”. Yes, we are spending a lot of money on it. But annually, that expenditure amounts to less than 1% of our gross national product. Less than 1%. An expenditure of that magnitude is not an argument for giving up.

Nor is the casualty rate. To date, over four years of this conflict, our total killed and wounded in Iraq amounts to 2.12% of our active duty forces, or about .5% per year. I hate the death and injury of any of our soldiers, but an annual casualty rate of one-half of 1% is not much of a reason to quit either.

I have many criticisms of the way Bush and the Pentagon have tried to fight this war. I think there are obvious things we could do to Iran and Syria to discourage them from supporting the insurgency -- and it infuriates me that Bush won‘t do any of them. And personally, I advocate putting ordinance on al-Qaeda wherever they are located in any significant numbers, using air power if nothing else, including inside Pakistan’s borders.

I see lots of reasons to fight much harder than we are presently. I'm open to arguments for alternative strategies, but so far no one has given me a good reason to abandon Iraq to the tender mercies of al-Qaeda and their associates.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 30, 2007 04:52 AM

Creamy Goodness wrote:


- Kurdistan -- protect it from hostile neighbors, probably by deploying "tripwire" US forces a la South Korea.
- Lebanon -- ensure that the Hariri Tribunal reaches its conclusion, delivering a staggering blow to Syria.
- Georgia and Ukraine -- counter Putin's energy extortion and shore up these fragile new democracies.
- Afghanistan -- don't screw it up.

All of these prospects offer greater hope at far lower cost than Arab Iraq.

"Greater hope"? Greater hope of what?

The objective is to stop the Islamic totalitarians who are waging jihad against the west. The jihadists, led by al-Qaeda, have repeatedly declared that Iraq is the main battlefield, the central front in this conflict. How does withdrawing from this battlefield and permitting al-Qaeda to declare victory move us any closer to the goal of stopping them?

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 30, 2007 05:21 AM

Michael Smith,

The objective is to stop the Islamic totalitarians who are waging jihad against the west. The jihadists, led by al-Qaeda, have repeatedly declared that Iraq is the main battlefield, the central front in this conflict. How does withdrawing from this battlefield and permitting al-Qaeda to declare victory move us any closer to the goal of stopping them?

Its true, AQ couldn't be happier we are bogged down in Iraq. They are there because we are there. I have read many military experts who say, if we were to leave, the Sunnis and Shiites would quickly cut their throats. The thing that many in our military and fellow NATO members are finding, is that civilian killings, as accidental as they are, are inflaming the radical side of Islam. Iran was going towards a more moderate type of government before Bush and the Axis of Evil speech, they had even helped us set up the Afghan government and capture AQ.

Posted by: Russ at July 30, 2007 08:13 AM

Michael Smith,

Greater hope of what?

Of success.

Kurdistan, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Georgia have better prospects because they are societies that are transforming themselves, rather than societies that we are imposing transformation upon.

Afghanistan has the worst chance of any on my list, because it's a nation-building project like Iraq. Furthermore, we've pulled the incredibly stupid maneuver of prioritizing poppy-eradication over cultivating Afghan allies. Maybe if we didn't have Iraq always at the front of our minds we'd notice, have a public debate, and discard that asinine plan.

However, at least in Afghanistan we have help from a lot more allies, because the way we went to war was so different from the way we went to war in Iraq.

The objective is to stop the Islamic totalitarians who are waging jihad against the west.

Islamic totalitarians come from all over. It's not like there's a coherent army that we can defeat decisively and forget about. The core problem, I agree with George Bush, is a freedom deficit. Our goal should thus be to flip as many societies to democracy as quickly as can be done.

You seem fixated on bending the irascible problem child to your will. I'd rather help those who help themselves.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 30, 2007 10:01 AM

You seem fixated on bending the irascible problem child to your will. I'd rather help those who help themselves.

This is a smear against the thousands of brave Iraqis who who have risked assassination to vote, serve in their local governments, become soldiers and policemen, fixers for journalists, and otherwise help the Coalition forces help them. All the while beset by wolves paid for and sent from iran and Saudi, as well as home-grown gangs.

Kurdistan, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Georgia have better prospects because they are societies that are transforming themselves, rather than societies that we are imposing transformation upon.

This is a tautology. You can't force freedom and responsiblity on anyone. To whatever extent Iraq is transforming, Iraqis are doing it because they want to take it on. With our help. They don't deserve your sneering. I wonder what kind of courage you would exhibit if gangs roam your streets and threaten to kill you and your family if you "help yourself."

Posted by: Yehudit at July 30, 2007 11:43 AM

All we want to do is take our their nuke facilities, we can do that from the air.

What kept us from taking out Saddam's nuke facilities from the air?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 30, 2007 11:45 AM

Russ said:

Its true, AQ couldn't be happier we are bogged down in Iraq. They are there because we are there.

Oh, I see. Since "they are there because we are there", it follows as surely as night follows day that if we leave, al-Qaeda will go home and cease being al-Qaeda

I have read many military experts who say, if we were to leave, the Sunnis and Shiites would quickly cut their throats. The thing that many in our military and fellow NATO members are finding, is that civilian killings, as accidental as they are, are inflaming the radical side of Islam.

