December 19, 2007

Iraq is Not a Model

By Jordan W.

Editor’s note: Reader and regular correspondent Jordan W. asked for my opinion on an anti-war essay he wrote. I think it is much more valuable and worth taking seriously than most -- though I should note that my overall view is agnostic at this point, despite my initial support and my current approval of General Petraeus’s surge strategy. Jordan gave me permission to publish this, so I’ll let him tide you over while I work on my next long piece about Fallujah. If you don’t agree with the author, please be polite in the comments. Let’s see if a civil and educational discussion about this topic is possible. –MJT

The debate about the Iraq War is not internally consistent: there is no agreement on the proper parameters of judgment. Overlapping debates rage about momentum (whether we're "winning"), the shape of our ultimate goals, "victory", the importance of any current success or failure, and the accuracy and/or significance of various costs and benefits for Iraq's inhabitants. Beneath this superficial confusion lies a deeper confusion, stemming from Iraq's dual role as both its own war, and as a leading aspect of the Global War On Terror (GWOT). While a victory in the Iraq war can be judged by its final score, we can only judge the Iraq War as a GWOT victory by tallying its consequences from beginning to end. The GWOT's ultimate metric is the prevention of terrorism, so an end state of decreased terrorism may not be a victory if it is preceded by an avoidable ten decades of increased terrorism.

General inability to separate these two dynamics leads to the confusion of a possible victory in the Iraq war with the vindication of Iraq as a model for the GWOT, perhaps along the lines of the National Security Strategy of "pre-emption." While something that at least feels like victory in Iraq - to Americans, anyway - may be possible, it will not turn the Iraq War as a whole into an effective GWOT strategy. (The 2007 counterinsurgency doctrine may be extracted as a useful set of tactics, however).

Leave the WMD debate aside - Iraq was not a successful pre-emption of terrorism. Depending on your assessment of Iraq prior to 2003, the war serves as either a failed pre-emption that magnified the problems it wanted to solve, or else as the ex nihilo creation of a terrorism outbreak. Either way, the danger of terrorism from Iraq will be greater than before we started for the foreseeable future. A good metaphor for Iraq's role in the GWOT is Hurricane Katrina's role in the urban renewal of New Orleans. Decades later, the cause may be advanced, but that doesn't make it a recommended way to get the job done. The metaphor has its limits - Iraq is worse. Hurricanes are not the human byproduct of bad decisions, and hurricanes do not self-replicate.

It doesn't take a long look at the evidence to judge the Iraq Invasion's effect on terrorism. Terrorism in Iraq began to rise as soon as we arrived. Iraq suffered zero suicide bombings in January 2003, four in April-June 2003, 20 in January-March 2004, 78 in January-March 2005. ("Suicide Terrorism in Iraq: A Preliminary Assessment of the Quantitative Data and Documentary Evidence". Hafez, Mohammed. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 29, Issue 6. Figure 2.)

Two years later, we have killed some of the terrorists our invasion activated, bribed others into acquiescence, and appear to be slowly driving the remainder into hiding. A less violent Iraq is a victory for our soldiers over the alternative of a more violent Iraq. Eleven suicide bombings in October 2007 is a victory over seventy-eight in Q1, 2005 - but not a victory over zero suicide bombings in January 2003. And even if the number returned to zero and stayed there, we would not then break even; we have paid opportunity costs of unnecessary exposure and unnecessary risk.

The best reason that Iraq is no way to run a GWOT is as simple as asymmetry itself. We can't effectively fight as many internal wars in Muslim countries as Al-Qaeda may start, and therefore every 'optional' internal war - like Iraq - is a bad risk. Some quick calculation suggests that Iraq represents 3% of the land surface of Muslim-majority nations, and less than 2% of their population. Yet the number of troops and duration of high-intensity combat required to suppress this one Al-Qaeda "base area" in Iraq has led the US Army to the edge of "breaking", according to some experts. In combination with other overseas commitments, the percentage of total US ground forces deployed overseas in any year has edged towards 50%. The percentage of available deployed ground forces is much higher. And there's still the other 98% of the world left for Al-Qaeda to fight from within.

How could we replicate the Iraq model - even the successful 2007 one - if Al-Qaeda had seeded three or four full-blown anti-government insurgencies at the same time? Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia - clearly we can't. Instead we've done our best at containing conflicts that we have failed to control. No one from these conflicts has blown up an American shopping mall, so we don't feel our attention to them is inadequate. But there's no reason to assume Al-Qaeda elements in any of these "secondary" conflicts are less of a threat to directly attack the West then the ones we're so flustered about in Iraq. Each of these conflicts constitutes a threat to U.S. citizens for every minute it continues to burn - and probably well beyond any cease-fire or de-escalation.

Some hawks suggest that "we're fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them over here." This appealing phrase is contradicted by evidence. In 2006, Al Qaeda fought in the slow-burning insurgency in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier and simultaneously planned from the same place to blow up as many as ten US airplanes. Nor did Al-Qaeda's investment in growing Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) prevent major terrorist attacks in several countries between 2003 and 2005. On the contrary, Peter Nasser has documented the prominent role the invasion of Iraq played in motivating the Madrid bombers. ("Jihadism in Western Europe After the Invasion of Iraq: Tracing Motivational Influences from the Iraq War on Jihadist Terrorism in Western Europe". Nesser, Peter. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Volume 29, Issue 4, July 2006. Page 323-342. )

AQI has not attacked in America or Europe. However, the Radisson Hotel bombing conducted by AQI in Amman, Jordan was the highest-profile terrorist attack plotted from Iraqi soil in two decades. Neither the presence nor the anti-terrorism operations of US soldiers in a country eliminates the possibility of international terrorism plots from within. Even if the presence of US soldiers can help intercept a greater percentage of attacks, it may also prompt a higher number of those attacks. It's far from clear that the overall result is enhanced safety.

The bottom line is that unfinished insurgencies in Muslim countries make terrorism incidents more likely, not less. Victory in a local conflagration may reduce the threat of terrorism from locals - but not below the risk level we would find, in some cases, if the war had never occurred. Terrorist groups are born of mass violence and revolutionary change. Nasser's violent police state of Egypt fathered Al-Jihad, which fathered Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The USSR's violent invasion of Afghanistan fathered Al-Qaeda. The violent split of India and Pakistan fathered Jaish-e-Mohammed. Israel's Operation Peace of Galilee fathered Hizballah. Even when these organizations lose, even when they disband, they are not erased. Skills, equipment, veterans, and followers often survive - and some of them go on to lead the next bombing in America. The moral of the story is that mass violence, as the 'gateway drug' of terrorism, needs to be avoided. In many cases, this is not an easy objective to reconcile with our genuine need to deny Al-Qaeda freedom of action - such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also hard to reconcile with an aggressive strategy to break down other terrorism indicators, such as dictatorship. Nevertheless Iraq, circa 2003, is an easy case: avoid optional wars and save capacity for unavoidable ones.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 19, 2007 03:52 PM
Comments

"If you don’t agree with the author, please be polite in the comments."

I don't agree with the author and I am being polite in the comments. As is of course my wont at all times.

This is a very long piece which essentially states as a matter of 'opinion' that Iraq may make things worse. Or it may not. Some things 'may' happen elsewhere that 'might' not have happened had Iraq not occurred. Or maybe not.

"The bottom line is that unfinished insurgencies in Muslim countries make terrorism incidents more likely, not less."

And the concrete examples cited: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia. How about Thailand since we are looking at 'unfinished insurgencies' ? Is Thailand all about Iraq ? Are any of the others ?

Afghanistan predates Iraq. Pakistan is a long-term failed State masquerading as something else. Somalia is a complete basket case and was LONG before Iraq evolved. Iraq is certainly 'convenient' as a causative agent, but it really is NOT likely the agent for these situations. They all have their own dynamics rooted in almost complete social FAILURE.

Jordan W. may be correct. Or not. I certainly don't know for certain. I must say however that I am not at all convinced either by the internal logic of this piece or by the examples cited. Simply reciting factoids about the 'increased violence' brought about by the Invasion, does not 'prove' anything. I could cite statistics that demonstrate that Iraq has perhaps been a complete disaster (on ALL levels) for Al-Queda ,and subsequently draw the conclusion that Iraq has both de-mystified and de-legitimized Al-Queda throughout much of the World precisely because of the violence. Including those parts of the World that might have initially been sympathetic to its siren calls. And that therefore a 'successful' Iraq might well be a stake in Al-Queda's evil heart. Places like Pakistan to the contrary because places like Pakistan were nut-bar central LONG before Iraq hove onto the horizon.

But why bother ? It's just an 'opinion'. And my 'opinion' is no better and hopefully no worse than Jordan's. At this point we will just have to wait and see. No sense beating each other up about it any more. Been there --- done that.

And the difference it all made, apart from getting some possibly 'unhinged' people all twitchy with unexpurgated anger ?

Nada.

I enjoyed Jordan's 'opinions', but not buying today. However I sincerely appreciate the tone and content of his piece. Civility is a worthwhile end in and of itself.

Posted by: dougf at December 19, 2007 04:55 PM

This is a superficial and shallow commentary on the subject of jihad. Jordan W. is foolish and sorely lacking in an understanding of the hatred that drives jihadis.

Jihad will go wherever and whenever it can in pursuit of it's stated goals. If there is no where to go jihad will create opportunities for action. It will take all the time required to gain it's desired results. The war on terrorism is simply jihadis vs. infidels. We in the West and in the United States are infidels.

Jihadis will not stop or go away regardless of actions taken by infidels.

We know that litigation is not the answer.

We know that passivity is not the answer.

We know that negotiation is not the answer.

That leaves self-defense in cooperation with other infidels around the world. History shows it is better to be on offense than to simply wait to be hit and hope you can find an appropriate defensive action after the fact.

If you plan to follow the "logic" of Jordan W., get your papers together and tell your loved ones how much you care about them before it is too late.

Posted by: James Halm at December 19, 2007 05:47 PM

It would take hours to write a point by point analysis of why I think Jordan has failed to make any clear points...

So instead I will just make a single point.

As heartless as it would be to justify the Iraq war on this basis, I would say that what's going on in Iraq right now is the most destructive thing that could possibly happen to Al Qa'eda:
They're fighting against fellow Sunnis (and losing).

Attacks like 9/11 are the best thing possible for Al Qa'eda's base of support in the middle east. But rejection from within, civil war against the Islamists closely followed by the political empowerment of a counter-radicalized public, which is exactly what is happening in Iraq, is the only thing which could erode A-Q's base to nothing in the Middle East.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 19, 2007 05:48 PM

I think Jordan's focus is too concrete. I do not believe we made very many terrorists by going into Iraq. Political Islam made them all over the world long before we got there.

But when those same terrorists get a chance to act, and do the only thing they will ever be capable of, bringing disaster down on everyone especially their own people, they sow the seeds of the destruction of their own movement.

It's a movement based on a fantasy - and the closer Muslims are to seeing the results of that fantasy in the real world, the more the fantasy will evaporate.

The only success Islamists are capable of, is when they attack the powerless - genocide is the closest they can get to success. And though it's not much talked about, they have "succeeded" that way in many places at many times. But when they do anything else, when attack those who can fight back, when attack their own, or oppress their own, they destroy their own movement by bringing their potential supporters in contact with the real results of their beliefs.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 19, 2007 05:56 PM

Invading Iraq stopped Saddam Hussein's forces from attempting to shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. The hundreds of incidents where Iraqi forces attempted to shoot down coalition aircraft ended entirely by May, 2003. Although there have been some efforts to shoot down Coalition aircraft since, those attacks are sporadic and uncoordinated.

While some people do not admit that attacking another nation's aircraft is an act of war, it certainly is. The argument tends to be that it is not worth the effort to punish rogue states that attack aircraft. In the long term, this invites more, and more severe attacks as the sovereignty of nations that exist under the rule of law is weakened by the depredations of dictatorships.

The arguments against punishing acts of war by rogue nations amount to: it's not worth the trouble. The problem is that argument endorses suicide by a thousand cuts.

Cratering Saddam Hussein is certainly an expensive choice. Bleeding to death was and is more expensive.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 19, 2007 06:21 PM

I think it's conveniently easy to forget the reasons that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 9/11/2001 event was the first link in the chain of events preceding our invasions of these countries. Perhaps for the first time we were faced with an enemy with an ambiguous face but with wide spread ideological support from not just a wide array of nations but with support from an entire population class. First big question - how do we strike back and take the conflict to the enemy. Next question - how do we nullify the cause for the enemies actions. Whatever the reasoning, Afghanistan and Iraq became the initial answers to both questions. Will victory (however defined) in those countries signal the end to the Islamic terrorist movement. Most probably not but it may largely remove those nations and that segment of the population from the support the terrorists need.

Also forgotten and mostly unknown is that this is only the latest phase of the battle for world domination between muslims and infidels, a struggle that has intermittently fought over the last 1400 years. This is a classic class struggle that will go on and on until the class divisions are resolved.

Posted by: docdave at December 19, 2007 06:34 PM

Here's an anti-Jordan point: The Iraq war was never intended as a model to be replicated. The result - the stable democracy in Iraq is intended as to be a model which sets up many small-scale involvements in the Islamic world, such as presently in Somalia and Lebanon.

The idea is that a democratic anti-despot movement would provide a substitute for Islamic peoples to the Islamist, anti-American anti-despotism that the terrorists push.

Posted by: James M. at December 19, 2007 07:01 PM

There's an obvious reply to this: The terrorists knocked over a few buildings in the U.S., and we replied by knocking over a couple of their countries. We haven't been attacked again because even the stupidest would-be terrorist can see it's not a good deal.

The "spread democracy to the middle east" idea was either a) cover for a raw exercise of power, b) salesmanship to justify an unpopular war to the American people, or c) naive self-delusion that disguised our motives.

The persistent belief by the public that Iraq was somehow involved in 9/11 indicates to me that the U.S. still hasn't come to emotional terms with 9/11. We can't deal the idea that we could be attacked by 19 people without significant resources, and that our massive military superiority would count for nothing. Instead of admitting that, we tell ourselves that somehow this was a plot by a government with large resources (and an evil leader -- Saddam Hussein) and was therefore an act of war which we are replying to. Instead of a bit of luck by a bunch of untrained amateurs.

Posted by: Michael at December 19, 2007 07:23 PM

I just want to jump in here to say that it takes real intellectual bravery for Jordan to submit this essay to an audience he knows won't agree with him for the most part, especially after seeing my experience yesterday (which will not, however, be repeated here).

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 19, 2007 08:48 PM

The best reason that Iraq is no way to run a GWOT is as simple as asymmetry itself. We can't effectively fight as many internal wars in Muslim countries as Al-Qaeda may start, and therefore every 'optional' internal war - like Iraq - is a bad risk.

This doesn't make much sense to me. Bush and his buddies went into Iraq because they wanted to - and it had little to do with AQ (AQ wasn't there). AQ brought their war to Iraq later and were essentially winning for a while but are now losing badly. There really wasn't anything 'optional' about it with AQ - the US was already there fighting and AQ decided to attack there full force.

Also, if Jordan's above assertion were true wouldn't AQ have aleady started lots of other wars? They haven't and they seem to be losing power by the day. I think Jordan gives AQ too much credit - they may not be near as powerful as Jordan seems to indicate.

Of course one nuke in a major Western city would be devastating. Jordan's right in that assymetrical fighting is a bitch - but doing nothing and waiting for such an event to happen isn't much of a strategy for the GWOT either. Pre-emption seems to have a place in the GWOT strategy but where does one draw the lines?

Curious - was Jordan against the war in Afghanistan?

Personally I supported the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, but (with mixed feelings) I didn't support the decision to invade Iraq (many reasons including: essentially impossible to get out - especially with no clear success criteria, very high monetary costs, likely civil war, pre-emptive strikes create a slippery slope, etc.). But once we invaded I was hoping that something good would come of it, and now it actually looks that there finally may be some positive results. I don't think it can be considered a model on the GWOT but maybe it wasn't all for nothing.

One last point - I think that killing thousands of AQ operatives in Iraq has reduced the risks of terrorism in the West. Dead terrorists are not a threat.

Posted by: markytom at December 19, 2007 09:58 PM

"I just want to jump in here to say that it takes real intellectual bravery for Jordan to submit this essay to an audience he knows won't agree with him for the most part, especially after seeing my experience yesterday (which will not, however, be repeated here)."

Yeah but I have it on good authority that you incited the inmates by grading their efforts . A process in which the letter 'D' figured prominently, and which appears to have unhinged them almost completely. Therefore as long as we don't make mention of any marking system here, we should be aces.

Posted by: dougf at December 19, 2007 10:06 PM

I'd like to focus on one statement of Jordan's in which he said, "Eleven suicide bombings in October 2007 is a victory over seventy-eight in Q1, 2005 - but not a victory over zero suicide bombings in January 2003."

This statement implies that the status quo of zero bombings in January of 2003 was acceptable and preferrable to the post-invasion violence. Unfortunately, that narrow and simplistic conclusion does not clarify that the pre-invasion status quo included the regime of Saddam Hussein and its outrageous daily atrocities to which the suicide bombings pale in comparison.

Iraq was in no way a beacon of human rights and prosperity prior to the invasion. To the contrary, it was every bit like a terminally ill patient with little to lose and only one hope: permanently ridding itself of its dictatorial cancer.

To me, that's the most illogical position taken by many anti-war people - that Iraq is worse now than it was prior to the invasion.

To make an analogy, it's like someone who has just had a malignant tumor surgically removed complaining that the presence of their incisions is a worse situation than their condition prior to their surgery. They are blinded by the moment and simply cannot see that their present soreness and pain is a temporary condition which must run its course for them to reach the state of being cured of their affliction.

Much of the violence in Iraq may have been an inevitability to erode the centuries-old hostility between Sunni and Shia just as the 1960s racial violence in the USA may have been unavoidable on the road to civil rights for black Americans. The initial violence against the Coalition may also have been an inevitable part of the Iraqi people directly interacting with western men and women and ultimately discovering that they aren't evil infidels as Arab imams and media portray. To reach the road of mutual respect, there may be no other path besides hitting it head-on.

The big and long-term picture must be kept in focus at all times when judging the merits of the Iraq adventure.

Posted by: Tom at December 19, 2007 10:07 PM

http://www.9neesan.com/massgraves/

is I think, the only response necessary.

Posted by: Adriane at December 19, 2007 11:04 PM

markytom,

This doesn't make much sense to me. Bush and his buddies went into Iraq because they wanted to - and it had little to do with AQ (AQ wasn't there).

I have talked to people in Iraq who were brutalized by Zarqawi in 2003 until US and Kurdish forces kicked the terrorists out. I have visited the mosque's that Al Qaeda desecrated in Iraq before the invasion.

Starbucks was not in Iraq in 2003, neither was Radio Shack, Pizza Hut, Kinkos/FedEx, or McDonalds. Al Qaeda, groups associated with Al Qaeda, groups that cooperated with Al Qaeda, and a whole lot of angry idiots who let themselves get used by Al Qaeda were in Iraq in 2003. Al Qaeda was not in charge in Iraq in 2003, but they certainly had cooperation and support there.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 19, 2007 11:13 PM

Lasswell,

Thanks for the input. Yet another "i was there therefore I know" comment. Futhermore, I didn't know at all that Al-Q was in Iraq in 2003 at all. Really, thanks so much for that info.

That input was definiately needed. Well maybe you should check the sarcasm if your'e going to give people problems for exposing your agressive, mysogenistic, and otherwise bigoted mentality.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 19, 2007 11:21 PM

Well written; however, viewing terrorists as annoying gnats is short-sighted of the seriousness of the GWOT. The ME, throughout history, has been geostrategically critical. Like the pinnacle beneath a balanced plate, the ME holds the foci between the free and communist world. The true terror will come if that balance is broken.

For the invasion of Iraq, WMD was the compelling argument, but it could not have been the compelling motivation. It violates the noninterventionist tradition that we cherish and which the president himself practices with respect to other troubled countries. Debating WMD is a moot point.

The invasion, likewise, cannot be attributed to fighting random terrorists. The idea of sending our legions to war against sporadic, loosely affiliated and unorganized fighters is beneath the skills of our generals and would never have been endorsed.

The battle for Iraq is rooted in the need to keep evenly available the global flow of oil from the ME. If denied access to this critical natural resource that fuels our way of life, we will live the utter upheaval of our own economy and the collapse of the free world.

If we do not continue to strengthen our position in the ME we, ourselves, are doomed to be the next generation of terrorists-- as freedom fighters. The battle for Iraq is apocolyptic, loose this war and we may well see the fall of the Western world.

It never was an optional war, except in the eyes of the shortsighted. The only option was timing. Our forces are now forward deployed exactly where they need to be and will need to be for many years to come.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 19, 2007 11:47 PM

Now that the rains are seriously coming in on a La Nina winter in the Pacific Northwest my backyard is very muddy. Every time my dog goes out I have to stop him at the door and clean his paws to keep the mud out of the house.

By now I'm used to the unthinking smears that dog tracks in without a care for his environment just so he can go out an piss on something.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 20, 2007 12:28 AM

Losing the war (or at least stalemate) for four years was the best tactic we could have possibly devised. As Josh Scholar at December 19, 2007 05:48 PM points out.

Would we have devised such a tactic intentionally?

I doubt it.

However, it set the stage for the success of the "surge".

We held them by the nose for four years. Now we are kicking them in the pants.

We were not winning before. That was bad. We are winning now, that is good.

For all the "poor generalship" we had in the past we did not lose and it set the stage for winning. Not bad.

I seem to recall Lincoln had similar problems. Think Meade. He was good at commanding an Army. He was not so good at commanding Armies. Which is why he served under Grant - with distinction - instead of being retired.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 20, 2007 12:34 AM

massgraves

Posted by: M. Simon at December 20, 2007 12:38 AM

Even when these organizations lose, even when they disband, they are not erased. Skills, equipment, veterans, and followers often survive - and some of them go on to lead the next bombing in America. The moral of the story is that mass violence, as the 'gateway drug' of terrorism, needs to be avoided.

It seems to me that there are an great many fighters for Islamic fascism who are not alive now to fight another day.

The rest are demoralized, having come up against the best and defeated and driven from the field of battle.

Morale is about all the fascists had going for them. It was not enough. And starting with not enough, they now have much less. Even Al Jazeera no longer sings unqualified praise for the jihadis.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 20, 2007 01:01 AM

I see a lot of criticism of the effort in Iraq. Whether or not it is or can be shown to be worth the effort is a question for time to answer.

What I do not see is any words about what we should do or should have done. So I take it that the preferred 'action' was passive inaction. We have seen the results of decades of passive inaction. People died because of that inaction. This culminated in 2001 with a massive terror attack in our home territory not against any of our people overseas.

I figure it is Christian to turn the other cheek. How many cheeks did we turn over the years? Far more than most people have. The conventional use would be "you got hit in the face on the left side, turn the right side." Christ said nothing about what to do after the attacker hut the right cheek. I choose to believe that once you've run out of cheeks to offer the next action if belligerence has not ceased is a strong counter offensive.

Saddam was guilty of violating UN sanctions by shooting at the U.S. aircraft enforcing those sanctions, not just once but dozens of times. It was becoming a troublesome mockery of sanity. So as a demonstration that we do have limits he was dealt with.

As much as I dislike Huckabee he has a point, we broke Iraq. We need to fix it. This worked for Germany and Japan. It may not be the correct thing to do in all cases. Iraq may be a failure overall. BUT, if we do not try to put them onto their feet able to take care of themselves we are assured they will be, in the future, a rich supply of homocide bombers and worse. We are trying. It may not work. We need to be emotionally ready to take the next step in Iraq, or any other country that is or has attacked us or that harbors, voluntarily or involuntarily, those who attack us and deal with it in a firm manner.

But overall, I do not see passive aggressive behavior as being in any way appropriate. Governments that harbor people who try to bring down our government need, themselves, to be dealt with.

Posted by: jdow at December 20, 2007 01:05 AM

Patrick,

"Invading Iraq stopped Saddam Hussein's forces from attempting to shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone."

I do not think Saddam ever tried actually shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. On the contrary, I think he was very careful not to.

Just imagine what would've happened next. He could not possibly not know that too.

Shooting was done for show and internal consumption. After all it was very humiliating to Saddam and he had to do something to look potent. In his case failure to shoot down was less damaging than failure to shoot.

Besides having US waging finger at him made him look important if only to himself if not to the rest of Arab world.

Posted by: leo at December 20, 2007 06:35 AM

Not only has there been an urban renewal from human violence, but also a wetlands renewal from natural disasters.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060921-wetlands.html

Whether betrayals eventually undermine the Iraqi government, and a new strongman arises, only time will tell. May we have clear objectives as we become involved in unstable borderland situations.

Posted by: gordo at December 20, 2007 06:43 AM

I'm certainly not one of the smart ones int he room here. I read the comments and you all are way more informed that I. I'm just a guy watching with interest due to relationships that are and have been part of the war and from being a former Marine. I'm not sure I buy the artical arguments or not but I do see something developing which I see everyday in my job as Problem Management and that is the authoritative metric being the justification for the intended argument. More or less we are caught up in the did we win/did we not win. Of course those are important things buy how can you completely quantify a "vitory" in a war with out complete surrender and we are fighting a ghost of an enemy. For the surge - there are KPI's for that and we are hitting them. I think the larger part is we became "inclusive" when we started this with respect to the terrorist - come one come all and they did to a large extent and we took care of them and we will continue to. You could never rid the world of the crazies and it's futile to think you can but as the Marine Corp mission is state - to protect against enemies foreign and domestic. let's get to that point..and I think we are doing that the best we can at the moment. Iraq is not the end game - it's first down. We didn't loos yardage on it.

Posted by: Terry at December 20, 2007 06:51 AM

"Nasser's violent police state of Egypt fathered Al-Jihad, which fathered Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The USSR's violent invasion of Afghanistan fathered Al-Qaeda. The violent split of India and Pakistan fathered Jaish-e-Mohammed. Israel's Operation Peace of Galilee fathered Hizballah."

The Civil War "fathered" the KKK. WWI "fathered" the Nazi Congress. I don't really see the point here. Wars are either justifiable or they aren't. Brutish and grotesque things are certain to happen in the outcomes of war. You'll have to brace yourself for that eventuality and be ready to face (and fight) it. That applies to "optional" and "unavoidable" wars alike.

And oh yeah, WWII "fathered" the enslavement of a third of Europe by Communist rule. Think that was one of our "intentions"?

Posted by: tsmonk at December 20, 2007 06:52 AM

tsmonk

You pointed out all the negatives which allegedly resulted from the referenced conflicts without noting any of the positives. e.g. WWII broke the militaristic notions of Germany and Japan resulting in nationa with benign governments, The Civil war resulted in a united nation, etc. Many of the negative things you listed may have happened anyway but in a different way in a different timeline. One cannot to any degree reliably predict the future.

Posted by: docdave at December 20, 2007 08:08 AM

Michael, you're right. Jordan's is a useful article in that it appears to be written from a position of reason, versus virulent, unthinking hatred of GW and anything he does...

However, I think Jordan ignores or just misses a monumentally important factor here. We are fighting an ideaology (Islamism/Islamist Supremacy/worldwide jihad, etc..). Not a method (terrorism). I don't necessarily fault him for this. This whole Iraq excercise has been misnamed from the beginning by everyone, including the pathetically PR-deficient administration.

If the current, upward trend toward stability and "normalcy" there continues we will have taken an enormous step toward defeat of the ideology with which we are at war.

Al-Qaeda's whole basis for taking their war to Iraq was that they thought they could beat our military. Our shameful, slinking retreat after battle of Mogadishu led OBL to believe that our soldiers are paper tigers, who when challenged by a determined fighting force can't take it. He has said so himself. He and his ilk have spread this philosophy throughout the length and breadth of the Muslim world. It is the reason that when AQ showed up in Iraq, the Sunni locals jumped on board with them.

Our soldiers, thanks to the steadfast support of their commander in chief have been given the time, and FINALLY the in-country leadership to prove the Islamists wrong. That is why the locals are now jumping on over to our side. They no longer have any delusions of grandeur about what they can do against our military. In the might-makes-right world that the Jihadis live in, that is an indisputable step toward their defeat.

More time will show the fence-sitters the undeniable benefits of a free society. This will prove to be another strategic victory in the war against Jihad.

Let us please not forget. Iraq is just one battlefield in a world-wide war over the nature of civil society. It's Western Liberalism vs medieval tyranny. Any victory there is a repudiation of the competing philosophy.

Posted by: MCollier at December 20, 2007 08:18 AM

Mike, we love your work and you are doing wonderful things. If not for you, the truth would not be getting out. But puhleeeeeeeez...it's not like we've never heard "Jordan W" novel reasons for why the war was/is a mistake blah blah blah. We get it 24/7!!!!!!!!!!!!! What are you trying to do by posting this kind of stuff? Seriously?

Posted by: ma_che62 at December 20, 2007 08:26 AM

Not sure if anyone clicked on the link to USA today about the "expert" who said the military was at a breaking point (anyone remember the draft talks of 2003-2005?). Here is a great paragraph from that article:

"Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency."

I respect Jordan's opinion but I think he is picking and choosing his reference material. I don't think I would quote a Jan 2006 article in a Q4 2007 paper.

Posted by: Ron at December 20, 2007 08:34 AM

Hi Jordan,

A few thoughts. The conflation of so many different things doesn't help analysis.

1. How are US counter-terrorism goals, esp. against Al Qaeda, best advanced
2. The growth of Wahhabist/Takfiri groups all over the world
3. How are US foreign policy goals, esp. access to oil contracts, best advanced
4. Whether in general, wars generate terrorist groups
5. Whether the US invasion of Iraq was wise
6. Whether the US invasion of Iraq can be justified as part of the GWOT
7. Whether the US Armed forces are over-strectched
8. Whether the presence/absence of WMD was the reason for the US invasion of Iraq, and if so whether this issufficient cause to have done so

Each of these items is worthy of a book, let alone a web post. As best I can tell, many of these issues are linked together in this post in
a way I wouldn't. Sometimes, for instance, US energy policy goals directly conflict with US counter-terrorism policy goals. Lifes a bitch. Sometimes people do things for their own reasons that have nothing to do with the US or its policies- they are active agents just like we are.

I think Iraq will end up being a strategic success, despite often having been a tactical disaster. Whether that could have been forseen in late 2002, who the hell knows.

Posted by: Andrew Lale at December 20, 2007 08:38 AM

Michael,

Nice blog and mostly good posts by you. But, with all due respect, have you been hitting the sauce lately? A little taste of the creature? Because your blog has somewhat degenerated of late. what with the sock puppets, the "he said/ she said" bullshit, and Lasswell's dog pissing on trees during a great and timely nor'wester, I'm getting a little discouraged.

And now an anti-war apology fraut with false generalizations, misconceptions, and a certain arrogant academicious ( is that a word?) quality quite obviously reeking of stale ivory tower air?

Break through the brambles; the path is clear on the other side.

Posted by: scout at December 20, 2007 09:06 AM

Huh? The US is in Iraq because of shots in the no-fly zone? Where do these excuses come from? The Spin-O-Rama Iraq Excuse Wheel? Last week it's because of institutionalized rape (even though i doubt the US is in the buisness of prosecuting international rapists), now it's because of a few pot-shots in the no-fly zone? What's it going to be next week?

We all know it's because of WMDs that didn't exist. The US made a mistake there. But the bigger mistake would be to just leave now, leaving Iraq in it's current state. Instead of looking backward and spinning like a top, how about looking forward, keeping the current positive momentum, while accepting that mistakes were made.

Simple enough?

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 20, 2007 09:15 AM

Patrick - Al Qaeda was not in charge in Iraq in 2003, but they certainly had cooperation and support there.

AQ had/has cooperation in Pakistan too, and a lot of people are being brutalized because of it - but I don't think the US will invade anytime soon. Same goes for many other countries around the world. I don't believe AQI in Iraq in 2003 was enough of a threat to the West's national interests (at that time anyway) to warrent an invasion.

Invading Iraq is not black and white good/bad - there were a 100 good reasons to invade and a 100 good reasons not to invade. It is my opinion that the 100 reasons not to invade slightly outweighed the 100 reasons to invade.

But like I said, once the US invaded I was supportive of doing whatever it took to "win" - at least to prevent a full civil war and kick AQ's butt. Hopefully the positive results will be lasting and the war will have accomplished some long-term good in the world.

It sounds harsh but brutalization of people doesn't warrent a war - otherwise we would be at war with half the countries in the world. I thought the Serbian war in the late 90's was a very bad decision - what was our national interests in that war? Kosovars being treated badly? And have things improved much in Kosovo since?

Patrick - where do you draw the line as to when a country should/should not be invaded by the US? If/when are pre-emptive strikes acceptable?

Posted by: markytom at December 20, 2007 09:15 AM

What are you trying to do by posting this kind of stuff? Seriously?

Trying to start a discussion while I'm writing.

If it annoys you that much, think of it as the "hold music."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 09:37 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/20/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at December 20, 2007 10:13 AM

leo,

I do not think Saddam ever tried actually shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. On the contrary, I think he was very careful not to.

I am certain that the pilots who were locked up with radar fire control from SAM sites were very careful to not get shot down.

You are arguing that Saddam ordered his troops to point a gun at our troop's heads and shoot all around them. This ignores a lot of reality to attempt credibility. It ignores Saddam's character. It ignores that parading US pilots through the streets has been dictatorship fodder for generations. It ignores the level of training available to Iraqi troops under the Ba'ath. It ignores the concept of flight safety. It ignores UN sanctions. It ignores the concept of causus belli. It ignores the inherent accuracy of Soviet weaponry used by Iraqi troops.

Once you accept those seven caveats, you are investing in a conspiracy theory that postulates that Saddam was a nice guy.

If somebody locks up your aircraft with fire control radar, that is an announced intention to kill you. This is exactly the same as somebody pointing a gun at another person, it makes all subsequent actions self defense. It doesn't matter what Saddam's intentions are after the fire control radar is locked, on the receiving end, it means that somebody is trying to kill you.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 20, 2007 10:45 AM

Tom:
"Much of the violence in Iraq may have been an inevitability to erode the centuries-old hostility between Sunni and Shia just as the 1960s racial violence in the USA may have been unavoidable on the road to civil rights for black Americans."

Make that "the racial violence in the USA from the 00's through the '60s."

Docdave: That was tsmonk's point. He doesn't need to mention the positives of the Civil War, WWI, WWII etc because everybody already knows about them, or should.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 20, 2007 10:46 AM

A sobering assessment of Iraq today & tomorrow by General Barry R McCaffrey: a new post at Yon's site.

I can't wait to see tomorrow's NYT front page story.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at December 20, 2007 11:18 AM

I have to disagree with both your premise and your conclusion.

The GWOT's ultimate metric is the prevention of terrorism

That's the paleocon or "realpolitik" view. The neocon (or humanist) view is somewhat different: increased terrorism may be acceptable if it is accompanied by increased freedom. This is why some of us viewed Iraq as a huge overall success, even before the surge: yes, there was terrorism, probably comparable to the numbers Hussein killed during Iraqi peacetime (though not comparable to Hussein's numerous wars), but Iraqis had greatly increased freedom: free elections, free press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, economic freedom to own cars and generators and cellphones and internet connections.

If that seems like an odd perspective, it should not. Would you give up those rights in exchange for security, if violent thugs were setting off bombs every day in your country?

Nevertheless Iraq, circa 2003, is an easy case: avoid optional wars and save capacity for unavoidable ones.

Pretty much all American wars were optional. We did not have to go to war in the American Revolution, the Civil War, WW I, WW II (we could have negotiated with Japan, which is actually what they expected us to do), Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I... none of these were unavoidable.

Posted by: TallDave at December 20, 2007 11:22 AM

Of course, in all those cases, we would have given up something in exchange for peace: freedom from rule by Britain, acceptance of slavery and the breakup of our republic, our Pacific Holdings and perhaps a free Europe, a free South Korea, an unopposed Communist expansion in SE Asia, petty dictators in Central America, the expansion of Saddam Hussein's power and reach in the Mideast.

In 2001, we did not have to invade Afghanistan. We could have merely sent in some cruise missiles, or just given up on taking Osama. But if we had, AQ would still have a state sponsor.

And had we not gone to war in 2003, we would still have a virulently hostile and brutal enemy regime in power, and millions of Iraqis would not have the semblance of freedom they enjoy today.

Posted by: TallDave at December 20, 2007 11:28 AM

I appreciate the thoughtfulness and tone of Jordan's piece. I also enjoy reading Michael Totten's articles and seeing Iraq from his perspective on the ground. I have been struggling with this issue in my mind for several years now, and have resolved it imperfectly for myself by taking a long-view approach to the situation in Iraq and the Middle East.
Ultimately, what do we want for the people of the Middle East? What do we want that region to look like fifty or one-hundred years from now?
We know the history: after years of colonial rule the people of that region were left to determine their own fate. Monarchies were established that were courted by both the West and the Soviets during the Cold War. These nations became pawns in the fight between foreign powers, to be used as the West or the Soviets saw fit. These monarchies grew wealthy and powerful by courting foreign governments. The reason they were able to command attention was that they controlled vast quantities of oil.
The populations of these nations seethed with resentment towards the outside influences on their own governments. They perceived that their governments were selling themselves to outside influences to enrich themselves. Ultimately some of these monarchies were overthrown, but the governments that followed were not any better as far as the peoples of these nations were concerned. The new governments continued courting foreign powers to increase their own wealth and power. Saddam Hussein was a prime example of this, until he fell out of favor with the West by invading Kuwait and threatening the flow of oil, which is ultimately the only reason any foreign power interferes in the region at all. His timing was bad. The Soviet Union was gone from the scene, leaving him with no powerful foreign protector. He lost control of Kuwait, but retained control of his country, and continued to enrich himself with foreign money during the UN “Oil For Food” period.
This resentment of foreign influence and control also led to the radicalization of a minority of the population in the Middle East, which ultimately resulted in the formation of groups like Al Qaeda. These radical groups promised to drive out foreign influence and unite the people of the Middle East into one powerful force that could deal with the rest of the world as an equal. These radical groups are the source of the terrorism we have seen in the region. Although an unpleasant reality for the past quarter century, they were not seen as a big enough threat to the domestic security of the United States or Europe to warrant large-scale military action.
On September 11, 2001, the dynamic changed. These groups, specifically Al Qaeda, now showed themselves to be a direct threat to a foreign power both militarily and economically. They took this action to increase their power and prestige in the eyes of the people of the Middle East. I can only assume that they were counting on one of two scenarios:
1) Foreign nations, specifically the United States, would be cowed by this action and our influence over the nations in the Middle East would diminish. This victory over foreign powers would increase the power and influence of Al Qaeda in the region, specifically their influence over Middle Eastern governments.
or
2) The United States would respond militarily against them, rallying the people of the Middle East to their cause. This would also increase their influence over local governments, possibly even allowing them to overthrow some and take direct control of these nations with their resources, giving them power in bargaining with the outside world.
The United States chose to respond militarily. Al Qaeda underestimated the power the United States could bring to bear against them. In the invasion of Afghanistan we quickly overthrew the government that was giving them a safe-haven, and drove their leadership into hiding. There was some rallying of support, as radicals from around the world poured into Afghanistan to fight against the foreign powers that had once again exerted themselves into the region. The United States followed the model of conquest that was adopted after World War 2, which was to quickly re-establish local governmental control and to rebuild the conquered nation, solidifying that local government’s power.
This action did nothing to change the dynamic that was present throughout the Middle East, however. The monarchies and dictatorships continued to deal with foreign powers, increasing their own wealth while controlling their populations. The radical organizations still had a fertile field of resentful peoples to recruit to their cause.
The United States saw this as a growing threat to domestic security. September 11th showed that these radical groups had the means and the will to strike directly against a foreign power outside of the Middle East. To counter this threat, a new long-term strategy needed to be found to change the dynamic in the Middle East.
This is where the question I asked at the beginning comes into play. What do we want for the people of the Middle East? What do we want the region to look like fifty or one-hundred years from now? I think the answer that anyone would give to this question is that we want the people to be free to live their lives and pursue their dreams to the extent of their ability. We want to see a region of stable and wealthy nations that act in the best interest of their citizens.
Iraq is a potential first-step in this process. The reasoning for the invasion, stated as a threat to the world if Saddam Hussein had or managed to get weapons of mass destruction, is open for debate and discussion. Jordan W. is putting forth why he believes the decision to invade was a mistake. We may never have an answer that will satisfy everyone concerning our invasion of Iraq.
I do believe however we are seeing signs that if the people in the Middle East are allowed to control their own fate, they will abandon radicalism. Iraqis, from reports like the ones Michael Totten and others have written, seem to be turning away from radicalism. Individual Iraqi people are working to make their country safe and prosperous, and are fighting against the radical elements that moved into their country following our invasion. They may not love the United States, but they can see that we are not there to subjugate or colonize them. A large majority seem to be aware of the opportunity they have been provided with: the opportunity to make Iraq their own nation, with a government that serves their interests.
A free and stable Iraq will be something for the peoples of the Middle East to examine. If the people of Iraq can build a free and prosperous nation, it will be a blow to the radical elements throughout the Middle East. People will have an example of freedom in their own region to follow, an example for themselves and their own countries. Radicalism can only exist where there is a sense of hopelessness. Iraq will be a direct refutation of the hopelessness that permeates the Middle East today, an example that people can chose to emulate if they have the will to do so.
Iraq may fail. It may descend into chaos and sectarianism and be worse off than it was before we invaded. Radicalism may prove to be the choice of the people in the Middle East. In fifty or one-hundred years the Middle East could look much like it does today, or worse.
I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but it seems to me that if Iraq does succeed, the people of the Middle East will at least have an opportunity to examine a different vision of the future. They will have a model to follow.

Posted by: Craig at December 20, 2007 12:21 PM

In the spirit of civility, a seasonal haiku:

muddy paws return
no care for keeping home clean
must piss on something

No need to mention what kind of civility, but still, very cultured.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 20, 2007 12:59 PM

Jordan W's arguments lack for persuasive force for me for two reasons: (1) the Iraq invasion was not an "avoidable war" and (2) it true aims were only tangentially related to the War on Terror (or more accurately, the struggle with militant fundementalist Islam).

The Iraq invasion was indisputably "avoidable" in the short term, but in the medium to long term Saddam's regime was either going to be removed by force or the U.S. would have had to man much larger, permanent bases in Saudia Arabia and other gulf states to counteract and contain his malignant ifluence. This is so because the sanctions regime on Saddam was falling apart at the seams in 2002. Since the presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil was been one of the primary Jihadi justifications for attacking the west, building massive bases on Arab lands was not seen as a very good option.

As a result of the failing sanctions regime, the serial aggressor Saddam would have been able to use Iraq's renewed oil income to rearm in fairly short order. He had arleady done so once before at the end of the Iran/Iraq war. There is every reason to believe that he would do so again.

In my view, the WMD rationale for invasion, at least to the extent that many percieved it to be an imminent threat, was largely baseless. No one seriously believed that Saddam had possession of nuclear weapons in 2002 or their wouldn't have been a ground invasion. The suspicion was that Iraq had retained chemical or biological weapons or could produce them in short order. A suspicion that Saddam was apparently unwilling to dispell since he believed fear of such weapons was necessary to keep Iran at bay. Because of the difficulty of weaponizing any such chemical and biological weapons and the serious technical difficulties in effectively utilizing them to cause a mass causulaty terrorist attack, that threat was really not sufficient to justify an invasion.

The real motivation for the invasion of Iraq was the not unreasonable belief that, as soon as the sanctions regime had broken down, Saddam would have developed nuclear weapons and either pass them on to terrorists to attack the west or intimidate the neighboring states in an attempt to control world oil supplies and prices. In view of the nuclear technology proliferation the AQ Khan network had been seeding and the sucess of the North Koreans in attaining nuclear weapons, the fear that the west would have to face a nuclear armed Saddam in the future was not an unreasonable one.

Allowing an aggressive, nuclear armed Saddam to attempt to dictate world oil supplies and prices through armed intimidation would have inevitably brought on a war (perhaps even a nuclear one), but this time Saddam would have had the advantages of being armed with nuclear weapons and having had time and the resources to rebuild his army. To reiterate, the reasons I find Jordan W's essay lacking are that (a) the Iraq invasion was neither an avoidable war, nor one really directed primarily at terrorism (militant fundementalist Islam), (b) instead its aims were to preserve long term order in the world oil markets and thus the stability of the worldwide economy.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at December 20, 2007 01:29 PM

I agree in whole with the portion of the argument that Mark-In-Chi-Town makes, it is only a fragment of the entire discussion.

There were at very least twenty good reasons to invade Iraq. Probably three or four of them were incorrect or insufficient, most of those only clear in retrospect. The remainder of the score remains valid. The potential for talking past each other is necessarily immense.

The limited range of excuses for not going to war drives the anti-war advocates to a degree of shrillness and irrationality not conducive to sustained popular effort. The broad range of justifications for war drives the security advocates to the appearance of arrogance that further inflames the opposition. This will be resolved eventually with the anti-war community in (even more) fractured disarray, but we are going to be picking the scabs on this for decades if we don't fundamentally change the standards for tolerance of irrational behavior.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 20, 2007 01:45 PM

I do not think Saddam ever tried actually shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. On the contrary, I think he was very careful not to.

This is very incorrect. Coalition aircraft were constantly engaged by SAMs and AAA fire from 1991-2003. In fact, there were several articles written on the danger of the "golden BB" that might successfully shoot down a U.S./British aircraft.

Posted by: TallDave at December 20, 2007 02:04 PM

Lyle: I think Iraq will end up being a strategic success, despite often having been a tactical disaster.

That's one of the most insightful things I've read about this war. That explains the problem I have with most of the war's critics. They confuse tactics with strategy - and get the long term effects entirely backwards.

Whether that could have been forseen in late 2002, who the hell knows.

Every attempt to talk about strategy, from before the war to now, seems to enrage the left which equates it with imperialism or some sort of analogy to imperialism.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2007 02:33 PM

That's the paleocon or "realpolitik" view. The neocon (or humanist) view is somewhat different: increased terrorism may be acceptable if it is accompanied by increased freedom.

I think that's only considered acceptable because it's seen as a short term loss that will get better over time and will prevent a much larger long term problem.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2007 02:44 PM

Because we ALL know (hint hint , wink wink) that the The Iraq war is simply a disaster now, don't we jordan?? More of the same boring, tired liberal talking points is simply.........borrrrrrrrrrring

Posted by: Rick554 at December 20, 2007 03:11 PM

Rick554,

Actually, Jordan's piece is more than the same tired liberal talking points. Otherwise I would not have published it.

This passage, especially, is worth taking into account:

Terrorist groups are born of mass violence and revolutionary change. Nasser's violent police state of Egypt fathered Al-Jihad, which fathered Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The USSR's violent invasion of Afghanistan fathered Al-Qaeda. The violent split of India and Pakistan fathered Jaish-e-Mohammed. Israel's Operation Peace of Galilee fathered Hizballah. Even when these organizations lose, even when they disband, they are not erased. Skills, equipment, veterans, and followers often survive - and some of them go on to lead the next bombing in America. The moral of the story is that mass violence, as the 'gateway drug' of terrorism, needs to be avoided.

Mass violence cannot always be avoided, but he's right that it is a "gateway drug," to use his formulation, of terrorism.

If the Soviet Union had never invaded Afghanistan, and if Iraq had never invaded Kuwait, would 9/11 have even happened? I'm not saying the reversal of those two invasions was wrong, but it's still an interesting question.

Let's not pretend this subject is a no-brainer.

What will the fleeing survivors of Al Qaeda in Iraq do after they leave? The Saudis are worried they're next.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 03:33 PM

I tend to think that it's indoctrination that creates Jihad. Certainly lifetime jihadi mercenaries are more dangerous than less experienced, less motivated ones - but that's not the primary problem.

Fighting back always makes the enemy more dangerous at first. That's not a sufficient argument against fighting.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2007 03:50 PM

I like the distinctions Colonel Malay made in Fallujah between the friends, fence-sitters, and fuckos.

An effective strategy will keep the friends we have, turn the fence-sitters into new friends, and neutralize the fuckos one way or antoher.

That's exactly what happened in Fallujah. This needs to happen everywhere in Iraq, and in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Gaza.

How? We can't do a "Fallujah" in all of those places.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 03:56 PM

Mark in Chi-town and Craig provided excellent summations.

As another wrinkle; I've been giving quite a bit of thought to the phenomenon of 'Islamic Radicalism'. To me all justifications seem to stem from one basis: the rejection of modernity. In many ways it is the Ghost Dance of the 21st Century. A mystical attempt to undo the modern world infringing on traditional cultures. If the supplicants show enough faith - and what else can we describe the willingness to seek death in the hopes of harming another - then God will grant them victory over the Other, and turn back the world to the true, pristine iteration they believe in.

Terror is the last gasp of a culture that hasn't quite realized it is dead.

And the only long-term cure will be more modernity and prosperity for the people of the middle east. NOT stability.

The 'realist' or paleocon answer is to prop up the strongmen and dictators to keep the lid on radicals like the Muslim Brotherhood. This simply delays the inevitable. The 'Continental System' in 19th century Europe only delayed the tide of Nationalism and the breakup of Empires. Realpolitik will only do the same today.

The only way to end the 'war on terror' is to end the rule of tyranny and strongmen. To end 'stability'. Before the Muslim Brotherhood ends it for us.

So, in the end, do lament the tactical mistakes in Iraq. But do not forget the strategic goal; an end to the false security of stability.

Posted by: Mike in Seattle at December 20, 2007 03:56 PM

What will the fleeing survivors of Al Qaeda in Iraq do after they leave? The Saudis are worried they're next.

According to some, Michael, that's enemy propaganda that you've bought into and are repeating. At least, that's what was expressed to me here when I said the same thing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 20, 2007 05:43 PM

Hi, folks. I'm observing with interest, but I feel like it's somehow childish and unneccesary to attempt badgering, point-by-point rebuttals. You have your opinions, and you're welcome to them.

I thought I would allow myself a few responses to the more thoughtful dissents, though, as a Christmas present.

Doug:
Iraq is certainly 'convenient' as a causative agent, but it really is NOT likely the agent for these situations.

The article does not suggest that the Iraq war caused the current insurgencies in these three countries. It just suggests that an active Islamic insurgency is, or can be, a growth engine of terrorism. Right now, we have four of them, where, to this analyst, we would otherwise have three. The chances of terrorist group formation from the personnel and resources of these conflicts is higher than it would be for ordinary patches of people and land.

Maybe the answer is that we need a vastly larger military and the commitment to saturate all four of these places, but it doesn't make much logical sense that we are saturating some and not others.

A follow-on question is: are Pakistan & Somalia proof that intelligence, police action, and Predator hits really enough to contain our Al-Queida problem? Because that's all we're doing there. Or are they proof that these things are not enough? Or: sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't?

I think that killing thousands of AQ operatives in Iraq has reduced the risks of terrorism in the West. Dead terrorists are not a threat.

This is an old argument, but I'm thinking that, lacking the war, most of the operatives would never have existed. Rank and file Iraqi citizens were not lining up to join Al-Quieda pre-2003, and the foreign leaders would have gone off to die in Afghanistan, instead of Iraq. Having two 'flytraps' at once just makes you more likely to bungle one of them.
But the more important point, from an admittedly pessimistic viewpoint, is that you don't win messy fights like this even if you do win. When you 'win' in Iraq, you nail 80% of the bad guys. The 20% pop up again in five.. ten.. twenty years. Maybe our advances in biometrics and surveillance will limit that effect this time. We can hope..

Also, if Jordan's above assertion were true wouldn't AQ have aleady started lots of other wars? They haven't

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia.

So I take it that the preferred 'action' was passive inaction. We have seen the results of decades of passive inaction.

I understand why you'd make that assumption, but it's still an assumption. Everyone agrees that the ME is broken and needs to be fixed. If you want a demonstration project, why not Afghanistan? It's ultimately too peripheral, you say? What about Pakistan? And don't say, "because they would nuke us/someone". You wouldn't need to fight the Pakistani military to get in there in force. And if you want a demonstration, why not pick a country with a pre-existing Islamic radicalism problem? That way your 'danger zone' count goes down, instead of up.

Furthermore, what other types of 'demonstrations' might be, or have been possible? What about the 'squeezing Egypt with the goal of a mostly non-violent democratic revolution' demonstration?
What about neutralizing Islamic radicals in Jordan by letting them run a limited government, as in Turkey? Was there some other way to set up Al-Quieda against the Arab public? (as in Saudi Arabia, for example?)

But rejection from within, civil war against the Islamists closely followed by the political empowerment of a counter-radicalized public, which is exactly what is happening in Iraq, is the only thing which could erode A-Q's base to nothing in the Middle East.

This is, indeed, one of the most positive potential scenarios that could come out of Iraq.
While many Iraqi Sunnis may be tired of AQI, however, I'm not sure that the lesson is being learned in other Middle Eastern countries.

Furthermore, it's entirely possible that we're 'deradicalizing', oh, 50% or 75% of the people we come into contact with in Iraq, and still 'radicalizing' 20%. You need more than 20% for a good insurgency, but you don't need even that many for terrorism plots.

Just some more food for thought! Have a fun holiday season.

Posted by: Jordan W. at December 20, 2007 05:48 PM

DPU: According to some, Michael, that's enemy propaganda that you've bought into and are repeating.

I first heard that from a US Army colonel in Ramadi.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 05:51 PM

An effective strategy will keep the friends we have, turn the fence-sitters into new friends, and neutralize the fuckos one way or antoher.

An effective strategy would acknowledge that the Saudi supporters of 9/11 are an enemy, and we should be happy if they're 'next'.

But, since Army LTC John Nagl, author of the recently published "Counterinsurgency Field Manual" said that we've been avoiding counterinsurgency because we "didn't want to fight that kind of war again", obviously we have an awful lot of learning to do. Fallujah is just the beginning.

Posted by: mary at December 20, 2007 06:11 PM

I first heard that from a US Army colonel in Ramadi.

I have no doubts that it's true, but others here disagree, and have theories about the motives for expressing such an opinion.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 20, 2007 06:39 PM

Have a fun holiday season--Jordan

And to you. For sure.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply but I remain unconvinced. As to the 'other' places you think should be on the 'list' --- you do what you can ,when you can, with what you have. That's the only answer I can suggest to the 'problem' of other trouble-spots. I do however view with something approaching horror(and I tend to be somewhat cold-blooded and utilitarian in these things), your suggestion that Pakistan should perhaps have been dealt with 'forcefully' instead of Iraq. "You wouldn't need to fight the Pakistani military to get in there in force". Pakistan 'may' at some point be a candidate for extreme action, but I would NEVER send forces into that 'country'. You would indeed have to fight the military which views itself as the 'defender of the Nation'. They would not just roll over for an American Invasion. And as importantly the Pakistani Military is split between the 'office corps' and the mass rank and file who are somewhat less 'enlightened'. Worse still the military might well fracture into mutually hostile pieces, and the whole place would then likely go up in a variant of civil war. The Pakistani military is already showing signs of fracture under the 'mere' pressure of having to fight in the tribal areas.

Pakistan instead of Iraq --- shiver me timbers, matey, that scares EVEN ME.

As to the fundamental gist of your reply --- Why Iraq ?
A. Because it was possible. And 'defensible' in some sense as a response to Saddam's own behaviour.
B. Because it was essentially without any friends apart from the jihadis-r-us brigades.
C. Because it is central to the ME and has OIL.And the problem is located in the ME.
D. Because it's not a completely useless failed hell-hole such as Somalia. No matter how much money you poured into Somalia it would still be s hell-hole. Iraq has its 'clans' as well but at least it has lots of OIL money to grease the necessary palms once you have convinced everyone important to start holding out their hands for 'rewards', instead of picking up a weapon.
E. Because 'something profound' had to be done. The status quo was always bad and clearly was becoming worse. I still think that the roll-of-the-dice was the 'right' thing to do.

Great minds may differ, but as long as everyone is as civil and objective as you appear to be, things can actually be 'discussed'. When the opponents start at the premise that they are the only moral forces and the rest are imperialist warmongers by definition and should jusr DIE, it is remarkably difficult to engage in any review of either strategy or tactics. That has been the real problem of the iraq debate. It has not been a debate; it has been a pseudo-moralistic tirade.

Bottom line --- I really enjoyed your efforts. Hope you return soon.

Posted by: dougf at December 20, 2007 06:56 PM

In the overall scheme of events, I don't think this writer has much of a clue. The issues are much larger than the scope of this dude's attempt to down play and delegimatize the after-effects of what "may" happen or be allowed to happen in this part of the world. One needs to think a bit more global and have some hope!
AT

Posted by: alan taecker at December 20, 2007 07:49 PM

In the overall scheme of events, I don't think this writer has much of a clue. The issues are much larger than the scope of this dude's attempt to down play and delegimatize the after-effects of what "may" happen or be allowed to happen in this part of the world. One needs to think a bit more global and have some hope!
AT

Posted by: alan taecker at December 20, 2007 07:50 PM

DPU: I have no doubts that it's true, but others here disagree, and have theories about the motives for expressing such an opinion.

Oh well!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 08:29 PM

Dougf: When the opponents start at the premise that they are the only moral forces and the rest are imperialist warmongers by definition and should jusr DIE, it is remarkably difficult to engage in any review of either strategy or tactics.

No kidding.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 08:32 PM

This analysis is cohesive and rational regarding what it does cover.

On the other hand, there is something just as important which is does not cover: The public perception of the jihadist logic in the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular.

The origin of the modern jihadist movement can be traced back to the writings of Hassan Al Bana and Sayeed Qutb in the 1920s, in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Ottoman empire after World War one. Since that time, the jihadist movement has steadily continued to gather momentum, as exemplified by Nasser seizing the Suez canal in 1956, basically unchallenged, because the US were reluctant to intervene, according to the familiar diplomatic wisdom.

Other significant stages of steady expansion of the jihadi logic can be recognized, such as Arafat becoming famous for his terrorists "innovations" in the 70s, only to be eclipsed by Bin Laden in the 90s.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars mark the first systematic challenge to the Jihadi movement, which was regarded by oppressed Muslim populations as a glorious promise of liberation from purported injustices imposed from without by Satans of various degrees of virulence and power, as if the backwardness of the contemporary Arabs could possibly be the product of some Western conspiracy, as the Muslim brotherhood was already arguing in the 1920s.

Right before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the jihadi logic was at its most elevated status ever in the Arab street. Saddam Hussein was sending 25,000 dollars to the family of the young suicidal heroes, supposedly the defenders of Muslim pride, etc...

The tactical defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq is not yet complete, but it may well be the first step towards another defeat, this one of strategic importance: The jihadi logic has started to be discredited in the eyes of many Arabs. Certainly the jihadi logic can be attacked by rational arguments, but such a reversal of attitudes was unlikely before an authentic military defeat, asymmetric or not.

If the mental constructs stemming from the jihadist theories are not broken, why fix them?

This kind of evolution of perspective is a slow process, but there are good reasons why it can steadily progress over the next generations. It could take 20 to 50 years, but modern ideas and concepts have started to make their way into the mind of Middle Easterners, as plausible and viable alternatives to the "classical" jihadi logic.

I do not think it requires any more faith to contemplate this possibility than is needed to regard the whole exercise as futile. My gratitude to Mr. Totten for creating a forum where this kind of discussion can proceed. May the diverse opinions continue to flow freely!

Posted by: Dom at December 20, 2007 09:37 PM

I suspect strongly that at most 5% of the foreigners coming into Iraq to fight ever leave. Most of them suicide, get killed, or are captured. I very much doubt that Al Qaeda will get more than 1,000 effectives out of Iraq. How many of those will remain loyal, learn from their mistakes, and be convincing leaders of other fighters remains to be seen. It is exceptionally hard to build cadre from veterans of such a substantial shellacking when you have a refuge to operate in and materials to build with.

I criticized DPU for his assertion that AQ survivors of Iraq were going to be dragon's teeth sown into the ground to form up new monsters that would attack us afresh. Perhaps he was quoting a different myth, it's so hard to tell. He wrapped himself up in a cloak of patriotism when I questioned his wisdom in propagating a myth of resistance regeneration.

We don't know how well received the AQI survivors are in general. We don't have any good numbers of how many are making it out. We don't know how many of them are coming back in. We do know that we are attriting them substantially.

DPU cherished memories of insult inspired another dog haiku:
go out into cold
puke dinner in a known place
later is still good

Nice to know that you are dining out for weeks on my posts.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 20, 2007 10:04 PM

I wonder if Jordan will show up to dialog...

It's almost non-existent in American culture for people to discuss ideas in enough detail to loosen our positions and come to any consensus, and/or to clearly delineate the exact sources of disagreement (doing that is a kind of agreement in a way). It would be nice to see that sort of thing for a change... It would be nice to be able to respect someone's intellectual integrity.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2007 10:07 PM

Josh,

He did, scroll up.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 20, 2007 11:32 PM

Furthermore, it's entirely possible that we're 'deradicalizing', oh, 50% or 75% of the people we come into contact with in Iraq, and still 'radicalizing' 20%. You need more than 20% for a good insurgency, but you don't need even that many for terrorism plots

Even if that's true, and I'm not convinced, as I said before, that war is the main engine driving the creation of Jihadis (I think indoctrination in Mosques all over the world is) - but even if that is true: if we want to hope for Muslim societies to eventually fight and destroy this ideology within themselves then we need an empowered Muslim society that opposes Jihad. Iraq will be the first. That virus may take many generations to spread since it depends on political empowerment and free press, things which exist almost no where else in the Middle east, but it did start here in Iraq.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 21, 2007 01:23 AM

Since we have a poet among us now, I figured I'd offer my own literary effort. Since Irish heritage has been used to justify all sorts of nonsense, I've settled on...a limerick.

There was a man who said he worked in Iraq,
Manners he surely did lack,
He said what he thought,
Cursed everyone a lot,
And got it all right back.

Posted by: Edgar at December 21, 2007 04:34 AM

I hope the trolling comment directly above this one is deleted, along with this reminder that it was ever there.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 21, 2007 04:46 AM

Patrick and TallDave,

In my post I tried to make point about Saddam:

"I do not think Saddam ever tried actually shoot down aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. On the contrary, I think he was very careful not to."

Personally, I have blind trust in skill of coalition pilots and I am not even knowledgeable enough to judge one way or the other. I also believe pilots can and will do everything possible not to get shot down.

Of cause, my conclusion could be completely wrong. It just strikes me odd that Saddam would risk everything including his life just for the pleasure of shooting down US aircraft. Suicidal he was not. At the same time I believe he had to 'shoot at' to maintain renomé of tough guy at home.

PS. Saddam never shot anything down. Pilot skill or no pilot skill this is odd too. 100% rate of un-success is as impossible to achieve as 100% rate of success.

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

This "troll" crap is getting very tiresome.

Josh, I think it's time you changed your name to "Josh Whiny Bitch."

And since we're all telling MJT how to run his blog, can he please ban anti-muslim blowhards like Josh W.B.?

Posted by: Edgar at December 21, 2007 06:41 AM

As a person who has spent years in the Middle East, I subscribe to the Michael Scheuer point of view.

Sure, there are some Muslims out there who "hate us for our freedoms" but those people are in the minority. Most Muslims I have met, and that would number in the thousands because of living and working in the Middle East for years, would LOVE the freedoms we have here and want them for themselves.

Scheuer correctly points out that the majority of those who hate us do so for a list of reasons that have much more to do with concrete political ideas and goals than anything else.

These guys don't blow themselves up because they are pissed off that women in tube tops can go buy beer at a 7-11 and vote the next day.

They will, however, attack the USA and their allies because of our support for dictators, both in arms, funding and support on the international stage. This is one of many reasons why "they hate us" and Hooters and Budweiser don’t rank too high on the scale.

Until we change our policies, or as Scheuer has said, go out of our way to kill massive amounts of Muslims all over the world, nothing will change.

The choices are stark, address our policies, or implement a policy which will require several million troops in dozens of places throughout the world, involving the killing of large amounts of people, combatants and civilians. Until one of the two happens nothing will change.

The problem I see here is that there is little political will in either political party in the USA to do either. So what these means is business as usual, simmering conflict around the world, and intermitant large and spectacular terrorists attacks, both here and around the world.

Posted by: Marc at December 21, 2007 07:31 AM

leo:

It just strikes me odd that Saddam would risk everything including his life just for the pleasure of shooting down US aircraft. Suicidal he was not.

Well, again, you're arguing from a mistaken premise: it would not be suicidal for Saddam to shoot down planes over the no-fly zones. It would not have sparked a war, any more than Iran's capture of British sailors or Somali warlords' shooting down a U.S. Blackhawk did. It would rather be an embarassment for the coalition, create more pressure for the no-fly zones to be lifted, and any POWs would be a bargaining chip for Iraq.

And in any event, Saddam's actions did eventually lead to his ouster and execution, so he was either suicidal or incompetent at survival. Remember, all he had to do to avoid that outcome was fully cooperate with the inspections.

Posted by: TallDave at December 21, 2007 08:01 AM

Pilot skill or no pilot skill this is odd too. 100% rate of un-success is as impossible to achieve as 100% rate of success.

No, it really isn't when you're using old Soviet tech against modern American tech. How many planes did the Serbs shoot down?

Posted by: TallDave at December 21, 2007 08:04 AM

leo, I normally would agree that the 100% failure rate would seem odd. But take this into consideration. The success of a SAM is dependent on many factors. Chief among these is that the pilot has no warning of launch or impending launch. If the pilot knows he's being fired upon, is aware of the systems being used he can successfully evade the missile. Two systems that are almost foolproof are manufactured by the US, the PATRIOT system of the Army and the Aegis system of the Navy. Also important is the type of threats. As I recall the altitude that the planes flew at negated any effective gun fire therefore they were able concentrate on evading SAMs. This further increases the chance of a successful evasion. To further illustrate the difficulty of shooting down aircraft take the Gary Powers incident. The Soviets had to fire multiple SA-2's to shoot him down. And that was with Powers flying straight and level. So I don't find it impossible to evade 100% of the missiles that are fired, depending on the system and overall threat environment. And finally, whether or not they fired multiple missiles at one target. The decision on wheter or not to do that is economic. Not necessarily if they had the money, but rather enough reloads on hand to justify wasting missiles. Ass far as his reasoning, considering that we had a new President in office, it is not inconceivable to conclude that Saddam had every intent to actually shoot down the planes, if nothing else to placate his ego and show he wasn't defeated. I'm not saying he did order any launches, just pointing out that it's not impossible to have a 100% failure rate on his part. It all boils down to the skill of the air defense team vs. the skill of the highly mobile pilots.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 21, 2007 08:17 AM

"No, it really isn't when you're using old Soviet tech against modern American tech. How many planes did the Serbs shoot down?"

Not much. Just one B1 stealth bomber. That is all.

To replay to your previous post - I may be wrong. It is just an idea, which seems plausible to me but since there is no evidence to support it I can only speculate.

Posted by: leo at December 21, 2007 08:29 AM

"They will, however, attack the USA and their allies because of our support for dictators, both in arms, funding and support on the international stage.---Marc

Nothing I appreciate more than 'freedom seekers' who are willing to blow themselves up for the cause. Women and children hardest hit as they say.

So it's all going to be peaches and cream once we deep six support for all those nasty dictators' in the ME ? Is that really what you are saying or is that just a 'convenient' way of saying what really should be said ?

How about our support for Israel against the knee-jerk MINDLESS rage of all those dedicated 'democracy' seekers you imply festoon the ME ? Does that not factor into the process ?

If it's all about giving 'dictators' the boot, well where do we all sign up ? If it's REALLY all about catering to the madness,conspiracy theories, and religious manias, that have the ME in a death grip, well then I can only say ---- not going to happen. Because if ever it should happen, it would signal the final moral and intellectual decline of the West. We would be living on very borrowed time indeed. And we would richly deserve everything that was written for our future.

I don't for a moment believe that most "hate us for our freedoms". I also don't believe the 'free at last, free at last', mantra you are selling.

Sure if all the dictators were gone tomorrow, one obvious 'cause' for ME madness might be removed. And all those ME 'liberals'(all 4-5% of them), would be able to celebrate. Well until the new elected bosses put them in their place, at any rate. Until the day after tomorrow when all the old structural social problems were still there, and a new 'reason' for them had to be found. I have a strong feeling that the Joos, and the Great Satan would still be #1 on the 'beats-me-why-we-are-so-hopeless' hit parade.

It's not the dictators per se --- its the climate that demands and encourages them. Removing them does nothing absent a 'social desire' to revise the prevailing culture. It just very likely replaces selfish authoritarians with clueless fanatics. How that 'helps' is quite beyond me .

They don't 'hate us for our freedoms'. They just have a small excess of unexpurgated anger . Because 'someone' has to be responsible for the mess. Someone ELSE.

Posted by: dougf at December 21, 2007 08:41 AM

Doug,

I didnt say anything, I was relating the motivations of the jihadists as I know. Because I relate the motivations as I see them doesnt mean I buy them.

If the US were to remove it's protection and aid from the dictators we support in the Muslim world things would still be far from good. It is one thing to remove protection from a dictator, another thing to actually bring the dictator down.

As for Israel, I have been there many times. I am not so sure that our support for Israel is in the best interests of the USA and that is my main concern, what is best for the people and the future of America, everything comes second to that.

Even if the entire Middle East were democratic, we'd still face the problems with Israel. As a matter of fact, they would be worse as the average citizen who'd be voting in these countries would take a far harder line on Israel than any of their current leaders.

This is troubling as almost any government elected by the people of the Middle East would be much more hard line when it comes to Israel and the USA. Considering this, there is a good point to be made that democracy in the Middle East would NOT be beneficial to American interests. I think this is exactly why we like our leaders there just the way they are.

You can blame the situation on "religious manias" all you want, but that view point ignores history. Islamic extremism actually is a relatively new motivator on the Middle Eastern stage. From 1948 to the 1990s, leftist/secular groups who distanced themselves from religion were the main players on the international scene.

The PLO was a secular group, as is Abbas and the leaders in the West Bank that we support now. The DFLP was formed by a Christian. History tells us that Islamic extremism is just the newest way of expressing dissent over the multitude of issues in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. When the extremism fails, as it will, and is discredited like Pan Arabism and leftist/secular movements were, something new will arise.

Doug, I dont have a stake in the nonsense that has gone back and forth between people on this board so you should cool your attacks if you are interested in a real dialogue, not just continuing the nonsense. I am not trying to "sell anything" rather talking about what I have seen in the last 15 years in the Middle East and my personal experience with it as someone who has lived and worked there.

It seems as if you already think you have all of the answers, so why debate anything in the first place?

Experience in the Middle East, living there and working there does count for a lot when talking about this situation. So often, on this venue and others, all you get is rehashed arguments coming straight from books, magazines, television shows and the like.

I respect the experience of people who have been in the area and have a story to tell based on something more than news sound bites and hyperbole they have read.

People like Michael Totten have a great role to play. I really cannot stand those that instantly dismiss the opinions of others, especially those based on personal experience, because they think they know better.

This doesnt mean I agree with everything that Michael says, but I certainly respect his first hand knowledge of the situation and think that he has a lot to contribute to the discussion. Those banging on talking about tired talking points from five years ago should give it a rest.

Generally those are the type that know sweet f/a but think they have the truth cornered.

Keep up the good work Michael.

Posted by: Marc at December 21, 2007 09:08 AM

Not much. Just one B1 stealth bomber. That is all.

Actually, they got an F-117A and an F-16.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-10-26-serb-stealth_x.htm

But yes, Iraqi forces fired on coalition craft constantly. It's not really debatable.

Following Operation Provide Comfort, the United States continued to watch over the northern skies with the launching of Operation Northern Watch on January 1st, 1997. Operation Northern Watch continued to provide air security to the Kurdish population in the north. American and British aircraft continuously maintained the integrity of the NFZ, receiving anti-aircraft fire from Iraqi forces almost daily. The operation ran until its conclusion on May 1st, 2003.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_no-fly_zones

More at the link.

Posted by: TallDave at December 21, 2007 10:05 AM

They will, however, attack the USA and their allies because of our support for dictators, both in arms, funding and support on the international stage.

I don't know how many "dictatorships" we really support. Egypt, maybe, but that's just a bribe Carter initiated to keep from from attacking Israel, and we constantly criticize them (and their state press reviles us). Pakistan? Musharraf was elected, after all. The Saudis are fairly autocratic, but they held their first municipal election a couple years ago, under U.S. pressure; their biggest problem is rampant clerical illiberalism, which we can't really help -- about all we could do is let the royals be overthrown by the Wahhabists, in which case we'd have another Iran on our hands, this one Sunni.

Posted by: TallDave at December 21, 2007 10:12 AM

leo,

Saddam never shot anything down. Pilot skill or no pilot skill this is odd too. 100% rate of un-success is as impossible to achieve as 100% rate of success.

The Iraqi military under Saddam was lousy. The US military was and is the best in the world. US pilots had thousands of hours of training and an average of 600 hours of flight time, which is a lot and that matters.

The Iraqi anti-aircraft corps started the first hour of the first day of the first war as the recipients of the best ordnance available to the entire coalition. Much of the first week of an air campaign that dropped several times more explosives than all of WWII was spent eradicating the Iraqi anti-aircraft corps. Before the ground campaign, the overwhelming number of casualties came from people who were too close to anti-aircraft batteries. This reduced the overall skill level of the Iraqi's substantially.

It is important to remember that in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia elaborate concessions were granted for US hostages. I genuinely believe that Saddam was looking to gain bargaining chips and was perfectly willing to expend troops to get them. The US Air Force and Navy had strong incentives not to let their pilots get captured and nothing better to do with their time than to stay alive.

The strongest recent example of this kind of drubbing of air defense I can give is this fall when Israel eradicated a Syrian nuclear weapons or reactor facility. Syrian air defense, which has not recently been put through the grinder and possesses the latest Sov...Russian equipment, did not even get a whiff of the Israeli aircraft.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 21, 2007 10:20 AM

dog wants to open door
he lacks opposable thumbs
and licks his own ass

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 21, 2007 10:21 AM

Actually, the Serbs did shoot down an F-117 with what was thought to be a "golden BB".

Michael, thanks for this thread but sending me to that cesspool where they wanted you to die was depressing...

Posted by: odrady at December 21, 2007 10:28 AM

Furthermore, it's entirely possible that we're 'deradicalizing', oh, 50% or 75% of the people we come into contact with in Iraq, and still 'radicalizing' 20%.

I don't think that's possible, because of how information flows in free societies. The percentage of Iraqi radicals has probably been steadily decreasing since 2003.

One of the most important and overlooked successes we've had in Iraq is the creation of a relatively free press and greatly enhanced information-sharing capability (there are now 10 million cell phones in Iraq, which is one hundred times as many as in 2003). It is now much easier to establish a more accurate consensus reality, around which sensible, moderate positions can be built.

In 2003, most Sunnis probably had a very distorted view of Americans, thanks to their isolation, Baathist propaganda, and inabililty to communicate freely. They've since learned that Al Ameriki are much kinder conquerors than Al Qaeda.

Now the friendlies' position has been validated, the fence-sitters are coming over en masse, and the fuckos are increasingly isolated and abhorred.

Posted by: TallDave at December 21, 2007 10:44 AM

I remember when the Serbs shot down that plane. I was working for the DoD in Europe and knew one of the AF Parajumpers who rescued him. I happened to have worked with his girlfriend.

He was awarded Airman of the Year on base a few months after that.

The Parajumpers are probably the least well known of all special forces, but they guys I have known have all been top notch.

Posted by: Marc at December 21, 2007 11:19 AM

Marc,

The Parajumpers are probably the least well known of all special forces, but they guys I have known have all been top notch.

Are you saying that the antics of Stargate: SG-1 are not an accurate reflection of Air Force specops? Because they are exceptionally well known, even if real parajumpers don't deal with aliens all that often. Especially since they started urinalysis...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 21, 2007 11:33 AM

Marc,

I agree with you that the average disgruntled Arab is more upset with American policy than American freedom or anything politically or religiously abstract like that. The same is true for the majority in Europe and around half of Americans.

But this is not what motivates the likes of Hassan Nasrallah and Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Zarqawi wasn't an extreme version of an American liberal or a French Gaullist.

Again, I think Colonel Malay's formulation is a useful one here where he distinguishes between friends, fence-sitters, and fuckos. A lot of the fence-sitters end up tilting somewhat toward the fuckos because they're pissed off at us for real-world reasons (and sometimes because of hallucinated conspiracy theories), but the hard-core fuckos like Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden are political totalitarians who are concerned with far more than mere policy disputes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2007 11:55 AM

I interviewed a bunch of Iraqis about Al Qaeda in Iraq and will publish that piece shortly after the new year. Listening to them talk about it was eye-opening for me, and I think it will be for lots of readers, as well. I have a better understanding now why they are so seriously getting their asses kicked in Iraq. It is not just because they are vicious killers. That is only the most obvious reason.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2007 12:01 PM

Also, I would like to politely ask Patrick, Edgar, and John Dakota to take their personality clash offline.

If the three of you can't get along, please just stop talking to and about each other. The rest of us are not interested.

Thank you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2007 12:04 PM

Again, I think Colonel Malay's formulation is a useful one here where he distinguishes between friends, fence-sitters, and fuckos. A lot of the fence-sitters end up tilting somewhat toward the fuckos because they're pissed off at us for real-world reasons (and sometimes because of hallucinated conspiracy theories), but the hard-core fuckos like Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden are political totalitarians who are concerned with far more than mere policy disputes.

I just want to point out that those conspiracy theories have always been very deliberate invention of the "fuckos". Because they're inventing bullshit narratives as propaganda, we can expect an infinite number of those, forever.

The problem is that there is a public that still trusts that sort of story.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 21, 2007 12:34 PM

So the F-117 that was lost over the Balkans was in fact shot down? Ok. I had chalked it up to to structural failure, not caused by enemy fire. I recall that one or two F-117's had gone down either before or after the one in the Balkans because of structural fatigue.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 21, 2007 12:49 PM

"I think Iraq will end up being a strategic success, despite often having been a tactical disaster."
Andrew Lale

I sometimes feel that the real war and the real benifits will come from the "war in the shadows" that very few of us are even aware of.

Posted by: Slingshot at December 21, 2007 01:43 PM

Jordan,
You make some very fair points but the notion that Saddam Hussein's regime wasn't supportive of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is absurd. We can debate all day how that problem should have been dealt with but when you start with the premise that al Qaeda and Iraq were two totally isolated phenomenon then your conclusion won't be very accurate.

Michael,
I am really looking forward to your post on AQI. Any idea on how soon?

Posted by: Mark E. at December 21, 2007 02:16 PM

Mark: I am really looking forward to your post on AQI. Any idea on how soon?

It won't be my next piece, but probably the one after that.

I'm thinking of delaying the dispatches until after New Years, though. I have one more than half completed, but half my audience is gone over the holidays when Internet traffic collapses.

So most likely, in the meantime, I will post shorter pieces here and at Commentary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2007 03:44 PM

It doesn't take a long look at the evidence to judge the Iraq Invasion's effect on terrorism. Terrorism in Iraq began to rise as soon as we arrived. Iraq suffered zero suicide bombings in January 2003, four in April-June 2003, 20 in January-March 2004, 78 in January-March 2005. ("Suicide Terrorism in Iraq: A Preliminary Assessment of the Quantitative Data and Documentary Evidence". Hafez, Mohammed. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 29, Issue 6. Figure 2.)

Jordan W.

I can agree with you that the way Iraq War has been handled is not a model, but I don't think that'll be the case after a generation passes. I also think Iraq isn't the model, because of different reasons that you state. This paragraph though just makes me laugh, though. I'm adult enough to know that current evidence shows that Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or 9/11, but like it or not Al Qeada and other terrorist groups made Iraq the front on GWOT. But just because there wasn't any recorded terrorists acts in Iraq before the invasion doesn't mean a hill of beans to me. A totalitarian fascist state says that "Nope, no terrorism here." and I'm supposed to believe that on face value. Sorry, I wasn't college edumacated, but I ain't that dumb. Doesn't men being dragged out of their homes taken to torture prisons count as a terrorist act? Or prisoners being executed by being thrown off buildings? How about parents being forced to watch their kids either murdered, tortured or raped in front of them? Sounds like terrorism to me...

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 21, 2007 04:06 PM

I also just want to expand on the "totalitarian, fasicst state" thinking; Unless the terrorist act wasn't something that Saddam Hussein could use to his advantage, why would he public state it ever happened?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 21, 2007 04:14 PM

It's very easy to argue that Saddam wasn't directly linked to terrorism. But it's much harder to argue he never would be.

The strategy behind the Iraq war was sound, and remains so: we have to prevent more surprises. And Saddam was full of them.

Al-Qaeda doesn't have state sponsors, per se, but if they did, it would lead to impossible dilemmas. The U.S. could suffer many limited attacks and "rogue states" could plausibly deny involvement in them.

I think the authorities recognized that terrorism would be very difficult to defeat from 9/11 onward; more specifically, they realized how hard it was to defend against. Going on the attack was the only real strategy.

Posted by: Edgar at December 21, 2007 04:26 PM

I agree with you, Edgar. I truly believed that we'd find WMD in Iraq, but I also new this war would have secondary benefits; such as a pressure valve for the Arab street. The media loves to harp on our losses in Iraq, but we never get the number on the terrorist side. I know there are some numbers floating out there; my guesstimate would be that our forces had a 30 to 1 kill ratio. In my opinion that's just more terrorists killed that won't be coming to America. The CIA missed a great opportunity during the war. They should've opened up a dummy terrorist organization around the middle east recruiting these idiots. Put them on those stuipd white buses and have the Air Force blow the hell out of them the second they crossed into Iraq. Damn, it man... Instead we have lame brains like Valerie Plame.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at December 21, 2007 05:03 PM

It's all assertions. Assertions are neither argument nor analysis. Gets a D from me.

Posted by: chuck at December 21, 2007 06:06 PM

If the three of you can't get along, please just stop talking to and about each other. The rest of us are not interested.

If anyone wants a GreaseMonkey script to help them do so, let me know. I'm on the verge of never having to see Patrick's commentary again, and I imagine that everyone will be happier for it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 21, 2007 08:54 PM

I like pie!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 21, 2007 10:17 PM

"It's very easy to argue that Saddam wasn't directly linked to terrorism. But it's much harder to argue he never would be." - Edgar

Just as Libya's Khadafi emulated Saddam's WMD programs, evidence suggests that Saddam planned to emulate Khadafi's jetliner bombings. Get a copy of the National Geographic video, "Inside Special Forces," and watch the last ten minutes. In this footage, the Geographic's video journalist followed a US Special Forces team into a recently abandoned Fedayeen Saddam safe house in Kirkuk that was packed with C-4 explosives, machine tools and state-of-the-art airport bomb detection equipment. They also found a number of personal carry-on items, (mostly umbrellas), that Saddam's henchmen had modified to hold the C-4 undetected.

No reporter ever followed-up on this discovery to uncover the larger story here. Nevertheless, one might speculate from this evidence that Saddam was secretly working to help the AQ-linked Ansar al Islam terrorist group carry out jetliner bombings ala Richard Reid. Bombing jetliners has been on al Qaeda's "to do" list since the mid 1990's and Ansar al Islam was located nearby in the Kurdish region, just outside Saddam's control. After a few successful bombings, Saddam could then turn to the US and offer his help to put Ansar al Islam out of business in exchange for an end to UN sanctions on his country. As implausible as this whole scenario may sound, it lies well within Saddam's MO. Moreover, since Iraq already was under sanctions, the UN could do nothing further to punish Saddam if his involvement was ever discovered short of an invasion.

Michael, if you want a new story to pursue, this might be it. It might also change your view on the wisdom of invading Iraq.

By the way, Merry Christmas, Happy Eid and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008 to all.

Posted by: Cordell at December 21, 2007 11:13 PM

Marc:
"These guys don't blow themselves up because they are pissed off that women in tube tops can go buy beer at a 7-11 and vote the next day.

They will, however, attack the USA and their allies because of our support for dictators, both in arms, funding and support on the international stage. This is one of many reasons why "they hate us" and Hooters and Budweiser don’t rank too high on the scale."

May I point out that terrorists are often supported by dictators? Take AQ and the Taliban as the perfect example of such. If their beef with the US is that we're allied with dictators, they wouldn't ally themselves with dictators to take us down.

OTOH, if their beef with the US is that it's a cesspit of immorality and unbelievers and sex and cigarettes and so on, allying themselves with dictators who don't support those things to take us down makes perfect sense. And as it happens, that's exactly what happened.

Furthermore, Mr Totten's point about the difference between your average disgruntled Arab fence-sitter and a Zarqawi fucko is valid, and the "cesspit of unbelievers" issue is likely to generate more extreme responses than "supports dictators", so that's probably where most of the fuckos come from.

Jordan W:
"Furthermore, it's entirely possible that we're 'deradicalizing', oh, 50% or 75% of the people we come into contact with in Iraq, and still 'radicalizing' 20%. You need more than 20% for a good insurgency, but you don't need even that many for terrorism plots."

You need more than 20% for a good insurgency? That's more than 4 million Iraqis. One would think they'd have accounted for more than, at most, 1 death for every 10 insurgents.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 21, 2007 11:18 PM

I just want to point out that those conspiracy theories have always been very deliberate invention of the "fuckos". Because they're inventing bullshit narratives as propaganda, we can expect an infinite number of those, forever.

Exactly, and that's why the free press and freedom of information transfer are so important. If you'll notice, these crazy conspiracies are usually only widely believed in places where information is controlled.

In free societies, when crazy consiracies are floated there is debate and they are debunked until only a small fringe of irrational people believe them, and are generally ridiculed by the rest -- the "fire doesn't melt steel" Truthers are a perfect example of this.

As Iraqis gain in literacy, education, and Internet access, the extremists will become ever more isolated.

Posted by: TallDave at December 22, 2007 10:26 AM

"how about looking forward, keeping the current positive momentum, while accepting that mistakes were made."

I think a good aim now would be to ensure a peaceful change of government at the next general election in Iraq. This is something that all Iraq's friends would support, and it is not yet a foregone conclusion. (Look at the erosion of democracy in Lebanon by Syria and Iran.)

Posted by: Don Cox at December 22, 2007 01:05 PM

"Ultimately, what do we want for the people of the Middle East? What do we want that region to look like fifty or one-hundred years from now?"

Like Europe looks now.

Consider how far Europe has come since, say, 1920. It can be done.

Posted by: Don Cox at December 22, 2007 01:27 PM

Exactly, and that's why the free press and freedom of information transfer are so important. If you'll notice, these crazy conspiracies are usually only widely believed in places where information is controlled.

Not true. They're widely believed among European Muslim, and more believed here than you think.

Enmity can create fault lines across which information can't pass, and Political Islam is all about indoctrinating Muslims to be everyone's enemy, even in first world countries.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 22, 2007 07:37 PM

Haha, Saddams terrorist supermarket did not favour any grow or international exchange of other terror supermarkets or local terror shopkeepers. Ergo the situation was much better...(???)

Posted by: Czechmade at December 23, 2007 05:45 AM

IMHO it's a fairly simple question.

The world is under assault by a loosely confederated ideological movement, organized into dozens, perhaps hundreds of small, loosely defined organizations, spread around the globe, and sheltered, even supported by a number of nation states.

It is their primary method to remain hidden, hard to identify and hard to locate. Hard to associate with specific buildings and institutions.

So when you pick some place to start your fight, (which you must) it is a guarantee that there will be only a loose association between the spot you've picked to fight on and the people you're going after.

Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt the lot ... Of any of them you can make some argument about differences between the public and the ruling class, the religious establishment and the government class, the concentration or dilute population of jihaddis, the popularity or unpopularity of the jihad ideology ... and so on.

The fact is that we either launch nukes, or we use the armed forces. And if we use the armed forces they have to go somewhere.

That is a decision to be made on a geographic and strategic basis. Where is the best place to base operations in that part of the world?

No matter where we go, there will be the whole range of counterarguments. That's a given. Now, who's got the best real-estate? That's the key issue.

In this context, whether Iraq is a "model" or not is not a particularly critical question, although it is an interesting secondary issue.

We can debate GW's basic idea of exporting modern ideology to the mohammedan cultures. Personally I'm agnostic and luke-warm about the whole thing.

Can you really force somebody to be free ??? I have my doubts.

Besides which, our governors in DC seem to be obsessed with democracy over freedom. And democracy is no guarantee of anything worth having. Mob-rule is mob-rule. And I suspect that many mohammedan cultures will institute mob-rule under sharia guidelines.

A far cry from modern culture.

But whether Iraq is a model for anything, is a strictly secondary question to whether Iraq was the right location for the second campaign in the Counter-Jihad war.

I'm inclined, for a number of reasons, to think it was a pretty good choice. But that's the issue.

Why GW seems to have decided to stop there is a puzzle that has me stumped.

Posted by: joeblough at December 23, 2007 01:21 PM

It is official US Policy voted on by Congress to end tyranny in the world. I think it was 2005 or '06. The vote was something like 320 to 80 in the House.

So is it any of our business if countries are being brutalized by their rulers? Congress has made it our business.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 23, 2007 01:39 PM

So is it any of our business if countries are being brutalized by their rulers? Congress has made it our business.

Oh, good. Then let the invasions of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and the UAE begin.

I assume that China won't be invaded because they funded the US military budget this year.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 23, 2007 02:22 PM

Joe Blough: Why GW seems to have decided to stop there is a puzzle that has me stumped.

It's because of the insurgency. The military is stuck there, and hardly anyone in America wants another to fight yet another one of those at the same time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 23, 2007 03:01 PM

This kind of evolution of perspective is a slow process, but there are good reasons why it can steadily progress over the next generations. It could take 20 to 50 years, but modern ideas and concepts have started to make their way into the mind of Middle Easterners, as plausible and viable alternatives to the "classical" jihadi logic.
-Dom

I suspect there is another factor, but I don't know how relevant it is. The most rabid of the zealots seem to be going to Iraq to fight the Americans, and most of them don't come back. Zealots who die in Iraq are no longer able to intimidate the more moderate muslims, and I suspect the "If you think the Koran says X, why aren't you fighting in Iraq" argument is more impressive in the middle east than the chickenhawk argument is here.

-----

[...] We don't know how well received the AQI survivors are in general. [...]
-Pat Lasswell

Difficult to say, but my impression is that the non-militant Iraqis loathe them because they're the fuckers who set off car bombs, the militant shia hate them because they're the fuckers who torture shia to death, and the militant ex-Baathists think they're dangerous idiots who cause reprisal killings of sunnis by militant shia.

This is actually one of the least-discussed, but IMO most important results of the Iraq war. Back when Al Qaeda was only killing infidels, striking western targets with impunity, they looked like winners, and nobody in the middle east was willing to stand against them. This is no longer the case.

-----

[...]

They will, however, attack the USA and their allies because of our support for dictators, both in arms, funding and support on the international stage. This is one of many reasons why "they hate us" and Hooters and Budweiser don’t rank too high on the scale.

...what you forget to state is that they generally don't object to the US's support for despots because they object to despots as such, but because the despots aren't imposing a sufficiently devout form of despotism.

Why should we withdraw our support for a government that does some things we don't like when the likely replacement will do even more things we don't like?

Until we change our policies, or as Scheuer has said, go out of our way to kill massive amounts of Muslims all over the world, nothing will change.

Hopefully, the sane muslims will realize that the changes the US is willing to make in terms of policy are not changes they are likely to like any more than our current policies.

The choices are stark, address our policies, or implement a policy which will require several million troops in dozens of places throughout the world, involving the killing of large amounts of people, combatants and civilians. Until one of the two happens nothing will change.[...]
-Marc

For the US, deploying infantry means we are trying to be restrained and measured in the application of force.

Remember, the United States is a superpower. The reason this is still going on is because these days, Americans prefer to use the minimum necessary force to destroy our enemies. If we thought indiscriminate slaughter was necessary to resolve this, it would have been over on September 12, 2001.

-----

I don't know how many "dictatorships" we really support. Egypt, maybe, but that's just a bribe Carter initiated to keep from from attacking Israel, and we constantly criticize them (and their state press reviles us).
-TallDave

I still would like for someone to explain to me why we are bribing the Egyptians to refrain from starting a war the Egyptians will loose.

----

I interviewed a bunch of Iraqis about Al Qaeda in Iraq and will publish that piece shortly after the new year. Listening to them talk about it was eye-opening for me, and I think it will be for lots of readers, as well. I have a better understanding now why they are so seriously getting their asses kicked in Iraq. It is not just because they are vicious killers. That is only the most obvious reason.
-MJT

That's the kind of piece I would expect MSM outlets to be seriously interested in. Did you not shop it around?

-----

[...] I think the authorities recognized that terrorism would be very difficult to defeat from 9/11 onward; more specifically, they realized how hard it was to defend against. Going on the attack was the only real strategy. [...]

Geez. I get this }{ close to writing you off as someone uninteresed in anything other than having pissing matches with Pat, and you go and post something insightful.

-----

[...] The CIA missed a great opportunity during the war. They should've opened up a dummy terrorist organization around the middle east recruiting these idiots. Put them on those stuipd white buses and have the Air Force blow the hell out of them the second they crossed into Iraq.
-Pete Dawg

You are not the only person wondering why that was not done.

Posted by: rosignol at December 23, 2007 09:14 PM

"Nevertheless Iraq, circa 2003, is an easy case: avoid optional wars and save capacity for unavoidable ones." - Jordan W.

That's it everyone. Ten paragraphs and boom, the question of the "optional" Iraq War is reduced to an "easy case"!!!

I'm sure Jordan is a wonderful guy with a great heart.

If he can resolve Iraq in ten paragraphs, I guess I can give a one word critique of his polemic - sophomoric.

Posted by: John at December 23, 2007 11:29 PM

DPU,

Patience my man. We will take them on as time, opportunity, and resources permit.

Congress is in the process of authorizing a million ground pounders 3/4 Army, 1/4 Marines. So about 2 to 3 years.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 24, 2007 04:45 AM

In discussing the propriety of going to war, there is one case which is ignored by both supporters and opponents which merits evaluation. While the Administration has not advocated this position, I think it is still relevant as to the effects of the war.

My case for war consists of two parts:

1) The motivation for Muslims to support terrorist organizations (whether passively, through donations or by active involvement) stems from the social pathologies of the Muslim Middle East.

2) Saddam Hussein was the most vulnerable generator of those social pathologies in terms of a combination of creation of a casus belli and our ability to eliminate him.

I'll give two examples of social pathologies:

a) When young Middle Easterners go to the west for university education, upon returning home they find that their home societies have no place to employ their education.

b) If anyone were stuck in such a situation were to complain about it, the result would more likely be state persecution, possibly including execution, than any meaningful action taken to mitigate those problems.

To counterargue my case (or of whoever else is willing to claim it), any one of four would be sufficient, though I'd allow opinions that they are not necessary:

1) I am mistaken in my notion about social pathologies in the Middle East.

2) Saddam was not particularly vulnerable compared to other sources of social pathology.

3) The nexus between social pathologies and support for terror is overblown.

4) The war is incapable of addressing those social pathologies. Note the use of "is incapable of" rather than "is not."

The first counterargument seems impossible to make. Given the ease of removing Saddam and the fact that other comparable sources of social pathology are either allied with in some capacity or possess a stronger military force, the second seems not much easier. That leaves the third and fourth counterarguments. I'll leave the third for later and present a brief analysis of the fourth.

To date the Iraq War has not succeeded in eradicating social pathologies in Iraq, though it has shown signs of progress toward that end and time will indicate how meaningful those signs are. Before the surge, and the course adjustment that came with it, most of Iraq did not even show signs of progress on that front. What this lack of progress showed is that the Bush Administration's pre-surge approach was not a viable means to eliminate the social pathologies, not that there was no viable method.

To make an analogy, war opponents often say that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Similarly, one could say that one cannot prevent auto accidents through proper mechanical maintenance of one's vehicle. However, one can remove obstacles to democratization through force just as one can prevent certain types of accidents through proper maintenance. Bush's approach to removing obstacles was sort of like meticulously maintaining air pressure in the tires while not bothering to check brake fluid levels. He removed one obstacle, Saddam Hussein's regime, but had no interest in dealing with other obstacles when they were weak enough to be dealt with but not glamorous to do so, such as Sadr in May 2003 or Zarqawi before the invasion. Further, he undermined the positive side of democratization by having Bremer quash any initiative that would produce grass-roots building blocks of democracy.

These missteps, which people like Conrad Crane of the Army War College could have identified as missteps at the start, will take a lot of work to reverse. The progress we have made is in part a reversal of those missteps and in part progress in other areas from before the invasion.

As for how I would define success in Iraq: when a typical family in Morocco/Egypt/Pakistan/any Muslim country watches the news from Iraq in its living room and says "Why can't our country be like Iraq?" we will have succeeded. The other stated goals, with the exception of creating an ally in War on Terror which incidentally Gen. Petraeus did not mention among his goals in his written testimony for his confirmation hearing, are all well and good, and are all conditions for my goal. I'd be willing to predict that anyone who wishes his country was like Iraq would see more to gain through cooperation with the West than through joining international jihad in confrontation with the West.

Posted by: Scott at December 24, 2007 06:41 PM

I'll be civil...
All such essays as Jordan's ignore two things:

1. Bin Laden declared the war in the nineties.. he wrote it down and put it on the web. And one of the issues he addressed was that we were too weak and decadent to fight back. Specifically citing those who continuously write anti-war essays, stating we 'have no stomach' for blood. He MIGHT have been writing about Jordan, but in other senses he CERTAINLY was writing about Ron Paul.
For causing Al Quaeda to think twice, ALONE...Iraq is worth it.
2. There is NO way of knowing what might have happened if we had not invaded Iraq.. I find myself feeling less and less need to explain lack of WMD's .. First the fact we found none shows, perversely, we THOUGHT they were there.

Second it's become apparent that Saddam was GAMING EVERYONE. He realized his WMD's were a greater risk to his own regime than a deterrent to his enemies. But he couldnt bring himself to admit he laid them down... for the same reason.

That is SO basic to the premise for both sides, you'd think it would be paramount in discussing the whole issue.

In the end, we have showed our enemies why they should bargain, diplomatically, in good faith.

If we had not wielded the big stick, after ALL those UN resolutions and years of 'compassionate diplomacy', then what do we have to offer the other side?

Posted by: pettyfog at December 25, 2007 06:13 AM

For causing Al Quaeda to think twice, ALONE...Iraq is worth it.

Have you ever heard of Afghanistan?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 25, 2007 10:05 PM

Patrick,

I dont watch all that much TV, so the references to Stargate was lost on me, sorry.

Michael,

I think for about 95% of the Muslim/Arab world, political reasons are the core of their beef with us. Nutters like bin Laden play on this issue to promote their own unique brand of nonsense.

If all bin Laden had to sell his jihad to the Muslim world was the joy of building a totalitarian Caliphate he'd have an organisation with about 5 members.

Remove all or even some of the real political issues that motivate most of these people and people in the Muslim would would be saying "bin Laden who"?

It isnt the Caliphate that sells jihad, it is talk about Western support for Mubarak, the Saudi regime, cash and weapons to Israel, US troops in Bahrain, UAE and a whole list of other things.

"The Caliphate" would list about number 99 in a list of 100 with 95% of even the jihadis.

Bin Laden uses these real issues to further his own issues. Take these from him and you pull the rug from underneath him.

Posted by: Marc at December 26, 2007 05:49 AM

There is NO way of knowing what might have happened if we had not invaded Iraq

Bingo. Even when convincing arguments are made as to why we should not have invaded Iraq, they ALWAYS ignore the "opportunity cost" of not invading, and that cost was far from negligible. It may well have been the "cheaper" course to not invade, but there's no way of knowing.

And as always, hindsight is 20/20. We are where we are, and re-hashing the past does little to move us forward, however good the rationalizations feel to the rearview critics.

Posted by: Tully at December 26, 2007 06:49 PM

I think for about 95% of the Muslim/Arab world, political reasons are the core of their beef with us.

It depends on what you mean by 'political reasons'. If it's a reference to the US supplying advanced weaponry to the Israelis to deter an invasion-with-intent-to-exterminate by Israel's neighbors, well, they'd better get used to it.

As far as Mubarak and the Saudis are concerned, the US deals with them because they're the people in charge, not because we want them to be in charge, or because they're the kind of people the US wants in charge. The US would be quite happy if Egypt (or any of the other governments in the region) had a government comparable to the ones in Europe (with the obvious exceptions of Belarus or Russia). Heck, even South American style government would be a step up.

Posted by: rosignol at December 26, 2007 06:58 PM

"It isnt the Caliphate that sells jihad, it is ... cash and weapons to Israel"

No it's not. It's the existence of Israel. They don't want a two-state solution. They want one state, preferably run by Hamas. I want you to come out and say you're OK with that, because that is the logical conclusion of your arguments.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 27, 2007 12:35 AM

This was a calm, rational explanation of the leftwing viewpoint. It states very clearly and succinctly why the left thinks the war in Iraq was a bad idea and a distraction from the GWOT, but, like all examples of the leftwing viewpoint, it fails to offer an alternative other than sitting on our hands waiting for the next 9/11.

Had we devoted all our resources to Afghanistan, we might very well have captured or killed bin Laden and Zawahiri and thereby dismantled AQ. This however, would have done nothing to hurt Islamism, the mother of AQ.

The likely result of focusing only on Afghanistan and AQ, would have been to quell Islamist activity in the west for a few decades and I think that most leftists think this would be a good and desirable result. However, let's adjust our historical view for a moment and ask ourselves why King Ferdinand sent ships across the ocean looking for a route to China in 1492 when Marco Polo had discovered an overland route two hundred years earlier? The answer is that other thing that happened in 1492 that US history books don't mention: that was the year that Spain finally drove the Muslim invaders off the Iberian peninsula back into northern Africa. Since Polo's route went right through Muslim lands, a new route had to be found.

The bottom line is that the west has been dealing with Muslims by avoidance for 500 years. This was easy and effective while they were simply a group of shepherds and bedouins scratching a living out of the sands, but with the discovery of oil and the wealth and power it has provided them, it has become impossible to deal with them that way anymore.

That's the question I ask of all people who hold this viewpoint: 9/11 was our wakeup call, what would you have done after Afghanistan, assuming for a moment that we could not have left it at that?

Posted by: Kafir at December 27, 2007 04:52 AM

The US would not be happy with the results of any sort of representitive democracy in the Middle East. The results of the elections in Palestine make that clear. As a matter of fact, I think had the US knew the outcome of the elections there they would not have put the pressure on Abbas that they did to call them.

Abbas, from the begining, did not want to call elections. I think he was very aware of how little support he and the ruling PLO had. It is this same unpopularity that made Abbas dependent on US support and gave him no choice but to call elections and we see what happened.

Gary Rosen, I am telling you the facts on the ground in the Middle East as I see it, it is not some political argument I am making. Facts are facts.

My interaction with Arabs over the last 15 years had shown me that the vast majority of them would rather make peace with Israel. This is the very reason why the Saudis made the peace offer that they did, which was then agreed upon by the entire Arab League.

Almost all of these leaders do not really care about the Palestinians or the Palestinian/Israeli issue. It has played itself out, besides the Iranian fear mongeering is an easier card to play now, especially in the Gulf. It also plays better with the West, especially the USA.

As for a one state solution, there is support for that on both sides of the border in Israel/Palestine, although for much different reasons.

Again, it is my observation, that outside of Gaza and Hamas/Hizb'Allah supporters, there is not much will amoungst Arabs for any action against Israel. If there was there is no way that the Arab League would have voted for full economical and political ties with Israel based on a withdrawl to 1967 borders.

Posted by: Marc at December 27, 2007 05:41 AM

Marc: The US would not be happy with the results of any sort of representitive democracy in the Middle East. The results of the elections in Palestine make that clear.

Palestine is the most extreme "country" in the entire region. I wouldn't hold it up as a representative example. I'm not sure a representative example even exists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 27, 2007 09:28 AM

Michael,

I agree with your point. However, do you think there is one country in the Middle East, if given a free and open election, that would elect a government that would not be at least of a moderate Islamic variety?

Would any population in the area vote in a government that is as accomodating of the US, and US interests, as the current lot of dictators, tyrants and royal families?

It is my opinion, that from Morocco to Yemen, if there was free and open elections, moderate to rather strict Islamic governments would be elected in every country. None of these new governments would be nearly as accomodating as ones currently in place. This includes all of the countries, which to my eyes, are now rather more secular and Western leaning than others.

In the short term, say 25-30 years, it would be decidedly NOT in America's best interests to see free and open elections in the area.

Having said that, it is my belief once the Islamists are given the chance to rule instead of being in eternal opposition, they will show their inability to govern. Once they are given a chance to fail the credibility they now have will disappear and fade into history much as pan Arabism ala Nasser has done.

Until the populations of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) are given a chance to see what life would really be like under Islamic parties they will continue to support them and the pipe dream that they offer.

Posted by: Marc at December 28, 2007 07:07 AM

Marc: However, do you think there is one country in the Middle East, if given a free and open election, that would elect a government that would not be at least of a moderate Islamic variety?

Lebanon, obviously. Turkey, usually. Tunisia, probably. Iran, almost certainly. Algeria, again almost certainly.

There's five.

it is my belief once the Islamists are given the chance to rule instead of being in eternal opposition, they will show their inability to govern. Once they are given a chance to fail the credibility they now have will disappear and fade into history much as pan Arabism ala Nasser has done.

Agreed.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 28, 2007 10:39 AM

The rebuttal's to Jordan are excellent. One point to add. Anti-War liberal types never propose viable solutions - only criticisms. Citing "diplomacy" doesn't count.

Posted by: David at December 28, 2007 10:18 PM

The rebuttal's to Jordan are excellent. One point to add. Anti-War liberal types never propose viable solutions - only criticisms. Citing "diplomacy" doesn't count.

Posted by: David at December 28, 2007 10:18 PM
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