September 13, 2007

Al Qaeda Strikes Back

Sheikh Sattar, leader of the Anbar Awakening movement, was killed in Iraq today by a bomb near his house.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:17 AM
Comments

Why would this be al Qaeda instead of, say, a Sunni insurgent group who doesn't like the example being set?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 11:44 AM

It could be someone else, but Al Qaeda was Sheik Sattar's real enemy in Iraq. It is very unlikely that it was another group.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:47 AM

Last week he shook hands with Bush.
Now he's dead.
Bush truly has the midas touch!!

Posted by: Gang Leader at September 13, 2007 11:51 AM

Why would this be al Qaeda instead of, say, a Sunni insurgent group who doesn't like the example being set?

I saw this guy on television just last week. He made it very clear that the changes in Anbar were a direct response by Sunnis to "AQ in Iraq" killing many of their people. He was still against the Baghdad government and against the American "occupation". Remember, the Sunni in Iraq have never been friendly with Al Queda... no matter what we might have been fed. I highly doubt other Sunni would take out a Sheikh that was simply cleaning out the garbage.

This may well be a serious problem though. According to the people interviewed (Cops, Militia etc) everything that has happened in Anbar was due to Sattar. One cop interviewed said NOTHING would have happened or could happen without his leadership. With him gone, the Anbar province may go "back to sleep", unless another charismatic and trusted person steps up. Further, it may well be difficult, now, to encourage others to follow in his footsteps, since he couldn't be protected.

All in all, this seems bad for Anbar province. Maybe we'll get lucky and the Sunni will go on the warpath against AQ for this...

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 13, 2007 12:13 PM

All in all, this seems bad for Anbar province.

The ongoing problem in Iraq seems to be that it doesn't take much to upset things. In other words, it's consensus-based - unless there is total agreement, someone kicks over the dinner table.

A strategy based on everything working perfectly isn't a realistic strategy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 12:37 PM

I was so sad to read this news. I wonder if it will backfire, though, and make the awakening leaders that much more determined? Your thoughts, please?

Posted by: Sallyo at September 13, 2007 01:11 PM

A strategy based on everything working perfectly isn't a realistic strategy.

Agreed, the concept that we were going to waltz in and hand the Iraqi people democracy demonstrated such a complete ignorance of the situation that I'm still surprised someone didn't take the fall for it.

Even so, I would much prefer to see a working local 'government' (even if its just that the Sheikhs take control of their areas and boot out the extremists) than a malfunctioning or (possibly) failed democracy.

The former may not be great, but a fiald Iraqi state at this point would probably be worse than the current disaster that we call "Iraqi Freedom".

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 13, 2007 01:14 PM

fiald = failed (like my spellcheck ability apparently)

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 13, 2007 01:15 PM

DPU: The ongoing problem in Iraq seems to be that it doesn't take much to upset things.

The whole Middle East is like that. Every time something good happens, there's a counterblow.

I am much more pessimistic about the region than I was a few years ago.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 01:20 PM

According to Marc Lynch, the Anbar Salvation Council has blamed the Iraqi government for the assassination. Weird. What's that all about?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 01:22 PM

DPU,

I chalk that up to yet another Arab conspiracy theory. Several US officers told me about the conspiracy theories in Anbar about the central government. They pre-date this asassination, and are likely bubbling up over the top now because of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 01:24 PM

Ratatosk,

Agreed, the concept that we were going to waltz in and hand the Iraqi people democracy demonstrated such a complete ignorance of the situation that I'm still surprised someone didn't take the fall for it.

That is not an argument, that is a hit. It must take a lot of sophistication to be able to overcome common decency and still throw dung at a funeral.

Well, I suppose this isn't a funeral. Your comment still stinks.

How much did you know about the internal politics of Iraq in 2003? I have friends who lived in fear in Baghdad that they might be arrested if they looked at one of Saddam's palaces. That kind of oppression and deliberate fostering of ignorance meant that nobody could know what would happen when Saddam was ousted from power.

But your 20/20 handwaving sure makes your position a lot stronger. I'm sure that you have a lot better plans and can do better with the army we had in 2003.

Here's the thing, do you want there to be a cabinet level post in charge of Imperial Conquest? That is the only way we could have been prepared to handle this war smoothly. Unless and until there is a serious effort to prepare the US to depose threatening governments, we will always be playing it by ear when we defend ourselves abroad by invading.

If you say that we never have to invade, that sort of makes us a sitting ducks forever. If a nation never has to fear invasion by the United States, they can do anything they want to our citizens and our interests abroad and even at home.

Invasion is part of our defensive strategy and people like you are why we are bad at it. You don't acknowledge the stakes and you don't let us prepare for what needs to happen. Even if you argue Iraq wasn't necessary, we weren't ready to invade anywhere to your standards.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 01:32 PM

Invasion is part of our defensive strategy and people like you are why we are bad at it.

Uh, what?

You mean "War is Peace", right? And I'm sorely tempted to go after "Ignorance is Strength" for that second shot. Yeah, expecting competence is big part of the problem, he should simply salute and shut up.

Good grief.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 01:42 PM

dpu - do you also believe that police or dea agents (and the like) should never perform raids? if having a strong/agressive military force breeds war/insurgency/terrorism, then having a strong/agressive police force must breed crime. and handguns kill. sheesh.

Posted by: heidianne jackson at September 13, 2007 02:04 PM

DPU,

You mean "War is Peace", right? And I'm sorely tempted to go after "Ignorance is Strength" for that second shot. Yeah, expecting competence is big part of the problem, he should simply salute and shut up.

Having armed forces that in handcuffs is less of a deterrent than you appear to think. We rattled our sabers for more than a decade at Saddam Hussein and because we had not overthrown a major government since WWII, he was secure in his knowledge that we never would.

Perhaps you weren't paying much attention prior to 9/11, but there were several genocides because we failed to act. While there is a certain despicable truth to the argument that other people's genocides are not our problem, it ignores the repeated lesson that countries that perpetrate genocides strongly tend to attack the United States. Since a lot of people are unclear on the concept of conflict, not all attacks are invasions.

If you think we can continue to endure attacks without responding forever, you are delusional. We don't have to be a bull in a ring, but we do have to make it unprofitable to harm the United States or everybody will be doing so.

You can expect competence without funding training and planning all you like, it is not going to happen without a clear requirement and support from Congress. No money, no plans and training.

War is not peace, but pacifism is genocide.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 02:04 PM

Patrick, you are indeed a piece of work. Blaming the incompetence of the post-invasion occupation on people who complain about the incompetence is staggering to see, even on the internet.

And, BTW, the self-righteous chest-thumping about preventing genocide would be a bit more stirring if you advocated, say, intervention in places like Central Africa. A few million have died there recently without so much as a peep from those shedding very public tears about the victims of oil-rich dictatorships.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 02:20 PM

On second thought, I'd like to reformulate that slightly:

War is not peace, but pacifism invites genocide.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 02:25 PM

DPU,

Blaming the incompetence of the post-invasion occupation on people who complain about the incompetence is staggering to see, even on the internet.

Complaining is very important and a useful activity. Because dissent is the highest form of pretense...I mean inventing Thomas Jefferson quotes...I mean patriotism...

Seriously, if I had seen anything useful coming out of the anti-war movement activities since I started grade school, I would be a lot more willing to cut you some slack on this. The complainers are not honest or useful in their choice of complaints. Especially since we started having "Complaint Studies" chairs funded in our universities.

Central Africa is a basket of snakes for a lot of reasons and it will be for generations. I would certainly like it if the first world were willing to act responsibly when they don't have a gun to their heads, but that isn't going to happen in a democracy while there are so many ignorant people complaining about acting responsibly when there is a gun pointing at their heads.

Nations like Belgium pay more attention to the union representatives of their military hairdressers than they do to their expeditionary capacity. Until that stops, Belgium is going to be responsible for as many deaths in the Congo by sins of omission as they were sins of commission when they owned the place.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 02:39 PM

Patrick, chill.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 02:44 PM

MJT, did you ever meet with the Martyr Sheik Sattar, or any of his friends or family?

What did the Iraqis you talked to say about him?

I wish Martyr Sheik Sattar godspeed in journey to the beyond. We will miss him here on Earth. I pray his family and friends can derive some comfort, solace and wisdom from the many memories Sheik Sattar leaves behind him.

There is no God but God. Enjoy your journey to Him. And Sheik Sattar, see you when we too take the journey.

Posted by: anand at September 13, 2007 02:55 PM

Lawrence Wright, the author of the brilliant "The Looming Tower", pointed out recently that when we examined the documents and materials captured from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that there was nothing in them about a political agenda or blueprint to actually run a country. It was all about purifying Islam from the corrupting influences of this or that chimera (well, not always a fantasy; but you get the point).

I'm reminded of that famous line after Rousseau died: "He invented nothing; he set fire to everything."

Give them (grudging) credit; they sure know how to destroy things.

Posted by: SteveMG at September 13, 2007 03:14 PM

Face it DPU, you DON'T WANT the present administration to succeed.

Posted by: John at September 13, 2007 03:39 PM

gangleader,

Your mother was a goat and your father smelled of elderberries.

Posted by: John at September 13, 2007 03:43 PM

Cool it, John. I've been reading DPU's comments for years, and you have him wrong.

He thinks there should be a mega-surge in Iraq, and he opposes withdrawal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 03:44 PM

Then perhaps he should couch his rhetoric in less hopeless terms. Or rely on better sources...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070913/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

"No group claimed responsibility for the assassination, but it was widely assumed to have been carried out by al-Qaida, which already had killed four of Abu Risha's brothers and six other relatives for working with the U.S. military.

U.S. officials credit Abu Risha and allied sheiks with a dramatic improvement in security in such Anbar flashpoints as Fallujah and Ramadi after years of American failure to subdue the extremists. U.S. officials now talk of using the Anbar model to organize tribal fighters elsewhere in Iraq.

Abu Risha's allies as well as U.S. and Iraqi officials insisted the assassination would not deter them from fighting al-Qaida, and the tribal alliance appears to have gained enough momentum to survive the loss of a single figure, no matter how key. Late Thursday, Abu Risha's brother, Ahmed, was selected to replace him as head of the council.

Still, the loss of such a charismatic leader is bound to complicate efforts to recruit more tribal leaders in the war against the terror network. Two Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter, said the assassination sent a chilling message about the consequences of cooperating with the Americans.

"This is a criminal act and al-Qaida is behind it," said Sheik Jubeir Rashid, a senior member of Abu Risha's council. "We have to admit that it is a major blow to the council. But we are determined to strike back and continue our work. Such attack was expected, but this will not deter us."

Ali Hatem al-Sulaiman, deputy chief of the province's biggest Sunni tribe, said that if "only one small boy remains alive in Anbar, we will not hand the province over to al-Qaida.""

Posted by: John at September 13, 2007 03:51 PM

Lawrence Wright, the author of the brilliant "The Looming Tower", pointed out recently that when we examined the documents and materials captured from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that there was nothing in them about a political agenda or blueprint to actually run a country.

Which may be why, after gaining influence in a place like Afghanistan, they simply sought more battle with another superpower. They thrive on conflict and conflict alone. They don't even have the most fundamental concepts of economics.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 03:54 PM

Then perhaps he should couch his rhetoric in less hopeless terms. Or rely on better sources...

What rhetoric? You mean when I asked Michael why he thought it was al Qaeda?

Thoughtcrime!! Comrade double-plus-ungood dared ask a question!! Denounce his counter-revolutionary rhetoric!

***

Jeez, some people are natural Stalinists.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 03:57 PM

Anand, Thank you for saying what I am thinking. I felt so sad when I read this today.

Posted by: Maggie45 at September 13, 2007 04:00 PM

DPU: Jeez, some people are natural Stalinists.

I'm a natural Harperite.

Posted by: Edgar at September 13, 2007 04:02 PM

I'm a natural Harperite.

That's okay, there's a cream for that now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 04:04 PM

Why would this be al Qaeda instead of, say, a Sunni insurgent group who doesn't like the example being set?

Didn't MJT expound at length upon this in his previous post? Wasn't the reserve officer from Dallas the one who said that, like many Americans back home, he had no clue that the old Sunni insurgency had been defeated for quite a while now?

Posted by: Jeff S. at September 13, 2007 04:07 PM

My prediction: this assassination is going to backfire. Big time.

We're witnessing something major happen here. If this were going down in any Arab country not occupied by the U.S., the people would be desperately looking for some sort of strongman to stabilize the country.

That's not going to happen while the U.S. is in Iraq. So, if we just stay long enough, the Iraqis going to overwhelmingly choose their only good option--the Americans--over the terrorists.

Al-Qaeda is getting too murderous for its own good.

Posted by: Edgar at September 13, 2007 04:10 PM

The whole Middle East is like that. Every time something good happens, there's a counterblow.
I am much more pessimistic about the region than I was a few years ago.
--MJT

Well that sums things up. A permanent hell-hole populated by the type of people hell-holes usually engender doing what people in hell-holes do.

The debate on the 'War' can go around in the same circles forever(and DOES) but at the end of the day, the hell-hole just goes on. It is NOT truly dependent upon any such external factors. There appears to be a misconception among 'some' that as soon as the Bush Regime is gone, things will be 'better' as if Bush were fully 'causative' rather than essentially 'accerlerative'.

They won't. They might and probably will be different but they won't really be better .

It's nice to babble with old 'friends' like Tosk and DPU here as they are invariably worth reading, but at this point, I think we are simply cast as the audience at the 3rd reel stage of a movie that cannot be stopped or rewound, or 'edited'. The 'ending' looks to be 'bad', but the scenario is not that of an interactive 'modern' play.

Yelling, whining, crying, shouts of advice from the audience, don't matter. The actors don't listen, and the film simply plays on. Sometimes there will be an intermission, or the projector will break down, the theater might close for renovations, and the audience can wander off for 'refreshments', but then the flic will resume like some ghostly nightmare.

Until its end.

Posted by: dougf at September 13, 2007 04:10 PM

O Please...

"thoughtcrime"?

Though that post does serve to illuminate my point...

DPU,

I have found through much experience that when things are FUBAR, getting behind a push in the right direction usually straightens things out.
The whining and complaining of bystanders merely constitutes an irritating and distracting white noise that is ultimately counterproductive. Every single war in the history of the world has had such moments. This war is certainly no different.

Posted by: John at September 13, 2007 04:15 PM

Michael, thanks for bringing real insight into this very complicated situation. I am a long-time reader/first time poster. My question is are you seeing real revenue sharing from the central government into Anbar? Obviously that was one of the point of Crocker's testimony this week. And then how many of these tribes are making it onto the payroll of the central Interior ministry?

Both seem like critical steps to some level of reconciliation. Then finally is there a sense among the Sunnis that they really screwed up by boycotting the elections? Thanks in advance and thank you for bringing a much more nuanced conversation to this whole situation.

Posted by: Andrew D Sweet at September 13, 2007 04:19 PM

Michael,

It could be someone else, but Al Qaeda was Sheik Sattar's real enemy in Iraq. It is very unlikely that it was another group.

But you don't imply this in your title. You imply that indeed it WAS Al-Qaeda and none other. Your main text is much better because you stick with the facts we do know, which is simply that a roadside bomb killed him. As to who planted the roadside bomb, at this point it is an unknown. Heck, I'm actually surprised conservatives haven't claimed this was the work of Iran!

Posted by: Dan at September 13, 2007 04:22 PM

Patrick

War is not peace, but pacifism invites genocide.

Really? Can you provide evidence of this assertion, please.

Posted by: Dan at September 13, 2007 04:24 PM

Dan,

Ask any victim of conquest.

Pacifism is a luxury.

Are you a pacifist?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 04:38 PM

CG,

But genocide doesn't happen BECAUSE OF pacifism. The Turks didn't go killin' the Armenians because the Armenians were pacifists. The Serbs, Bosnians and Croats certainly weren't pacifist, yet participated in genocide. The Tutsis and Hutus were certainly not pacifist. I'm curious where Patrick gets his evidence from.

Posted by: Dan at September 13, 2007 04:42 PM

Man. There's nothing worse than having to (effectively) defend my nemesis Patrick, but this annoys me.

Pacifism in people that can prevent genocide causes genocide.

Nobody is saying that being peaceful makes other people want to kill you.

It just becomes a problem when you need to save someone else and you won't act.

Posted by: Edgar at September 13, 2007 04:49 PM

From CNN:

Police said Abu Reesha was killed about a mile from his home, but the deputy head of the Anbar Salvation Council, Sheik Hameed al-Hayyes, said the bomb struck the convoy 50 meters from his home in a heavily secured zone surrounding the house.

50 meters sounds like he was inside his compound.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 13, 2007 04:52 PM

Dan,

Here's another variant on what Patrick is saying:

Weakness is provocative.

The wildebeest lying wounded on the Serengeti will be set upon by lions.

There are no pacifist wildebeests, but if they were, they'd get eaten, too.

Patrick's statement doesn't need proof. All it needs is that you expend a modicum of thought trying to understand what he's saying before you challenge it.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 04:58 PM

Ok, that first post was pretty inarticulate.

I mean to respond to this statement : But genocide doesn't happen BECAUSE OF pacifism. The Turks didn't go killin' the Armenians because the Armenians were pacifists. The Serbs, Bosnians and Croats certainly weren't pacifist, yet participated in genocide. The Tutsis and Hutus were certainly not pacifist.

This is called deliberately misunderstanding. Dan just listed every possible stupid way to interpret the statement "pacifism leads to genocide" even though it's obvious what was meant by it.

Standing by and doing nothing leads to genocide.

Posted by: Edgar at September 13, 2007 04:58 PM

Michael

I have been looking at all of my favorite blogs trying to find a post on this story. This is the first one I have found. I think this is going to be a pivotal event and I'm trying to figure out what it all means and how this is likely to play out. Any thoughts.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 13, 2007 05:00 PM

mullah cimoc say all him collaborator to get the bullet in head unless so torture by ameriki, or him children so torture by ameiriki.

what aemriki him do if aemrika be occupation by chinese army and some whitie amerika collaborate with foreign chinese occupier?

mullah cimoc hoping honest and good ameriki to kill all collaborator and all him family even him second cousin. maybe now him ameriki so feminize and be bossed each day by the woman not having even the one gonad.

this sheik him just a bandit and kill for money so many generation. even him name kind of joking in arabic, call play on word.

abdul sattar abu risha when speaking by shia from south of iraq sound like: him eat dung of whitie until exploding.

this favorite joke now for all him sunni in baghdad.

Posted by: mullah cimoc at September 13, 2007 05:07 PM

I don't know how this is going to play out, but it certainly doesn't mean Al Qaeda will take over Ramadi again.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 05:10 PM

mullah: what aemriki him do if aemrika be occupation by chinese army and some whitie amerika collaborate with foreign chinese occupier?

Depends. Do the Chinese occupiers know Kung Fu?

Posted by: Edgar at September 13, 2007 05:10 PM

Mullah Cimoc isn't real, by the way. I think I know who it is (a well-known blogger who rarely posts here), but I'm not sure so I'm not telling.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 05:12 PM

So, if you're not a pacifist, you can still suffer genocide? But if you are, then you're, uh, hang on a second, I gotta loosen my tie for this one...

If you're a pacifist and will not defend your self, then you might suffer genocide?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 05:24 PM

I don't think that pacifism nessesarily invites genocide, although you can certainly find more than a few examples in history where failing to act leads to larger wars and genocide. Chamberlains appeasment of Hitler comes to mind. It seems to me that Americas role as worlds police was thrust upon us as a result of the European wars and the cold war that followed. It isn't a role that we relish because our country has a wide isolationist streak. However, far fewer people die each year since the USA has become the dominant player in the world 62 years ago, because the wars of today are kept small due mainly to American might.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 13, 2007 05:26 PM

I think a better way of putting this is that pacifism is illogical in a world where conquest and genocide have not been abolished. Pacifism only makes sense if it is universal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 05:34 PM

DPU,

So, if you're not a pacifist, you can still suffer genocide? But if you are, then you're, uh, hang on a second, I gotta loosen my tie for this one...

Your idiot impersonation isn't very convincing. I've seen much better.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 05:46 PM

I'm not a big fan of Bill Clinton, but he used American might to end genocide in Bosnia. Security and stability is in our interest, that means not allowing small conflict to grow into large conflicts.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 13, 2007 05:47 PM

Your idiot impersonation isn't very convincing. I've seen much better.

You're too kind.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 05:48 PM

I think a better way of putting this is that pacifism is illogical in a world where conquest and genocide have not been abolished.

With the current fad for nukes, that may well be required at some point not too long off.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 05:49 PM

Wonder what Bush is going to say?
Bring home the troops tomorrow? Send in more?
Or... what HE said!

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 13, 2007 05:53 PM

[It's like I'm right back in my dorm room...]

Pacifism is only viable under the aegis of a central authority with a monopoly on the use of force. Is it really pacifism then?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 06:01 PM

You're too kind.

Hardly.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 06:07 PM

MJT, I must differ on pacifism, at least according to the Eastern (Hindu/Buddhist/Jain/Taoist ) or Gandhian tradition.

Pacifism or nonviolence is far more about nonviolence in thoughts than non-violence in actions.

Gandhi said on many occasions said that it was far better to fight without anger than to not fight but think hateful thoughts about someone.

A true pacifist will love their enemy with all their heart and all their soul regardless of what their enemy might do, not because they might benefit from it but because it is the right thing to do and in keeping our own true self.

That is why a pacifist will love someone even if they torture and kill everyone a pacifist knows or cares about. A pacifist will keep loving a sadist even if their own country, culture, tradition and religion is completely destroyed and lost to all posterity.

A pacifist recognizes that pacifism might fail to stop genocide or other atrocities (just as Gandhi recognized that his nonviolence might lead to the death of every Indian).

A pacifist loves everyone, the aggressor and the victim, equally.

A pacifist is an extremely courageous and saintly person. All pacifists deserve the greatest respect and admiration from all of us.

Just imagine how terrible the world would be if we lost our pacifists. If we all lost our innocence and naivety. Imagine if we couldn’t wake up in the morning and see Dennis Kusinich. That would be terrible beyond imagining.

As MJT has said, Dennis Kusinich is a harmless (even lovable) and naïve person. Uninformed and naïve pacifists should be engaged with, and informed about things they are unaware of.

Some on the left are pacifists, others are not. But we should always treat everyone with respect.

Posted by: anand at September 13, 2007 06:17 PM

Bill Roggio has some thoughts on this story. Some interesting comments also incuding a guy who recently had dinner with Sattar and his family

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/09/sheikh_sattar_leader.php

Posted by: joefrommass at September 13, 2007 06:26 PM

In another era, when those on the left weren't so consistently obtuse about such things, and when some of them still unashamedly preferred Western liberal values to barbarism, the socialist George Orwell condemned pacifism:

"In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism."

Posted by: Richard G. Combs at September 13, 2007 06:54 PM

Imagine if we couldn’t wake up in the morning and see Dennis Kusinich. That would be terrible beyond imagining." anand

Well I will have to wait until tomorrow to test out the full proposition, but I'm imagining the lack of Kuchinich as we speak, and it doesn't seem so bad at this point in time. Maybe it's just a morning thing and we could overcome this by waking up later in the day.

Posted by: dougf at September 13, 2007 06:58 PM

...the socialist George Orwell condemned pacifism...

This is one of my favorite Orwell quotes: It is sometimes a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is changing the conditions of warfare. In the next great war, we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him. For those who don't know, a "jingo" is what we would call in modern times "a war hawk."

From the invaluable Wikipedia: In practice, it refers to sections of the general public who advocate the use of threats or of actual force against other countries in order to safeguard a country's national interests.

My man George.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 07:03 PM

Just imagine how terrible the world would be if we lost our pacifists. If we all lost our innocence and naivety.

That's so true. Pacifists are like fluffy kittens. The world would be a sad place without them.

But the world would be a much, much sadder place if they were in charge of anything more complex than a squeaky toy.

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 07:13 PM

My man George.

I'll hazard a guess that the war hawk definition fits the majority of Americans.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 13, 2007 07:14 PM

Mullah Cimoc isn't real, by the way. I think I know who it is (a well-known blogger who rarely posts here), but I'm not sure so I'm not telling.

Could it be - Puce..?

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 07:16 PM

Do Gandhi and other pacifists deserve respect? Are they just cute fluffy kittens? Not in my book. Gandhi condemned the Jews who resisted the Holocaust. "The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife," he said. "They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs." "Collective suicide," he told his biographer, "would have been heroism."

I find that utterly contemptible and vile.

As for dueling Orwell quotes -- well, DPU, Orwell's Pacifism and the War and Reflections on Gandhi are available on line.

Posted by: Richard G. Combs at September 13, 2007 07:36 PM

I'll say this for pacifists: mature democratic societies always have them. Barbaric societies don't.

Germany, for instance, is a better society now that it has too many pacifists than it was when it had too few.

The United States would be a different society without them, and their existence disproves some of the worst propaganda about us. But I do not want them in charge.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 08:16 PM

Is it possible that a large pacifist population can exist in our society only through the security that our military provides for them?

Posted by: joefrommass at September 13, 2007 08:28 PM

As for dueling Orwell quotes -- well, DPU, Orwell's Pacifism and the War and Reflections on Gandhi are available on line.

Read them. Read them in my teens, for that matter, which is now a long time back.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 08:44 PM

Is it possible that a large pacifist population can exist in our society only through the security that our military provides for them?

Well, there's even an Orwell quote for that: Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.

It's easy to be a pacifist when you don't have to pay much of a price for being so. But there's a considerable difference between being a pacifist, and objecting to both the execution and reasons for a war.

I think that because there are some pretty easy arguments against pacifism, many opposed to the war are being painted with that brush. It's easier to mock supposed pacifists than to face up to the fact that many of the criticisms of the war four years ago were right on the money.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 08:49 PM

I'll say this for pacifists: mature democratic societies always have them. Barbaric societies don't.

True, but not because pacifists make societies less barbaric. Barbaric societies don't tolerate pacifists. Free, democratic societies make it possible for pacifists to exist, not the other way around.

Pacifists are the parasites of liberty.

Posted by: Richard G. Combs at September 13, 2007 09:02 PM

The United States would be a different society without them, and their existence disproves some of the worst propaganda about us. But I do not want them in charge.

Southpark put forward the theory that Pacifists serve the purpose of deflecting blame from our country as a whole, just as Hawks serve the purpose of keeping us from getting rolled like a bum. That way, by having a system based on saying one thing and doing another we can have our cake and eat it too.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at September 13, 2007 09:10 PM

You could say that pacifists act as a "conservative" anchor and prevent democratic countries from going militarily off the rails.

Not sure if that's really the case, but they do have a role as long as it isn't an outsized one.

I'm thinking, here, of the Quaker types, not the International ANSWER crowd, which is something else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 09:14 PM

The longer I watch this, the more I come to believe that the worst thing to happen to Western civilization in the last couple of centuries was the British capitulation to Gandhi and his followers.

Modern capitalists aren't imperialists, despite the myths of the Left, because in a modern economy conquest doesn't pay, it costs. The truth of the matter is that the Brits, exhausted by WWII, couldn't afford to keep India, but they didn't want to admit that, and Gandhi offered them a face-saving out. Nice People® respond to pacifists by giving in, and the British wanted to be (and think of themselves as) Nice People®. Gandhi didn't win. England downed bats and forfeited the game.

But that's not how the propaganda goes, and the result is a severe distortion of the debate. The only people that respond to the appeals of pacifists are the ones who shouldn't be targeted by pacifists in the first place. A genuine warmonger need not be troubled by pacifists. If they get in the way, just shoot them -- they're guaranteed not to shoot back.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at September 13, 2007 09:26 PM

"I'm thinking, here, of the Quaker types, not the International ANSWER crowd, which is something else."

I doubt anyone really hates quakers even if they are pacifists. Without law most people would probably rape the guys from ANSWER (not in a gay way...like Vikings).

Posted by: mikek at September 13, 2007 09:44 PM

I wish Iraq's biggest problem was too many pacifists.

Warmongers -- real ones -- are those who cause the most trouble in the world, and those who force people like me to support wars against them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 09:47 PM

Without law most people would probably rape the guys from ANSWER (not in a gay way...like Vikings).

I so rarely actually laugh out loud when reading comments.

"Not in a gay way...like Vikings," I wonder what your history classes were like.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at September 13, 2007 10:30 PM

Isn't "cimoc" spelled backwards something really funny? Me thinks the Mullah HaHa him mo' betta name.

Posted by: LIZ at September 13, 2007 11:03 PM

Rick Locke,

With respect, the UK “AND” India won in India. India today is a united, plural, diverse, free democracy with a rapidly growing economy.

The UK’s institutions and positive traditions lasted and succeeded in independent India. The Indian high quality Indian civil services, armed forces, and older educational institutions are a positive legacy of Britain and its partnership with India.

The UK’s role was to facilitate India’s transformation into a prosperous free democracy with strong institutions, traditions and the rule of law; and then leave. It took way too long, 89 years, but the Brits and Indians jointly succeeded.

The UK and the rest of the world has greatly benefited from India’s success.

The UK made a mistake to wait until 1939 before holding Indian elections. They should have introduced plans to hold free and fair elections, build and strengthen Indian institutions, increase Indian freedoms, as well as accelerate Indian economic development far sooner. They should have also sent substantial real transfers to India to facilitate India’s economic growth and success. They didn’t (unlike the US in the Philippians for example.)

The UK imposed a terrible form of socialism and state control called the “Licence Raj” that stifled India’s private sector and economic growth. They made many other mistakes.

Still, you have to judge the UK’s record by what happened in India after independence. By that measure, the UK won.

Gandhi wanted the UK to win. He very much wanted the UK to leave India as friends. Close friends in fact.

By the way, India fought against Germany quite willingly in WWI and WWII (and Japan as well in WWII). Most of India's freedom fighters backed the UK in both wars.

The UK and the free world could not have won without substantial Indian help.

It is the British Indian Army that fought with and stopped the desert fox Marshall Rommel in North Africa.. The British Indian army marched through Italy.

The British Indian army defeated the Japanese army in 1942, and tied down a huge percentage of the military resources of the Japanese empire between 1942 and 1945.

Rick Locke, in what way was India’s independence a defeat for Britain? I don’t get it.

Posted by: anand at September 13, 2007 11:50 PM

I have listened to ANSWER regarding Iraq many times. I still don't know what they want in Iraq.

Does anyone get it?

I think they want to impose some type of communist dictatorship. But then they strongly oppose the Communist Party of Iraq, and President Talabani (the leader of probably the world's most important communist party today).

Their long term targeted end state often seems deeply confused and inconsistent. They seem deeply internally conflicted. Perhaps what they seek is to establish some type of global communist dictatorship led by them (a set of communist states around the world linked together in some way). The rest is only tactics, and the ends justify the means.

Like true revolutionaries they are willing to destroy Iraq, America or any other country to achieve global revolution, and successful global communism.

The destruction of Iraq might be seen as a terrible and sad sacrifice towards a far larger goal. Sacrificing the few (Iraqis) for the greater good of the many.

Another possibility is that they are woefully uninformed about Iraq and as a result support random, contradictory, and seemingly irrational policies regarding Iraq.

For example they strongly believe that Iraq should not pump much oil out of the ground, despite the fact that most of Iraq’s GDP and the vast majority of the GoI’s revenues come from oil. They appear to believe that the GoI should dramatically cut spending (do they believe that smaller government and slightly ordered chaos is in Iraq’s interest?).

They also believe that the GoI should cut spending on the ISF, and only use them in strange and seemingly irrational ways. They strongly believe that the GoI should accept no help from any country (except North Korea, and maybe Cuba and Venezuela if that) in training and equipping the ISF. They also believe that the GoI should disband in favor of what kind of government? In addition, Iraq shouldn’t trade, interact with or do business with the vast majority of countries in the world.

The more I try to listen to and understand them, the more confused I get. Maybe I am not smart enough to understand what they really want and what they believe in.

They do seem very hawkish and militaristic. Their hawkish instincts scare me more than most other hawks.

Posted by: anand at September 14, 2007 12:14 AM

Logic dictates that ANSWER must be a front group. They support North Korea, right? No one on the planet would support that horror out of principle. The only explanation is that NK had some pocket money to spend on grass-roots public relations and these were the losers willing to take their money.

Really it's a certainty isn't it? Dictatorships always have money to spend on propaganda, front groups and the like, and it's a certainty that there will be a bunch of horrible losers willing to take their money.

Oh and the "end racism" in their name, what have they ever done about racism?

Quick look at Wikipedia:

As of December 2006, ANSWER's Steering Committee consists of:
* Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines
* Free Palestine Alliance — U.S.
* Haiti Support Network
* Kensington Welfare Rights Union
* Korea Truth Commission
* Muslim Student Association — National
* Mexico Solidarity Network
* Nicaragua Network
* Partnership for Civil Justice — LDEF
* Party for Socialism and Liberation
* IFCO/Pastors for Peace

Only three of those groups are real enough to have wikipedia entries of their own.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at September 14, 2007 12:32 AM

Let them kill each other and blame the Americans, Zio-Cons etc. They can't take responsibility for their own deeds !!!!

Posted by: Abe Bird at September 14, 2007 02:34 AM

To anand.
1) Not only Indian Army fought in North Africa and Italy in WW II, not even mainly, it is more complicated than that.
2) Never cross my mind and I dont very much like it when I put it on the screen. But is it possible that a main reason for the great success of India (which seems to have almost a majority of Muslims) lie in the fact that some body took care to separate very nationalistic and religiously fanatic Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh from India (compare the economy of the three) and what will happen when one day the Muslims in India will get the wrong idea? I hear that strange things are hapenning to the 2nd and 3rd generation Turks in Germany, not to mention the Muslims in the rest of Europe. Notice the very unpleasant way by which China is taking care of the very many Muslims there. Not very political correct thoughts, but can some body show me I am out of my mind here?
3) To Dan, practical Pacifism is associated with genocide, think about Tibet now, and the European Roma (Gips.) in WW II.

Posted by: Hazbani at September 14, 2007 04:15 AM

Independence for India was high on Attlee's agenda before WW II. It was a great success for Britain, except for the appalling number of deaths involved in the partition.

It was bound to come. The US had to fight for its independence, but Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand had been given theirs. India had to follow.

Now it is the world's largest democracy - not without problems, but what country doesn't have problems? Perhaps if China had been a part of the British Empire, it too would be a democracy today.

Posted by: Don Cox at September 14, 2007 04:39 AM

Edgar,

Standing by and doing nothing leads to genocide.

But standing by and doing nothing is NOT pacifism. Pacifism is actually quite active. Pressing for peace, and doing all you can to ward off violence is NOT standing by and doing nothing. I think you guys misunderstand what pacifism really is.

Posted by: Dan at September 14, 2007 05:39 AM

But standing by and doing nothing is NOT pacifism. Pacifism is actually quite active. Pressing for peace, and doing all you can to ward off violence is NOT standing by and doing nothing.

What have pacifists done to stop the ongoing war in the Congo? What actions have they taken to stop the genocide in the Sudan? Where are the pacifists who are willing to become human shields to protect Israeli children from terrorist attacks? They could use you in Sderot right now.

Posted by: mary at September 14, 2007 05:54 AM

Do Gandhi and other pacifists deserve respect? [...]
-Richard G. Combs

Only for their courage, not the practical results of their philosophy, or their understanding of history. It takes a certain amount of guts to face an opponent who employs the use of force without allowing yourself to respond in kind, especially considering the historical precedents (which I suspect most pacifists are ignorant of).

With that said, Gandhi was very, very lucky. If India had been a possession of just about any government other than the British, he would have been killed and the rest of the planet never would have heard of the guy.

-----

You could say that pacifists act as a "conservative" anchor and prevent democratic countries from going militarily off the rails.
-MJT

People who won't resort to force even in extremis can be safely ignored.

What keeps democratic countries from going off the rails is that the important positions are filled by elected officials accountable to the electorate, and those officials are thrown out of office if they make too many bad decisions, which is what happened in the 2006 elections.

-----

"Not in a gay way...like Vikings," I wonder what your history classes were like.
-Josh Scholar

Google 'klámhogg'

-----

Re ANSWER-

Their long term targeted end state often seems deeply confused and inconsistent.
-anand

Their desired end state is completely consistent- they want the US to lose. Everything else is negotiable.

They do seem very hawkish and militaristic. Their hawkish instincts scare me more than most other hawks.

They believe the ends justify the means, and groups like ANSWER are trying to build a utopia. Philosophically, they have a great deal in common with the jihadis, and that may explain some of the affinity between far-left radical groups and muslim extremists.

Posted by: rosignol at September 14, 2007 06:39 AM

Sheikh Sattar's leadership style will soon be unfolded for all to see when his successor is chosen. The succession will be pivotal, not just in who is chosen but how he is chosen. If the successor is chosen peacefully then the Awakening will strengthen and there can be more hope for the future of Iraq. If it becomes violent.... Talk about setbacks.
On another note, Mr. Totten, did you by chance catch a story about Qaddafi's son either yesterday or the day before? The love affair with junior seems to continue. Anyway the story was about junior's desire to start up eco-tourism. Would like to know your thoughts on that, don't remember if the eco-tourism came up in your "Brother Leader" article.

Posted by: Kevin at September 14, 2007 07:26 AM

What have pacifists done to stop the ongoing war in the Congo? What actions have they taken to stop the genocide in the Sudan?

Probably the same as the war hawks. Diddly Squat.

My goodness, everyone is full of themselves these days.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 07:29 AM

DPU,

Using the Wikipedia definition of war hawk, it is very unlikely that war hawks would support using military force to stop genocide unless doing so directly served a national security interest.

For example, I opposed sending troops into Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia for such a reason.

Pacifist, on the other hand, like to claim the moral high ground by opposing the use of force, but then seem to ignore genocides perpetrated around the world while focusing their ire and attention on the actions of the U.S. or other western governments.

Such behavior undermines their credibility.

Just my .02 cents.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 14, 2007 07:52 AM

rosignol:

The only end state for islamists is their way or six feet under. There is no negotiation. UBL's last two videos make that clear.
To borrow from Star Trek:TNG - "Resistance is futile". Hey, a new motto for the islamists.lol
Appropriate I think since those familiar with TNG knows what happened to the Borg.

Posted by: Kevin at September 14, 2007 07:54 AM

dpu - Sorry, but when Dan talked about pacifists efforts, as he said - "Pressing for peace, and doing all you can to ward off violence.." - I thought he was talking about pacifists pressing for peace and doing all they can to ward off violence. Silly me.

Now that you've thrown some verbal (or pixelated?) poo at the "warhawks", who had nothing to do with Dan's argument in the first place, I can see how I was mistaken.

Never underestimate the value of a poo-flinging response. Thanks for clarifying things.

Posted by: mary at September 14, 2007 08:01 AM

rosignol - "What keeps democratic countries from going off the rails is that the important positions are filled by elected officials accountable to the electorate..."

that and an armed citizenry.

Posted by: heidianne jackson at September 14, 2007 08:58 AM

I'm familiar with the arguments surrounding Indian independence, and even agree with some of them.

At the end of the process Gandhi and his family were In Charge, and the Brits weren't. Gandhi therefore won and the Brits lost, regardless of "nuance". Pacifists have been using that triumph as a way of asserting that pacifism can win ever since. It even appears partially true, in the sense that pacifists can win if the cost to the non-participants is neglected (vide Cambodia).

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at September 14, 2007 09:00 AM

Does anyone here actually know a real pacifist?
I don't personally know one and I live in one of the bluest regions in the country, and no, being critical of our foreign policy for the last seven years does not constitute a pacifist, even if you're ANSWER. I think a Quaker would qualify, but c'mon, they are so irrelevant to anything. As Dan pointed out above, real pacifism is poorly understood. I can totally connect with how Anand explained pacifism in the Ghandian tradition and it's distinction between pacifism in action and pacifism in thoughts. The key is to not responding to hate with more hate, but finding the most apropriate and compassionate response. Being involved in some martial arts for awhile, I can totally see how this principal could be applied. My teacher is good enough to respond to a hateful, malevolent attacker with the worst intentions and dispose of him with swift efficiency without an ounce of hate arising in his heart. I'd say he could even do it with a certain amount of compassion, taking care not to needlessly punish the attacker by severely injuring him. It's about learning to tame the ego. He's probably the closest thing to a pacifist that I know and he could probably kill someone with his bare hands if he really wanted to. This pacifism is to be respected.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 09:06 AM

I think we can all agree that if the prisoners at Abu Grhaib had gotten the Comfy Chair treatment instead of the electro-shock-rape-attack-dog treatment things may have been a little bit smoother from the beginning in Iraq.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 09:17 AM

Oh.. and Don Cox, Ireland didn't fight for it's independence? Huh?

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 09:20 AM

Does anyone here actually know a real pacifist?

What does it matter? It's Pacifist Dog-Pile Day. Pile on the latest whipping-boy of the prattlesphere, filthy fifth-columnist back-stabbers nowarnicks.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 09:33 AM

I've never been able to understand how the principles of pacifism can be squared away with the very core of existence, ie, survival. Dan's version is warding off violence. Ghandi's version, if the above reference to the Holocaust is true, advocates lovingly embracing the violence. The former equates to pushing chairs in the killer's path, the latter quietly sitting down in the chair.

Suicide in the face of extraordinary pain, whether physical or psychological, is understandable. But advocating submitting one's life to a killer's desire to kill bears no resemblance to even that.

Another quandry is the rationale of embracing killing in order to cease future killing. In real life on this planet, killers stop killing for what reasons? Lots. Nothing left to kill always holds a top slot. But a few more...they tire of it, they are running low on food providers, wealth providers, servants, slaves, and people to pleasure them. Or someone simply steps in and kills them first, takes away their ability to kill, or makes it worth their while in some fashion to cease the killing. It might have occurred, but I just can't recall someone ever saying...oh, man, I can't kill that guy because he wants to be killed because I want to kill him. Dying to survive. I gotta be missing a key piece of the puzzle.

Posted by: allan at September 14, 2007 09:33 AM

There are no true pacifists anywhere, ever. Not Jesus. Not Ghandi. None. A true pacifist is a universal appeaser.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 09:38 AM

allan,
The very nature of the world precludes the survival of a true pacifist. Much like altruism, there is no such thing except in the imagination of men.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 09:42 AM

Kevin,

I think Sheikh Sattar's brother was chosen to replace him locally, but I don't know if he will be replacing him at the head of the council.

Libya would be a good place for ecotourism, actually. The desert is amazing, and blessedly not oppressisve due to its remoteness from the capital.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 09:45 AM

Dogwood: it is very unlikely that war hawks would support using military force to stop genocide unless doing so directly served a national security interest. For example, I opposed sending troops into Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia for such a reason.

Well, somebody supported sending troops to the Balkans, and it wasn't the pacifists.

I was one of those people.

The last thing Europe needed (not to mention the Yugoslavs) was another metastasizing genocide on the continent.

That action may not have served our national interests narrowly defined, but we are human beings, not just Americans. Would it have been okay to leave Hitler alone during World War II if he promised to leave us alone and we knew he was serious? That's what Pat Buchanan thinks we should have done.

I support the use of force to prevent, stop, and punish genocide wherever possible. The U.S. military can't do everything by itself, obviously, and it would be nice if more civilized countries acted a little less selfishly once in a while.

One of Barak Obama's foreign policy advisors, Samantha Power, wrote a very good book about this called The Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 09:53 AM

Well, somebody supported sending troops to the Balkans, and it wasn't the pacifists.

Obviously.

I opposed U.S involvement in Bosnia because I believed then and believe now that a conflict of that size and nature could have and should have been handled by Europe.

Would it have been okay to leave Hitler alone during World War II if he promised to leave us alone and we knew he was serious?

Hardly, since German occupation of the European continent and north Africa was not in the national interest of the U.S., but there was little chance that Bosnia was going to morph into the next continental-wide war. The analogy seems a bit overwrought.

That's what Pat Buchanan thinks we should have done.

He's an isolationist, I'm not.

That action may not have served our national interests narrowly defined, but we are human beings, not just Americans.

True, but we also have limited financial and military resources, and a public that is reluctant to wage war. Therefore, the military should not be used to intervene in every low-grade military conflict or ethnic genocidal campaign, but used for genuine threats to national security or interests.

The U.S. military can't do everything by itself, obviously, and it would be nice if more civilized countries acted a little less selfishly once in a while.

Other countries will not begin to act less selfishly as long as Uncle Sam is quick to respond with the 82nd Airborne or a carrier battle group.

If Europe and other countries have to choose between 1) Oh shit, we better take care of this, or 2) Call the U.S. for assistance, then they are going to choose number 2 because it is easier and cheaper, for them at least.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 14, 2007 10:27 AM

I support the use of force to prevent, stop, and punish genocide wherever possible

One thing that's going to come out of the Iraq boondoggle and that's going to be a trend toward isolationism for the next generation or so. I welcome it.

America is not the default cleaner of other peoples' messes. There are 196 other countries in the world. Let them get off their sniping bums and do something productive for a change.

Posted by: ZZZ at September 14, 2007 10:47 AM

Perhaps we need to add another category to this discussion.

War Hawk: supports the use of military force in the pursuit of national security or interests

Humanitarian: supports the use of military force to limit or eliminate human suffering caused by famine, genocide, etc.

Pacifist: opposes the use of military force in favor of non-violent alternatives.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 14, 2007 11:08 AM

One thing that's going to come out of the Iraq boondoggle and that's going to be a trend toward isolationism for the next generation or so. I welcome it.

I think ZZZ is right about that. I've read Fukuyama worrying about this as well. This war may turn out to be the worst possible thing for the neoconservative cause. Though I don't welcome this, because like Fukuyama, I think the US has the potential to be a humanistic force in the world.

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 11:09 AM

Thank you Micheal.
Hopefully his brother is politically cut from the same cloth and a national leader can be effectively chosen.
Provided that what we have seen is genuine of the Awakening leadership. Duplicity is unfortunately the name of political alliance.

Pat Buchanan is/was wrong about Europe not being in our interest during WWII. Our economic ties with Europe were far stronger then than now. We needed their markets and goods and vice-versa desperately. A Nazi Europe would have closed those markets, more so than the Depression. The U.S. Depression would have dragged for generations possibly ending up in a fascist takeover.

Posted by: Kevin at September 14, 2007 11:16 AM

Though I don't welcome this, because like Fukuyama, I think the US has the potential to be a humanistic force in the world.

I'm in complete agreement with this. There was real hope for a while that we were seeing a new age of humanitarian intervention with the US at the forefront, and that this would bring about some important change. That's pretty much gone now, and I don't see much hope for revival for at least a decade.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 11:25 AM

ZZZ,
John is right in that the US has the potential to be a humanitarian force in the world.
But on purely (more cynical) national security and quality of life grounds: Isolationism has been tried before here in the US (both before the World Wars and in the 1990's by and large). It has been proven to not work out well for the benefit of Americans in so many ways for so many reasons.
The world is getting smaller. Isolationism was only quasi-possible with largely negative consequences in the early 1900's. It is virtually impossible now, period. It's something you'll just have to accept and live with.
Isolationism has many aspects that sound appealing to many, but it is a phantom cause regardless of whether the effects truly ever ended up being positive, because it is a cause which has aims that are plainly not possible (I happen to personally put Pacifism in this same category given the time-proven Human Condition).

Posted by: Joe at September 14, 2007 11:30 AM
This assassination is a more grim confirmation of something said last month by Turki al- Rasheed, a Saudi reformer, about Gemayel's defeat in a Lebanese election:
"It's the kiss of death," said Turki al- Rasheed, a Saudi reformer who watched Sunday's elections closely. "The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win."
Not a good prognosis for future developments, IMO. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 11:31 AM

An isolationist America will cease being a sole superpower and will have to make room for whichever other nations that want the job. In theory this is fine, but look at who else wants the job. It is not Britain or any other nation whose values we share.

Our values are dominant in the world because we have the power and money to make it so. I'm not saying I want America to rule the world. (Good Lord, please no.) What I am saying is that I don't want the values of a nation ruled by a dictatorial regime to become dominant in the world, which is what would have happened if (for example) the Soviet Union won the Cold War.

Raise your hand if you want Russia and China to throw their weight around the world more than we do. Would that be a better world? Iraq is a mess, but look at what happened to Tibet and Chechnya.

If a superpower replaces us that values liberal democracy and human rights even imperfectly (as we do), that will be fine with me. I'm tired of us being the "boss" of the world. But that will not happen, not yet.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 11:36 AM

"One thing that's going to come out of the Iraq boondoggle and that's going to be a trend toward isolationism for the next generation or so. I welcome it."

With apologies to Leon ---- You might not be interested in the WORLD, but the WORLD is interested in YOU.

You can run but nowadays you literally can't hide. At the very best a neo-isolationist would be in the position famously illustrated by Michael Corleone.

" Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

Every Time.

Isolationism is dreaming in technicolor. On crack.

Posted by: dougf at September 14, 2007 11:48 AM

Joe;

We have been generally isolationist when it came to Africa's endless conflicts. There have been no negative consequences for Americans. Most Americans sure don't regret staying out of Rwanda.

At any given time there are something like 15 conflicts raging around the globe. Most times it's better just to let these wars burn themselves out. Our soldiers lives should be not be taken so cheaply that they should be tossed in every third world mudpit. Foreigners do have to learn to solve their own problems. War is painful but some folks have to learn that the hard way.

Posted by: ZZZ at September 14, 2007 11:50 AM

For all you "do-gooders" out there that live in the U.S.; why not take care of people in your own country first instead of other countries?

Or, volunteer your time and YOUR tax money for those people/nations/regions/races/other groups that you care so much about.

If it is not in our National Security Interest, however that might be defined (and the more narrow and restricted, the better), I do not want our troops lives or tax money being spent on it.

"...humanitarian intervention with the US at the forefront, and that this would bring about some important change..." Please. Again, you are welcome to spend your time and YOUR money on this venture, leave the U.S. and my tax dollars out of it.

Here is a thought; get the U.N. out of my country, stop wasting our money on it, and you could probably talk me into spending a good portion of those saved monies on your "feel good" projects.

I do not care about Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Afhanastan, ........ except as it affects our National Security Interest. Nor do I believe I have a right to spend your tax dollars for those countries. If I want to do something for those countries I can give my time or my money.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at September 14, 2007 11:57 AM

Please. Again, you are welcome to spend your time and YOUR money on this venture, leave the U.S. and my tax dollars out of it.

Are you under the assumption that I have any control over it?

I was glad top see the US at the forefront because, as Michael commented, I appreciate the values of the American culture, and as a liberal democracy the US has a vested interest in both humanitarian intervention and stable democracies. Russia and/or China may not share those values.

As far as my own time and tax dollars, well, we already do a fair bit of peacekeeping and democracy promotion, and I contribute to international causes that do the same.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 12:08 PM

Oh man, the thought of Russia or China taking over the US role in the world sends shivers that not even bathing in lava could remove.

Unfortunately one day the US will cease to be the "boss". And talk about a power vacuum.

As for isolationism, fortunately plenty on both the liberal and conservative "see the light." They just don't agree on which map to use.

Posted by: Kevin at September 14, 2007 12:28 PM

With the spread of islamofascism, it's all involves national security interests. A region in chaos with no threat of western(US) intervention will naturally draw the radicals of the world

Posted by: Kevin at September 14, 2007 12:33 PM

John,
How can any nation afford to be isolationist? Especially the USA! Our interests are literally everywhere. The USA is the keystone to the arch of the global political and economic structure. Isolation at this point would be backwards and weak. The whole world would suffer in the shake-up and history shows it would likely invite a maniac to take power. Perhaps down the road when we have robotic labor and an abundant, secure energy source, we can sit back and laugh at the rest of the world like its on TV. But not likely...

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 12:36 PM

Ron Synder,

The problem with your take on this is that you don't always know which country's problems will metastasize and how.

Imagine if Al Qaeda chose Bosnia and Kosovo as the next big thing after Afghanistan. A few Al Qaeda guys did go there, but NATO was there in force and AQ wasn't able to do much. The locals rejected the offers of "help" because they were already getting real help from the West. They might not have rejected Al Qaeda if they were more thoroughly ground down by the Serbs and desperate for whatever assistance showed up.

We didn't think about this at the time, but we do know from history that festering wounds on the planet often spread far beyond their borders. Who would have thought Afghanistan would be the point of origin for the worst attack on America ever?

We live in one world, like it or not. The desire to save others is partly "do gooderism," but there is more to it than that.

The world "woke up" when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, but everyone should have gotten a clue when he gassed the Kurds three years earlier.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 12:50 PM

The world "woke up" when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait...

No, they didn't. Iran and Iraq had been fighting a literally hellish war for a decade prior to that, and no one gave a damn one way or another other than foreign policy wonks. As far as Hussein invading Kuwait, few had heard about it before, and few cared about it, particularly since Kuwait itself was a dictatorship as well.

It became a bit more important after Saudi Arabia and Syria invited the US to do something about it. And as Hussein apparently thought that he had been given the green light by the US for the invasion, he probably wet himself at that point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 12:57 PM

"No, they didn't. Iran and Iraq had been fighting a literally hellish war for a decade prior to that, and no one gave a damn one way or another other than foreign policy wonks.--dpu

Of course people other than 'foreign policy wonks' cared about that war. And as was said at the time the prevailing outlook was on the lines of "too bad they can't both lose". You are confusing not giving a damn in general, with not giving a damn about the particular combatants in a specific conflict. If someone were to invent a time machine so that we could go back to those days of Iraq/Iran quagmire, it would still be ' too bad they both can't lose". What else could you really say about it?

Grim but true.

The Saddam in Kuwait problem was merely realpolitik in action, and not the dawn of any sort of 'new era'. Saddam in control of that area would have been seriously 'problematic' so he got the boot under the guise of 'protecting' the Kuwaitis, who in actuality no-one really overly cared about. They were never very 'sympathetic' victims.

The only wake up call involved was 9-11. Absent that deus ex machina no-one would give a rat's a** what the Middle East did to itself. The concerns arise solely because of what the pathologies bred therein might do to us. It is the lack of a 'quarantine' ability that is the motivating factor for 'interventions' of any sort of nature. Were it just a matter of the inmates trashing ONLY their own asylum the attitude would STILL be ' too bad they both(or all) can't lose'.

It's the export of those 'losses' that underlies the 'awakening'.

Posted by: dougf at September 14, 2007 01:25 PM

The only wake up call involved was 9-11. Absent that deus ex machina no-one would give a rat's a** what the Middle East did to itself.

As a huge amount of a precious non-renewable resource is found in that region, I would hope that quite a few people in positions of influence would give a rat's ass about the region.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 01:31 PM

The problem with your take on this is that you don't always know which country's problems will metastasize and how.

That's still no reason to get involved in every conflict on the chance that it may metastasize into something bigger. We are limited in resources and money, and our troopers' lives have value.

If it doesn't affect our security, we should stay out of other peoples' problems. The public is moving toward that conviction. Not too many Americans are clamoring for US intervention in Darfur.

Saving Kuwait resulted in American troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia. That action put Osama in a very bad mood. What the do-gooders aren't mentioning is that interventions can sometimes have negative consequences for the intervener.

Posted by: ZZZ at September 14, 2007 01:38 PM

"As a huge amount of a precious non-renewable resource is found in that region, I would hope that quite a few people in positions of influence would give a rat's ass about the region.--dpu

Yeah but ONLY in the sense that the OIL must keep flowing. That is hardly 'humanitarian' in any sense of the word. If the OIL could be extracted while the whole place was tearing itself apart, that would probably be considered as 'acceptable'.

Of course people care in the 'must have OIL' way, but that is quite different than 'caring' about the region for some 'elevated' reason.

At some point the OIL will be gone. So will the 'caring'. Well apart from that annoying 'quarantine' thingy.

Posted by: dougf at September 14, 2007 01:39 PM

This is a bit, well, a lot, off topic, but does anyone know the skinny about the Israeli warplane-Syrian confrontation last week. They are all being uncharacteristically hush-hush about it. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Kummin at September 14, 2007 01:52 PM

AQI has claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Posted by: Dan at September 14, 2007 01:56 PM

But you don't imply this in your title. You imply that indeed it WAS Al-Qaeda and none other. Your main text is much better because you stick with the facts we do know, which is simply that a roadside bomb killed him. As to who planted the roadside bomb, at this point it is an unknown. Heck, I'm actually surprised conservatives haven't claimed this was the work of Iran!--Dan

AQI has claimed responsibility for the assassination.---Dan

How apt.

Posted by: dougf at September 14, 2007 02:09 PM

Michael,

Raise your hand if you want Russia and China to throw their weight around the world more than we do. Would that be a better world? Iraq is a mess, but look at what happened to Tibet and Chechnya.

Are you saying that things are worse in Tibet and Chechnya than they are in Iraq? I can see Chechnya competing with Iraq for being one of the worst places in the world, but Tibet? Interestingly, the reason Tibetans haven't been as violent against the Chinese as the Chechens have against the Russians, and the Iraqis against the Americans is because they believe in non-violent forms of dissent and change.

We think having Russia or China "rule the world" is somehow one of the worst things possible in this world, but is that really the case? I'm not making a case for them to replace America, far from it, but I'm trying to debunk this fear, (along with the fears that keep us in Iraq). We don't really need to police this world; it really isn't going to go to hell in a handbasket if we somehow stop interfering in the internal affairs of this or that nation. In fact, things might actually be better off if we stop interfering and let other nations do what they want.

A few Al Qaeda guys did go there, but NATO was there in force and AQ wasn't able to do much. The locals rejected the offers of "help" because they were already getting real help from the West. They might not have rejected Al Qaeda if they were more thoroughly ground down by the Serbs and desperate for whatever assistance showed up.

I don't know. I don't think the Bosnians or Albanians would ever link themselves to radical Islamists like Al-Qaeda. First of all, their goals are completely different. Secondly, Albanians and Bosnians really don't have an interest in creating Islamic states as Al-Qaeda sees them. Culturally speaking, they are far closer to the Europeans than Middle Eastern cultures.

And this is where I just don't get this whole fear that many conservatives have towards Al-Qaeda. They compare Al-Qaeda to real powers of old, like the Soviet Union and the Nazis. But Al-Qaeda is an ant next to a lion when comparing them to the Nazis or the Soviets. Can Al-Qaeda ever mobilize an army as powerful as that of the Nazis or Soviets? Never. Because they will never be able to control their own state. This is their greatest failing as an organization. They act outside the state, and as such, will always be extremely weak. Their power comes from instigating fear in the populace of large or small states, but beyond that and a few killings here and there, they don't have much power beyond organized crime syndicates.

Real power lies in the state, not in NGOs. Look at the battles between Germany and Russia during both World War I and World War II to see real power, to see real destruction. Where else can you find wars that claim lives in the millions and still not end a war? This is a power that Al-Qaeda will never have. Why do we treat them as if they will?

Posted by: Dan at September 14, 2007 02:10 PM

Dan states a world dominated by Russia or China isn't so bad, and asks why so many people would view a terrorist organization as a grave threat that needs to be responded to & taken as seriously as other grave threats in the past.

I really don't think much of a counter-argument is even really needed here.

As for his curiosities on why we get so hyped up about what destructive capability terrorists possess: I don't know why Americans take the threat of 3,000 civilians being targeted and murdered here at home so seriously. I guess we're just funny that way.

Posted by: Joe at September 14, 2007 03:27 PM

Dan: "And this is where I just don't get this whole..."

Enough said...

Posted by: John at September 14, 2007 03:49 PM

Dan,

And this is where I just don't get this whole fear that many conservatives have towards Al-Qaeda.

Amen. So long as Al Qaeda doesn't get its mitts on any nukes, it is a weak force.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 14, 2007 04:15 PM

Dan: And this is where I just don't get this whole fear that many conservatives have towards Al-Qaeda. They compare Al-Qaeda to real powers of old, like the Soviet Union and the Nazis. But Al-Qaeda is an ant next to a lion when comparing them to the Nazis or the Soviets

I don't know, Dan. I'm not a conservative, but I saw, up close and in person, an entire city of 450,000 people chewed to pieces by Al Qaeda. You saw the pictures.

We are not talking about an Islamic version of the Irish Republican Army here.

The reason they aren't able to take over states is because we prevent them from doing so with military force.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 04:20 PM

Al Qaeda would have a statelet in Iraq if the United States withdrew its armed forces last year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 04:22 PM

Dan-

"Real power lies in the state, not in NGOs"

Who won the war last year between the "NGO" Hezbollah and the state of Israel?

Who would you decribe as winning the war in Iraq-the United States of America or the insurgents?

Power that cannot be exerted for political or other reasons isn't real power.

Warfare between armies is not the 21st century way of doing things. Instead, our enemies find other ways to wage war against us and our allies. Iran is doing it through proxy against us and Israel; Saudi Arabia is doing it through Wahhabi teachings. CAIR and other Islamic advocacy groups do it by claiming Islamophobia whenever they can.

We will not lose the war against Islamic terrorism to a conquering Army-at leasst, not anytime soon. We will lose it because the conflict changes our character for the worse, to the point where we would not recognize ourselves.

We have already ceded ground when our newspapers refuse to print the Mohammed cartoons, or when the Washington Post refuses to publish some innocuous Opus cartoons. We cede ground when people reporting suspicious activities are threatened with lawsuits. We cede ground when boys and girls are separated in public schools and granted prayer time. We cede ground when veiled women in Canada can vote without showing their faces. We cede ground when a German judge rules that a woman cannot divorce her husband because that is Islamic law. We cede ground when adult Muslims rioters in France are identified as "Asian youths." We cede ground every time we make an accomodation to Islam that contradicts fundamental Western values.

So one way we can lose the war is by creating a "separate but equal" circumstance for Muslims in the West that is essentially dictated by Muslims. Europe, then Canada is at more risk than the US because of the demographic trends in those countries.

The second way to lose the war is through a victory that changes our essential character. Imagine a successful mass casualty NBC attack in the future-the outcry for a response would be incredible. The response may be external, but one lesson from Iraq is to make sure US troops do not stay involved for long at all. That may mean a nuclear repsonse; it may mean carpet bombing; it may mean a tsunami like invasion and then pullback. Whatever the external resposnse is, the American public will not worry about "winning hearts and minds"-we already tried that in Iraq.

If the response is internal (for example, because an "NGO" pulled off the operation and we cannot trace it back to a sponsoring country) then our civil liberties will be sharply curtailed in order to prevent an event like this from happening again. Cameras may be everywhere; license plates may have RFID in them so the movements of cars can be tracked; communications may be routinely intercepted; international commerce may grind to a halt.

That's how we lose to Islamic terrorism-by changing from an open, optimistic, humane society to an isolated, fearful, and callous one.

Posted by: MartyH at September 14, 2007 04:23 PM

And Al Qaeda had effectively taken over Afghanistan. And we all know what happened as a result.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 04:23 PM

MJT: Al Qaeda had effectively taken over Afghanistan

Huh? I know the Taliban had control over Afghanistan for a few years. But that's not the same thing as Al Qaeda. They might have been harboring terrorists but weren't letting Bin Laden run the government.

Posted by: Edgar at September 14, 2007 04:34 PM

Bin Laden didn't run the government, but what's the difference between the way Al Qaeda ran Ramadi and the way the Taliban ran Afghanistan? None that I am aware of. They were practically one and the same, and they still are. Bin Laden didn't need to run the government in Afghanistan because Mullah Omar ran it precisely the same way he would have ran it. Afghanistan was the same place whether Bin Laden himself was in charge of garbage and tax collection or not.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 04:42 PM

MJT: The reason they aren't able to take over states is because we prevent them from doing so with military force.

Just us Americans? Other people don't seem too enthused about being conquered by Al Qaeda, either. And some of them do a pretty good job holding them off. Saddam Hussein, for instance.

Al Qaeda only gets openings in failed states... like the one we just created. And the only reason it gets so many recruits is because we're there. We didn't create Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but we created the conditions for the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 14, 2007 04:51 PM

Creamy: we created the conditions for the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Fine. Should we just leave and let them have it then?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 04:59 PM

MartyH,

The terrorists win... when you define victory downward.

Terror is a tactic, and it's never going away entirely. It's a fact of life in many countries around the world already. We've been adapting to it for decades -- we didn't even have baggage inspection in the US until after DB Cooper's stunt in 1971. We'll continue to adapt.

I call that a good life. You call that defeat.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 14, 2007 05:22 PM

Creamy,

So your answer to Michael's question is yes? Or no?

Posted by: Dogwood at September 14, 2007 05:26 PM

I didn't mean that question above to be as snarky as it appears. I just find it slightly exasperating to be told that Al Qaeda isn't a serious threat because they don't have a state when I just got home from a place that would be their "state" if Dan had his way last year.

Fair enough that AQI wouldn't have taken over Ramadi if we never showed up, but it's just as true that they would have held onto Ramadi if we left too soon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 05:30 PM

MJT: I just got home from a place that would be their "state" if Dan had his way last year.

Er... weren't you just chiding people for saying Dan was a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda?

Posted by: Edgar at September 14, 2007 05:35 PM

If the United States is not the dominant power in the world, another country (or countries) will replace her.

For those wishing for a withdrawal of the US from the world (broadly speaking), the question arises: What country do you wish to replace the US as that great power?

Because again, as history illustrates, someone will replace us.

Posted by: SteveMG at September 14, 2007 05:40 PM

What chance does Western values have when Michael is seriously debating with the likes of Dan while telling Patrick to cut it out? This comment thread epitomizes the destruction of the United States.

Posted by: Kenneth at September 14, 2007 05:46 PM

Kenneth: This comment thread epitomizes the destruction of the United States.

Make yourself a mock-chicken sandwich.

Posted by: Edgar at September 14, 2007 05:55 PM

Should we just leave and let them have it then?

Leave? Maybe. Leave and let Al Qaeda have Iraq? Not the same thing. They're one of many players and they have a lot of enemies. I wouldn't put my money on them.

Iraq has its own dynamic, and we are less in control of events there than we would like to believe. That's one big reason I think your dispatch on the The Future of Iraq stands out. It's rich and readable, like all your work. It's singularly coherent in support of its theme. It's also your most perceptive piece and I believe, prescient.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 14, 2007 05:58 PM

Edgar: Er... weren't you just chiding people for saying Dan was a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda?

Yes. There is a world of difference between advocating a counterproductive policy and being a terrorist propagandist. But you know that already.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:24 PM

Kenneth: This comment thread epitomizes the destruction of the United States.

You have obviously never been to a ruined country.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:26 PM

Creamy: It's singularly coherent in support of its theme. It's also your most perceptive piece and I believe, prescient.

Thanks. But I didn't create any deliberate theme. I just described what I saw and heard, like I also did in Ramadi. I would do the same for every part of Iraq, but Iraq is big.

I'm not done writing about Ramadi, though. I have four more pieces coming, plus a video.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:28 PM

This comment thread epitomizes the destruction of the United States.

Drama queen.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 06:32 PM

Michael,

You said that Dan would have wanted al-Qaeda to take over Ramadi. And that's only a advocating a "counterproductive policy"?

Sounds more like being on the enemy's side, if you ask me.

Posted by: Edgar at September 14, 2007 06:35 PM

Michael:
Complex question but I'm sure many of us would like any of your thoughts/views on it.

Part of the debate here in the US is how much AQI is connected to or operating on behalf of AQ. The NY Times, for example, calls them Al-qaeda in Mesopotamia and (generally) explains the movement as being (largely) independent of al-Qaeda central.

Is AQI essentially a "franchise" of AQ? Or is the relationship much closer?

Posted by: SteveMG at September 14, 2007 06:37 PM

Edgar: You said that Dan would have wanted al-Qaeda to take over Ramadi.

I'm saying Dan isn't thinking his position all the way through, not that he's pro-terrorist. Come on, Edgar, you get the difference, right?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:42 PM

SteveMG: Is AQI essentially a "franchise" of AQ?

Yes.

All Al Qaeda groups are "franchises." That's how Al Qaeda has been structured all along.

The "liberals" are correct in this argument, but it does not mean what they think it means.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:44 PM

Oh. "Had his way" as in the policies he wanted put in place were put in place (i.e. withdrawal).

Sorry.

Posted by: Edgar at September 14, 2007 06:49 PM

All Al Qaeda groups are "franchises." That's how Al Qaeda has been structured all along.

Well, how much do they act independently of AQ?

Recall the intercepted messages from Zarqawi to Zawahiri? At that time, it seemed to me that much of what AQ in Iraq was doing was under the (general) direction of Zawahiri/AQ.

If, for example, AQ told AQI to leave Iraq, would they leave?

Thanks for all your terrific work.

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at September 14, 2007 06:51 PM

SteveMG: If, for example, AQ told AQI to leave Iraq, would they leave?

I don't know. Some of them, probably.

?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:58 PM

Edgar: Oh. "Had his way" as in the policies he wanted put in place were put in place (i.e. withdrawal)

Yes.

I wonder if this sort of statement is misunderstood often.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 06:59 PM

And this is where I just don't get this whole fear that many conservatives have towards Al-Qaeda. They compare Al-Qaeda to real powers of old, like the Soviet Union and the Nazis. But Al-Qaeda is an ant next to a lion when comparing them to the Nazis or the Soviets.

It's very strange to be agreeing with Dan (especially given his horrific attitude towards Israel), but he's right here. Although terrorism does have the ability to destroy societies, militarily, al Qaeda is an ant compared with a powerful military fascist force like WWII Germany.

Look at our current enemies - Ahmadinejad is a shabby punk who wouldn't qualify for a job as a pizza delivery guy. They're making fun of Osama's beard on CNN. The Saudi sponsors of 9/11 weave a web of lies that a 5 year old could see through - and our government believes every word. As Mark Steyn says, the force of the Arab armies combined makes Belgium look butch.

The fact that we haven't been able to defeat this pitiful enemy so far says more about our own tactics than theirs. They're fighting a war in earnest. We're hoping to win a war by 'reforming' our enemies, a policy that has never worked in the past and is unlikely to win in the future. If we weren't so committed to this 'win by reform' strategy, and if we weren't relying on our Saudi allies to fight our former commie enemies, these terrorist/gangsters would never have become as powerful as they are.

Dan says - We don't really need to police this world; it really isn't going to go to hell in a handbasket if we somehow stop interfering in the internal affairs of this or that nation. In fact, things might actually be better off if we stop interfering and let other nations do what they want.

Right now Europe doesn't want to defend itself, but they are slowly waking up to the fact that many al Qaeda-like gangs, with smuggled weapons and al Qaeda-like attitude are setting up camp within their borders. Europe has the money and they have the ability to build up their military. It's about time that Europe grew up and got their own place.

However, Dan is wrong when he says that real power lies in the state. If the European nation-states don't do something about the Hezbollah-esque camps that are being quietly set up within their borders, if we and the Russians and the Chinese continue to allow the Saudis, the Iranians and the Sudanese to play us like fools, nation states will prove that they are incapable of fighting these weak gangs of zealots. If the state can't protect people, people will seek other means of protection.

An interesting thing to note is that Columbia has solved a part of its drug-gang problem by hiring 'security companies'. These security companies are a fast-growing industry worldwide. If nation-states and their armies can't protect people, someone else will.

Posted by: mary at September 14, 2007 07:02 PM

Mary: If nation-states and their armies can't protect people, someone else will.

That's a big reason why Iraq has militias.

These gangs are weak compared to states, yes. But they can and do destroy cities as well as buildings.

Do not underestimate them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 07:11 PM

Michael:
One more from me, please:

John Burns of the NY Times pointed out that when he covered the Iran-Iraq war that many Iraqis - including vast numbers of Shi'a - openly fought for and supported the Baathist regime against Iran. And not just because they were afraid of getting shot. There appeared, to him, that an Iraqi identity or sense of nationalist pride was fueling that support or the regime against the Persian outsiders.

And from that he made the miscalculation - and he says that this was one of his great errors - that a post-Saddam Iraq would have a measure of nationalism that transcended the sectarian and tribal identities.

Can you sense in any way a re-emergence of this nationalism? Or is it still tribalism and local awakenings? Is a larger sense of being - an Iraqi identity post-Saddam - somehow emerging? Or still too early?

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at September 14, 2007 07:18 PM

SteveMG: Can you sense in any way a re-emergence of this nationalism?

Only small glimmers of it. Largely, no. But John Burns knows Iraq a lot better than I do, and this is not something I investigated. So my real answer has to be "I don't know."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 07:47 PM

Friday, September 14, 2007

Iraq Invades Washington

The American capital is going to witness intensified Iraqi presence and political activity in the coming few weeks.
First there are Sunni leaders who have been invited by members of Congress. The Sunni leaders are likely to make this visit coincide with former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi expected visit to Washington since the Sunni alliance with the Shia Allawi became more evident recently, especially after the latter confirmed that he had meetings with former leaders in the Baath Party to persuade them to join the political process.

A Sunni delegation at the level being reported wouldn’t go without a countermeasure from the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who represents the Shia-Kurdish coalition of four. In order to avoid any threat for this ruling coalition, the government announced that Maliki is going to head a big delegation to Washington later this month as well. I am certain that it will include important leaders that have good relations and contacts in Washington, such as Mowafak Rubaie and Hoshyar Zebari.

The Sunni-Allawi visit seems to be an effort to give more momentum to the emerging Sunni-American friendliness following the progress that has been made on the ground in several Sunni-dominated regions, and the dramatic change in attitude among the Sunni who turned from fighting the American presence to fighting al-Qaeda.

Add to this mix the dialogue between Allawi and former Baathist leaders, which actually diluted the enmity that some Sunni groups had towards America and made them think deeply about the end result should they keep up the fight against America and the Iraqi government. This proximity was crowned by Bush’s visit to Anbar and the praise he gave to its people.

Returning the visit aims to take advantage of what we just mentioned: it would serve the case of the opposition represented by the Sunni and Allawi, and to convince the American administration that it should cut the support for Maliki whom they’re going to undermine by describing him as a sectarian leader who puts Iran’s interests above anything else.

Tracking the statements coming from Sunni leaders we find a huge difference in the tone between the past and nowadays...

Continue Reading...

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

My fingers are crossed that something can come of this. Can (would?) the Demos torpedo this
somehow?

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 14, 2007 07:55 PM

Michael,

The reason they aren't able to take over states is because we prevent them from doing so with military force.

But don't you see, they would never have been in Iraq anyways if we did not invade the country! Saddam never had connections to them. Saddam turned down their requests. The only reason Al-Qaeda even has a presence in Iraq is precisely because we invaded the country and dismantled the country. We did NOT prevent Al-Qaeda from taking over with military force, Michael. In fact, our actions got them closer to gaining land and a "country of their own."

We had Al-Qaeda cornered in Afghanistan. We opted to shift most of our resources to a country that had nothing to do with our fight against Al-Qaeda. What do you think Al-Qaeda was going to do? Sit back and watch us take over one more Arab country, or get in the fray themselves? They came into Iraq AFTER we invaded Iraq. They were not there before trying to take over the country from Saddam.

So we really have not yet prevented Al-Qaeda from taking over a state.

Posted by: Dan at September 14, 2007 08:07 PM

Michael,

Fair enough that AQI wouldn't have taken over Ramadi if we never showed up, but it's just as true that they would have held onto Ramadi if we left too soon.

No they wouldn't, because all those Sunni insurgents who kept fighting us would turn their guns on fundamentalist Sunni Al-Qaeda. The Sunnis of Iraq are far more secular and cosmopolitan than the fiery fundamentalists like Bin Laden.

In either case, we're both speculating. Neither of us knows what would really happen. But I'm getting the feeling that Sunnis turned on Al-Qaeda starting last November when Democrats won. They saw that the threat of the Americans leaving was real, and they had to stop using us as a crutch.

Posted by: Dan at September 14, 2007 08:10 PM

Dan,

The Anbar Awakening movement preceded that election. You're thinking too parochially.

People in Iraq (including Americans) don't pay much attention to Democrats and Republicans. That's too provincial an American obsession for people being shot at eight time zones away. Iraq is practically its own planet. All that stuff fades away over there and turns into static.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 14, 2007 08:17 PM

SteveMG:

"If the United States is not the dominant power in the world, another country (or countries) will replace her.

For those wishing for a withdrawal of the US from the world (broadly speaking), the question arises: What country do you wish to replace the US as that great power?

Because again, as history illustrates, someone will replace us."

Excellent. There is an old saw, "power abhors a vacuum". If America does not project its military power in the Middle East, someone else will. What are the odds that this will be better for the people of the Middle East, or for us?

I don't glory in this. It is a burden on our country, and I would prefer that it were not so. But the world is what it is, not as we wish it would be. No doubt I will be slammed by the Dans and the dpus and the glasnots and the microraptors with sarcastic comments about "white man's burden" or some such. But not a single word of their blathering has convinced me otherwise.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 14, 2007 10:58 PM

I do understand the weakness of my position in that it is impossible to truly know which events are important versus those that are transient. I cannot think of any country or person in history that has solved that particular problem. Some people/countries choose correctly at any given point in time, most do not and are caught unawares.

Hindsight is pretty good, especially as the decades roll on.

Due in large part to our qualitative success as a country, being the only (current) world power, and having an abundance of wealth/resources, we suffer a tendency to try and be all things for all people. This is especially true from a political perspective as it is a no-brainer default position for politicians to be a "do-gooder" with our taxes and our military; if the politicians make a mistake it is usually not at their cost.

I've not been overseas for awhile (can't count family cruises with selected ports of call being overseas), though I believe what I experienced in the South Pacific, Central Pacific and East Asia helped me gain some perspective of the world and our place in it.

I am all for the world being a better, safer, more prosperous world; but it is not the primary role of the U.S. to shoulder this responsibility. I would prefer that we be a bit more selective in what we get involved in, and be a LOT more harsh towards those that would like the world to move back towards the Dark Ages.

If I knew the magic answer of how to determine where the beating of the butterflys wings would significantly affect the course of history, I would be a wise and rich man.

Regards,

Posted by: Ron Snyder at September 15, 2007 12:27 AM

I am sorry, Afghanistan was taken by the Taliban, not by AQ. Mixing the two is just like saying 'all Chinese look the same'.
My explanation of the difference is: AQ has only negative, destructive attitude. AQ is only against and nothing pro. This was shown in Ramadi with the consequences you showed us.
The Taliban has a very consistent ideology and that is radical, traditional Islam (in its worst form AS WE SEE IT). It is not against of anybody but trying to win the society around.
There are very radical Christian, Jewish and tribal religious groups on Earth, too. The only difference is that the society around them is strong enough to resist their radical ideology (using sane mind + force). It's the society that makes the difference. The Afghan society could not resist the Taliban ideology (not just the force was weak but also sanity lacks) and should have been freed from it. And I agree with it.

The Iraqi society could resist any radical religious group before 2003. Now they are unable to resist even AQ that has a far weaker ideology as you wrote it. I believe in you but first please, the US should apologise for ruining the Iraqi society (in the name of Jesus or Allah or democracy&freedom - choose your favorite) and saying that we stay there to make our mistake right.

Michael, mixing AQ with Taliban: in my eyes you lost credibility.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 15, 2007 12:42 AM

Nevertheless: Michael, mixing AQ with Taliban: in my eyes you lost credibility.

Whatever. Your whitewashing of the Taliban -- who ruled Kabul as Al Qaeda ruled Ramadi -- doesn't give you credibility.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2007 01:07 AM

What a great thread!

From my seat in China (American expatriate). I first want to say that I fear the thought of China filling the power vacuum. The Chinese ideal of a "harmonious society" is one that is being built through persecution, detention, censorship, and outright deceipt and lies.

Secondly, weighing in on the Iraq conflict, I want to state my support for the decision to invade. The argument of WMD may not have been substantiated but without a doubt, our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf are all highly strategic placements against the rogue threat of Iran. Notably in this week's news releases is a statement of our building a military post near the Iranian border area.

Perhaps you can remember the "axis of evil" speech and the countries named. Of those 3 major rogues, Iraq was decapitated and fell to Western military might, Iran is surrounded by Western military superiority and North Korea has collapsed under the weight of decades of economic sanctions by Western powers and is now capitulating to Western intervention. I thank God for our place in the world and the role that we have played in keeping and gaining freedom and democracy.

As a matter of argument, since I lack details, I venture to say that there has been more death in North Korea due to sanctioning (starvation) than in Iraq due to internal conflict. In Iraq the dictator was removed but in the DPRK the tyrant remains.

I say Gungho on Iraq; fight the fight and stay the course. Keep your saber sharp, and your eye sharper because freedom is bought with blood. I am fortunate to have been spared the price but I have worn the uniform (infantry) and fulfilled my pledge of allegiance.

Finally, and speaking of allegiance, I wish to give my homage to the sheikh for his designed allegiance with America to bring a new order to the Anbar province. May the Lord welcome him. Godspeed.

Posted by: Kevin China at September 15, 2007 05:12 AM

Always a great comments section here.

I think that most informed people will agree that the military strategy in Iraq for the first few years of clearing an area then moving on, and a political strategy of top down government while not engaging the tribes, was flawed to say the least. The new strategies appear to be working better and hopfully an acceptable outcome will result.

There is an interesting and ironic phenomenon happening in Iraq.

It seems to me that the Sunni tribes needed to experience life under AlQaeda to realize they wanted no part of that life and needed to side with the Americans. Americas earlier mistakes which enabled an Al Qeada occupation are resulting in the Awakening and some possibilities that otherwise may never have occured.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 15, 2007 06:47 AM

joefrommass,

Sunni tribes never had to experience life under Al-Qaeda. They liked Saddam''s secular cosmopolitan life. We created the environment in which Al-Qaeda flourished. We ended up ultimately being the reason why Al-Qaeda had any traction in Iraq. If we would have just stayed in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda would have been fully destroyed.

The "war on terror" should never have been about Iran. It should always have been about Al-Qaeda. They were our enemy, not Iran. Who cares what Iran did 30 years ago. It really doesn't matter today.

Finally, after seeing all that I've seen, it is my firm belief that Al-Qaeda would leave Iraq (whether out of their own choice, or being forced out by the Sunnis) once we leave Iraq. So if we really don't want Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it might be a good idea for us to leave Iraq too.

Posted by: Dan at September 15, 2007 07:15 AM

May he rest in peace. I have great admiration for all those heroes, American or Iraqi - They have courage and give it their all.

Posted by: tsedek at September 15, 2007 07:16 AM

joefrommass,

It seems to me that the Sunni tribes needed to experience life under AlQaeda to realize they wanted no part of that life

I've occasionally wondered whether supplying an inadequate occupation force encourages self-sufficiency. You can't exactly run a controlled experiment to find out, but the hypothesis I pull out of my orifice is that there might be a weak benefit overwhelmed by the negatives.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 15, 2007 07:33 AM

Dan,

Life is full of unintended consequenses. Nobody could have predicted that events would unfold as they have. We have the benifit of hindsight and it seems obvious that what has occured in the past 4 years is a logical chain of events. We can boldly say that if only we had done things differently than the results would be far better. Well you don't know that, because it didn't happen. If we had taken a different approch then the results would be different but not necessarily better.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 15, 2007 07:57 AM

Finally, after seeing all that I've seen, it is my firm belief that Al-Qaeda would leave Iraq (whether out of their own choice, or being forced out by the Sunnis) once we leave Iraq.

This is why no one listened to the anti-war types before we went into Iraq. Their opinions were not based on any real knowledge about terrorists and their goals.

Al Qaeda attacks Sunnis, Shi'ites and Yezidis in Iraq, they attack Muslims and non-Muslims in Africa, Europe, the USA and the Middle East for the same reason the Germans attacked people during WWII. They're fairly standard aggressors - they want more money and power and they're willing to crush anyone who gets in their way.

They're not as strong as the Nazis were, so they use different tactics - terrorism and propaganda. The propaganda, which claims that they love death, they're not state-supported and they're motivated by religion, resentment and 'colonialist' oppression, is as important to their overall military force as their guns.

Since many Western anti-war types also think that crime can be controlled by the addition of new youth centers, they tend to believe the propaganda, and they offer this kind of advice.

No one listens to them, not because we like war, but because it's bad advice.

If we leave Iraq, we'll make al Qaeda's job easier. Terrorism isn't motivated by despair or desperation, it's motivated by aggression and hope. Making the aggressors job easier gives them hope.

Posted by: mary at September 15, 2007 10:33 AM

"No one listens to them, not because we like war, but because it's bad advice".---Mary

Thanks for replying to Dan's 'effort'. I could not decide which of the 3 parts of his comment was most disturbing. But I think the Afghanistan meme was my personal favorite. That has been a staple of the 'usual suspects' for some time now.

If only we had kept a gazillion troops in Afghanistan, AND attacked the tribal areas in Pakistan (Obama's contribution to geo-politics), we could have crushed Al-Queda and scooped up Bin Laden in the process. Yeah that would have worked. No reference to the tribal structures and allegiances in Southern Afghanistan, and the tribal areas of Pakistan, and those areas demonstrated sympathy toward the Taleban. No mention of the certain problems caused by that many foreign troops parading clumsily around intrinsically hostile and backward tribal areas . No demonstrated facts at all upon which to base the assertion. Just another 'faith-based' fact. For all the ranting about how the 'neo-cons' are delusionally 'faith-based', it is the 'reality-based community' that most exhibits this destructive tendency. I 'feel it' therefore it is. I 'want' Bin Laden captured therefore it must be quite doable, and it is Bush' fault that it has not been done.

If only things were that simple. But then again, according to some ---- they are.

Posted by: dougf at September 15, 2007 11:22 AM

Dan: If we would have just stayed in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda would have been fully destroyed.

Al Qaeda does not come from Afghanistan. Al Qaeda comes from the Arab world, and it is global. The leader happened to be in Afghanistan for a while, and no longer is.

AQ is not a monolithic organization, it is a loose cellular organization with pretty much no organization to speak of.

You blame the US far too much for this, Dan. If an American invasion automatically triggers an Al Qaeda formation, why didn't Al Qaeda form in Kurdistan also?

Also, there is nothing even remotely "cosmopolitan" about Anbar Province. It is very very backwards, tribal, homogenous, and conservative. Nor was there anything "cosmopolitan" about Saddam Hussein's genocidal Arab racism and Sunni supremacism.

One reason Al Qaeda appeared in Anbar is because the Americans were there. But the locals were, I'm sorry to put it this way after all that has happened, stupid enough to let them in in the first place.

If the Arabs were more like the Kurds, Iraq would not be the disaster it is. But it's not our fault the Arabs are the way they are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2007 11:46 AM

Michael;

Per your belief that polls and surveys in iraq are imprecise, at best, what do you make of the story
that perhaps ONE MILLION DEAD can be deduced since 2003?

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-iraq14sep14,1,1207545.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=3&cset=true

Posted by: semanticleo at September 15, 2007 01:18 PM

Semanticleo,

That number seems way too high for me, but I really don't know. It's not something I have investigated.

The reason is seems too high to me, though, is because far fewer were killed in the civil war in Yugoslavia, and that war was much more violent than this one and lasted much longer (so far).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2007 01:28 PM

If only things were that simple. But then again, according to some ---- they are.

If only I could take the Doug saying this today and have him chat with the Doug of two years ago. Yes, simple solutions to complex problems generally do not work as well as one would hope.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 01:30 PM

It appears the Anbar Awakening is spreading out...

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, a Sunni Arab tribal leader told the BBC that local groups had created a new alliance to fight al-Qaeda.

Fawwaz al-Jarba, who heads the Shammar tribe in the Mosul area, said local Sunni Arab tribes had joined Kurdish, Christian and Yazidi groups in a new front.

He said the new alliance would not work directly with the United States military, but only through the Iraqi government.

Posted by: allan at September 15, 2007 01:31 PM

That number seems way too high for me, but I really don't know. It's not something I have investigated.

Kevin Drum's initial take on these figures were that they seemed somewhat high, especially when one extrapolates the number of car bombs from their figures. It seems impossibly high.

Yet there have been few statistical studies published that show fewer deaths. The civilian death toll may actually be enormous. It's also worthwhile to keep in mind the enormous number of refugees that are now flooding Jordan and Syria, now well past the million mark.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 01:35 PM

1 million????

semanticleo, do the math. Assuming 4.5 years of occupation, that is about 609 killed/day on average. Now, if you factor in natural causes, I'll buy it. Otherwise, you are an idiot if you believe that particular piece of propaganda.

Posted by: John at September 15, 2007 02:20 PM

semanticleo, do the math. Assuming 4.5 years of occupation, that is about 609 killed/day on average.

You might need to do the math yourself. You're off by a factor of ten.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 02:23 PM

...or I could check mine. Sorry, that's correct, 609 per day is the average.

Damn, did it three times.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 02:26 PM

DPU: ...or I could check mine. Sorry, that's correct, 609 per day is the average. Damn, did it three times.

Your credibility just took a big dive. What else have you been wrong about?

Posted by: Edgar at September 15, 2007 02:34 PM

The left in the USA is FAR too invested in American defeat simply because a large block of idiots with severe BDS can't control themselves. They are over leveraged and are at great risk of breaking apart when the Battle for Iraq turns positive. One needs only to peruse the DailyKos or the Huffington Post for a short time to see this phenomena.

Posted by: John at September 15, 2007 02:47 PM

"If only I could take the Doug saying this today and have him chat with the Doug of two years ago. Yes, simple solutions to complex problems generally do not work as well as one would hope".

No they don't often. But what I wanted and EXPECTED was a complex solution to a complex problem that was festering away and beginning to 'grow legs'. How was I to know that simpletons were implementing it ? As I have also mentioned I believe that I could have done a better 'political' job than the people actually charged with the effort. And I'm not too bright. As you have often been kind enough to note.

Further, my long-memoried friend, in the FINAL ANALYSIS decades down the road, even a 'simple solution' might well turn out to have been better than NO SOLUTION whatsoever.

And even further, I'll have you know sir that I, in fact, talk to myself all the time. So you stand corrected , and I anticipate a full retraction. ------------:-)

Posted by: dougf at September 15, 2007 03:34 PM

Your credibility just took a big dive. What else have you been wrong about?

Okay, okay, the Iraq War was a great idea. I missed a decimal place.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 05:46 PM

How was I to know that simpletons were implementing it ?

I dunno, because of the things they've done in the pas and the things they were saying?

As you have often been kind enough to note.

Hey, I think you're pretty bright for a Canuck.

And even further, I'll have you know sir that I, in fact, talk to myself all the time. So you stand corrected , and I anticipate a full retraction.

So retracted.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 05:48 PM

...because of the things they've done in the pas...

That should have been "past", unless they were hanging out in northern Manitoba.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 15, 2007 05:50 PM

DPU: Okay, okay, the Iraq War was a great idea. I missed a decimal place.

Well, Bush said that Iraq had 500 tons of nerve gas, when they in fact had zero.

Math is important.

Posted by: Edgar at September 15, 2007 06:08 PM

Among the capabilities identified by Blix that Saddam retained are huge quantities of sarin nerve gas. The Iraqis used sarin against Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War with deadly effect--a single drop on the skin will kill a man.

But Saddam's 1997-98 "Full, Final and Complete Disclosure" shows that he also retains VX, a chemical-warfare agent said to be even more deadly than satin. The Iraqis acknowledge having imported or produced, up to that date, 750 tons of chemicals needed for making VX. Except for the U.N.-controlled disposal of 170 tons at that time, the rest of these deadly chemicals are missing. Blix said his inspectors had found "indications that the [VX] agent was weaponized."

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 15, 2007 07:01 PM

Well, Bush said that Iraq had 500 tons of nerve gas, when they in fact had zero.

No, Bush was told by the intelligence agencies of the US that Iraq had 500 tons of nerve gas.

Like any president, Bush, by himself, could not tell what WMD capabilities Iraq continued to have. He, like all previous presidents, had to rely on the intelligence product (the NIE) provided him by the various intelligence departments and agencies of the US government.

In order to prove that Bush lied, one must show that he made statements about Iraqi WMDs that he knew were false.

And that is something no one has proven.

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at September 15, 2007 07:26 PM

Steve,

Yeah, I was kidding.

Posted by: Edgar at September 15, 2007 07:38 PM

John,

The left in the USA is FAR too invested in American defeat simply because a large block of idiots with severe BDS can't control themselves.

There might be a domestic political benefit for some on the left if the left wins the argument over Iraq policy. That's fine. It's the nature of our ferocious but civil electoral system. Barack Obama sets himself as an exponent for one particular position; John McCain sets himself up as an exponent for another; the electorate decides; to the victor go the spoils.

By the way, I think you might want to have yourself checked for BDS. I've seen this pernicious malady up-close many times, and you have all the classic symptoms. The only difference is the focus and direction of the obsession.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 15, 2007 08:25 PM

How many pounds of precursers are needed to produce an ounce of saran or VX?

What is the ground coverage (in acres) of an ounce of nerve gas or super nerve gas, sprayed from a low flying aircraft, as in crop-duster,
or in this case, a populace-duster. What would be the after effect of a fly-over of an open football stadium on a sunny September Sunday? How many survivers?

Has anyone seen the military training films on the effects of various chemical weapons on live animals?

Mustard gas is particularly pleasant: Big-ass blisters, that when they break, cause more big- ass blisters.

I was in the Chemical Corp, and attended the CBR Warfare school, but that was quite a while ago. They probably make all the goodies better today, i.e. stronger, wider coverage, and faster acting.

The slim possibility of Saddam having some of this shit, and the slim possibility of him passing it on to AQ, was justification to rid the world of that psycho. He did learn a poker lesson though, the one about the costs of having your bluff called.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 15, 2007 08:36 PM

Dan:

"Sunni tribes ... liked Saddam''s secular cosmopolitan life. "

Puh-leeze. You make it sound like Iraq under Saddam was the Upper West Side with John Lindsay as mayor instead of the bloody human rights hellhole it actually was.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 15, 2007 09:44 PM

Creamy,
what, LDS? LOL!! No, I am not obsessed, but I am invested in victory. And it is undeniable that the democrat party is invested in defeat.

Posted by: John at September 15, 2007 11:05 PM

MJT, I just wanted to thank you for all you do. I wish I could donate more than my piddly little contribution :(

I also wanted you to know that your blog has really meant a lot to me. So much so I listed you as one of my Blog Reflection Awards:
http://www.insomnomaniac.com/weblog/archives/2007/09/blogger_reflect.html

Thanks again, and please take good care of yourself.

Posted by: Deb at September 16, 2007 01:01 AM

MJT: as I wrote I agree that we freed Afghanistan from the Taliban and Taliban is the worst form of Islam (as wee see it, including me: as I see it). you left this out when you responded 'whitewashing the Taliban'. (BTW: 'as we see it' means that I am not holding the ultimate truth and I suggest that everybody on the world make statements with the same attitude)
just to make the difference: I do NOT say that if Hitler invaded another country (Poland) and Bush invaded another country (Iraq) then they are the same even if the situation has much in parallel (e.g. Abu-Graib as modern non-lethal Buchenwald?).

let me say: I admire your work and you are exceptional to go there and do there what you do. your description of the situation is valuable no question about it. what I am questioning now is a little bit of the consequences you deduct from what you see there. nevertheless feel backed by me to go on with your reports and let us (everybody here) analyze it together.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 16, 2007 01:54 AM

The left says that Iraq is a lost cause that will ultimately go to pieces when we leave, so we should save money and the lives of our soldiers by getting out now. The right says if we “stay the course”, we can ultimately defeat al-Qaeda, overcome sectarian strife and allow the Iraqi government to become strong enough to stand on its own.

My question to both groups is: Even if you are correct, what then?

A stabilized Iraq is not going to mean the end of Islamic terrorism. It should be clear now that a stabilized Iraq is not going to inspire a wave of reform that transforms the middle east into free societies that eschew militant Islam and oppose terrorism. Al-Qaeda will still be in business. Iran will still be seeking nuclear weapons, they will undoubtedly continue trying to bring a nascent Iraqi government under their wing, and they’ll go on supplying their various proxies in Lebanon and the PLA with ever more deadly weapons. Saudi Arabia will go on funding salafist-infested madrassas to train the next generation of jihadists. Muslims will continue to hatch terrorist plots in the west and chances are, eventually, they will succeed and there will be another Madrid, another London tube bombing or something similar -- or something drastically worse.

So if we do stabilize Iraq, what then?

Nor is there any reason to believe that our leaving Iraq will do anything to slow down the international jihad. There are those who claim that once we leave, rather than collapsing into all-out civil war, the Iraqis will get together and deal with al-Qaeda in their own way -- but even if that happens, even if they eject al-Qaeda, that by itself won’t stop al-Qaeda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or any of the problems mentioned above.

So if we leave Iraq, what then?

The hard-core anti-war left has spooked the leaders of the Democratic party into opposing virtually any possibility of additional military action. For a while, there were Democrats who wanted us to re-deploy our troops to “the good war” in Afghanistan. When it was pointed out that this would do little good since al-Qaeda and the Taliban are now in Pakistan, one Democrat, Barack Obama, had the temerity to propose that if the Pakistani government wouldn’t go after them, we should. Obama was promptly shouted down by both the members of his own party and the supporters of the war in Iraq!!

How dare he suggest we invade an ally!! -- This was the near-universal response to Obama‘s proposal, which is a confession that both sides have decided that it is acceptable for an “ally” to give refuge to our deadliest enemies.

Of course, the left also proposes things like “regional conferences” and “talking to our enemies“.

Barack Obama has proposed a conference with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Egypt to “win agreement on stabilizing the middle east” -- He‘s released no details on how he plans to heal the 1400 year old Shia-Sunni “disagreement“.

In a recent speech, John Edwards proposed -- and I quote his words here -- “a new multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO). CITO will create a coalition of partner nations who clearly declare that terrorism is unacceptable and will call out those nations who refuse to join this cause.” -- No word on how this new organization will get France, Germany, China and Russia to take actions they are presently refusing to take at the UN.

Hillary Clinton’s website has plans for “ending the war in Iraq” -- but no plans for winning the war against Islamic terrorism.

In short, the left is engaging in the fantasy that we can win by making things work that have failed many times in the past (negotiations, conferences, international organizations) or they are engaging in the fantasy that we need not do anything -- except get out of Iraq and humiliate Bush. The right is engaging in the fantasy that we can win by using our military forces as domestic policemen in two minor countries while leaving untouched both the major sponsors of Islamic terrorism and those who give refuge to the most barbaric killers on earth.

None of these approaches has the slightest chance of stopping the Islamic international jihad against civilization. Evidently, it will take another horrific attack on America to shock us out of fantasy and back to reality.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 16, 2007 06:13 AM

What do you make of Jane Fonda's latest pronouncements on Iraq?

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,”

Cretin.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2461214.ece

Sorry. Not Fonda. I meant Alan Greenspan. What a know-nothing, leftard appeaser he is...

Oil? Pah.....

The Iraq war is - as MJT pointed out to me the other day - in no small part about US Marines protecting Arab playgrounds from AQI.

If only that child friendly USMC mission statment were more widely known, Britain's odious McCann double act could've asked for a couple of detachments of battle hardened Jarheads to be posted outside their holiday apartment in Praia de Luz, before the "mystery invisible pederast predator" ostensibly snuck off with their little girl.

Posted by: Microcredit at September 16, 2007 06:50 AM

It is about oil only in the sense that without oil, the west wouldn't care about the Middle East at all.

Eric at www.classicalvalues.com has a good take on it:

The fact is, if the damned Saudis didn't have the vast oil wealth, if we heard of Wahhabism at all, it would only be because we'd read about the quaint little religion as we looked at pictures of obscure goat and camel herders in the pages of the National Geographic.

So yes, it's all about oil. Without the oil, no one would care about this sickening, oil-soaked religion, or the fringe ideology that goes with it. Without oil, there'd have been no incentive and no money to train the Saudi bastards who flew the planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Read beyond the headline, however, and we learn that Greenspan apparently believed Hussein was a threat to the Middle East oil supply.

And what does the west do with threats to the oil supply? We eliminate them, of course.

Yawn. Next story please.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 16, 2007 07:39 AM

Dan:

For saying that you or Michael are speculating concerning what would or would not have happened in Ramadi, you sure do KNOW an awful lot about what AQ WOULD have done had we never invaded Iraq, don't you?

Posted by: Kenneth at September 16, 2007 07:43 AM

Michael Smith said: The right is engaging in the fantasy that we can win by using our military forces as domestic policemen in two minor countries while leaving untouched both the major sponsors of Islamic terrorism and those who give refuge to the most barbaric killers on earth.

Actually, some on the right believe Iraq and Afghanistan can be staging grounds for implementing regime change in Iran and Syria.

Afterall, nothing in the Middle East will really change much if those two nations are not reigned in.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 16, 2007 07:51 AM

Or reined in...

Posted by: Dogwood at September 16, 2007 08:03 AM

Read beyond the headline, however, and we learn that Greenspan apparently believed Hussein was a threat to the Middle East oil supply.

So did the Saudis, and so did the US administration of GHB. Iraq's military in 1990 was the world's fourth largest, and Hussein was militarily aggressive and greedy. So it wasn't a bad belief.

And what does the west do with threats to the oil supply? We eliminate them, of course.

Unless they have nukes.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2007 08:38 AM

Unless they have nukes.

Nukes do tend to complicate things a bit!

Posted by: Dogwood at September 16, 2007 08:41 AM

Nukes do tend to complicate things a bit!

...which tends to explain the enthusiasm for obtaining them and the fuss about preventing them.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2007 08:52 AM

Edgar:
Yeah, I was kidding.

Er, it was late, I was watching a football game, the dog had to go out, er....

And I'm a dope.
_________________

Sure oil is a factor - a significant one - in the decision to remove Saddam. No oil = no capability of using the petrodollars to amass a threatening military. Among other things.

I'm not that big of a dope.

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at September 16, 2007 09:50 AM

Michael Smith,

We're going to triumph over Islamofascism the same way we won the Cold War -- with patience, occasional military intervention, economic might, and most of all, superior ideas that offer hope and a better way of life.

It will be an easier task, actually, because Al Qaeda's ideology is batshit crazy, while Communism was wrong but intellectually defensible.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 16, 2007 10:36 AM

Creamy, we didn't "triumph over communism" -- the USSR fell apart, and it fell apart for reasons that don't apply to Islam.

The USSR fell apart primarily because it made secular promises of prosperity -- indeed it boastfully made promises in front of the whole word -- that it could not keep. You can only sell people on so many "five year plans" before they stop believing the promises -- and before you go broke. Once the USSR found itself begging for credit from the west, it was finished.

Islam makes no such secular promises. All of its promises pertain to the afterlife; thus, its promises will never be proven false. Nor is Islam in any danger of going broke.

And "superior ideas" only appeal to men of reason. Men of faith believe that God has given them the superior ideas.

Our "superior ideas" have been on display for the Islamic world to see for hundreds of years -- and the response has been to label us "The Great Satan".

Since the creation of Israel in 1946, a side-by-side comparison of the consequences of living under our "superior ideas" of freedom and capitalism versus the consequences of living by Islamic ideals has been on display in the heart of the middle east. The Muslim reaction has been to launch three major wars of aggression to eliminate Israel, followed by an intifada, waves of suicide bombings and most recently, terrorism by missile.

The notion that Muslims are going to be won over by our “superior ideas” or “economic might” is pure fantasy.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 16, 2007 11:32 AM

John,

what, LDS? LOL!! No, I am not obsessed,

None of the people I know with BDS are conscious of their affliction either. It can be quite frustrating talking to them. They are just as convinced that that the opposition is determined to sacrifice the good of the country for partisan political gain as you are.

I have compiled your posts from the last three threads, oldest first. (Apologies for the space this takes, but there is another poster who goes by "John".)

  • Dan,

    You are the kid who is always asking, "are we there yet?" during the ride and " I wanna go home" when arriving at the destination. Nothing is good enough. Contrary is the norm. Tiresome and negative is the effect. You will never be a good team player because you will never be allowed to call the shots. But feel free to spread the FUD...

  • Creamy Goodness,

    The problem of radical islam precludes the acceptance of any Islam because it is so loud and so psychotic. Perhaps if those muslims who are much more moderate would speak out and join the fight against these freaks, people would be a bit more forgiving.

  • MJT,

    Dan is only a troll in "loyal opposition" clothing. Dan and people like him merely couch their cynicism of our military and industrial involvement around the world in terms of intellectual curiosity for the purpose of camouflage and disassembly. War is hellish, messy, and certainly full of mistakes. The Anbar Awakening, while a beginning, may also be a means to an end in spite of our mistakes and ersatz enemy propagandists like Dan.

  • Celebrim,

    Grima "Dan" Wormtongue is a recent graduate of the University of Saruman,Orthanc.

    Can the West "see through a brick wall in time"?

    The clock is ticking.

    ;]

  • Frank,

    The USA does it because nobody else will. We invaded Iraq and broke Saddam because he was in violation of a number of UN Security Council resolutions. He could have come clean about WMD and opened Iraq to full inspection, but he didn't. Furthermore, he provided the US and its allies an opportunity to project their power into the middle of the Middle East. We could have done it the old fashioned way and waited for the threat to build until our hand was forced. Either way, war is the natural result. Personally, I would have flattened whole cities and populations until they cried uncle and gave up the fight. I suspect you are somewhere on the opposite side of that spectrum.

  • Edgar,

    Sarcasm noted. I am horribly cold-hearted when it comes to war and admit I am more akin to Caesar than to Ghandi. All the more praise to our men and women in the armed forces for an unbeliveably great and heroic performance thus far in the GWOT. But, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, the real "surge" IS working and if their is an abundance of migratory waterfowl in the area, I'm in (shotgun, decoys, and calls, though)!!!

  • DPU,

    What are you? Some kind of reverse, double inside out, mirror image troll? ;p

  • Face it DPU, you DON'T WANT the present administration to succeed.
  • gangleader,

    Your mother was a goat and your father smelled of elderberries.

  • Then perhaps he should couch his rhetoric in less hopeless terms. Or rely on better sources...

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070913/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

    [snip quote of news story]

  • O Please...

    "thoughtcrime"?

    Though that post does serve to illuminate my point...

    DPU,

    I have found through much experience that when things are FUBAR, getting behind a push in the right direction usually straightens things out.
    The whining and complaining of bystanders merely constitutes an irritating and distracting white noise that is ultimately counterproductive. Every single war in the history of the world has had such moments. This war is certainly no different.

  • There are no true pacifists anywhere, ever. Not Jesus. Not Ghandi. None. A true pacifist is a universal appeaser.
  • allan,

    The very nature of the world precludes the survival of a true pacifist. Much like altruism, there is no such thing except in the imagination of men.

  • John,

    How can any nation afford to be isolationist? Especially the USA! Our interests are literally everywhere. The USA is the keystone to the arch of the global political and economic structure. Isolation at this point would be backwards and weak. The whole world would suffer in the shake-up and history shows it would likely invite a maniac to take power. Perhaps down the road when we have robotic labor and an abundant, secure energy source, we can sit back and laugh at the rest of the world like its on TV. But not likely...

  • Dan: "And this is where I just don't get this whole..."

    Enough said...

  • 1 million????

    semanticleo, do the math. Assuming 4.5 years of occupation, that is about 609 killed/day on average. Now, if you factor in natural causes, I'll buy it. Otherwise, you are an idiot if you believe that particular piece of propaganda.

  • The left in the USA is FAR too invested in American defeat simply because a large block of idiots with severe BDS can't control themselves. They are over leveraged and are at great risk of breaking apart when the Battle for Iraq turns positive. One needs only to peruse the DailyKos or the Huffington Post for a short time to see this phenomena.

Perhaps if fewer than half of your contributions were concerned with leftie-bashing, the diagnosis of LDS would be less clear-cut.

Incidentally, I thought your post on isolationism was nicely done. How about favoring us with more like that one?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 16, 2007 11:35 AM

Dogwood said:

Actually, some on the right believe Iraq and Afghanistan can be staging grounds for implementing regime change in Iran and Syria.

The problem with “regime change” as a strategy -- depending on how one does it -- is that it ignores what is really needed in the Islamic world: “population change”. Or perhaps we can call it “culture change” or “fundamental philosophical change" or “mind-set change". What I refer to here are the fundamental ideas and attitudes that prevail in the population.

Bush’s notion of spreading democracy to combat terrorism is based on the view that the nature of a particular nation's political system is what drives this fundamental cultural/philosophical mind-set. According to this view, the repressive regimes of the middle east are the “root cause” of Islamic terrorism -- that by creating poverty and denying basic human rights, such regimes create only “despair and hopelessness” thereby driving young people into the hands of fanatics. Strip away those regimes -- so the argument went -- and the universal human desire for freedom will “kick in“, leading people to choose to live in a free society. Demonstrate this in one middle eastern nation -- so the argument continued -- and the people of neighboring nations will be inspired to transform their societies as well, leading to the decline of support for militant Islam.

In my opinion, Bush has got this backwards. Long term, the prevailing fundamental cultural/philosophical mind-set of a population tends to drive the sort of political system that develops and comes to power -- not the other way around.

For instance, the political revolution that created America in the late 18th century was preceded and caused by a cultural revolution: namely, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. That cultural revolution produced a pro-reason, pro-individual culture. Late 18th century intellectuals and activists like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Paine, Washington et al. were a reflection and example of that culture. It wasn’t the existence of a free society that created these men -- it was the existence of these men, who were products of a cultural revolution, that created the free society.

I don’t think that process can be reversed, as I think Iraq has demonstrated.

What is the fundamental cultural/philosophical mind-set of the middle east? As near as I can tell, with a few exceptions, it mostly reflects Islam’s world view: it’s mostly pro-faith, pro-authoritarianism, anti-reason, anti-modernity, anti-equality, anti-individualism. A population dominated by those ideas will demand authoritarian government -- like an Islamic theocracy -- not a free society.

History has demonstrated what it takes to blast a population’s allegiance to an irrational ideology and replace it with a pro-reason, pro-freedom attitude. It takes a blast. A big one.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 16, 2007 11:37 AM

Michael Smith,

The notion that Muslims are going to be won over by our "superior ideas" or "economic might" is pure fantasy.

All Muslims?

All Muslims except for American Muslims?

All Muslims except for American, Turkish, Iraqi Kurdish, Lebanese Sunni,
Albanian, Bosnian and Indonesian Muslims?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 16, 2007 12:04 PM

Michael Smith: It takes a blast. A big one.

Please elaborate.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 16, 2007 12:12 PM

Michael Smith: The notion that Muslims are going to be won over by our “superior ideas” or “economic might” is pure fantasy.

All of its promises pertain to the afterlife; thus, its promises will never be proven false

What about Kurdistan and al Anbar? They sure as hell weren't won over by the faith-based. Those promises were very much proven false. As Charles Krauthammer put it, the people of Anbar vomited up the Islamists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 16, 2007 12:26 PM

Michael Smith: It takes a blast. A big one.

Seems so. A "blast" from Al Qaeda seems to do the job better than anything. That is why they will lose in the end. Islamism is as self-defeating as communism. Both only look good on paper (if you're so inclined to like them on paper).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 16, 2007 12:31 PM

Mr. Smith,

Apologies about the dogpiling, but is this culture defining government like that of Korea or China? I think your socio-political theory needs to go back to the drawing board... both of those examples are of the same cultures but locally created vastly differnt systems of government between the ROK and DPRK, and the ROC and PRC.

Posted by: Eric , Texas at September 16, 2007 12:46 PM

creamy,

LDS is much more harsh than that. If I suffered from LDS, I would be posting about wading into a crowd of BDS wackjobs with a baseball bat singing "onward Christian soldiers..." whilst swinging for the fence. Though the thought has crossed my mind....:P

Seriously though, while we're at it, you're posts have more of an oily slitheryness than creamy goodness. I'll make you a deal: I will curb my jingoistic warmongering if you will curb your wannabe sophistry. eh?

Posted by: John at September 16, 2007 12:54 PM

Michael Smith,

As CG implied, the things that you seem to object to most are not actually inherent in Islam. Rather they are part of Arab culture. Just take a look at how Islam works in Indonesia or Turkey or Kazakstan. Not to mention Kurdistan. Same religion, very different cultures.

If a problem is going to be fixed, the first step is to get clear on what the problem actually is.

Posted by: wj at September 16, 2007 03:27 PM

There seems some confusion about isolationism, as compared to non-intervention. The difference is free trade -- disastrous isolationism includes great protectionism and attempts to reduce dependence on "unreliable foreign sources" of whatever, oil, sugar, t-shirts. A Ron Paul or G. Washington type non-intervention seeks "free trade with all, alliances with none."
India is becoming a super power without much intervention; I think it's feasible for the USA.

But I prefer the USA accepting its role as limited World Cop, and trying to do it better -- the rest of the "West" will be happy to complain about US imperfections as they 'free ride' on US defense/ war funding.

The murder of the Sheikh is likely to be a real pivotal point -- either the pro-democracy Sunni forces can carry on without Sattar's charisma, or else the Awakening will drift back to sleep, letting AQ kill its enemies, like those Sheikhs who ally with America.

In comments, MJT says "If the Arabs were more like the Kurds, Iraq would not be the disaster it is. But it's not our fault the Arabs are the way they are." I mostly agree, yet can't help note that since T.E Lawrence (of Arabia) and WW I support of Arabs against the Ottomans, the 'West' has chosen effective dictators rather than democracy.

M. Smith notes: "The notion that Muslims are going to be won over by our “superior ideas” or “economic might” is pure fantasy."
But while Mr. Smith is certainly correct about some Muslims, he's certainly wrong about others -- many 'Muslims' are, in fact, won over by ideas and might.
The fight in Iraq is proof of this, as is the assassination.
What's not clear is which of these groups, fanatic anti-West Muslims, or more secular, power -hungry (but at times America-despising) Muslims, will win power. Among the minority but better educated Sunnis in Iraq.

M. Smith continues: "What is the fundamental cultural/philosophical mind-set of the middle east? As near as I can tell, with a few exceptions, it mostly reflects Islam’s world view: it’s mostly pro-faith, pro-authoritarianism, anti-reason, anti-modernity, anti-equality, anti-individualism. A population dominated by those ideas will demand authoritarian government -- like an Islamic theocracy -- not a free society."

Yeah, there is this problem with a significant, perhaps even majority, of the people.
But I don't believe it's the majority, and believe if the the majority non-fanatics had jobs and hopes for better material lives, their faith in death as better would falter. It's pretty clear the pro-Saddam Sunni Baathists did NOT have this mind set. They seemed to have a pro-Sunni dictator, pro-cronyist, pro-modernity, pro-reason / rationalizable feeling of superiority; and like most folks they were pro-superiority. (including Americans; most US-haters would say especially). (Pro-Americans would say 'with reason'...)

Finally, it's good some in the US are looking for the Tribes to help solve the Iraqi problems. Local real power structures exist, the US can modify them in giving support to some and not others, but often this support is two edged: the chosen may get US cash, but become anti-US targets. Security must be effective before 'getting cash' looks worth accepting the inevitable 'becoming a target'.

Let's all remember the Far Side Bear ... in the crosshairs, but pointing with both paw-fingers at the bear next to him.

Michael, please tell Patrick to return! The thread misses him.

Or write more yourself so the sad death murder doesn't stay on top.

None of the anti-war folk have been honest enough to say they really support having the murderers run Iraq, but that's pretty clearly what would happen if the US left and the Iraqis were too weak -- like the S. Vietnamese were too weak (and cowardly, incompetent, and corrupt) in 1975.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 16, 2007 04:27 PM

Apparently one of the Anbar assassins has been captured.

http://prairiepundit.blogspot.com/2007/09/anbar-assassin-captured.html

If true, this represents some fast work on behalf of coalition forces.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 16, 2007 05:44 PM

Thought this was a good primer for the topic of Iraq- by James Dunnigan, "Iraq, The Facts on the Ground":

"The major problem in Iraq is back in the United States. There, many politicians either don't bother, or don't want to believe, what is actually happening, and has happened, in Iraq. In a way, that makes sense. Because what is going on in Iraq is so totally alien to the experience of American politicians. Moreover, many Americans take a purely partisan, party line, attitude towards Iraq. So logic and fact has nothing to do with their assessments of the situation.

The facts are these. Iraq is an ancient civilization that has been subjected to foreign occupation (Mongol, Iranian, Turkish, British) for the last thousand years. What we know as Iraq was put together by the British, in the 1920s, from fragments of the recently dissolved Turkish Ottoman empire. The northern part of Iraq, containing mainly Kurds, was then considered part of Turkey itself, and not an imperial province like the rest of Iraq. But there was oil up there, and the British did not want the Turks to have that, in case there was an effort to revive the Ottoman empire. The British set up a constitutional monarchy, complete with parliament, and royal family imported from Saudi Arabia (a noble family that had been ousted by the Sauds). While democracy was alien to this part of the world, many Iraqis took to it. But there were serious problems with corruption, tribal, ethnic and religious loyalties. The Kurds weren't Arab (they were Indo-European, and about 20 percent of the population), 60 percent of the Moslems were Shia (a sect considered heretical by the conservative mainline Sunnis). The Sunni Arabs may have been a minority, but they dominated commerce, government, education and running things in general. Since the 16th century, the Sunni Turks had relied on the Baghdadi Sunni Arabs to help administer the area.

Britain had to re-occupy Iraq during World War II, because the Sunni Arab dominated government (not the king) tried to ally itself with the Nazis. At the time, many Arabs admired Nazism. Many still do. The Brits again conquered country, using three divisions and taking three weeks to do it. The Brits found another bunch of Sunni Arab notables and told them they could run things if they stayed away from the Nazis. That lasted for about a decade, until the Sunni Arab politicians and generals decided that this democracy stuff wasn't working for them. The royal family was massacred and parliament purged of "disloyal" elements. The Sunni Arabs were back in absolute charge, via a series of dictators, until Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

Saddam was a particularly brutal tyrant, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (mostly Shia and Kurds), and terrorizing nearly everyone. After being run out of Kuwait in 1991, and barely surviving another Shia rebellion, he made peace with the Sunni Arab tribal leaders, and unleashed yet another terror campaign on the Shia Arabs. The Kurds were now independent, protected by British and American warplanes.

Now, this is the critical thing that many Americans don't understand, or even know. When Saddam was deposed in 2003, most (well, many) Sunni Arabs believed they would only be out of power temporarily. This sort of thing you can pick up on the Internet (OK, mostly on Arab language message boards, but it's out there). Saddam's followers (the Baath Party) and al Qaeda believed a few years of terror would subdue the Shia, scare away the Americans, and the Sunni Arabs would return to their natural state as the rulers of Iraq. U.S. troops quickly picked up on this Sunni mindset. Because Sunni Arabs were the best educated group, most of the local translators the troops used were Sunni Arabs, and even these guys took it for granted that, eventually, the Sunni Arabs would have to be in charge if the country were to function. The Sunni Arabs believed the Shia were a bunch of ignorant, excitable, inept (and so on) scum who could never run a government. Four years later, the Shia have sort-of proved the Sunni Arabs wrong. Now many Sunni Arabs want to make peace, not suicide bombs.

Which brings up another major issue in Iraq. Many Iraqis believe only a dictator can run the country, and force all the factions to behave. However, a majority of Iraqis recognize that dictatorships tend to be poor and repressive, while democracies are prosperous and pleasant. The problem is that the traditions of tribalism and corruption (everything, and everyone, has their price) do not mesh well with democracy. This doesn't mean democracy can't work under these conditions, many do. It does mean that it takes more effort, and the results are not neat and clean, as Americans expect their democracies to be.

The basic problem is that the United States is divided into two groups; those who have worked (or fought) in Iraq, or otherwise paid close attention to what's happening on the ground, and those who create their own picture of what's happening, one that fits other needs (personal, political, religious). No amount of wishing will change what is going on over there. The majority of the population hates the Sunni Arabs, who now have four years of terrorist attacks added to their list of sins. The Kurds, although beset by corruption and factionalism, have shown that you can still have peace, security and prosperity if everyone works together. The Arabs to the south see that, but have not been able to work together well enough to make it happen. Will the Arabs be able to overcome their factionalism and hatreds? THAT is the big question. What is lost in all the rhetoric about Iraq is that Iraq is the only real Arab democracy in the Middle East. Egypt is a one party state, a dictatorship masquerading as a dictatorship. Every other Arab state is either a dictatorship or a monarchy.

Iraqis know they are in a position to show the way, to an era of better government, and the freedoms and prosperity that flows from that. Iraqis know they have problems with religion, tribalism and corruption. Iraqis know what they are up against. Do you?"

Link is : http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/2007916195311.asp

Posted by: Ron Snyder at September 16, 2007 06:14 PM

None of the anti-war folk have been honest enough to say they really support having the murderers run Iraq,...

That's like someone saying "None of the War Hawks has been honest enough to come and say they'd really like every Muslim hanged, but..."

To save time, why not just discuss the points actually brought forward instead of making up stuff that you wish they'd say? I mean, sure, it's easier to argue with people when you can supply their dialog as well, but c'mon, this is high school locker room stuff.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 16, 2007 06:16 PM

MJT, could you please write in more detail about your impressions regarding Sheik Sattar, as well as the impressions regarding the Sheik from the Iraqis and GIs you talked to?

This would be much appreciated.

Thanks

Posted by: anand at September 17, 2007 09:10 AM
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