So, under normal conditions, the Sunni and Shia would get along fine and would kill al-Qaeda; however, as a result of our presence, instead of wanting to kill al-Qaeda, the Sunni and the Shia want to kill one another instead. What on earth makes you believe such a notion?

Iran was going towards a more moderate type of government before Bush and the Axis of Evil speech, they had even helped us set up the Afghan government and capture AQ.

Right. The middle east and Islam were peaceful before our unprovoked, unilateral, arbitrary decision to invade Iraq in March of 2003. The international jihad exists only because we are in Iraq -- if we would simply go home, the al-Qaeda terrorists would go home and cease being al-Qaeda terrorists. The Sunni and the Shia would get along fine and Iran would return to being our ally. We are the cause of Islamic terrorism and if we'd just withdraw from Iraq, terrorism would cease.

Unbelievable.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 30, 2007 11:46 AM

In this Bush speech from 2002, paragraphs 3-39 are concerned with WMD and terrorism. Paragraphs 40-44 cover human rights and the suffering of the Iraqi citizenry. It is clear which is the primary and which is the secondary justification.

Read 4-5 of them. However, "concerned with WMD and terrorism" doesn't just mean WMDs, it also means terrorism in general, which Saddam aided and abetted. So I stand by my assertion.

However , speaking of WMDs, you will notice that in these speeches Bush doesn't claim flat out that Saddam had WMDs, but that if left alone he would restart his nuke programs and it would be too dangerous to leave him alone given how many terrorist groups are wandering about.

In fact that was true. The group which investigated the WMD locations and interviewed scientists after the war found that indeed Saddam would have restarted his programs, and in fact the result of the oil for food bribes is that containment had broken down and Saddam was able to get what he needed.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 30, 2007 11:53 AM

What kept us from taking out Saddam's nuke facilities from the air?

Israel did that in 1981. :-)

After that, I don't think Saddam had any obvious facilities, just nacent programs in various locations. Iran has huge uranium processing plants, we know where they are. The danger from Saddam was that he was trying to get out of his box and was succeeding. Iran was already going full speed ahead. Should we have gotten physical with Iran way before now instead of talking?

The advantage of making an example out of Saddam was that he already had 17 UNSC resolutions against him, so there was some basis for making it a UN effort. But France Russia and China are in the UNSC and together sold Saddam 90% of his weapons and got the most oil for food bribes, so they were not going to vote for deposing him.

If we were to go after Iran 5-6 years ago, we would have had no one with us, there was no precedent to point to.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 30, 2007 12:05 PM

Iran would return to being our ally.

Iran hasn't been our ally since at least 1979.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 30, 2007 12:09 PM

Creamy Goodness said:

The core problem, I agree with George Bush, is a freedom deficit. Our goal should thus be to flip as many societies to democracy as quickly as can be done.

I see. And if al-Qaeda objects to democracy in one such country and sends in thousands of terrorists and suicide bombers to carry out a campaign of terror, then we should abandon that country to al-Qaeda and move on to some place "more promising" where people seem to be more into "helping themselves". Yes, that is a strategy that will really discourage the Islamic jihadists.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 30, 2007 12:15 PM

"So, under normal conditions, the Sunni and Shia would get along fine and would kill al-Qaeda; however, as a result of our presence, instead of wanting to kill al-Qaeda, the Sunni and the Shia want to kill one another instead. What on earth makes you believe such a notion?"

I didn't say that. The Sunnis and Shia have been at each others throats for centuries. AQ/Wahabism is loathed by both groups though. There is even a rumor, may to be true, that AQ was roasting Sunni kids. I get many of my facts from good books.

"
Right. The middle east and Islam were peaceful before our unprovoked, unilateral, arbitrary decision to invade Iraq in March of 2003. The international jihad exists only because we are in Iraq -- if we would simply go home, the al-Qaeda terrorists would go home and cease being al-Qaeda terrorists. The Sunni and the Shia would get along fine and Iran would return to being our ally. We are the cause of Islamic terrorism and if we'd just withdraw from Iraq, terrorism would cease.

Unbelievable.

Posted by Michael Smith"

Your reading into my comments things that aren't there. I'm aware there needs to be war and diligence. The things I said about Iran are true, however. Withdrawing from Iraq isn't the answer to all our problems, but it may be a step in the right direction. Maliki wants Petraus out anyway, and the Iraqi soccer star even says get out.

Posted by: Russ at July 30, 2007 12:21 PM

Yehudit,

This is a smear against the thousands of brave Iraqis

I am untroubled by your seizing upon my chance metaphor, putting it to the blowtorch and hammering into an insult of maximum offense.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at July 30, 2007 01:19 PM

I'd rather help those who help themselves.

If you weren't talking about Iraqis who were you talking about? There's no metaphor in that sentence.

Do you agree or disagree with me about the Iraqis, or have mixed impression?

Posted by: Yehudit at July 30, 2007 02:48 PM

VDH sometimes gets very simple; this is usually devastating, with a "cut the BS" effect that can really clear the brain.

E.g.: http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson073007.html
Excerpt:
"The point of reviewing prior American naiveté and cynicism is not to excuse the real mistakes in stabilizing Iraq. Instead, these past blunders remind us that we have had few good choices in dealing with the terrorism, theocracy and authoritarian madness of an oil-rich Middle East. And we have had none after the murder of 3,000 Americans on September 11.

After four years of effort in Iraq, Americans may well tire of that cost and bring Gen. Petraeus and the troops home. We can then go back to the shorter-term remedies of the past. Well and good.

But at least remember what that past policy was: Democratic appeasement of terrorists, interrupted by cynical Republican business with terrorist-sponsoring regimes.

Then came September 11, and we determined to get tougher than the Democrats by taking out the savage Taliban and Saddam Hussein — and more principled than the Republicans by staying on after our victories to foster something better."

What he depicts is a difference in style of sucking-up that has characterized the two parties in the past. One with words and bribery; the other with realpolitik business deals. Demonstrably, neither worked worth a damn. Both are appeasement, which, by any other name, smells just as foul.

Posted by: Brian H at July 30, 2007 06:05 PM

Why would I not support the war even if I did think the surge was about to bring the whole country around? Because even a stable Iraq in 2008 or 2009 does not excuse or justify the wreck we made of the place for the five preceding years before that. It's not okay to wreck a house just because you later rebuild it. It's not okay to wreck a country just because you later rebuild it.
-glasnost, a Reactionary Conservative

Of course Iraq was more 'stable' under a repressive dictatorship when compared with the current state of affairs. In what way does that make the prior status quo in any way desirable? fp likes to argue that the Middle East is a disaster because everything we have don up to this point has been wrong-headed and foolish. Like supporting a 'Realistic' foreign policy by supporting 'friendly' Dictators instead of helping the people of the region express their own voice.

(note: This policy made a certain amount of sense during the cold war. But now we must reap what we have sewn).

By stating that toppling Hussein decreased stability, and the subsequent price has not been worth it, no matter the outcome, you are channeling Baker - in other words your expressed goal is as a-liberal as possible.

Liberalism is about maximizing the ability of the individual to self - determination. By bemoaning the loss of stability subsequent the fall of the Hussein regime your are pining for the opposite of that which is liberal.

The Left, and you, have abandoned the core tenets of liberalism. It is about time you all realized this, and stopped relying on it to support your desire for 'Stability'.

(Second note: never mind that the 19th century should have clearly demonstrated that the imposed 'stability' of repression is only a short term state, and in the long run leads to even greater 'instability'.)

Finally, you argue that some future, peaceful Iraq will not justify the transitory chaos subsequent the fall of the previous regime. What, exactly did you think was going to happen after 35 years of rule by King? Daisies, Bunnies and Kumbyah in the streets? A post Hussein civil conflict was inevitable. If anything our presence is mitigating and channeling this conflict, instead of allowing it to run its natural, genocidal, cross-confessional course.

Posted by: Michael in Seattle at August 2, 2007 11:50 AM

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Posted by: EVE Online ISK at August 6, 2007 07:30 PM

"13 colonies became a democracy"

Uh, no. 13 colonies became a republic.

Democracy is chaos as the Greeks discovered 22 centuries ago... which is why Bush needs to clarify that we are not trying to establish democracy, but rather LIBERTY in the mideast.

Posted by: Dubya at August 6, 2007 08:40 PM

About your story of that interpreter. He is just untrue Iraqi and seeking for Green Card to get out with his family. I can smell the lying out of his words. This story should not have be written because it doesn't tell the truth of Iraq and Iraqis. Is all what you and other people would like to hear. This is fake. This is laying. This is GAY. That "hummer" is just a vile guy who desperately trying to escape his nationality. What he told about Mukhabarat is fake and he is a lair. I know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Mia at August 7, 2007 05:40 PM

But to say that we should pull out even if we are finally doing things somewhat right....

The short answer is that "somewhat right" isn't good enough, and there's no reason to assume that we are genuinely capable of making the jump from "somewhat right" to "right".

Mike in Seattle,

By bemoaning the loss of stability subsequent the fall of the Hussein regime your are pining for the opposite of that which is liberal.

The Left, and you, have abandoned the core tenets of liberalism. It is about time you all realized this, and stopped relying on it to support your desire for 'Stability

Horsefeathers. Did you miss the quote up there from M.T. about what 'stability' actually means? It means "the freedom to go to work, to go to the store, and have a social network without getting gutted like a pig". My desire not to see the Iraqi population run through the wrecker is very liberal. A lot of people here share that desire, but they think the U.S. military can fix the problem. I don't.

If you get to call me a "reactionary conservative", I can call you a modern-day-Jacobin. You're gonna bring them Iraqis freedom no matter how many Iraqis try to stop you, or how many Iraqis the Iraqis trying to stop you kill.

Posted by: glasnost at August 9, 2007 04:03 PM

A post Hussein civil conflict was inevitable.

Tell yourself that if it gets you to sleep, but the h*ll it was. Was its total casualty count of 500,000 plus also inevitable?

Posted by: glasnost at August 9, 2007 04:05 PM
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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

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

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

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

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn