December 03, 2007

New York Daily News Column

I'll have another dispatch here shortly, but in the meantime here's a short piece of mine in the New York Daily News.

FALLUJAH, IRAQ - In August, I wrote in these pages that it was too soon to judge Gen. David Petraeus' surge of troops in Iraq a success or a failure. It's not too soon anymore.

Baghdad, the most dangerous city in all of Iraq, is only half as violent as it was when I was there during the summer. And the fact that the capital is now the deadliest city is itself evidence of a tectonic shift on the ground.

In the spring of 2007, Ramadi was the most violent place in Iraq. But the insurgency there has been finished. The Taji area north of Baghdad, which was a catastrophe when I paid a visit in July, is now going the way of Ramadi.

I am writing these words from Fallujah, site of the most horrific battle of the entire war in November 2004, and the city thought to be the meanest in Iraq since at least the time of the British in Mesopotamia.
Read the rest in the New York Daily News.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 3, 2007 12:27 AM

Comments

I hope you made page one with this. Great job.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 3, 2007 01:47 AM

It sounds as though we have turned the corner in Iraq. I hope things continue to improve and we can one day leave Iraq a better place than the one we found.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 3, 2007 03:07 AM

Michael:

This is more about managing the comments section than your article which I had read previously. The most elegant method is to have all comments moderated; i.e. read before being posted. That is not a big deal especially if you have a trusted friend who can assist. I've mentioned previously that I thought you handled your comments section better than anyone else I've seen. However, since it seems the riff raff have figured out how to throw a real monkey wrench in the works by using other peoples names, especially yours and Patrick's, then I don't see what other reasonable choice you have. Your responses to your readers is what makes you different from someone like Michael Yon, who is a great writer but who seldom if ever posts on his own comment section. That in a way is detrimental as sometimes questions arise which he could easily clarify but which end up with no resolution.

If your blog provider doesn't provide for moderated comments then I'd suggest switching providers - I know that would entail a lot of hassle but not nearly as much as you are enduring now. If I have to try and figure out if it is you posting under your name or some idiot with a very large ego problem, I'd just as soon not bother.

btw: here is a copy of a statement posted by PJ who runs the Groklaw Free Open Source web site, regarding moderating input in a positive way as opposed to the anarchists or dictatorial methods. Its wasn't written specifically about blog comments sections but it applies in principle.

In any case hope you are adjusting to your new environment, but when ever you get a chance I would really enjoy hearing your take on what is going on in Lebanon.

Take care and give my best to the troops.
------------

http://10questions.peppla.com/pj.html.html

PJ@groklaw.com

I don't think Wikipedia is FOSS-like, although I'd phrase it more that it's not Open Source-like. It isn't either, because it lacks the most important piece: someone to make final decisions who knows how. The Linus and lieutenants roles, if you will.

Someone has to have the vision, the skills, and the ability to take a project in the right direction. Input from everyone -- with a low barrier to entry or no barrier -- is the key to success, yes; but there has to be a viable filtering system, not based on a democratic vote, so good contributions get used and bad ones get excised. Skill and expertise aren't necessarily equally distributed. It doesn't mean you need a resume, but you have to be able to do what needs doing. And someone has to have an idea of what the project should accomplish and how to get there, where it should be headed.

Otherwise, to me, it's not following the Linux kernel model, anyway. That model is based on distributed trust and individuals given more authority when they prove they know what they are doing, not on just anyone making a contribution equally or at random. The contribution has to work and it has to withstand critical testing. And Linus gets final say.

It's an important distinction. So with Groklaw. It's not a free for all. I think Wikipedia will in the end see the need to do something like that.

Posted by: H. Short at December 3, 2007 04:01 AM

Even the Marines are softer on terrorists here than the local cops are.
I'm reminded of an old Bill Mauldin cartoon drawn during the liberation of Italy or France, not sure which. It shows Willy & Joe standing in a ruined town with a couple of German soldiers cowering behind them, and a couple more diving in on top of the first two. Willy is asking Joe "Seen any signs of partisan activity?"

One hand does not clap.
I bet the occupation forces in Japan never heard anyone say that. :-)

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 3, 2007 06:48 AM

Now that you're not being distracted by folks playing silly buggers in your comments, have you had a chance to get any info on the DPW-nerd questions about streetlights and public vs. private garbage collection?

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 3, 2007 06:51 AM

Great piece. Only thing is it appears that the Marines are more welcome in NYC than terrorists, but I don't know if the same can be said about SF. Seems like in SF its' the other way around.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 3, 2007 07:27 AM

Mike
Great Article. I wish your article was posted with more papers than the Daily News. I also hope to see you giving some reports on television. Any offer?

"one hand does not clap"

What a great line.

Posted by: Kyle at December 3, 2007 07:57 AM

It has never been safe in Iraq. Its in a state of anarchy. Has the US and British forces really freed the Iraq people? Maybe from Sadam, but they are still in such a terrible situation

Posted by: Pick Up Artist at December 3, 2007 09:16 AM

"Has the US and British forces really freed the Iraq people? Maybe from Sadam, but they are still in such a terrible situation."

Evaluating whether we did the right thing in intervening, I'd ask "does it suck less than it did?"

Trying to decide how to go forward, I would ask of any proposed action "Is it likely to make things suck less than they do now?"

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 3, 2007 09:28 AM

Did we do the right thing?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on that central question. The consensus answer seems to change depending on the situation in country and how our media reports it. My guess is that the answer will not be settled for many years from now. If in ten years, Iraq remains a democracy with a modern stable economy, at peace with their neighbors, as well as the world at large. I think the answer will be yes. If in ten years we have another dictator in power terrorizing his people and his neighbors and it remains a third world shit hole, then obviously the answer would be no.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 3, 2007 10:03 AM

"If in ten years, Iraq remains a democracy with a modern stable economy, at peace with their neighbors, as well as the world at large. I think the answer will be yes. If in ten years we have another dictator in power terrorizing his people and his neighbors and it remains a third world shit hole, then obviously the answer would be no"

There is not a single Arab democracy. Having Iraq as such would be very nice. Although, I am not that optimistic.
To me Mubarrak-like dictatorship as opposed to Saddam-like would be a success.
Lebanon-like sort of democracy, sort of anarchy would be even better but that would probably be a stretch.

Posted by: leo at December 3, 2007 10:43 AM

Mike, wonderful, wonderful news. I'm so glad people there are experiencing relative stability. Best to the soldiers you're embedded with during this holiday season, and to the Iraqis themselves, who, in our hearts, we have been rooting for all along.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 3, 2007 10:48 AM

"To me Mubarrak-like dictatorship as opposed to Saddam-like would be a success."

Consider South Korea - decades of continuous economic boom simultaneous with a military dictatorship followed by a slow transition to democracy.

Compared to North Korea I'd call that a victory, even if we did kinda "win ugly."

Given local (mideast) standards, I think a similar standard for defining success should be applied to Iraq.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 3, 2007 11:14 AM

If All of Iraq was like Fallujah, 40 American soldiers wouldn't have died violently last month. But one can still be glad that Fallujah is like Fallujah. Hooray for the surge in getting rid of almost half of the extra violence created for no good reason by the invasion, and I suppose I'm not even being sarcastic.

Sunni-on-Sunni mass violence is out of fashion, and working with Americans is in fashion, as long as the payments keep coming.

It's a good enough piece, Mike, but I don't know why you picked Fallujah to return to. This story essentially duplicates your Ramadi story.
Perhaps it's because you know there's a market (in the "pro-failure, anti-American liberal media") for this same kind of story repeated for a while, but your hardcore audience already knows the story in Anbar from your last trip.

If you go back, go somewhere outside of Anbar, is my suggestion. Try a mixed Sunni-Shiite community, even if you have to embed.

Posted by: glasnost at December 3, 2007 11:22 AM

One more thought: the active cooperation and passive consent of both Syria and Iran - obtained however - was neccessary to get these results. Something I didn't think would happen, frankly.

Posted by: glasnost at December 3, 2007 11:24 AM

"Compared to North Korea I'd call that a victory, even if we did kinda "win ugly.""

84,000 Iraqi civillian deaths, not counting our own losses, is more than winning ugly. It's winning sloppily and carelessly.

Hey, I am thrilled in the fall in violence in Iraq as much as anyone here. I do recognize progress and I sincerely hope it continues. But we are far from out of the woods on this. Andrew Sullivan just linked to a CBC article describing a slew of mass graves that have been unearthed, as well as the lack of progress of political reconciliation. Without that, we could easily see violence rise back to pre-surge levels. Even Negroponte agrees.

Posted by: Astroninja at December 3, 2007 11:40 AM

"...I don't know why you picked Fallujah to return to. This story essentially duplicates your Ramadi story.

"...your hardcore audience already knows the story in Anbar from your last trip."

Really?

I met with Michael after his arrival in Baghdad, helped get him on his way to Fallujah. During the brief time we had together we actually discussed the lack of "news" from Fallujah - vice Ramadi or the generic "Anbar". Given that Fallujah was very much in the headlines during my first tour here ('04) I found it surprising that no one (media) seemed inclined to revisit. Anyhow, I was glad Michael was heading that way. I'm 20 miles away from Fallujah right now, but didn't share your confidence in what he would discover.

Posted by: Greyhawk at December 3, 2007 11:59 AM

84,000 Iraqi civillian deaths, not counting our own losses, is more than winning ugly. It's winning sloppily and carelessly.

My reading of history is that that's how most wars are won.

It beats losing. Which is still possible.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at December 3, 2007 12:01 PM

"84,000 Iraqi civillian deaths, not counting our own losses, is more than winning ugly. It's winning sloppily and carelessly."

Even at the close out of a war against people responsible for the deaths of 84,000 there are those who would seek to transfer the responsibility for those deaths onto those of us who've done the most to end the killing.

Posted by: Greyhawk at December 3, 2007 12:10 PM

Astroninja,

In all fairness all war is ugly, sloppy, careless whatever you want to call it. This war is no different. It is not American soldiers killing civillians it is our enemies who are doing the killing. It's hard to stop people from killing each other if they really want to . If you compare this conflict to past wars then you will see that the casualties we see in Iraq are by historical standards very low. The truth is that our expectations of what our military can achieve are at impossibly high standards. Even so the achievements of our military are nothing short of remarkable. Easily the best military in all of history.

Bin Laden decided to make Iraq the central battle in the war on terror, and he threw everything he had at us and the Iraqi people. He felt that America was a "Paper Tiger" and if he could wound us that we would turn and run away as we had from Lebanon and Somalia.

To run away from Iraq would have handed Bin Laden and AlQaeda a victory, And that is why we must win.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 3, 2007 01:08 PM

To clarify...

Clearly, american soldiers are not killing all or even the majority of civilians. And yes, we seen far more civilian casualties in other wars. But those casulaties were the result of antiquated methods of war (fire-bombing in Japan during WWII, carpet bombing in Vietnam). For a war where basic combat operations were said to be over in less time than the first gulf war (where there were less civ. casualties), I feel, and I don't think I'm alone, that the civilian casulty rate bespeaks a level of carelssness that isn't acceptable.

"Bin Laden decided to make Iraq the central battle in the war on terror, and he threw everything he had at us and the Iraqi people. He felt that America was a "Paper Tiger" and if he could wound us that we would turn and run away as we had from Lebanon and Somalia.

To run away from Iraq would have handed Bin Laden and AlQaeda a victory, And that is why we must win."

See, now this is interesting. Where, oh where did I suggest in my earlier post, or in any others I have made on this blog, that I sought withdrawl from Iraq? I expressed concern over a terribly slow pace of political reconciliation, but nowhere do I suggest withdrawl. Being against the original invasion, as I was, does not mean that I cannot see the complexity of the current situation, and am incapable of reassessing my poistion as new information is revealed. I made a post that was of mixed optimism, and you hit me with talking points. It is possible to be critical of the war without hating freedom, soldiers, rainbows, and/or friendship.

And please, I don't need to be educated on who Bin Laden was or what he hopes to accomplish. My political education goes beyond wikipedia. I'm a 3rd generation army vet, my father fought in Vietnam, and my mother worked for more than a few defense contractors. I do not own any Dennis Kucinich commemorative plates, nor do I have a framed photo of Scott Thomas Beauchamp next to one of ma'. That said, I don't buy that argument of OBL making Iraq the central battleground one damn bit.

Posted by: Astroninja at December 3, 2007 02:20 PM

Astroninja,

84,000 civilians and you want to blame the Americans for being careless with the Iraqis lives. WOW, that's just amazing. Our casualty rate wouldn't be so I high if our ROE's weren't so strict. The real reason the civilian casualty rate was so high becuase of many reasons; they are good at killing large groups of people, the terrorists mistakenly believed that their allies the liberal media and the Democrat leadership would've had America withdrawing from Iraq by now or am I the only remembered that OBL expressed his disappointment that the Democrats couldn't keep their campaign promises. And you are so certain that OBL didn't make Iraq the central battleground. Clean out your ears and rub your eyes OBL has proclaimed it himself, bud. Thank God you aren't in charge.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 3, 2007 03:41 PM

Am I not allowed to bring up new points in a conversation? Didn't mean to insult you sorry you took it that way.

You made a point that there was sloppyness and carelessness which I read as a critisism of our armed forces. I made a counterpoint defending their performance as outstanding.

OBL made those statements about Iraq being the central battle in his holy war I didn't make it up. I'll get his exact quotes if you like I'm sure I can dig them up somewhere

Posted by: joefrommass at December 3, 2007 03:49 PM

glasnost: the active cooperation and passive consent of both Syria and Iran - obtained however - was neccessary to get these results.

So, how did Iran and Syria cooperate actively to get these results?

(I understand "passive consent" - it means not doing anything about something).

Posted by: Edgar at December 3, 2007 04:57 PM

Our American war operations have not been sloppy or careless. They have been carefully planned with intense attention to the avoidence of collateral damage to lives and property.

The United States president clearly and over a protracted period of time made reasonable demands of capitulation from the Iraq dictator to submit to the United Nations requirements for full disclosure on nuclear armament activity. The invasion was not a surprise to anyone. The invasion was a masterful, incisive attack that led to a stunning overthrow of a tyrant in a war that lasted only days, not months or years.

The lives that have been lost in the time since our liberation of Iraq are not the work of America's warriors nor our politicians. The death toll in Iraq is the work of militant extremist factions of an amazing array. It is a major tribute to our American military that the death toll has been contained to the limited numbers we have witnessed.

Our mission in Iraq now is not war nor is it occupation. We are now in an operation of nation building, which is the necessary and responsible consequence of removing the former regime. In as much as the parties of the new nation are effectually impotent to achieve real and critical objectives, our tenure and troop level in Iraq were escalated.

World peace is not just a catch phrase for beauty pageants, it is a real and conscienable mandate for mankind. When tyrants rule, they abuse their own and threaten the welfare of those around them. Saddam was just such a tyrant and his removal from power and humanity is an accomplishment that the USA has every right to be proud of. We can not be as effectual with each of this world's tyrants but the USA continues to be the world's leader in taking active steps to prevent a world at war.

I just finished reading a report about the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that states that because of American lead actions in 2003 that Iran suspended their nuclear weapons program. A global crisis was averted.

To call American action in Iraq careless and sloppy is an inappropriate insult; to call your comment, Astroninja, careless and sloppy is right on target.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 3, 2007 05:02 PM

Kevin China: To call American action in Iraq careless and sloppy is an inappropriate insult

What insult would be appropriate?

Posted by: Edgar at December 3, 2007 05:17 PM

Edgar,

I suppose if you're into insults, kinda like masochists are into pain, then an insult would be appropriate. Get with the program man.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 3, 2007 06:29 PM

Edgar,

An appropiate insult would be, "may you be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels". Actually, I thought I gave an example of an appropriate insult immediately following the quote you extracted.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 3, 2007 07:46 PM

"The lives that have been lost in the time since our liberation of Iraq are not the work of America's warriors nor our politicians."

Not intentionally, of cause. But our constant bickering regarding validity of the war results in more casualties (American and Iraqi) than it would've been otherwise.

Even if majority of us understand that by most part it is just internal political game, our enemy perceives it as weakness and readiness to give up.

Posted by: leo at December 3, 2007 09:24 PM

Hey Michael. Just wanted to let you know, belatedly, that I really enjoyed the Nov 27 Fallujah article. I don't agree with your views that much, but your writings' mood and rhythm are excellent. Even when your articles raise concerns, they are enjoyable. Thank you for your reporting.

Posted by: alec truist at December 3, 2007 09:56 PM

Did we do the right thing?

Easy answer. No.

No WMD. Therefore, in hindsight, the invasion was a mistake.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 3, 2007 10:02 PM

"the active cooperation and passive consent of both Syria and Iran - obtained however - was neccessary to get these results."

What a great bunch of guys! Now if we could only turn them loose on Israel ...

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 4, 2007 12:05 AM

Michael,
Good article. In your last post you mentioned a coffee shop. I was curious as to what was discovered since it was stated that Iraq is more of a tea drinking nation than coffee.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 4, 2007 12:06 AM

Creamy Goodness,

No WMD. Therefore, in hindsight, the invasion was a mistake.

http://www.moderaterisk.net/2007/04/visiting_a_dormant_hell.php

There were dozens of reasons to invade Iraq, and centering on only one of them is shallow and irrational.

I've seen Saddam's rape rooms and think you are wrong. Is is worth a trillion dollars to end institutional rape for 25 million people? Maybe not, perhaps the ongoing misery of 25 million people isn't worth the money to you.

Or perhaps you think that our troops lives are not risking? Or perhaps you think that a world opinion that could ignore Saddam's brutality is a moral authority we should obey?

In the end, the invasion was made on the basis of the best available intelligence. Arguing about it now is just churlish and dull. Hindsight is the procrastinators favorite view, it's not known for accomplishing a lot.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 4, 2007 12:37 AM

gotta love people who decide they know everything from the safety of their own homes, never having seen what they're talking about.

not that i have :)

Posted by: James L. at December 4, 2007 03:19 AM

oh and wow. site's been trolled again, didn't see that.

keep up the good work in fallujah michael.

Posted by: James L. at December 4, 2007 03:20 AM

There is absolutely no question in my mind that regime change in Iraq was the right thing to do. We could fight a small war now or fight a huge war later. Thank you, GWB, for remaining steadfast.

There is also no question in my mind that the folks who waged this war are worthy of greatness.

And thanks Michael for the great posts....check is in the mail (seriously).

Posted by: Stevend at December 4, 2007 06:29 AM

I supported the war, but think it's perfectly legitimate to question whether it was worth it or not.

If it was a mistake, we need to learn from it. You can't just silence people by saying "look, we did it and that's that."

Also, saying that the justification for the war was "rape rooms" approaches a new level of silliness. It's the same thing I was talking about before: people arguing that it was their concern for Iraqis that led them to support the war.

It's bullshit, obviously. There are many ways to help rape victims much closer to home, for one. You don't need to invade Iraq to do it.

And if Iraqi civilians were really our main concern, all of us would have donated money to relief efforts that directly helped them (food, water, etc.)

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 07:49 AM

Edgar! Edgar!! Stop trolling or else your common sense talk will confuse and anger the vassals and you'll get banished from the kingdom!

Edgar! Listen to me! I am your mirror! Michael does not like people to argue with him. He's a hard-headed liberal. He has a rock for a head. Do not get banished! Say something nice to the Michael before it is too late!!!

Posted by: Edgar's Mirror at December 4, 2007 08:29 AM

I'm not sure why you guys insist on using the 84,000 number.

Last year, a study in the Lancet estimated that there had been 650,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the invasion, most of which were violent. The study was carried out by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and was poorly covered by the press. (This American Life had an informative piece on the study and how it was received in the media.)

The numbers found in this study were portrayed in the media as being very controversial, because they were so much higher than most people had estimated. But according to George Mason University's stats page, the methodology is not at all controversial:

While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study's methodology is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study. When the prequel to this study appeared two years ago by the same authors (at that time, 100,000 excess deaths were reported), the Chronicle of Higher Education published a long article explaining the support within the scientific community for the methods used.

As it turns out, the support for this method was not only to be found in academia. The BBC reports that it also existed within the British Government:

Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate.

He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report."

But a memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: "The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."

One main problem that some people seem to have with the study's results is that they are so different from the stats being given by Iraqi hospitals and morgues and collected in press accounts. But this doesn't seem surprising to me at all.

An Iraqi friend of mine recently got the horrible news that three members of his had been murdered in Baghdad because they has they were Shi'a living in a Sunni neighborhood. Their names never appeared in any newspaper, their bodies never went to the hospital or the morgue. This is common.

Not only is this common for war zones, but it's common in Islamic societies. Generally speaking, in Islam, when someone dies, the body is supposed to be ritually cleaned, shrouded and buried as soon as possible, avoiding all delay. For example, let's say a man dies of a heart attack at 3 a.m., it is a very common for his funeral to be the next afternoon. There is no embalming, no fridge and no coffin. This could help explain why so many deaths are not recorded by morgues or hospitals.

If only half of those peoples were civilians, that's enormous. And while the Iraqis themselves bear ultimate responsibility for Iraqi on Iraqi violence, American responsibility cannot be ignored for having opened Pandora's box.

Posted by: wissam at December 4, 2007 08:35 AM

My support for the war didn't totally hinge on WMD. It was the fact that we didn't finish him off the first time. Bush 41 let that idiot Powell talk him into cutting the war short. Secondly, he didn't live up to the cease fire agreement. He was supposed to prove that he destroyed his WMD's. So in '98 when he gave Clinton the "finger" we had the legal right to restart the war. So looking back did Bush do the right thing. "Hell, yeah he did." Just should've of done it soonner instead of listening to that idiot Powell again. The "Hell, yeah" will only get bigger if the next Administration follows Bush's policy of having pre-emptive wars. If we can believe the new National Intelligence estimates Libya isn't the only middle-east country that gave of WMD's because of Bush's policy. It looks like Iran in '03 followed the same path.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 4, 2007 08:39 AM

Those links got messed up, so here they are again:

http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2006/burnham_iraq_2006.html
http://www.stats.org/stories/how_media_lancet_iraq_oct13_06.htm http://thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=320
http://www.stats.org/stories/the_science_ct_dead_oct17_06.htm
http://chronicle.com/free/v51/i22/22a01001.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6495753.stm

Posted by: wissam at December 4, 2007 08:40 AM

oh and wow. site's been trolled again, didn't see that.

The site was apparently visited by a troll who champions voting "with guns", and who has been banned or deleted from other sites for making racist comments and/or threats.

Sockpuppetry, 'borrowing' identities and having long online conversations with imaginary friends are also part of this troll's M.O. If your identity has been borrowed, please send me a note at this email

Thanks.

Posted by: moderator_2 at December 4, 2007 09:00 AM

Michael:
Thank you for reporting truth. My Nephew, Adam Leigh Cann (USMC) was killed in Ramadi, January 5, 2006. My prayers have been for the people of Iraq...people he loved and was so willing to die for. It's nice to read the truth about what is going on over there. It gives me hope, and makes me even more proud to be Adam's uncle.
Bless you, and keep writing.

Posted by: Joe Paul at December 4, 2007 09:27 AM

So, how did Iran and Syria cooperate actively to get these results?

See, Sadr, Al. Truce, six-month. Also, see the U.S. military's statements regarding recent decline in supplies coming from Iran: correlation with lowered US deaths.

Re Syria: I recommmend you read this NYT article, for starters:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/world/middleeast/22fighters.html

I don't agree with Creamy Goodness or Patrick. No WMD means, probably, that the Iraq war was a mistake as an anti-proliferation initiative, but it would not neccesarily have been not a mistake even if we'd found WMD.
Pat's right that there are other conceivable reasons that someone might go to war with a country, but wrong when he suggests that the Iraq war is actively justified on humanitarian grounds.
It's not hard to figure that out: count the refugees, now vs. then. For starters. If Saddamn had killed as many people in 2001-2003 as the consequences of our invasion killed in 04-06, we'd have called his actions genocide.

Posted by: glasnost at December 4, 2007 09:57 AM

When we are having a conversation on the steps leading to war, we should have a conversation on the steps leading to war.

When we are talking about the results in Fallujah today, bickering about what was done four years ago is churlish and dull.

It is also pathetic to bring up the immaculate conflict rule. "Thou shalt never fight unless the conditions are of ultimate purity and perfection!" This is a rule brought on by the pacifists and their tools to decry any military action as bellicose as a Memorial Day parade.

The world gets out of order with new political, economic, and cultural power stifled by lack of status. This is adjusted on battlefields and has been since the beginning of civilization. Waiting around for the perfect alignment of stars, planets, and moral authority to justify action is stupider than basing your life on astrology. It just gives your enemies time to arrange your downfall.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 4, 2007 10:01 AM

The Lancet study was deeply flawed by a too small sample size and an incorrect statistical analysis.

http://gold-platedwitchonwheels.blogspot.com/2007/07/lancet-study-debunked.html

It has been soundly debunked.

Posted by: deathstar at December 4, 2007 10:20 AM

650,000 count surfaced for the first time in the mid of last year. Barely 1000 days into the war. It would mean avarage daily death toll roughly'd be 600 people. Is this plausible?
If I am not mistaking, as reported, highest Iraqi death toll never riched 200 people a day. Where did rest of dead disapear? Baried so fast nobody seen them dead? I wonder if refugees were counted as dead if we are to take this number seriously at all?

Posted by: leo at December 4, 2007 10:50 AM

More importantly, how many people did Arnold Schwarznegger kill in True Lies ?

I bet it's more than the number who died in Iraq.

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 11:05 AM

Edgar,

I beg to differ. Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots Part Deux had the "all time" kill record not Arnold...

;p

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 4, 2007 11:08 AM

Ok, you got me.

But I bet Arnold will subject millions of people to "institutional rape" though.

It's called California state prison.

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 11:14 AM

As a matter of fact, the study was not debunked; on the contrary, the British Government called it "robust." Unless of course you can call the post of a blogger at "gold-platedwitchonwheels" who quotes the eminent statistician Michelle Malkin debunking.

For my part, I think I'll have to trust the statistics department of George Mason University and the British Foreign Office over either of those obviously erudite sources of yours.

Posted by: wissam at December 4, 2007 11:23 AM

wissam: I think I'll have to trust the statistics department of George Mason University and the British Foreign Office over either of those obviously erudite sources of yours.

Actually, the most reliable of all are the statisticians working for Arab dictators. I remember something like 99.9% of Iraqis voted for Saddam.

It was amazing how fast they counted those votes and arrived at that precise figure.

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 11:36 AM

LOL, that's right I forgot about that. Iraq was the jewel of the middle east. It was a Garden of Eden in the middle of a region of shit. Saddam was so benevolent; you had your own personal interrogator. And those poor Kurds in the north, didn't they know that Saddam was just "crop dusting" when he dusted their town. What was Bush thinking when invaded this paradise??????

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 4, 2007 11:58 AM

"wissam: I think I'll have to trust the statistics department of George Mason University and the British Foreign Office over either of those obviously erudite sources of yours."

Nice attempt to side step the inconviniant truth (inconviniant for anti-war, anti-Iraq liberals that is).

If you had actually read the links you would have discovered that David Kane, Institute Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University showed that when the data from the lancet study is not cherry picked (as was done by the original authors) the confidence interval drops below zero which raises serious questions about the reliability of the study.

I think I'll have to trust a quantitive social scientist from Harvard over the erudite (but some might say overly prosaic) commenter Wissam.

Posted by: deathstar at December 4, 2007 12:59 PM

Ok, let's settle this with the facts.

Fact: The Americans killed loads of Iraqis

Fact: Probably not as many as Arnold did in True Lies

Fact: Body-count statistics are a boring and ultimately pointless thing to argue about

Case closed.

Dismissed. (shout out to Lassy)

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 01:12 PM

Fact: The Americans killed loads of Iraqis

I don't think that was the contention of the Lancet study, they were measuring death rates prior to and after the invasion.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 01:22 PM

Maybe someone should create a Saddam "happiness index," using a multitude of data from different sources.

They could quantify how much happier he was living in his 19 palaces than he was in his cramped "spider hole."

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 01:45 PM

DPU,

You're right.

One of the weird things about Iraq is that many of the atrocities were fully documented. Someone showed me his death warrant from Abu Ghraib. They did that to extract a bigger bribe, and if you couldn't come up with it, they'd kill you.

Just like Saddam's army would come through villages looking for draft dodgers to add numbers to the forces, the secret police would come through rounding up innocents who looked like they had money to extort.

This is the kind of nation that some people want to keep intact. They call it fighting injustice.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 4, 2007 01:51 PM

I\'m sorry but most of the above comments are straw men. Saying that as a direct result of the American invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died has nothing to do with what the regime was like before.

I don\'t think most of you would be so cavalier if we were talking about American lives instead of Iraqi ones.

Posted by: Wissam at December 4, 2007 03:17 PM

"Imagine if Iraqi insurgents were more welcome in New York City than the Marines."

The Iraqi insurgents might be more welcome in the very left wing areas of New York than the Marines! These "victims of Western imperialism" would have made great guests at Leonard Bernstein's
politically correct parties in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 4, 2007 03:21 PM

David Thomson: These "victims of Western imperialism" would have made great guests at Leonard Bernstein's politically correct parties in the late 1960s and early 70s.

I can see an Iraqi insurgent putting out a couple hit rap singles in New York.

They have more street cred than 50 cent, are discriminated against and imprisoned by the U.S. authorities, and have a longstanding musical tradition that might lend itself to sampling.

I could picture the wider hip-hop community being receptive to a few jihadis, especially as guest rappers on a few albums.

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 04:05 PM

This is the kind of nation that some people want to keep intact. They call it fighting injustice.

Strawman. People like myself who opposed the invasion were not seeking to perpetuate Hussein's regime, they were thinking that the long-term success was unlikely, and that it would cause more bloodshed and misery than not invading, particularly when the stated purpose invasion was largely intended to deal with the threat of WMDs, and had little to do with humanitarian relief anyway.

Admittedly, that is a position that's harder to argue with, so I can understand the impulse to portray the anti-invasion side in more simplistic terms.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 05:06 PM

DPU: I can understand the impulse to portray the anti-invasion side in more simplistic terms.

You evil bastard.

Posted by: Edgar at December 4, 2007 05:16 PM

Oh, Wissam I guess you've never heard of the Civil War or checked the statistics for World War II. Between the two wars over a million American dead; millions more injured. You know numbers that Arnold would be proud of. What I don't understand is that liberals today don't seem to have with those numbers, but an artificial number made up by them 3000, 3500 or 4000 dead is the end of the United States. Those men that bled and died in the Civil War and World War II aren't worth any less than the ones that have died in Iraq. I have faith that the kids Michael is taking pictures of now will still be our allies in 20 years. And not to be "cavalier" about the civilian war casualties, but name a war where there haven't been innocents killed.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 4, 2007 05:27 PM

Great article, and I hope the Daily News publishes some pictures, too. And more articles. It would be good for their competition with the NYT and even the Sun.

Your ability to add a bit of humor is just one of your skills I admire. (A better writer than M. Yon, but not always with better material!)

Glad moderator 2 allowed me to avoid a troll.

While I believe Iraqi Body Count far more than Lancet, in all cases the Dems have a problem: if our enemy, in killing and murdering civilians, is our responsibility, than what is the right policy?

I think Bush has been weak at not blaming the Iraqis for supporting law & order & liberation ... by turning in the killers.

Bush's Liberation was the same for the Kurds as for the Sunni and Shia, but the Arabs reacted differently. In the future, I'd guess the Iraqis will blame the terrorists for the deaths, and take most of the credit for stopping them -- rightfully so. The too-few Americans were mostly on their bases, mostly letting the Iraqis "rule themselves" (Thanks Donald R!)

Michael, please ask Iraqis about their views on responsibility for deaths and security in Iraq.

I truly don't believe a 500 000 Vietnam style Occupation force would have been better -- because it would clearly have been occupation, it would have suppressed terrorists as successful rulers without getting rid of the terrorists, and thus, while it might have allowed more economic reconstruction sooner, it probably would have had the Iraqis continue to blame the Americans longer.

As long as the Iraqis blame the Americans for deaths, rather than terrorists which only the Iraqis can effectively stop, America would be losing. (I supported allowing the Iraqis to 'lose' Fallujah in April 2004, and supported taking it back in Nov.)

Patrick (did I tell you we named our 4th baby Patrick two years ago?): "In the end, the invasion was made on the basis of the best available intelligence. Arguing about it now is just churlish and dull. Hindsight is the procrastinators favorite view, it's not known for accomplishing a lot."

Great, terrible, great comment! Yes, it was the best intelligence, but also with the most likely future outcomes being noted. The no-invasion folk never mention what the likely outcome would be with mere inspections instead in 2003:
a) no WMDS found, but
b) no convincing proof that there are no WMDs, thus
c) Saddam WINS again! Too smart to allow those Blix inspectors to find the WMDs 'everybody' knows he has, but Saddam so smart and clever at hiding. (And don't all Arabs love an Arab smarter than the arrogant UN/ West/ USA?)
But since (a) no WMDs are found, then
d) end sanctions! So,
e) start secret WMD programs, again.

While I agree that most simplistic arguments about invade/ not invade are dull, I don't believe it is all just churlish and dull.

I recall how the anti-war folk first denied military support to S. Vietnam after the '73 Peace Accords (in 1974), then cut funding, then allowed commies to win in N. Vietnam and Cambodia. I do not see 'blame America for Iraq invasion decision AND deaths afterward' folk accepting the same standard: 'blame Dem Party for decisions to accept commie victory AND the Killing Fields afterward'.

On the other hand, I have long thought Jay Garner would have been better than Bremer was at putting Iraqis in charge sooner. See his 2004 interview:
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0318-01.htm

Yet privatization is great, so Bremer's market path had some good points, too.

One huge lack in the hot air about what would be better or not is any set of alternatives with positives and negatives compared. Like I did a bit with the not invasion scenario.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 4, 2007 05:30 PM

Hey DPU -- how many have to die in Darfur before you'll think that invading, like "genocide" justifies, if not requires, is better than UN do-little talk?

I think most Iraqis are better off than most blacks in/from Darfur. Let's remember, those who died since Bush said in 2004 that Darfur was a genocide, have died for the anti-war, anti-invasion position.
(I thought Bush should have done far more, maybe even ask for declaration of war and invade, primarily on humanitarian ground.)

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 4, 2007 06:15 PM

Hey DPU -- how many have to die in Darfur before you'll think that invading, like "genocide" justifies, if not requires, is better than UN do-little talk?

That's quite a high-horse you're on there, Tom. Invade who, and for what purpose? Overthrow the government? The government is fighting rebels that want to expand sharia to non-Muslims, and whose suspected leader is a good pal to Osama bin Laden.

I think most Iraqis are better off than most blacks in/from Darfur.

Blacks? Both sides in the conflict are black. Could it be that you don't have any idea what you're talking about?

Naaaaah.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 06:42 PM

DPU, I think Tom may be talking about the fact that some of the blacks in Darfur call themselves 'blacks' and others call themselves 'Arabs'.

Posted by: mary at December 4, 2007 06:48 PM

And, for the record and since you couldn't be bothered to ask, I'm in favor of military intervention in Darfur to protect civilians and to guarantee humanitarian aid reaches those that need it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 06:50 PM

those who died since Bush said in 2004 that Darfur was a genocide, have died for the anti-war, anti-invasion position.

And how many extra people would have died if we'd attempted to invade Sudan? I see good arguments on both sides of this position - and Sudan has a better case for aggressive measures than Iraq had at any point in the 21'st century, at least in the humanitarian spectrum - nevertheless.

Posted by: glasnost at December 4, 2007 06:53 PM

DPU, I think Tom may be talking about the fact that some of the blacks in Darfur call themselves 'blacks' and others call themselves 'Arabs'.

People who can't be bothered to check keeping mixing up the current conflict with the Second Sudanese Civil War, and think that "Arab" is an ethnic division rather than a linguistic one. And the general assumption, repeated over and over, is that it's the nasty Muslims killing non-Muslim Sudanese. When one points out the the rebels are severely Islamist and actually started the conflict, people seem to lose interest for some reason.

No axe to grind for Muslim on Muslim violence, I guess.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 06:58 PM

People who can't be bothered to check keeping mixing up the current conflict with the Second Sudanese Civil War, and think that "Arab" is an ethnic division rather than a linguistic one.

People who can't be bothered to check keep reminding people who are in favor of military intervention that both sides are black and Muslim because they think it influences opinion for some reason. It doesn't.

The fact remains that some people in Darfur call themselves 'Black' and others call themselves 'Arabs'. Any discussion of the area and its problems should acknowledge that fact.

Posted by: mary at December 4, 2007 07:36 PM

People who can't be bothered to check keep reminding people who are in favor of military intervention that both sides are black and Muslim because they think it influences opinion for some reason.

Then people should stop trying to portray this as a racial struggle. Tom is the one who made the pigmentation blunder, perhaps he would like to rephrase.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 4, 2007 07:39 PM

Saddam's Iraq was a test case for how much a regime can get away with without the world community uniting to take it out. The answer: just about anything. Saddam used WMDs against his population; he invaded one neighbor and fought a long war against another; he harbored terrorists; he paid families of suicide bombers. He had an active nuclear program in the Eighties that Israel destroyed. He was in longstanding violation of numerous UN resolutions. He diverted money meant to feed his people into building palaces and supporting his regime, starving his population. He was trying to get sanctions removed without changing his behavior one iota. The fact that the world community did not unite in taking him out ensures "business as usual" throughout the Third World, where tyrants like Mugabe rule with impunity, and regions like Somalia, Darfur,and the Congo are allowed to fester in an anarchic state.

Posted by: MartyH at December 4, 2007 09:51 PM

First of all: everyone in Darfur is black and Muslim. Some Darfuris speak Arabic as a first language, while others speak other African languages. It\'s not a case of \"calling themselves black,\" but rather some of those who speak Arabic as a first language calling those who don\'t \"slaves,\" which is the outdated but common word for a black person.

None of you seems to know much about Sudan, but you\'d all do well to read Gérard Prunier\'s book, Darfur: An Ambiguous Genocide or Alex de Waal\'s blog Making Sense of Darfur at SSRC. His LRB piece, Counterinsurgency on the cheap is also a good place to start.

Posted by: wissam at December 4, 2007 10:03 PM

The fact that the world community did not unite in taking him out ensures "business as usual" throughout the Third World, where tyrants like Mugabe rule with impunity, and regions like Somalia, Darfur,and the Congo are allowed to fester in an anarchic state.

Take up the White Man's burden
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 4, 2007 10:47 PM

Creamy Goodness,

Ooh! You discovered 1920s leftism! Dismissing Kipling is an 80 year old arrogance, but that doesn't age doesn't aid the persuasiveness of the dismissal.

Kipling got a lot of things right that the left got wrong. Of course, the left's poetry is a lot less memorable. Well, if you discount the indelible, "God, I hope I never hear or read anything like that ever, ever again."

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 4, 2007 11:56 PM

DPU: "And, for the record and since you couldn't be bothered to ask, I'm in favor of military intervention in Darfur to protect civilians and to guarantee humanitarian aid reaches those that need it."

And how Iraq of 2003 would differ from Darfur?

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 05:42 AM

All I can say is God Bless you, Thank you for what you do and have done. I'm a Volunteer at the Marion IL. VA but wish I could do more. I tried to serve our Country but didn't make the cut. Instead of serving our Country I help those who do/have. I still have the 'drive' in me to do more but so it goes.

Posted by: Susan at December 5, 2007 05:56 AM

leo: And how Iraq of 2003 would differ from Darfur?

Because everyone in Darfur was black.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 06:04 AM

"Because everyone in Darfur was black"

Funny.

Anyway, jokes aside.

If people are concerned with situation in Darfur why these very people did not care about situation in Iraq or do not care about what might come due to premature withdrawal?

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 06:21 AM

leo: If people are concerned with situation in Darfur why these very people did not care about situation in Iraq or do not care about what might come due to premature withdrawal?

Answer: neither the Right nor the Left care about Iraqi or Darfurian civilians. If they did, their adherents would have donated money or volunteered to help them long ago. It wouldn't take much to help someone in Darfur.

Who's willing to make a monthly contribution to Darfur? Don't all put up your hands at once.

You're correct in pointing out hypocrisy on the Left, but it exists on the Right, too. The Right makes a big deal of Darfur because they think (somewhat erroneously as it turns out) that jihadist Arab muslims are doing the killing.

Likewise, an Iraq pullout or non-pullout has nothing to do with the fate of Iraqi civilians. It has everything to do with partisan politics.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 07:33 AM

And how Iraq of 2003 would differ from Darfur?

If you think that the situation in Darfur is anything like the situation in Iraq, then you know nothing of Iraq or Darfur or, most likely, either.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 08:34 AM

It wouldn't take much to help someone in Darfur.

Nonsense. Darfur is a fairly complex problem, and no one has been able to come up with a reasonable solution to it, which is why it drags on. And money isn't the issue, which is why a monthly contribution won't do much but line the pocket of a local warlord.

That doesn't seem to occur to the usual fools who see a quick invasion as the solution to every problem, as long as it isn't them that gets a bullet in their head in the process.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 08:38 AM

If people are concerned with situation in Darfur why these very people did not care about situation in Iraq or do not care about what might come due to premature withdrawal?

And if you are concerned with the humanitarian plight of the Iraqis and the Daruri, why do you not seem to care about the oppressed people of Pakistan? Or why do I not see reams of comments about the Congo, the source of the greatest suffering in the world in the last ten years?

Because the oh-so-superior tears of concern for the Iraqi people is largely just so much partisan horseshit, that's why.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 08:46 AM

DPU,

The point is not that money might be misused (there are loads of reputable relief agencies that have transparent financial dealings).

The point is that there are many real, practical ways for people like us to help Iraqi/Darfurian civilians besides supporting a military invasion in someone's blog comments.

I do not personally donate time or money to help Iraqi civilians, even though I theoretically could. Therefore, I don't cynically use them to win an argument.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 08:58 AM

The point is not that money might be misused (there are loads of reputable relief agencies that have transparent financial dealings).

I get the intent of what you said, and agree with it. It would be especially nice to see people who argue a cause on a partisan basis do something significant to illustrate commitment to that cause rather than the usual prattling on a blog for prattling's sake.

I just wanted to indicate that the problem is not simply inaction. It's a complex political and tribal issue that has no easy solution. The government there has been making recent efforts at negotiation with the rebels, but the rebel forces now think that with the publicity that Darfur has received on the world stage that they will get a better deal if they don't negotiate and keep fighting.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 09:11 AM

DPU,

Because the oh-so-superior tears of concern for the Iraqi people is largely just so much partisan horseshit, that's why.

I had Iraqi friends before the 2003 invasion. I was in favor of deposing Saddam in 1990 because it was the right thing to do. I repeatedly volunteered for service in the Gulf in 1990-1 so I could help in getting Saddam out. Back then I was a registered Democrat. When I got out of the service, I registered independent. It wasn't until 2004 that I registered Republican, largely because that was the party that wouldn't throw away Iraq.

My experience is a direct refutation of your premise. I'm pretty sure the same is true for Michael Totten, Roger Simon, and Ron Silver as well.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 09:17 AM

Yeah, no argument there.

And for the record, I'm against using the "chickenhawk" slur.

But if people profess their deep concern for Iraqi civilians, then it's perfectly valid to point out their lack of personal action, especially when they can do plenty of things that don't involve risking their lives, but don't.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 09:18 AM

I meant no argument with DPU.

I do not believe anyone volunteered for the Gulf War to help Iraqi civilians.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 09:24 AM

Edgar,

I do not believe anyone volunteered for the Gulf War to help Iraqi civilians.

Then you would be mistaken about that as well. Most of us volunteered to help the Kuwaiti's, but were more than willing to kick Saddam out to help the Iraqi's.

What is your experience with the 1990-1 active duty and reserve military?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 09:34 AM

"If you think that the situation in Darfur is anything like the situation in Iraq, then you know nothing of Iraq or Darfur or, most likely, either"

You may be right. Still...

How Iraq of 2003 differs from Darfur?

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 10:44 AM

My experience is a direct refutation of your premise.

You must have skimmed over my use of the word "largely", Patrick. Your experience does not refute what I said.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 10:48 AM

How Iraq of 2003 differs from Darfur?

In one, you had a secular dictator who had decades of consolidated power, who was a military threat to the crucial Middle Eastern oil reserves. In another, you have a autocratic Islamist government fighting an even more Islamist insurgency in a struggle that is primarily over control of water resources.

How are the two situations even remotely alike?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 10:52 AM

DPU: "And if you are concerned with the humanitarian plight of the Iraqis and the Daruri, why do you not seem to care about the oppressed people of Pakistan?"

First, I am not concerned as much as you assume.

Second, nobody can be everywhere at once.

Third, I want oil and uninterrupted and at affordable price. I still do not know how to gas up my car with beautiful dreams.

Forth, I am not sure whether going to Iraq was right or wrong thing to do but I am certain wars are not fought to lost.

Fifth, question was offered to you. I am curious to understand your pattern of though better because I find it contradictory. Of cause you are not obligated to answer. You can totally ignore it or you can try turning tables around to avoid it. I see you've chosen latter.

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 11:03 AM

leo: You can totally ignore it or you can try turning tables around to avoid it. I see you've chosen latter.

Maybe DPU was using verbal Aikido, actually. He didn't duck the question and he didn't respond with force. He used the force of your question against you.

Well done, DPU-san.

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 11:22 AM

Fifth, question was offered to you.

Which question. This one?
If people are concerned with situation in Darfur why these very people did not care about situation in Iraq or do not care about what might come due to premature withdrawal?
If so, I'm not sure why it's aimed at me. I don't favor withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 11:22 AM

First, I am not concerned as much as you assume.

My mistake.

Second, nobody can be everywhere at once.

No, but they can be in the place that needs them the most, if humanitarian intervention is the reason. And that isn't Iraq.

Third, I want oil and uninterrupted and at affordable price. I still do not know how to gas up my car with beautiful dreams.

Oil was freely available in Iraq before the invasion. Invasion has actually decreased the supply, and has increased tensions in the Middle East a hundred-fold. Compare the current price to that five years ago.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 11:27 AM

DPU,

For God's sake. You have been designated the official representative of the insurgent-supporting Left in the comments.

Start acting like it.

Even if you truly don't want the U.S. to be humiliated, get a bloody nose, etc., at least pretend you do, ok?

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 11:28 AM

For God's sake. You have been designated the official representative of the insurgent-supporting Left in the comments.

Start acting like it.

If only I could show you the giant puppet I made of George Bush biting the head off an Iraqi baby that I take to demonstrations.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 11:38 AM

as usual, DPU spins in ignorance.

"Oil was freely available in Iraq before the invasion. Invasion has actually decreased the supply, and has increased tensions in the Middle East a hundred-fold. Compare the current price to that five years ago"

First, oil will never be free.

Secondly, In Iraq, gasoline is about as available as under the previous regime and at roughly the same price.

Thirdly, the global demand for oil has risen in direct proportion to the surging global economy.

Finally, yes, there appears to a speculative bubble in the global oil markets supported by the increased tensions in the ME. However, the price of oil and natural gas is also supporting an unprecedented boom in production buildout. Oil- sands operations are profitable at $40/barrel. Between the USA and Canada, oil-sands deposits are in the trillions of barrels. And alternative energy sources are being spurred on as the prices of current alternatives become more economical.

Posted by: John at December 5, 2007 12:14 PM

as usual, DPU spins in ignorance.</i.

Are you stating that there is more oil available from Iraq now than there was six years ago?

And spare me the "never free" semantics. If you don't understand the usage there, you shouldn't be commenting, or possibly even be dressing or feeding yourself.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 12:19 PM

John: as usual, DPU spins in ignorance

You're right. And you just gave me an idea.

Let's make DPU into a special dreidel for Hannukah. We'll paint ignorant cliches all over him, then spin him around and see where he stops.

We just have to tape his mouth shut so he doesn't say anything intelligent and contrary to what we think he should.

We'll play for chocolate money. Who's in?

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 12:38 PM

DPU,

This spring while I was in Iraq, a bunch of the Black Block anarchists burned a soldier in effigy. This fall I followed a group of the same kind of thugs carrying a banner that read "F*** the Troops".

You may not be in support of withdrawal from Iraq, but your contrariness puts you the closest to that position that many of us get to talk to. Most of the other people who take a position here in opposition to current US policy appear to have keyboard Tourette's syndrome and cannot express themselves at other than an obscene scream.

Telling people that their sincerely held beliefs are "largely" horsecrap is difficult to distinguish from questioning their integrity. You may have intended to insult just the poseurs, but it is too broad a brush for too sensitive an area. Friends of mine are staying extra time in Iraq to help the people there. Your statement was insufficiently nuanced to deliberately exclude casting aspersions on their integrity, whatever your intention might have been. Since this is a matter of life and death, you should take the extra effort. Their valor deserves better.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 01:04 PM

"In one, you had a secular dictator who had decades of consolidated power, who was a military threat to the crucial Middle Eastern oil reserves. In another, you have a autocratic Islamist government fighting an even more Islamist insurgency in a struggle that is primarily over control of water resources."

I do not think you answered my question. Why nature of terror would matter to people who are suffering under it? Again, where is the difference?

This one strikes me odd as well.

"who (Saddam) was a military threat to the crucial Middle Eastern oil reserves."

"Oil was freely available in Iraq before the invasion. Invasion has actually decreased the supply, and has increased tensions in the Middle East a hundred-fold. Compare the current price to that five years ago."

True. Invasion decreased oil supply but only temporarily and once it is back up it will go under our control, not Saddam's.

PS. Dollar was 40% stronger 5 years ago. Oil is imported commodity. Did Iraq invasion really play significant part in rise of oil prices? May be elsewhere but not in US.

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 01:09 PM

"No, but they can be in the place that needs them the most, if humanitarian intervention is the reason. And that isn't Iraq."

Who gets to decide and based on what?

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 01:12 PM

Why nature of terror would matter to people who are suffering under it?

In that case, a car accident is the same as Iraq.

Please.

This one strikes me odd as well.

Then let me clarify. Hussein was a threat in 1991 to Saudi Arabian and Gulf State oil. Syria and Saudi Arabia requested that the US do something to protect that oil.

True. Invasion decreased oil supply but only temporarily and once it is back up it will go under our control, not Saddam's.

I'm sure you meant to say that it would be under Iraqi control. Or did you?

At any rate, the majority of oil dollars are going to a nation that is substantially more repressive than Hussein, yet I hear little about that.
Had Hussein taken it over, I doubt he would have cared who he sold it to. Obviously, there were other concerns.

Who gets to decide and based on what?

Let's make it simple and say number killed by other people.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 01:19 PM

Your statement was insufficiently nuanced to deliberately exclude casting aspersions on their integrity, whatever your intention might have been. Since this is a matter of life and death, you should take the extra effort.

I'm sorry Patrick, but my powers do not extend to controlling how you interpret simple English.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 01:21 PM

Since this is a matter of life and death, you should take the extra effort.

Sounds like a threat to me.

MODERATOR!!!

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 01:25 PM

MODERATOR!!!

You rang?

Posted by: moderator_2 at December 5, 2007 01:45 PM

"I'm sure you meant to say that it would be under Iraqi control. Or did you?"

When it comes to think of it I am not so sure about either. Let's just agree on 'shared' for the time being. Future will correct us, no doubt.

"At any rate, the majority of oil dollars are going to a nation that is substantially more repressive than Hussein, yet I hear little about that. Had Hussein taken it over, I doubt he would have cared who he sold it to. Obviously, there were other concerns."

Agree and one of the ways to prevent it would be Iraq's oil. Until we get better alternative. Actually greater oil prices will push us do something about it.

"Let's make it simple and say number killed by other people."

Yes, it is simple. To altruistic/idealistic for me to accept, though.

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 02:03 PM

Third, I want oil and uninterrupted and at affordable price. posted by leo

First off, leo, I am not using your comment to counter. Just using it as it correctly expresses the sentiment had by many. Just wanted that known before I make my statement.

Considering my family and I are roughly 6 hours of driving time from my nearest relative, the gas prices greatly affect how often we visit. Having said that, I believe this is a great opportunity for our auto and oil companies to increase investment in alternative sources. What better way to jump ahead of our foreign competitors than to skip the wasteful hybrids and jump to fuel cell and hydrogen. For I believe the techs are ready to go, just a few obstacles on the public and government side to overcome. I have been seeing commercials by several US corp.'s espousing their "green" techs. Of course the only "green" they know is dollars.(primarily GE and Exxon(in print)) And I know that Exxon/Mobile has been investing in, at least, wind generators. They've poured some money in the wind generators here in Kansas. And it's in the oil companies interest to invest in fuel cell and hydrogen techs since it's all about the money. Not to mention who will produce and distribute the fuel needed? So, while the higher prices we pay are painful, I say gut it out. We do this and we will begin the long move away from foreign sources and put a major dent in the petrodollars. Now all we need in the political will and fortitude. Now that, that is a bit more difficult.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 5, 2007 02:45 PM

Kevin Schurig,

During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, oil price dropped to the point where the petro-giants stopped alternative exploitation. Today in the Wall Street Journal they covered the luring of workers to the oil sands sites in Canada.

http://online.wsj.com/public/page/8_0006.html?bclid=86272812&bctid=1333272267&mod=hpp_us_video_promo

Hugo Chavez is doing his part by making Venezuela untenable for petroleum engineers, though. He's a giver that way.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 03:52 PM

Today in the Wall Street Journal they covered the luring of workers to the oil sands sites in Canada.

Under the northern tundra, right Patrick? :)

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 03:57 PM

They're also increasing exploration in south and east Texas. I can't even get a motel room in Crockett, Texas (small town is still too big for Crockett) from all the geological survey teams. So what. With current prices I would too. But they're also getting their fingers into other fuels. And even if peace just suddenly sprouted across the world, prices won't be going back down to 40. The point is, remove passenger vehicles as well as OTR trucking from dependence on oil, suddenly the ME is no longer receiving OUR dollars, putting a major crimp in their funding activities. Further with the mass production of the alternatives you can potentially remove the growing economies of China, India, etc from the oil sheiks. The high oil prices can be seen as a potential turning point. It all comes down to the politicians, and getting the "greens" to back off picketing new construction. Businesses are going to go where the money is. And the money will be in non-oil fueled vehicles. The time has never been better for the switch.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 5, 2007 04:39 PM

Kevin Schurig,

Steven Den Beste looked at alternative power in a pretty authoritative manner back in '04 and earlier.
http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/06/Energyscalingproblems.shtml

The upshot is that when you are scaling to terawatts of continuous power need, functional alternatives are few. Turkey guts and deep fat fryer recycling gets you a few megawatts, wind power gets you a few more with some serious tradeoffs, solar is worth a few handfulls of megawatts with major tradeoffs, and other than that you are stuck with more of the same as what is done now.

Nuclear is wildly underexploited in the US and abroad. It is effectively zero greenhouse gas emitting, renewable, and with pebble bed modular reactors it is very safe. Other than that, turning coal into other petroleum products is pretty profitable at $30 a barrel.

Non-food ethanol is less pernicious than corn based ethanol, but otherwise requires huge subsidies that mostly go into making farming a profitable activity. While I really respect farmers a lot, subsidies give me hives because they are almost impossible to get rid of in practice. (Tobacco subsidies ended recently with the result that US tobacco production has grown substantially. The subsidy rules were keeping farmers from growing it profitably when and where they wanted.)

Energy production is complex and requires massive investment to make significant changes. Drumming up a trillion dollars of investment capital doesn't happen overnight, and once you have it, the spending takes a while. I was just watching a report on cellulostic ethanol production (follow the above link deeper) and it takes half a decade for an ethanol plant to get into production. Another report had an oil trader expecting $115 a barrel oil soon and $4/gallon at the pump this spring, so alternative energy looks to be a valued investment for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 06:22 PM

DPU,

I've got a friend in Bellingham with a boat that has quad 275-HP engines and racing throttles. I'm pretty sure that if we take a running start and secure you to a good solid bollard, we can probably generate the force necessary to pull your head out of your ass. I know that you have good strong tugboats in BC, but who knows how long the Health will take to authorize what they see as a not particularly substantial condition.

Just let me know when you want to perform the operation.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 07:09 PM

Heh.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 5, 2007 07:34 PM

Lassy: we can probably generate the force necessary to pull your head out of your ass

Would it be enough to pull the U.S. out of Iraq, though?

Posted by: Edgar at December 5, 2007 07:42 PM

Sorry to be a down-thread troll, but looking up the relevant information took time. In this thread, Wissam continues to reference the Roberts et al study published at 368 LANCET 1421 (2006). In response to strong criticism regarding his methodology, e.g. 369 LANCET 101 (2007), Roberts promised to provide the data and descriptions of the methodology to other researchers, see, e.g., 446 NATURE 6 (2007). However, Roberts is only providing the information to "certain" researchers, and has refused to release it to well-qualified critics, 316 SCIENCE 355 (2007). Given the unwillingness to release data and methodology to other researchers, citation of the Roberts study, and its uniquely high casualty calculations, does not provide evidence for anyone's arguments.

Again, sorry to throw this in so far down thread, but it gets old to see questionable material repeatedly cited. Hopefully, this will kill citations to it, at least for a while.

Posted by: Anonymous Law Student at December 5, 2007 08:28 PM

Kevin Schurig,

I share you point but more I think more I get conflicted about it.

My initial impulse was to desire for gas prices jump to $7.00 - $10.00 per gallon so everybody would start screaming for change really loud.

But then I imagined what might happen to us all and got scared a bit.

Another problem I have is this.

My favorite energy schema is nuclear energy producing all our electricity and is also used to produce H2 to power our transport.

Then I asked myself whether I want nuclear plant near by and if I do not why anyone else would.

I keep hearing that US never had serious nuclear accident in the past (including three-mile Island) and technology of today is much safer then it used to be. Still, ... When Chernobyl went off I was less than 200 km away. May be it is just psychological problem for me.

Besides, H2 is much more volatile than gasoline. OK, electric cars then, but how to get enough electricity remains a problem.

Canadian oil sands are still fossil fuel. While it partially solves ME oil problem it remains environmentally unfriendly.

BTW, somebody mentioned China as fastest growing oil consumer. While it is true, I heard recently in the news that they are heavily involved in alternative fuel research and even much farther advanced (practical application) in this field than US. Something like that.

Posted by: leo at December 5, 2007 09:22 PM

Edgar,

Would it be enough to pull the U.S. out of Iraq, though?

The USS Enterprise CVN-64 only has 4 screws and 8 reactors. I just don't think it's going to be enough in your case. Maybe if we get the Nimitz to pull the other way, but it's going to be a close thing.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 5, 2007 10:43 PM

He didn't duck the question and he didn't respond with force. He used the force of your question against you.

Posted by: 华润涂料 at December 6, 2007 03:20 AM

"they (China)are heavily involved in alternative fuel research and even much farther advanced (practical application) in this field than US. Something like that." Oh, yeah, RIGHT. Let's hear it for the Chicoms - humanitarians that they are, and all that.
BTW, a gritty little fact that no one wants to point to is that the Iraq war, regardless of where you come down as to its "rightness", is and will be an invaluable training ground for the next gerneration (or two) of military leaders, both in the officer corps and the nomcom ranks. Nothing beats combat experience. Sad, but in the field of arms, true.

Posted by: Kummin at December 6, 2007 06:32 AM

"Oh, yeah, RIGHT. Let's hear it for the Chicoms - humanitarians that they are, and all that."

Why did you decide to look at it from purely 'humanitarian' point of view?
It is no big secret that China has serious environmental problems as well as shortage of fuel. Could it be that as opposed to 'humanitarian' reason?

"BTW, a gritty little fact that no one wants to point to is that the Iraq war, regardless of where you come down as to its "rightness", is and will be an invaluable training ground for the next gerneration (or two) of military leaders, both in the officer corps and the nomcom ranks. Nothing beats combat experience. Sad, but in the field of arms, true."

This is added bonus but not the reason.

Yeap, I am telling you. Bush created 9/11 so he could go to Afghanistan and Iraq for military exercise. Our boys were getting rusty back home.
Something had to be done and fast <- well, this one is probably true.

Posted by: leo at December 6, 2007 07:39 AM

Nothing beats combat experience. Sad, but in the field of arms, true.

I imagine that al Qaeda thinks the same thing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 6, 2007 09:21 AM

DPU,

I imagine that al Qaeda thinks the same thing.

There is a quantitative and qualitative difference between suffering 0.5% combat casualties and 50% combat casualties. There is always the question of a survivor of a 50% loss mission as to whether or not they lived because they ran. Al Qaeda is getting its ass handed to them in Iraq. That means that they don't bring back many combat experienced fighters.

Additionally, Al Qaeda celebrates warriors, not soldiers. That means that individually great fighters are espoused, but that is not a condition that is readily trainable. If the NBA could generate Michael Jordan whenever they wanted, there would be nothing but Michael Jordan's on the court.

Al Qaeda can't replace Zarqawi with a comparable commander, we can replace precision guided munitions all day long. More importantly, because LTC Kurilla lived, he's going to train a lot more officers and soldiers to be like him. General Petraeus spent some of the fall on the selection board for new generals. Zarqawi spent all of the fall feeding worms.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 6, 2007 10:53 AM

"Al Qaeda is getting its ass handed to them in Iraq"

And why would you not see it as valuable expirience for AQI? I think DPU is right.

Posted by: leo at December 6, 2007 10:59 AM

I think that Patrick has extrapolated my statement into some kind of belief that AQI is as good as the US military or something.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 6, 2007 11:41 AM

leo,

We have this rule in the US Navy where training is not considered to be effective when it makes you dead. Death produces overall negative training because all of the experience you brought to the party is then subtracted from the sum total of available experience.

Al Qaeda is undergoing negative training because large numbers of their most experienced people are getting killed and captured.

Put it this way: that which kills me, makes me weaker. How about: My strength is the strength of nothing because I'm a rotting corpse.

Do the math here: conservatively we are liquidating senior AQI operatives at a 150%+ per year rate. They are killing our LTC's and COL's at a 1%- per year rate. How long do you think they can endure that kind of training?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 6, 2007 02:30 PM

Lassy: Do the math here: conservatively we are liquidating senior AQI operatives at a 150%+ per year rate.

I'm trying to do the math. But for some reason I can't figure out how it's possible to kill more than 100% of al-Qaeda's leadership in a given year.

Maybe I'm overlooking something. Are some of the dead ones getting shots of adrenaline and coming back to life?

Posted by: Edgar at December 6, 2007 03:16 PM

C'mon Edgar-it isn't that hard to figure out. If you kill a guy and his replacement in a given year, that position has a 200% kill rate.

Our soldiers learn more from combat than the enemy and we disseminate these lessons more widely. I'm sure that more than a few AQI after action reports consist of the survivors sitting around saying something like, "Well, that didn't work either." In contrast, we have at least one training ground in the US to simulate combat situations in Iraq, and I am sure that current doctrien is taught there.

Posted by: MartyH at December 6, 2007 03:37 PM

MartyH: If you kill a guy and his replacement in a given year, that position has a 200% kill rate.

So, al-Qaeda has a finite number of "positions"?

Posted by: Edgar at December 6, 2007 03:54 PM

Do the math here: conservatively we are liquidating senior AQI operatives at a 150%+ per year rate.

As the US State Department will not even estimate the total number of AQI members due to insufficient data, I'm not sure where you're getting your figures.

Tugboat territory, perhaps?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 6, 2007 03:58 PM

DPU,

If that's what it takes to get you to understand, feel free to go to the docks for an extraction.

The AQI foot soldiers are overwhelmingly local Iraqi's and have protection in the indigenous population. AQI's leadership is overwhelmingly foreign, according to the best information I have from Long War Journal, discussions with US troops who recently returned, and discussions with Iraqi security forces when I was in the country. The foreigners don't get the same protection, and so they routinely get rolled up.

My estimate is an estimate, not hard numbers. I think we're probably rolling up their leadership more often and that this is a slippery slope, once you lose quality, you start losing more and faster.

If you have a better perspective from BC, please let us know what you believe to be true and why. Otherwise, go down to the docks and do yourself a service.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 6, 2007 04:24 PM

If you have a better perspective from BC, please let us know what you believe to be true and why.

Okay, and I will limit myself to what I am able to perceive from our one-party hellhole in the North. I believe that you think you are better able to estimate AQI figures than the US State Department. You should probably contact them and reveal your methods so that they can also use them.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 6, 2007 04:31 PM

Since I now live and work in China as an engineer in the automotive industry I feel inclined to comment on the "Chicom" thread.

China is the fastest growing consumer of energy as a nation. In per capita figures the ranking of actual consumption is degrees smaller than the west. The majority of individuals and families do not yet own automobiles (many do have scooters). In my home in South China there is no heat and that is with good living standard.

As Americans, it is a bit odd that we look to China with contempt (jealousy?) over their success. It is primarily our American industry that created their economic rocket to power. Their assention is the result of our direct actions.

Chinese engineering is still a long way from being as advanced as in the west. While the scientific culture in China is expert at borrowing and copying technology, they still are behind in innovation.

In China, polution is a major problem and a critical issue. Fossil fuel emissions in Beijing make the air quality dangerous. In Shanghai, the main source of potable water was so badly contaminated that it was closed for several weeks during this last summer. In Guangzhou, I see an advertisement that says "white skies and blue sea" to attract tourists.

What the Chinese culture (not just scientific) does excel in is entrepneurship. They do not have the level of risk aversion that we have in the 1st world; although, I do see that this is and will continue to change with continued international business.

Alternative energy is more critical to China than the developed western nations. China does not enjoy the comfort of natural fuel resources for petroleum products. There prominent fossil fuel is coal, which is used extensively to generate electric power.

These are a few projects that I am aware of at this time. Wind turbine development is underway in inner mongolia. This is a beautiful mountainous area in north China. I was recently offered work there at the going payscale of $7000USD per year. A nuclear power plant is being developed in a coastal city with the aid of USA nuclear experts. The 3 Gorges dam was completed this past year after a decade of construction. Millions of people were involuntarily relocated by the government with minimal compensation. There is a great deal of controversy now about both its structural and environmental stability. China is pursuing off-shore oil exploration in the Sea of China and is in high level negotiations with Japan over drilling rights.

I hope this diatribe has provided a little insight.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 6, 2007 05:02 PM

DPU,

I believe that you think you are better able to estimate AQI figures than the US State Department.

Why do you view this as a source that is free from institutional bias?

Why do you view their publications as current?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 6, 2007 05:36 PM

Why do you view this as a source that is free from institutional bias?

I must admit that I had not considered the possibility that they would refuse to estimate the number of AQI because of bias.

You, of course, must be bias-free.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 6, 2007 06:21 PM

Patrick,

"Al Qaeda is getting its ass handed to them in Iraq""How long do you think they (AQI) can endure that kind of training?"

Most likely until last breath of last jihadi. It has nothing to do with your or my rational thinking. It has to do with their desire to sacrifice themselves for the Great Cause.

"Do not mess with US" concept does not work here.

Posted by: leo at December 6, 2007 08:08 PM

Ooops, my mistake. Please, let me repost my last opus correctly.

Patrick,

"Al Qaeda is getting its ass handed to them in Iraq"

Which, I am sure, AQI is painfully aware of. And of cause it counts for their experience.

"How long do you think they (AQI) can endure that kind of training?"

Most likely until last breath of last jihadi. It has nothing to do with your or my rational thinking. It has to do with their desire to sacrifice themselves for The Great Cause.

"Do not mess with US" concept does not work here.

Posted by: leo at December 6, 2007 08:12 PM

DPU,

Put up or shut up. I just don't want to talk to you if you are just baiting. Put some of your own opinions out. Take a risk or stop crapping on those who do.

leo,

Here's the thing, jihadi's get scared and get stupid, too. When they are perceived as losing, they stop getting funding, and the last jihadi can breath his last breath herding goats in Yemen instead of detonating in Baghdad or Brooklyn.

This has to do with rich people in the Gulf choosing to buy another super sports car to wreck or more nose candy and Viagra instead of funding terrorists. The last true believer can desire to sacrifice all he wants, but without money, he'll desire in a slum in Cairo instead of fulfilling entropic destiny in Rodeo Drive or Hawler.

We can convince the drunken stoned jihadi supporters to put their nose back to the mirror instead of putting their money into funding terrorism. We're talking about discretionary income, not a giant popular surge. We have to make jihad an unpopular drug by being buzz kills and terrorist killers.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 7, 2007 12:37 AM

This is off topic, but I'd be curious to know what MJT thinks about the NRO scandal and the fact that a piece defending the NRO stuff uses Totten as a reference for attacking those who are challenging the NRO reports.

Posted by: Wissam at December 7, 2007 04:26 AM

DPU, if you have a more authoritative source for AQI casualties like the US State Department, by all means link to it. Till then, shut up about what Patrick knows or doesn't know.

leo:
Which, I am sure, AQI is painfully aware of. And of cause it counts for their experience.

Except that AQ already has a bunch of experience fighting insurgent warfare in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Our only experience is losing the asymmetrical battle against the Vietcong, and (a) that was a while ago and (b) we didn't really learn from that. Especially we didn't learn how to WIN an asymmetrical war. We laid the foundation, but Iraq is providing significant framing for the sort of battle to be fought against insurgents. And, of course, we're killing a lot of their guys too.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 7, 2007 04:31 AM

Whoah, sweet link Wissam. I haven't been following the NRO issue so much, since it wasn't that big to begin with AND there was immediate recognition of the "error". (I put error in quotation marks because of that link you provided.) Now I see I should have actually done some homework on the subject. Thanks for that one.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 7, 2007 04:42 AM

Well, the link comes from the same organization as Smith works for, and I'm personally acquainted with Allbritton, who is far from a Hezbollah apologist.

This guy Harb seems like he's about a teacup short of a dinner set.

Smith's reports are obviously BS, but I wanted to know what MJT's reaction to the whole issue was.

Posted by: wissam at December 7, 2007 07:00 AM

Put up or shut up. I just don't want to talk to you if you are just baiting. Put some of your own opinions out. Take a risk or stop crapping on those who do.

Then don't talk to me. I wasn't addressing you in the first place, and can certainly do without made-up figures and the drama involved when you're asked to back them up.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 07:42 AM

DPU, if you have a more authoritative source for AQI casualties like the US State Department, by all means link to it. Till then, shut up about what Patrick knows or doesn't know.

First, I'm always impressed by the audacity that it takes to tell someone to shut up on someone else's blog. Perhaps you think that you are the voice of authority here?

Secondly, Patrick did not link to any figures whatsoever. He made them up, and said so. Are you suggesting that I make up my own figures? Sorry, I don't do that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 09:25 AM

DPU,

I suspect that Patricks figures are rough guesses, and there are probably no reliable statistics on the casualty rates of AQ leadership in Iraq. I think his main point is close to the truth. From what I have gathered AlQaeda is getting seriously rolled up at present. Getting you're ass kicked can't be good combat experience, (just ask the Japaneese), while our troops are kicking ass and getting the kind of experience needed fight not only this war but also future conficts that we may need to fight.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 7, 2007 10:05 AM

Math Mage,

Actually, we had quite a lot of experience in winning asymmetrical wars before Vietnam, we just made stupid decisions by ignoring that experience because it was stenciled with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. The Marines were (and to a great extent still are) our small wars experts. Regrettably, Vietnam was viewed as so profoundly winnable that we could use it as a test ground for new technologies. In the end we got some great tech, disposed of some bad tech, and beat the hell out of the people who made held ridiculous belief that we couldn't lose a war. If it wasn't for letting millions of people die and sacrificing a tremendous amount of prestige, we could probably just chalk this up as experience.

Don't worry about DPU. He just won't put forth his own beliefs because he's having far too much fun giving other people crap. Look at his posts. He doesn't advance his own claims, merely detracts from others. There is a certain value to this, I suppose, but mostly he's just a pain in the ass rhetorical punk. Someday when Edgar grows up, he'll be a pernicious turd just like DPU, but for now he's somebody else who is well worth ignoring and rarely worth talking to.

The reason I'm crapping on these two is because I think they make the comments section uninviting for a variety of people. I've tried to shut down a number of new people here, but mostly I leave the honestly confused alone. DPU flirts with and Edgar practices digital Maoism, a kind of lingering scold and harassment that dulls forums to death.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 7, 2007 10:12 AM

Patrick:

To be honest, in the short time I've been here, I've found your posts to be the most "uninviting" on this blog.

Posted by: wissam at December 7, 2007 10:28 AM

DPU flirts with and Edgar practices digital Maoism, a kind of lingering scold and harassment that dulls forums to death.

That's rich coming from you, Patrick. I made a single remark about al Qaeda possibly benefiting from combat experience, as they undoubtedly did in their participation against the USSR, and I've been subject to a scolding ever since.

Is there anything that anyone could post here in disagreement with you that wouldn't result in these histrionics?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 10:50 AM
DPU,

I suspect that Patricks figures are rough guesses, and there are probably no reliable statistics on the casualty rates of AQ leadership in Iraq. I think his main point is close to the truth.

The might well be the truth, but there's no way of determining if they are or not at the moment. I could just as well claim that only a small percentage of AQI members were being killed, and demand that those who object post evidence that I'm wrong.

My original contention was based on reports last year that a number or AQ veterans were returning to their home nations, and that this was a concern, as they were now schooled in insurgency techniques. I thought it a fairly innocuous remark, but it seems to have triggered WW III in the comments.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 10:59 AM

Math Mage,

DPU, if you have a more authoritative source for AQI casualties like the US State Department, by all means link to it. Till then, shut up about what Patrick knows or doesn't know.

Patrick dressed up some wishful thinking with some bullshit numbers, and DPU called him on it.

I don't personally have time to argue this point with Patrick any more than I have time to argue whether rape rooms justified the invasion. You just have to assume sometimes that when people like Patrick, our old friend Dan, etc. open up the Firehose o' Nonsense and spray the forum, that people with half a brain will figure it out and people with less than half a brain won't.

However, I appreciate that DPU was willing to take up the challenge in this case. It tickled my skeptic bone, like this.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 7, 2007 11:07 AM

I would say don't bother with Patrick, but I admit his arguments are so easy to refute that I can't help it sometimes.

But really, consider that he's part of a specific demographic, people who served in peacetime armies and saw little or no action. Fine, of course, but some of these people cannot reconcile with that. I think it stems from a desire for "action" rather than strictly from a sense of duty.

They spend their lives obsessed with the military and its actions. They become armchair military analysts and try to use their limited experience to give themselves credibility, no matter how irrelevant it is.

It leads to bizarre cognitive patterns. Patrick alternately brags about visiting dangerous Iraq (really Kurdistan) AND talks about how safe things are there. Weird.

He's not someone to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Edgar at December 7, 2007 11:23 AM

DPU,

That's rich coming from you, Patrick. I made a single remark about al Qaeda possibly benefiting from combat experience, as they undoubtedly did in their participation against the USSR, and I've been subject to a scolding ever since.

I guess you are unclear on what you are saying means. To imply that Al Qaeda is returning veterans in significant numbers to their home countries is a serious threat. It implies the following:

Logistics: To return significant numbers of fighters back to their home countries, AQI would have to be able to operate their rat lines out of the country without impediment. That is saying a lot about the Coalition's inability to interdict AQI movement that isn't shown.

Personnel: AQI would have to have sufficient personnel management skills to be able to recognize who potential trainers are and they would have to be able to muster sufficient clout to take exceptional fighters off the line. This also implies that they could do it again and again as a routine operation.

Command and Control: AQI would have to muster sufficient command and control coordination to pass through the lines of different sub-organizations strangers to the various operational areas. This implies nearly seamless organizational coordination.

What you intended as an offhand comment implies a tremendous degree of organizational skill not supported by evidence.

I am sure that some select individuals came back and that AQ propagandized the hell out of it. Which is why you deserve to be crapped on for this comment; you passed enemy propaganda as truth. You have no way of knowing when they left. You have no way of knowing how often they are getting fighters out. You have no way of knowing how many AQ fighters died trying to get out.

To establish some kind of equivalence between Coalition forces who return 99.5%+ of their troops and Al Qaeda who returned some unknown number is bad form. It was a flip comment you made without serious thought or understanding of its consequences, only a few of which I put in this post.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 7, 2007 11:51 AM

Lassy: To establish some kind of equivalence between Coalition forces who return 99.5%+ of their troops and Al Qaeda who returned some unknown number is bad form.

No, it's bad form to write an incomprehensible sentence like this:

What you intended as an offhand comment implies a tremendous degree of organizational skill not supported by evidence.

Unless, of course, you're deliberately trying to confuse people.

Posted by: Edgar at December 7, 2007 12:03 PM

Guys,

Don't make papa MJT turn this car around, or force Lassy to suggest that we all at random decided to attack him without provocation (this of course ignores his original adhominem attacks).

Sorry it's been a while, and I haven't been able to participate. I've been on a buisness trip all week.

Lassy, I await your 10k word response. Please provide and abstract and/or summary of it. I would prefer to have the shorter version. Thank you in advance.

Your pal,
JD

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 7, 2007 12:06 PM

Lassy,

Sorry about that. It appears my weak internet connection allowed you to post your 10k word response ahead of me. In this case could you please now post a summary/abstract of it. That would be much appreciated.

JD

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 7, 2007 12:08 PM

JohnDakota: this of course ignores his original adhominem attacks

The original ones? Or do you mean the original-original-original ones? Hard to keep track.

Posted by: Edgar at December 7, 2007 12:14 PM

I am sure that some select individuals came back and that AQ propagandized the hell out of it. Which is why you deserve to be crapped on for this comment; you passed enemy propaganda as truth.

Imagine my shock to see Jihad Watch and Strategy Page pumping out enemy propaganda:
Al Qaeda has found the atmosphere even more hostile elsewhere in Iraq, and many of the terrorists have returned home. This is especially true of those who came from Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf nations, particularly Yemen) and Syria.
And look, the Telegraph must have been taken over by Jihadi propagandists:
Saudi officials are worried about so-called "blowback", in which Saudi insurgents in Iraq bring jihad back to the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 12:19 PM
Oh noes, USA Today distributing enemy lies:
Eighteen others, led by an alleged expert in launching missiles, were arrested separately.

"They were planning to smuggle eight missiles into the kingdom to carry out terrorist operations," the ministry's statement said of that group.

Also, 112 other Saudis were taken into custody for links and "coordination with outside circles" to assist in smuggling men to troubled areas — shorthand for Iraq and Afghanistan — for training, after which they would be brought back for attacks in the kingdom, the statement added.

Crap on them, Patrick, quick. They deserve it. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 12:25 PM
Holy shit, the CIA has been infiltrated by fifth-columnists and propagandists. All is lost.
A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

...

The officials who described the new intelligence report would not say specifically which regions of the world were described as particularly vulnerable to a spillover from Iraq. But they noted that the combatants in Iraq, whether Iraqis or foreign fighters, have primarily been Arabs who would fit in most easily in other Arab societies. Many of the combatants from Afghanistan came from South Asia and Central Asia, and many went on to campaigns in the 1990's in Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and other locations.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 12:31 PM

DPU,

Marry me.

Posted by: Edgar at December 7, 2007 12:52 PM

DPU and Edgar:

Will the experienced Jihadi fighters returning home from Iraq be more dangerous if they are percieved by their co-religionists and countrymen as a bunch of defeated losers or a part of a well orgnaized, victorious military force? It seems to me the Russian experience in Afghanistan will be analogous to Iraq only to the extent the Jihadis exiting Iraq can make a persuasive case to the Muslim world that they are the latter.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at December 7, 2007 01:09 PM

Will the experienced Jihadi fighters returning home from Iraq be more dangerous if they are percieved by their co-religionists and countrymen as a bunch of defeated losers or a part of a well orgnaized, victorious military force?

Obviously the latter.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 01:10 PM

DPU:

I know you do not favor a quick U.S. withdrawl. Is this part of the reason?

I am not overly concerned about Jihadi blowblack from Iraq unless the U.S. is percieved to have left in defeat by the Muslim masses. Nothing would invigorate the Jihadi's recruiting and fundraising more than to be able to credibly assert to their co-religionists that they had defeated the two greates military powers in human history, the former USSR and USA.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at December 7, 2007 01:20 PM

I know you do not favor a quick U.S. withdrawl. Is this part of the reason?

Yup, part of the reason.

I am not overly concerned about Jihadi blowblack from Iraq unless the U.S. is percieved to have left in defeat by the Muslim masses.

While a perceived defeat of the US in Iraq would provide al Qaeda et al with a great deal of street cred, there is also a lot to be concerned about with experienced jihadists and insurgents spreading chaos throughout the Middle East.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 01:25 PM

Mark-In-Chi-Town

Depends on whether or not they really are victorious.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 7, 2007 01:33 PM

As in all wars the enemy adapted to our stratigies, found our weaknesses. In turn we adapted to their stratigies in an evolutionary process as old as war. They are a thinking enemy and a learning enemy. There are a lot more bomb makers in the ME than there were when this war started. That is indeed worrisome and yes the enemy has a greater capability in expertise as a result of the war.

That said the big picture on whether or not they or we are perceved as victorious is what really matters in containing Jihad.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 7, 2007 01:49 PM

DPU:

First, how many Jihadis are really coming back with useful training from Iraq? I have heard a number of credible reports that suggest one of the reasons that the flow of foreign Jihadis has slowed is that Iraqi insurgent leaders often used them as the "cannon fodder" for the suicide operations. This certainly must have taken much of the glamour out of going to Iraq to fight for all but the most fanatical foreign recruits.

Further, I have often heard that the vast majority of resistance fighters in Iraq were Iraqis and that the most influential foreigners are the small number of foreigner Jihadis in the top ranks of AQI. Those foreigners likely had combat experience prior to arriving in Iraq.

During the Russia/Afghan war, I don't recall there being nearly as much reliance on suicide operations so it would seem that signficantly greater numbers of foreign jihadis would have survived that conflict to fight elsewhere. Of course, if the tide turns against the U.S. again in Iraq, I would expect the flow of foreign Jihadis to rapidly increase, particularly if more of them were trained to fight, rather than being used for suicide operations.

Joefrommass:

I agree. In order to tamp down Islamist terrorism over the long hall, creating the perception of a U.S. victory in Iraq in the minds of the Jihadi's potential donor and recruiting pools is probably as important as achieving an actual victory.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at December 7, 2007 02:31 PM

It's nice that the digital Maoists identify themselves by calling me "Lassy". You can tell when they've got nothing to offer but bile when they call me names.

Real people use their real names.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 7, 2007 02:35 PM

First, how many Jihadis are really coming back with useful training from Iraq?

Who knows? They aren't reporting it, and the numbers estimated by various intelligence sources are widely disparate.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 02:43 PM

Saint Patrick: You can tell when they've got nothing to offer but bile when they call me names.

Someone a little earlier: There is a certain value to this, I suppose, but mostly he's just a pain in the ass rhetorical punk. Someday when Edgar grows up, he'll be a pernicious turd just like DPU, but for now he's somebody else who is well worth ignoring and rarely worth talking to.

Straight from the horse's, uh, mouth.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 02:46 PM

Saudi officials are worried about so-called "blowback", in which Saudi insurgents in Iraq bring jihad back to the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah.

They can cry me a river. Since the majority of 'foreign fighters' in Iraq were Saudi, since those were therefore the 'foreign fighters' most likely culpable for the cruelest atrocities in Iraq...

...and since those fighters were indoctrinated by Wahhabism in general and encouraged to fight specifically by the chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council, Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan, since al Qaeda receives its funding from the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah, and since King Abdullah promoted Al Luhaidan after he encouraged these Saudi foreign fighters to slaughter innocents, I say (in the words of the most infamous Maoist) "Instant karmas gonna get you". The only downside, it wasn't instant enough.

Posted by: mary at December 7, 2007 03:12 PM

Hey, hey, hey Mary, he also said, "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow." (Otherwise I have no trouble with your post).

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 7, 2007 03:46 PM

I say (in the words of the most infamous Maoist) "Instant karmas gonna get you". The only downside, it wasn't instant enough.

Karma (in this case) = Bin Laden controlling the world's largest conventional oil reserve.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 7, 2007 04:12 PM

Karma (in this case) = Bin Laden controlling the world's largest conventional oil reserve

We don't have to worry about the extremists taking over the KSA, they're already there in Saudi Arabia, the hub of world terror.

Oil is a fungible resource - that works against us (we can't boycott Saudi oil) and it works for us. If the old oil blackmail routine worked, our enemies in charge of the KSA would already be using it.

Posted by: mary at December 7, 2007 05:20 PM

Quick, name an insurgency or grassroots violent movement in the third world that was beaten without having the movement come back from the dead in either unrelated countries or their own, and wreak further havoc.

It's an act of fantasy to think that ex-Iraq War Iraqis won't be popping up in local trouble spots for decades to come. The model is not just the Afghans. It extends to groups that got crushed in Egypt, to Kurds, Kashmir, Chechnyans in the Ossetias, Tutsi and Hutu, Sudanese militias... on and on and on. AQI's casualty rates aren't important unless they were at 100%, which never happens. The survivors tend to pop their heads back up the next time trouble rolls around. And that doesn't even get into the various non-Al-Quieda insurgent groups that we've essentially decided to truce with and pay off.

I am not overly concerned about Jihadi blowblack from Iraq unless the U.S. is percieved to have left in defeat by the Muslim masses.

This isn't wise, or sensible. First of all, the extremists will convince themselves that they won even if OBL sucks on Dick Cheney's toes on national television. Trying to use military force to change people's morale is world's worst never-ending idea. People learn the lessons they want to learn from military engagements, not the one you tell them to learn. That's why the organizations don't fold up and dissapear when they 'lose' the first firefight, or the twentieth.

Posted by: glasnost at December 7, 2007 05:22 PM

Trying to use military force to change people's morale is world's worst never-ending idea

Tell that to the Iraqis who fought back against AQI. "Military force" was useful to them.

People learn the lessons they want to learn from military engagements, not the one you tell them to learn. That's why the organizations don't fold up and dissapear when they 'lose' the first firefight, or the twentieth.

That's one reason for us to stay. If the Iraqi tribal groups worked alone to fight off Al Qaeda, they would probably replace AQI with their own tribal warlords. But, since the Americans are there, offering aid, rebuilding their cities, they're learning about the benefits that come from living in a nation-state. I don't know if it will help heal a fractured Iraq, but it's better than abandoning Iraq to become what we know would be another Sudan or Somalia.

Posted by: mary at December 7, 2007 05:36 PM

Mark-In-Chi-Town:

"Will the experienced Jihadi fighters returning home from Iraq be more dangerous if they are percieved by their co-religionists and countrymen as a bunch of defeated losers or a part of a well orgnaized, victorious military force?"

double-plus-ungood:

"Obviously the latter."


I disagree with 'obviously'. Rather 'likely' or 'most likely' at best.

Whether it is former or latter depends on what kind of community they are returning to.

And it is not necessary for them to be victorious (it is jihad after all) or even for community to be aware of reality.

I also doubt organizational skills of whole jihadi team will be considered at all as opposed to individual shahids.

Posted by: leo at December 7, 2007 07:42 PM

"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

Actually that was Paul's song.

And when they sang "And when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out!" John always waited half a beat then sang "In!" That's true in both studio versions and in recordings taken at concerts.

Interestingly, when they remixed and remastered those songs a decade ago, the studio (or was it Michael Jackson, who owns the Beatle's songs now) had John's outburst censored.

So John's punkish attitude has been digitally edited out of history.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 7, 2007 07:57 PM

"Saudi officials are worried about so-called "blowback", in which Saudi insurgents in Iraq bring jihad back to the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah."

So? AQ a la KSA will nail few princes here and there and will eventually create situation for itself similar to the one AQI has in Iraq right now. Why not let nature take its course?

Posted by: leo at December 7, 2007 08:14 PM

Josh - Revolution was definitely a John song. The Beatles rarely (if ever) took lead vocals on tunes another band member had written (except when they threw songs to Ringo & George, particularly in the early days). Though you are correct and I am aware of the in/out thing.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 7, 2007 09:59 PM

Lassy,

I call you Lassy because it's a short form for your last name. I can't be bothered to type it all out, and I figured this is a nice, affectioned name.

Moreover, if you're going to suggest people are full of bile, and attempt to deamonize them because they call you "Lassy," and adding that it's such a horrible name that these people are inherently evil, and have nothing to offer, you on the other hand may want to recheck what you say on a minutely basis.

I can't be arsed to count the times you've insulted, in a very personal fashion, Edgar and DPU. I wont bother to count your Yes Man Math_Mage in this equation either as I'm sure you have no control over him/her. That being said, It's common knowledge, and a regular that you, with all your class and human decency, spew out the most vulgar, ad hominem attacks almost as if they come from the mouth of a fully automatic weapon. Anyone who doesn't tow the Lassy Yesman Train is treated to those sorts of personal attacks.

So before you whine and cry about being called an affectioned name, Lassy, you may want to check your rhetoric first. At least for a day or so.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 7, 2007 10:37 PM

You guys speak as if the blowback hadn\'t already started. Anthony Shadid predicted the problem in Lebanon back in the summer of 2006, and he was proven right when a Palestinian camp out side of Tripoli, Nahr el-Bared, blew up. Many of the militants, who fought for months and killed over a hundred Lebanese soldiers, had been trained in Iraq.

Posted by: wissam at December 8, 2007 12:52 AM

"Trying to use military force to change people's morale is world's worst never-ending idea."

Right. We'll be better off if we don't fight our enemies. They will be weaker if we don't engage them militarily. We sit here and do nothing, and they'll magically disappear. Or maybe they'll even start to like us because we're such a bunch of nice guys, not attacking them! You're just full of it.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 8, 2007 02:02 AM

Hey. You will argue with each other civily, or you will argue somewhere else.

That is an order, not a request.

How many times do I need to say I have better things to do than babysit? It's nice to have a bit of outside help, but come on. Have some respect for my Web site while I'm in fucking Iraq.

A few nights ago I slept in a shipping container with two other people. When I'm embedded in Iraq, I am not in the modern world -- which is why posts are so rare. When I finally get a chance to log back onto the Internet, I'd really rather not be dismayed by what has appeared on my Web site in my absence.

Thank you for understanding.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 8, 2007 04:29 AM

Lassy,

Sorry if the grammar, and logical reading of my last post wasn't top notch. It was posted after traveling extensively hours, and arriving in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I just became curious as to how calling you Lassy is even remotely similar to Maoist China? Ever hear the saying, sticks and stones can break your bones, but names dont exterminate 60 million people?

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 8, 2007 06:14 AM

appears the night of sleep didn't help

extensive hours =(

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 8, 2007 06:16 AM

Hey. You will argue with each other civily,...

Lord knows, I've been trying. As near as I can tell, only one person has been uncivil, which isn't too bad in a forum that thrives on disagreement.

A few nights ago I slept in a shipping container with two other people.

Cool.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 8, 2007 10:36 AM

"You will argue with each other civily, or you will argue somewhere else.

That is an order, not a request."

What an arrogant prick Totten has become! I think you think you've been promoted to Sargeant since you embedded in the military.

Posted by: Graham at December 8, 2007 11:48 AM

But, since the Americans are there, offering aid, rebuilding their cities, they're learning about the benefits that come from living in a nation-state.

They're learning about the benefits of being paid money by American soldiers not to shoot at American soldiers. Look, everyone loves it when strange men come and give you money and teach you civics lessons at no cost to yourself, unless the local crazies start blowing up them, or you, and the neighborhood disintegrates into a war zone, the unplesantness of which probably trumps either the minor cash payments or the civics lessons.

You know that commander from the story that says "I'd rather have them not talking about me at all" over "Having them say nice stuff about me"? He's a wise man. But he can't achieve invisibility while fighting a counterinsurgency. We're still running Iraq, and while we attempt to run Iraq, people are going to try to make us bleed for it, and the nation-state learners are going to get the shaft for it.

This is a lull, not an ending. We'd be crazy not to take advantage of it before events crash the party and lead us down the death spiral again. "taking advantage of it" means getting out of dodge.

Posted by: glasnost at December 8, 2007 11:51 AM

Right. We'll be better off if we don't fight our enemies.

Try an experiment sometime, buddy. Go out and get a gun and start an argument with another armed man. After the argument gets going a little, pull the gun out of your jacket and shoot them, somewhere not-immediately fatal, like the shoulder or the gut.
Then turn to me, assuming I was in the area, and tell me something like, "thanks to the effect of my victory on this guy's morale, he won't dare shoot me back."

That's the kind of foolish projection that people don't try to make in individual circumstances but seem to have no trouble making about entire wars.

The point is to make plans based on capabilities, not based on imaginary perceived effects on morale.

As to what you're talking about, I'm not really sure, but I'm not sure it's as ridiculous as you think it is.

Posted by: glasnost at December 8, 2007 12:53 PM

Glasnost, do you think it's possible for anyone to win a war? If so, how?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 8, 2007 02:11 PM

"Try an experiment sometime, buddy. Go out and get a gun and start an argument with another armed man."

You've lost it already. The US didn't start the "argument". The above quoted sentence is such blatantly tendentious drivel. I don't know if that's "civil" enough for MJT, but that's what I honestly think.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 8, 2007 02:48 PM

I think if we "get out of Dodge" as some suggest the Jihadis can legitamatly claim victory. They will be credited for chasing America out of Iraq whether or not it is true it is they who assume power there.
Short of that I don't think anyone is going believe that they are the victors. We are setting up for a permanent bases in Iraq and in 20 years my guess is that we're still going to be there.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 8, 2007 03:50 PM

We're still running Iraq... -Glasnost

Blatent misrepresentation of our mission, we are not an occupation army. What we are doing is nation building in a hostile country. We do have certain arenas of control and mechanisms that maintain that control; but, there is a freely elected and governing body that is by the Iraqi people, for the Iraqi people and of the Iraqi people.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 8, 2007 04:16 PM

They're learning about the benefits of being paid money by American soldiers not to shoot at American soldiers.

Like our leaders, you don't understand the basic principles of bribery. If paying militants/insurgents/terrorists not to do bad things worked, there would be peace throughout the Middle East. The West has been pointlessly bribing Palestinians for decades without demanding an absolute cessation of terrorism. We tried to bribe, or "reward" Iraqis the same way. They took the money and shot at us anyway. They're working with Americans now because they hate al Qaeda more than they hate us.

If we leave now, Iraq will turn into another Sudan/Somalia/Afghanistan-under-the-Taliban mess. If we stay, we may have a chance to help them build something better. It may not work, it would be more effective to strike at the source of terrorist trouble in the area, but since the hub of terrorism in the Middle East is allied with us, trying to repair Iraq is the least we can do.

Posted by: mary at December 9, 2007 09:03 AM

JohnDakota: Eh, sorry for that one. In my defense, it was 4:30 AM my time when I wrote that; I really shouldn't have been posting to begin with. Anyway, thanks for all the linked evidence. I'll show you some other time I'm no yes-man.

Mary: The best argument that Iraq isn't just being bribed to death that I've seen yet.

Glasnost:
"Try an experiment sometime, buddy. Go out and get a gun and start an argument with another armed man..."

So many faults in this one comparison it's not worth my bother to point them all out. The only similarity is that in both the "adversary" was wounded (I put quotation marks because the guy in your example is hardly an adversary, merely some random you're arguing with). If you're trying to use this to disparage some perception about the Iraq War, you might want to bother to make the scenario somewhat like the Iraq War first.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 9, 2007 09:47 AM

[comment removed by moderator]

Posted by: glasnost at December 9, 2007 11:14 AM

I realize the last post allegedly from "glasnost" is probably not from the "real" glasnost. But I can't help chuckling a bit.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 9, 2007 11:24 AM

I realize the last post allegedly from "glasnost" is probably not from the "real" glasnost. But I can't help chuckling a bit.

Because sock puppetry is funny? Because you enjoy the ridiculous mischaracterization of glasnost's views?

Don't encourage the asshats who are doing this crap, no matter who they're mocking. It's stupid and it damages the forum.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 9, 2007 11:51 AM

It's not "sock puppetry", it's satire, quite obvious. I guess in DPU's world being made fun of is reserved for right-wingers and neocons.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 9, 2007 12:02 PM

Gary,

Where did you get that idea from DPUs post? Nowhere in his post did DPU say anything about it being ok for the right, and not ok for the left. That's an extrapolation you've arrived at. Obviously from your words you've determined it to be wrong, so why paint DPU with that filth when it is you that arrived at that conclusion not him?

Right, left, it doesn't matter. Sockpuppeting is pathetic, and it doesn't matter if you make up a second handle, or fabricate a moderator. It's all lame. I believe that's the point DPU had.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 9, 2007 12:47 PM

Sockpuppeting is pathetic, and it doesn't matter if you make up a second handle, or fabricate a moderator.

Yes, John, there really is a non-sockpuppet moderator. I'm using the temporary title "moderator_2" because it's my temporary function.

What the phony glasnost was doing is "Mobying", taking an already-existing identity or pretending to be someone you're not in order to alienate people who share certain views.

But Mobys are asshats, it is stupid and it does damage the forum. If you see that you're being Moby'ed, please send a note to:

trollreports at live dot com

Thanks -

Posted by: moderator_2 at December 9, 2007 01:51 PM

Right, left, it doesn't matter.

Thank you, John, and yes, it doesn't matter who it's being done to, left or right. There's a lot of it going on in the last few days, and the more it's done, the more it wrecks this comment section.

Gary, the assumptions that you present in your comment speak more to your own personality than anyone else's. I'll keep them in mind when reading any future comments from you.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 9, 2007 01:53 PM

DPU and JohnDakota - glasnost deliberately mischaracterized my views with that ridiculous "Go out and get a gun and start an argument with another armed man..." and I don't recall you getting all outraged about that. I stand by what I posted.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 9, 2007 02:53 PM

Gary,

That would probably be because I don't read every comment. There are 205 of them now if you haven't noticed. Additionally I have not said anything to glasnost, and haven't been interested in his line of discussion. Accordingly I have no reason to read his comments.

Now if you'd like to present a summary of all the people that have wronged over this thread, i'll be willing to read that and address them individually. Or would you prefer to be more adult about the situation and just deal with the fact that you purposefully skewed DPUs comments.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 9, 2007 03:39 PM

DPU and JohnDakota - glasnost deliberately mischaracterized my views with that ridiculous "Go out and get a gun and start an argument with another armed man..."

Did glasnost post it under your name?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 9, 2007 03:42 PM

"Did glasnost post it under your name?"

No, but he was purporting to represent my views. Arguably worse, since the "moby" post was obviously satirical.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 9, 2007 04:09 PM

No, but he was purporting to represent my views. Arguably worse, since the "moby" post was obviously satirical.

Ah, I see. You don't have a clue.

Or does that misrepresent your views? Maybe I should phrase it as a "satirical" post attached to your name.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 9, 2007 04:16 PM

DPU,

Dont bother with this guy. He's more interested in displacing blame onto other than being personally accountable for his own issues. If he really had anything to bring he'd be talking about that, rather than crying about some other person's mischaracterization of his words.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 9, 2007 04:33 PM

JohnDakota: Sockpuppeting is pathetic, and it doesn't matter if you make up a second handle, or fabricate a moderator

Agreed.

Now, I need you to stop accusing my moderators of being sockpuppets. I have two moderators, and they are both women not named Patrick Lasswell.

If the moderators were fake and not authorized by me, the comment by the fake "Glasnost" (which I never even got a chance to see before it vanished) would never have been deleted.

One of the women is a well-known blogger, and if she chooses to reveal herself (her decision, not mine) you will be embarrassed that you accused her of being Patrick's sockpuppet. I know that's what you're thinking because I've seen some of the comments from you and Edgar on old threads.

Think about it, John. When I'm off the edge of the modern world in Iraq and can't monitor the blog myself very much, finding a moderator or two makes sense. It isn't fakery. It's not that hard a concept to understand or believe.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 06:52 AM

Glasnost, do you think it's possible for anyone to win a war?

Mike, I sent you a document recently that describes my viewpoint on what insurgencies - and counterinsurgencies - do to the GWOT. I've asked you in follow up to tell me what you thought. Why don't you start with that document if you want to know what I think? I find this question insulting, but I'll downplay that.

Is it possible to win a war? Who exactly is supposed to win? This question is pointlessly broad and general, but I'll humor you. Sure. The US military won Gulf War I quite handily by all standard metrics.

Here are some better questions, Mike:

1. Are all wars that are clearly 'won' in a military sense always ultimately beneficial to the grand strategy and societal health of the nations that win them?

2. Is it possible to 'win' a counterinsurgency?
(Possibly. Do you get to 'win' a counterinsurgency while you're still being attacked every single day? No.)

3. Here's the most important question. Is it possible to "win" a war being fought on your own territory, from the perspective of the civilian population on whose territory the war is being fought?

4. If #3. is Yes - and it may be - how much civic improvement do you have to do before the citizens of Iraq "win" back more than their 100-400K dead?

It's nice that Marines are nice, Mike, and Iraqi civilians are nice, and everyone smiles at you, but there have been a couple hundred thousand people killed in this country who wouldn't have been if it wasn't for us. And they're still dying. We're trying to prevent it, sure. We're trying to pull people out of a house we set on fire. (Or, if you prefer, walked into the house, planted a flag, and shouted, "I dare you suckers to set this on fire, chickens!") That fact - one which no American you'll meet in the military will be encouraged to consider - is the starting point of my evaluation of the scenario. I don't expect you to accept it.

Cue the hysterics pointing out all the other things about Iraq that sucked, the pre-existing factors, yada yada yada. Come back when half the population says they preffered 2003-7 over 1998-2002. Who knows, maybe Iraq will be better in ten years and all the dead people will be grist for the mill of progress. Wouldn't be the first time. But I wouldn't trade the dead people for the progress.

So I resist any attempts to rewrite this into a happy tale. There may be a relatively happy ending, but I'm not sure how much weight it pulls on the scale.
Thanks anyway.

Posted by: glasnost at December 10, 2007 08:45 PM

you might want to bother to make the scenario somewhat like the Iraq War first.

I was describing using that analogy to depict the gaping logical fallacy in trying to justify the utility or value of a military action by speculating about its effects on morale. I wasn't using that argument to specifically discuss the Iraq War. Perhaps I should have made that clearer.

Posted by: glasnost at December 10, 2007 09:12 PM

It is good that violence is down. However a counter argument to the meme that the surge has worked is that all the sectarian cleansing that was going to take place has taken place. Sunnis were driven from Shia neighborhoods and vice-versa. Now Iraqis are living in a less violent but more segregated society. This just primes the pump for a schism of Iraq into 3 different entities which I have predicted was inevitable since the beginning of the war.

Posted by: Graham at December 15, 2007 12:06 AM
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E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn