March 15, 2006

Iraq

Rumsfeld, today: "Iraqi security forces control the battle space currently for about 60 percent of Baghdad, including areas such as Haifa Street, Sadr City and the airport road." [emphasis added]

The Times (UK):

In Sadr City, the Shia slum in northeast Baghdad, four men were found hanged, and three others had been tied to pylons and shot in the head, bearing “traitor” signs.

All day yesterday police and army patrols across the Iraqi capital were finding the bodies of men who had been tortured and killed. Hospital officials said that they had received about forty bodies, all shot. By nightfall an estimated eighty-seven corpses had been found in twenty-four hours, the latest victims of the sectarian killings driving Shias and Sunnis apart. Many had been killed with a sadism shocking even by the standards of Iraq’s three years of bloodletting.

But Iraqi Forces "control the battle space" in Sadr City. So sayeth Don "Stuff Happens" Rumsfeld. By the way, it's no secret that U.S. commanders in Iraq are under tremendous pressure to keep U.S. casualties down. Our force posture in country has become more and more conservative of late, and, yes, this has helped save coalition lives. But let's not kid ourselves about the result. Ralph Peters can drive around for an afternoon and report to the know-nothings at home that all is swell, but the reality is that we are too often relinquishing the battle space to militias, terrorists, neo-Baathists, and others. Yes, it's true, we've made some headway of late these past 12 or so months and gotten smarter about counter-insurgency in places like Tal Afar, or Samarra, or Ramadi (though the situation still ranges from tense to still perilous in these towns). And we've put insurgents under real pressure through most of Anbar province these past months too. But never with overwhelming force, the fundamental precept of the Powell Doctrine. Never convincingly enough to keep them from moving to another area of operations, resting, regrouping--the better to allow them to continue to mount a resilient insurgency. And, of course, there has been the rise in strength of Shi'a militias (not to mention Kurdish ones), albeit the gates of hell haven't opened yet as Sistani continues to call for restraint (god help us if he loses his patience, or succumbs to the pressure borne of the "Sistani is Sleeping" grafitti being spotted on Baghdad streets). But with a Secretary of Defense who thinks the Iraqi Army is currently handling Sadr City adequately, what can we do? Hope Abizaid and Zalmay Khalilzad persuade POTUS to bulk up back to 150,000 or so, and go and show the flag in places like Sadr City? Or continue to piss along bullshitting ourselves that the momentum is on our side, hoping that events move in our direction in the face of massive sectarian hatred, a determined insurgency, growing militia strength, the status of Kirkuk still so problematic, and so on.

In good time, I will write my personal mea culpa in this tragic affair. I had greater faith in this Administration, and they have let us down time and again. But it's too easy to say it would all have been OK but for the dumbies who effed up the show. People who supported the war, and there were many of us (on both sides of the aisle, lest we forget), had to keep in mind the abilities of those charged with prosecuting it, and the resources that would be brought to bear. We knew the Powell Doctrine had been shunted aside in favor of utopic transformationalist nostrums, and we knew that some who were listened to in the leading counsels of power had memorably declared the effort would be a cakewalk. We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate. Also, it should be said, war is a tremendously complex endeavor, and while it's a cliche to state, it's very true that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. We can beat up on the war-planners, and their arrogance and reluctance to admit mistakes makes it feel good, but their jobs are never easy ones, and those of us brandishing laptops to castigate all and sundry do well to recall this now and again.

Still, whatever you make of the lack of WMD, of the bungled first two years of the occupation, of Rumsfeld's immense hubris and ignorance, it's now all spilt milk. Now we have to move forward and salvage the situation. We need a new War Secretary, of course, but our President appears too bovinely stubborn to realize this. We also need to stay in country, and continue to view this as a generational committment. If we leave Iraq tomorrow, or scale back to well below 100,000, the country will explode. We will see savagery and mass killings on a horrific scale, and it is not clear that any of the parties will be able to decisively conquer the other in some tense , exhausted Mearsheimeresque entente post killing fields. It could go on for years, allowing for fecund conditions for international terror groups to take root, and all kinds of troublemaking by neighbors. Our democratization strategy will lie in tatters, with only a few die-hards at faux-think tanks in Washington delusionally playing pretend that all is well, but for those brutish Sunni Arabs (they have a "genius" for failure, Ralph Peters informs us) who couldn't appreciate the fruits of freedom we had bestowed upon them (the more civilized Persians will understand better, of course, so on to Teheran!). What is needed now is fresh leadership and renewed committment to this fight.

Suzanne Nossel has recently written that the only thing worse than a civil war in Iraq is a civil war in Iraq with 130,000 plus US forces in country. I'm not so sure. I heard George Packer (author of the superb Assassin's Gate) last night here in NYC convincingly sketch out just how rapacious the deep hatred many Shi'a harbor for their heretofore Sunni oppressors. It will be ugly, very ugly, if the Americans go. The U.S., under Ambassador Khalilzad's leadership, at least acts to monitor the behavior of Ministries for varied cronyism and ethnic favoritism, acts to link funds disbursement to ensuring militias don't overly infiltrate Iraqi Army and (now increasingly) Police units, and other such carrot and stick juggling. And, most important, the US leads the efforts to put together a cohesive national government, the very polity the new Iraqi Army is meant to defend. This nascent government, if it can even be convincingly formed, will have to survive myriad crises in the coming months and years. True, there have been halfway successful constitutional referendum exercises albeit the deal-breaker issues often get punted for another day. There have also been decently run elections, all told, ones the insurgents were largely powerless to stop. But let's not kid ourselves. Any gains to date are eminently reversible, and huge American involvement will remain critical, especially by Ambassador Khalilzad's team on the ground. And, of course, his main currency is the 130,000 forces in theater, for if they leave, Zalmay, however talented a diplomat, will be revealed a shadow proconsul left ingloriously without clothes. So I'm sorry to be so very dreary, but I see no option but for the US to stay in country likely through the end of Bush's term and beyond at troop levels likely above 80,000 even in late '08/early '09. Otherwise we will have made a mockery of our policy objectives in that country and indeed the region. We will have betrayed our own ideals, the lives of our lost soldiers, and countless Iraqis as well. We will have failed, dismally. Can not the world's leading superpower do better?


Posted by Gregory at March 15, 2006 04:08 AM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

One would think it quite enough for Zalmay Khalilzad to be revealed as a shadow proconsul, but one without clothes as well? I would not go so far.

As far as I can tell Khalilzad is about the best front line diplomat we have; the smart thing to do is to back him to the hilt as long as he sees some chance of holding a government together. That can't be for very much longer, however. Iraq is not what matters in this situation. The United States is. We cannot afford and should not attempt to make of Iraq a kind of super-Bosnia held together with a badly overstretched Army and billions of dollars borrowed from the Chinese central bank. This is a commitment that needs to be liquidated within a reasonable time frame, and it might be well to consider if American interests around the world would be best served if it were liquidated sooner by choice or a few months later under overwhelming domestic political pressure.

Posted by: Zathras at March 15, 2006 07:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Spot on analysis GD, I couldn't agree more. What I would add to what you said about what the result of a too early pull out would be the expansion of the conflict beyond Iraq's borders, and the big victory it would hand to Zarqawi & Co. We have a responsibility to do our best to make it work there, having gone in, and everyone being sick of it they all figure out how it is hopeless, but it better not be hopeless so better start figuring out how it can somehow work out.

I believe this is your answer to the Posner article which I have been looking foward too. You did not disappoint.

Posted by: Napablogger at March 15, 2006 08:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Churchill once said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I share much of your despond, but I still think the choice we made -- pulling the trigger when we did -- was the least bad alternative available. Read Oliver Kamm's succinct recap of our reasoning in the Guardian (!) here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1730269,00.html

If we want to learn anything from this sacrifice, I think it should include the costs of giving moral legitimacy to the UN and our "allies" that have done everything in their power, short of picking up arms, to bleed us in this effort. It should include a full accounting of the corruption and mendacity that scuttled "smart sanctions." And it should lead to a reappraisal of the costs and benefits of a neo-isolationism, which might not be taken off the table when discussing these issues with said "allies."

Posted by: wks at March 15, 2006 02:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Zathras is right. To criticize Rumsfeld for being out of touch, and then to blithely posit a generational committment (meaning, what, 100 billion a year for Iraq for the next ten years? Really?) is simply to continue the delusion. There have been bad civil wars in the Middle East -- from Yemen's to Northern Iraq's somehow forgotten fighting in the late eighties (the Kurd warlords stopped after 6-7,000 dead). The U.S. position, rightly, was to accept that there are limits on U.S. power. If you don't accept that limit, you will soon dissipate the power.

Since the Bush administration failed in the fairly simple task of repressing Osama bin Laden (opting for the Clinton doctrine - put him in a new place and hope you can forget about him), there is a big American problem, but it is in Central Asia. The creeping radicalization of the Pakistan countryside, the not so underground connections between the ISI and the resurgent Taliban, and the renewal of Al Qaeda's ties with the Kashmiri terrorist groups that the Pakistani government supports are a big deal. The time is ticking away until Al qaeda gets its attack on Saudi Arabia right. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has unforgivably pissed away the American opportunity to pre-empt this. The opportunity costs in Iraq are just starting to kick in.

Posted by: roger at March 15, 2006 02:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I predict that Afghanistan will remain a US protectorate for the next 25 years.

Western Europe remained a US protectorate for 45 years after the end of World War II.

South Korea has been a US protectorate for 56 years and will continue to remain so for the forseeable future.

Is there some natural law that Iraq should be any different?

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 02:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, and I forgot to mention Kosovo - the quagmire we never hear about. The moment foreign troops are withdrawn, the locals will slaughter each other.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me be sure I have this straight.

You admit to the hubris of many in this administration, if not your own. You concede that our leadership is woefully incompetent. And yet your answer going forward, after we've avoided "crying over the spilled milk" is to stay the course.

You recognize the need for Rumsfeld's retirement and also the fact that it will never happen.

And your answer is to stay the course.

Here's an idea. How about if we just ignore your advice going forward. Since you seem to agree it isn't worth the toilet paper it's written on and all.

Sorry if this seems personal. But understand. It is you who has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of shattered young American lives, and untold numbers of shattered Iraqi lives.

You jumped up and down, vigorously waving your pom poms, deriding anyone who had the temerity to mention that you really hadn't bothered to think any of this through.

And yet, you have the nerve to suggest we hunker down, stay the course, trust the leadership you admit is feckless.

I'll pass. While trying hard to resist the temptation to suggest you attempt an asexual act.

Posted by: Davebo at March 15, 2006 03:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate."

Thank you, thank you, thank you for that, Mr. Djerejian. I've yet to hear *any* war advocate acknowledge that many of us who opposed the Iraq disaster did so because we saw an epic strategic blunder in the making. I'm just glad that my biggest worry, that invasion would catalyze enough rage to launch an Islamist revolution in Pakistan, has so far proved wrong. Sadly, second major concern proved true all too quickly -- we've been in a situation with *zero* good options for the last two years, at least.

It's for that reason that I simply cannot the question, "What do we do now?" There's no question that we now have a profound moral and economic obligation to Iraqis. On the other hand, it isn't at all clear to me that we can actually own up to that debt, that we have the talent and capacity to fix a horrible botch. And there's no question that we will never, ever allocate the resources that the situation really requires. But we love to talk tough and talk expansively, don't we?

Like I said, no good options.

It doesn't help that we still have to put up with idiots like wks:

"If we want to learn anything from this sacrifice, I think it should include the costs of giving moral legitimacy to the UN and our 'allies' that have done everything in their power, short of picking up arms, to bleed us in this effort. It should include a full accounting of the corruption and mendacity that scuttled 'smart sanctions.'"

Last I heard, American companies were happily trading with Saddam right up to the end, and that includes companies with which some of our more notorious war architects had lucrative affiliations. But that's an aside. If you wanna talk "costs", rather than fretting about how we "gave moral legitimacy" to the UN, you might ponder what advantage we gained by undercutting it, and other international arrangements. None of these are perfect institutions, granted. But they're what we've got to work with. It seems to me we stand to gain a lot more by strengthening and reforming them (genuine reforms, not the rhetorical gas spewed by a Jesse Helms or a John Bolton), instead of routinely using them as a politically convenient whipping boy.

Posted by: sglover at March 15, 2006 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there some natural law that Iraq should be any different?

Kevin,

I don't think it comes down to something like a "natural law" yet there are clearly major differences between the nature of our presence in Iraq and those other places you mentioned. Even the "quagmire" that is Kosovo.

I'll give you a clue: please see the casualty rates for maintaining each "protectorate." See, also, costs in terms of economic outlays, military commitments, diplomatic costs, loss of favorable public perception, etc.

If you can't tell the difference between Iraq and Western Europe, Kosovo, South Korea, etc. using the above criteria, let me know and I'll spell it out in greater detail.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pray do so, Mr. Martin. I am willing to bet that the 45-year occupation of Europe after World War II has cost more soldiers lives in training accidents and on-the-job deaths than the 2,000+ deaths in Iraq to date. And the economic outlays, military commitments, diplomatic costs of maintaining hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Europe...

As far as the loss of favorable public perception, you should see the younger Korean generation's opinion of us for stationing the troops that prevent their enslavement by North Korea.

If we had the defeatist mentality that we do today during World War II, we would all be speaking German or Japanese.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm still not seeing any actual plan "to move forward and salvage the situation" and why it would be better than the current plan.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As far as the loss of favorable public perception, you should see the younger Korean generation's opinion of us for stationing the troops that prevent their enslavement by North Korea.

Yeah, and who can forget the years-long Korean Civil War, and the thousands of GI's shot by Seoul partisans.

You war shills really need to get some historical analogies that are actually germane. I suppose you could start by maybe reading some history. Hint: It didn't all start with Munich or Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: sglover at March 15, 2006 04:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ummm, sglover, the Korean War was actually a war between the North and the South of Korea... started by the crazy regime in the North.

While there were not thousands of partisan or insurgent attacks on US troops, we did suffer 54,000 deaths - for what? A stalemate that has lasted for 53 years?

The nature of warfare changed considerably in the 20th century, sglover. Perhaps lessons from the Charge of the Light Brigade would be more germane?

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 05:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A pretty sorry state of affairs. Is there any reason to believe we'll get it right sometime in the future?

Posted by: gwen at March 15, 2006 06:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I'm still not seeing any actual plan "to move forward and salvage the situation" and why it would be better than the current plan."

Well, no. And you aren't going to see one, either.

What can american citizens do when they aren't making their living doing military planning for the US military?

Suppose I were to suggest a better plan. It might go something like, "We need to train our own troops to do JRG patrolling. But the iraqi troops have a different mix of skills and equipment, so we need to train them to do JRM patrols instead. Meanwhile we must revise our approach to collecting intelligence from civilians, we should follow the Boma Qua techniques which worked so well for the british in indonesia, the finns in lappland, and the chinese in tibet." Etc etc etc.

Possibly you might look at the plan in detail and agree, "Yes, that's a better plan. We should do it that way."

More likely somebody would come along and claim "I'm a lieutenant in the army and I work at Headquarters Iraq doing military planning, and I can tell you that we're basicly doing exactly what you say, with a bunch of refinements I can't talk about." Quite likely his name will be Sergeant Rock and his email address will be a@aa.com.

But more likely than either of those, nobody will pay any attention whatsoever. And reasonably so. Since the US military will pay absolutely no attention but will continue to stay the course as long as they're ordered to, why shouldn't everybody else ignore alternative plans too? It's kind of like suggesting a better automobile to General Motors, or suggesting a better steel-making technology to US Steel.

So calling for a better plan is completely bogus. It's only a red herring, a stinky distraction.

As citizens, our choices are simple. We can support the Bush Administration in staying the course. Now, as Sergeant Rock at a@aa.com will tell you, they don't just keep doing the same thing over and over. They were doing the wrong thing up to about six months ago, but now they're doing something different and it's working, and we'll see the difference soon. And if the future is like the past, they're about to notice that this approach isn't working either and they're startingi to try something different, and in six months he'll tell us that now they're doing something different and it's working. So provided the problem doesn't change, sooner or later they'll try an approach that works -- provided there *is* some approach that works.

Or instead of supporting Bush, we can urge Bush and the military to accept a draft. They haven't done this partly because they think the public wouldn't stand for it, so your job is to show them that the public is ready to do whatever the war needs. Of course there are other problems. The military doesn't want a bunch of unwilling recruits who're likely to start fragging officers. Iraqi soldiers with 8 weeks of training are potentially better than US draftees with 12 weeks training -- they know the language, they know the enemy, and they care about iraq. And they're a lot cheaper. But if you want to support the war more than simply going along with whatever the plan is this half-year, campaigning for a draft is pretty much all there is to do. A lottery is not good, we'd do better with a universal draft. Draft every 18-year-old male. It might be better to draft the girls too, but probably not. The official ata is classified, but the media estimated a couple of years ago that the pregnancy rate of women of reproductive age in the army was omewhere around 15% to 18% per year. If that was true of draftees too, it would cause a big social change to draft them all.

Alternatively, if you don't think these bozos have it together, you can campaign for accepting defeat. A planned withdrawal is better than a rout. Hitler kept throwing troops in to Stalingrad, and the result was only a bigger loss. Maybe our choice isn't between a good plan and a better plan. Maybe our choice is between an extremely-expensive defeat and a less-expensive defeat. One consolation -- a defeat for us doesn't imply a win for al Qaeda. Not unlikely they'll get thrown out of iraq soon after we do. We don't really know the consequences of defeat. We thought if we lost vietnam then international communism would spread to thailand and malaysia and indonesia and so on, and it didn't happen. Communist vietnam invaded communist cambodia and communist china invaded communist vietnam. And we turned the tables on the russians, we helped turn afghanistan into their vietnam.

We have already lost in iraq. The best outcome we can hope for now is a genuine iraqi democracy, installed by voters who want us gone. That's the best possible outcome, and it's a defeat. How much likelier is that only-moderate defeat if our army stays in, compared to us pulling out?

Any estimates?

My own estimate (based on media reports and iraqi blogs and listening to people back from iraq) is that if we keep our forces in iraq and spend ten billion dollars a month for the foreseeable future, iraq might get a functioning democratic government within 5 years, and they will tell us to get out, and I put the chance at 30%.

And if we get out now, iraq might get a functioning democratic government within 2 years, and I put the chance at 40%.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 15, 2006 06:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Leaving aside the bickering, Djerejian, I liked your comment.

In good time, I will write my personal mea culpa in this tragic affair. I had greater faith in this Administration, and they have let us down time and again. But it's too easy to say it would all have been OK but for the dumbies who effed up the show. People who supported the war, and there were many of us (on both sides of the aisle, lest we forget), had to keep in mind the abilities of those charged with prosecuting it, and the resources that would be brought to bear.

I personally opposed the war from the get go as I was sure that the current American Administration had no clue what kind of pandora's box it was opening.

That being said, working on an equity fund that was placing real capital into the situation (oddly not one dollar ended up inside Iraq in the end), early on I had a strong expectation that fine, okay, they were going to fuck a few things up, but overall the money would be spent and something investible would emerge by 2004ish.

After a few horrible months (which I documented in my sad little blog where I was fairly bouncing off the walls) we came to the realisation that the US occupation was completely staffed by utterly delusional party-political whankers who really believed the spin.

For me, my turning point came when my Cambridge educated lawyer - who had told me he wanted Sadaam brought down (he's a Sunni mind you) - turned to me during one particularly delusional CPA-Iraq briefing and said, "You know, I am happy when I see them get killed on TV." Or words to that effect.

The people who deserve scorn, I may add, taking your phrase: "
We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate.
The ones deserving scorn are those fools who pimped "Good News From Iraq" and attacked the bad news as near treason. IT strikes me that that clique of reporters, bloggers and pundits bear the weight of helping sell dangerous and ultimately self-defeating self-deception.

As for Iraq, the country will go through a civil war. There is nothing that will stop that. Maybe US presence dampens, maybe not. One should now start by admitting the obvious and working from there. "Avoiding" a civil war is already delusion.

Posted by: Collier Lounsbury at March 15, 2006 06:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, an interesting and challenging piece. A couple quick reactions:

1. This is a paraphrase on Posen: All factions in Iraq are well-provisioned with defensive weapons and poorly provisioned with offensive ones (artillery, air power). No faction in Iraq has sophisticated logistical capability. Could any of them, absent substantial outside help, really make much progress on territorial conquest or mass slaughter?

2. This is NOT a "You admit you were wrong before so shut up" item, though if you squint it could be taken that way. It's a sincere inquiry. How do you think that the reasoning process that leads you to conclude the US must and *can usefully* stay in Iraq is free of the defects you find, in retrospect, in the reasoning process that led you to believe the US needed to go into Iraq in the first place? I know where *I* think the "hawks of good will" went wrong, but I don't want to assume you'd agree.

3. Well I thought I had a third one when I started, but maybe I don't.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 15, 2006 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

3. Oh I DID have a third one! Do you think that the unhappy US experience in Iraq these last couple of years might itself tend to deter other outside powers from, what's the word, meddling? IOW, might it make others think twice about tearing off a piece of Iraq for themselves?

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 15, 2006 07:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If you wanna talk "costs", rather than fretting about how we "gave moral legitimacy" to the UN, you might ponder what advantage we gained by undercutting it, and other international arrangements. None of these are perfect institutions, granted. But they're what we've got to work with"

Didn't Rummy say you go to war with the army you've got? Meet your evil twin.

I still believe in the ideals of the UN, and the ideals of Wilson and FDR, it's founders. I still think there comes a time when participating in a sham insults their memory more than it honors it, and that time has come. I do not see how we would undercut it by demanding transparency in it's accounts, by telling France and Russia to quit treating their votes like they were judging ice skating at the Olympics, even to insist that France's veto be turned over to the EU. [France's veto was an affectation when it was first granted in the 1940's, let alone today.] I personally would not shed any tears if we pulled out and tried to start with a coalition of democracies, but if we are not willing to go that far I'd at least say clean the Augean Stables or we're taking our 22% of the budget and going home.

Posted by: wks at March 15, 2006 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ummm, sglover, the Korean War was actually a war between the North and the South of Korea... started by the crazy regime in the North

Yeah, I'm well aware of that. I was trying to highlight the stupidity of your Iraq-Korean occupation analogy. I guess it went over your head. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: sglover at March 15, 2006 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also to Mr. Glover

P.S. What American companies were violating sanctions up until the end? I think this is another DemocraticUnderground factoid like "we armed Saddam to the hilt" or "we gave him chemical weapons." I think those that accuse the Bush Regime of misinformation on 9/11 ties and such should try to be more circumspect in their charges.

Posted by: wks at March 15, 2006 07:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pray do so, Mr. Martin. I am willing to bet that the 45-year occupation of Europe after World War II has cost more soldiers lives in training accidents and on-the-job deaths than the 2,000+ deaths in Iraq to date. And the economic outlays, military commitments, diplomatic costs of maintaining hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Europe...

Kevin, thank you for illustrating exactly why the apples and oranges in your analogy are not good comparisons.

First, the casualties: Let me get this straight, I should compare the deaths from 45 (45!) years of military presence in Europe to almost three years (3!) in Iraq and then....what exactly?

Are you seriously suggesting that 45 years of occupying Iraq would even remotely approach the European tally? Really? Do you not recognize that the nature of our presence in each place was vastly different? Accidental deaths vs. insurgent caused fatalities? On a per-soldier in theater basis?

Economics: See, above re: 45 years vs. 3 years. Yes, at the current burn rate in Iraq, we are outpacing spending in many other crucial national security efforts - even historically speaking.

Iraq, mind you, is but one country in the Middle East. Western Europe is vastly larger, with many countries. So the spending should be proportional to the security interests and geographical space protected. And the money spent was in opposition to the USSR and countering their capacity.

In other words, for the size and scope of the operations, Europe was a far, far better bang for the buck - and less costly overall when looked at in proper proportion.

As far as the loss of favorable public perception, you should see the younger Korean generation's opinion of us for stationing the troops that prevent their enslavement by North Korea.

Yes. I am aware. My many Korean friends enjoy poking me in the eye on this. But the angst and anti-American riffs of South Korean youth is really negligible in size and scope when compared to the damage Iraq is doing to our image/favorability in the entire Muslim world, Europe, South America and elsewhere. Whereas the former is a regional, localized and relatively innocuous phenomenon, the latter has very serious implications with respect to our efforts to combat the spread, efficacy and support for radical Islamist terrorism. Further, we are making life more difficult for ostensible allies like Musharraf in Pakistan, ie.

Not to mention the lack of cooperation fostered on a host of other vital international issues not terrorism-related.

Occupying Korea did not alienate the world. In fact, the war effort was done through the UN. Putting a military footprint in Western Europe at the behest of the Western Europeans did not alienate Western Europeans or turn them against us (with exceptions on the fringes). Occupying Iraq, on the other hand, has very real diplomatic costs.

Again, I think you have shown how different the two are by your attempt to draw an analogy.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 07:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sglover, I notice you avoided any substantive discussion here... while charges of "stupidity" and "war shills" may be satisfying to you, they don't actually make you any more useful than a whiner. Come up with some substantive suggestion about how to make the situation better.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 07:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sglover, I notice you avoided any substantive discussion here... while charges of "stupidity" and "war shills" may be satisfying to you, they don't actually make you any more useful than a whiner. Come up with some substantive suggestion about how to make the situation better.

I am also interested in which American companies violated sanctions to the end of the Saddam regime.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
So calling for a better plan is completely bogus. It's only a red herring, a stinky distraction.

No, it is a serious question that deserves a serious answer. If you are calling the Administration (of which I am no great supporter) criminally incompetent, that implies that there was some other plan that would have worked, and will now work better than what the Administration is currently doing.

I am seriously interested in what this plan is, not to score rhetorical points, but just to see what options exist in Iraq.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 08:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks,

There were American companies and individuals implicated, and there are ongoing investigations to ascertain the roles played by others not yet named. From the CFR:

What other investigations into Oil-for-Food are there?

They include:

-Five ongoing congressional investigations examining the role of U.S. companies and individuals and the program more generally. The Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has already issued a dozen subpoenas for individuals affiliated with the program, according to news reports.

-Four House panels are also conducting inquiries: the International Relations Committee—which has already made three trips to the region and issued a subpoena to Paris-based bank BNP Paribas—the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, and the Appropriations subcommittee on commerce.

-An ongoing U.S. Treasury Department investigation into which U.S. trade laws may have been violated.

-An ongoing federal criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

-Oil-for-food-related investigations underway in Iraq, Britain, and Switzerland, according to The Wall Street Journal.

-An April 2004 report by Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, now called the Government Accountability Office.

From the reports/investigative findings available at the time, it is clear that US companies/individuals were involved, though not nearly to the extent as companies/individuals from other nations (notably France and Russia). Again, from the CFR:

Who received the vouchers?

The Duelfer report contains a list of more than 1,300 oil vouchers that Saddam Hussein gave to more than a hundred corporations, foreign officials, individuals, and political parties around the world. This information came from lists found at Iraq’s state oil company and interviews with captured regime officials.

-Thirty percent of the oil vouchers were issued to beneficiaries in Russia, including individual officials in the president’s office, the Russian

-Foreign Ministry, the Russian Communist Party, members of the Russian parliament, and the oil firms Lukoil, Gazprom, Zarubezhneft, Sibneft, Rosneft, and Tatneft.

-Fifteen percent of the beneficiaries were French, including a former
interior minister, the Iraqi-French Friendship Society, and the oil company Total.

-Entities in China received 10 percent of the vouchers.

-Entities in Switzerland , Malaysia , and Syriaeach received 6 percent.

-U.S. companies and individuals received between 2 percent and 3 percent of the total vouchers—some 111 million barrels out of a total of 4.1 billion. These companies were not named in the report, because of U.S. privacy laws, but were later leaked to the press.


Which individuals were named in the report as voucher recipients?
Among them:

-Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian Liberal Democratic Party leader, and companies associated with his party were allocated 53 million barrels.

-Alexander Voloshin, chief of staff under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was allocated 3.9 million barrels of oil from May to December 2002.

-Oscar S. Wyatt Jr., a prominent Texas energy investor with a long history of dealings in Iraq, received vouchers for 29.7 million barrels, according to press reports.

-Benon Sevan, the UN chief of the Oil-for-Food Program, received an allocation of 13 million barrels.

-Charles Pasqua, a businessman and former French interior minister, received an allocation of 11 million barrels.

-Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former Indonesian president, was allocated 6 million barrels.

Link to CFR information here.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
1. This is a paraphrase on Posen: All factions in Iraq are well-provisioned with defensive weapons and poorly provisioned with offensive ones (artillery, air power). No faction in Iraq has sophisticated logistical capability. Could any of them, absent substantial outside help, really make much progress on territorial conquest or mass slaughter?
They might be able to do so in the absence of coalition forces. I suspect that well disciplined forces like the Kurdish Peshmerga would be able to make the most headway, although the Peshmerga would likely stop after overrunning the territories that they claim.

The Shiites have the strength of numbers.

An option for us is to gradually withdraw to bases outside the key population centers, so that we are out of the way of daily public life, while close enough to intervene between the factions if necessary.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
I am also interested in which American companies violated sanctions to the end of the Saddam regime.

Well, you have some high profile companies. The most commonly mentioned of course was Halliburton's Cayman Islands subsidiary. But also Bayoil of Texas was also indicted for sanctions violations.

Note that a senate investigation found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

Posted by: Davebo at March 15, 2006 08:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Iraq, mind you, is but one country in the Middle East. Western Europe is vastly larger, with many countries. So the spending should be proportional to the security interests and geographical space protected. And the money spent was in opposition to the USSR and countering their capacity.

In other words, for the size and scope of the operations, Europe was a far, far better bang for the buck - and less costly overall when looked at in proper proportion.

Eric, I doubt that there is a "proper proportion" that is objectively definable in these contexts. I can argue, that in the Western European theater, that the US has spent "disproportionately" more on the defense of the UK, which is after all a well defended island, than on the rest of the continent.

Iraq occupies a strategic position in the heart of the Middle East, a historically troublesome area.

"Proper proportion" all depends on your perspective. If you think that Iraq was worth, you will tend to support the expenditure on it. If you don't, you won't.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 08:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
But the angst and anti-American riffs of South Korean youth is really negligible in size and scope when compared to the damage Iraq is doing to our image/favorability in the entire Muslim world, Europe, South America and elsewhere. Whereas the former is a regional, localized and relatively innocuous phenomenon, the latter has very serious implications with respect to our efforts to combat the spread, efficacy and support for radical Islamist terrorism. Further, we are making life more difficult for ostensible allies like Musharraf in Pakistan, ie.

Public opinion in the Middle East is a beast that is hard to pin down or do well with for anyone. A lot of it is also based upon displays of "raw strength" - i.e. it is better to be feared than loved, etc. Middle Easterners routinely bomb, murder and slaughter each other - much more than they kill foreigners. We just get the bad press.

Also note that the Pashtun in Pakistan were sheltering Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban well before Iraq came along, in the aftermath of 9/11 which every sensible person on this earth should have condemned unreservedly.

The invasion of Afghanistan and the defeat of the Taliban that followed likely made some people angry at the US - and also fearful of the strength and reach of the US.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 08:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin,

I get your point, but 45 years vs. nearly 3 years is not a suitable comparison, regardless. Deaths per year would be more appropriate. And even then, deaths per year as a function of the number of troops in theater.

In terms of money, again, 45 years vs. 3 years. Expenditures per year would be more appropriate. And even then, as a percentage of total foreign policy/defense expenditures.

As for diplomacy, see above.

Bottom line is this: the Iraq occupation is more costly than our presence in Europe, South Korea or Kosovo on a number of levels - both relative and real.

You can argue that the higher costs are worth it, but pointing to those past occupations/military commitments and saying that since we did something notionally similar then, why can't we do Iraq for the next 4-5 decades elides too much crucial information about the nature of each engagement and why they are so different. What was it McCaffery warned about again? Something about a meltdown?

If Iraq calmed down almost completely in the next 6-12 months, and our soldiers were no longer targeted. And we could draw down our troop levels by a substantial chunk, and we stopped heaping billions a day into the furnace, then you could argue that we should and could do a Middle Eastern version of South Korea or Kosovo or a mini-Western Europe.

But without that, the analogy breaks down in too many fundamental ways.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 08:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
They might be able to do so in the absence of coalition forces. I suspect that well disciplined forces like the Kurdish Peshmerga would be able to make the most headway, although the Peshmerga would likely stop after overrunning the territories that they claim.

The Shiites have the strength of numbers.

But Kevin, my question is about logistics. Cargo capacity, fuel, food, traffic management, command, control and communications. All the unglamorous stuff covered in the old saw about amateurs versus generals. We know from recent congressional testimony that not one Iraqi Army battalion (these guys become the Shiite forces in a civil war, except for the ones that become Kurdish forces) can operate independently of US logistical support. If that's the state of the regular Army, which has the advantage of official status, open (if corrupt) provisioning, US tutelage in training, how much less capable of actually moving and concentrating force must be the unofficial armed forces in-country.

Consider that in the mid-1990s, when Barzani's Kurds wanted to kick Talabani's Kurds around they invited Saddam in to do it for him. He was the one with logistics worthy of the name and adequate heavy-weapons power (helicopters and artillery).

No Iraqi armed force, including the Army, has significant armor or heavy weapons. None of them have airpower. Absent US cooperation none of them can mount an effective offensive because they lack "find, fix and flank" capacity. Or so it at least seems.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 15, 2006 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
lack "find, fix and flank" capacity

Meaning, above, say, platoon level.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 15, 2006 09:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Public opinion in the Middle East is a beast that is hard to pin down or do well with for anyone. A lot of it is also based upon displays of "raw strength" - i.e. it is better to be feared than loved, etc. Middle Easterners routinely bomb, murder and slaughter each other - much more than they kill foreigners. We just get the bad press.

Also note that the Pashtun in Pakistan were sheltering Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban well before Iraq came along, in the aftermath of 9/11 which every sensible person on this earth should have condemned unreservedly.

The invasion of Afghanistan and the defeat of the Taliban that followed likely made some people angry at the US - and also fearful of the strength and reach of the US.

Look, nothing is black and white. And certainly, we weren't popular in the Muslim world pre-Iraq. And some people respond to displays of strength. But on the whole, Iraq has been a net negative for us. The actual metric might be hard to pin down, but not the underlying dynamic. The dynamic has been recorded in comparative opinion polls, and reams of similar data. "Raw strength" hasn't exactly been that effective if the underlying dynamic is toxic enough. See, ie, Israel.

Do you really think that people looking to martyr themselves will be deterred because they fear we might...kill them? Better yet, they might not join Salafist cults because they see that we would be willing to invade Iraq? Sorry, I don't really see it.

Regarding Pakistan: what I'm saying is that the more poisonous we become, the harder it is for Pervez to cooperate. Not that he's an angel, or 100% commited to the cause, or that Iraq is the only thing standing in his way. Still, Iraq has been a net negative on this front.

And yes, the Afghan campaign made some people angry, but on the whole it was not as radicalizing a force as Iraq - within the Muslim world and within Europe/rest of the world. along these lines, the cost-benefit analysis was considerably different.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In good time, I will write my personal mea culpa in this tragic affair. I had greater faith in this Administration, and they have let us down time and again. But it's too easy to say it would all have been OK but for the dumbies who effed up the show. People who supported the war, and there were many of us (on both sides of the aisle, lest we forget), had to keep in mind the abilities of those charged with prosecuting it, and the resources that would be brought to bear. We knew the Powell Doctrine had been shunted aside in favor of utopic transformationalist nostrums, and we knew that some who were listened to in the leading counsels of power had memorably declared the effort would be a cakewalk. We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate.

Greg, that is as much as a personal mea culpa as we need, imho.

My only problem with it is that those of us who opposed the war because of the horrible Bushies did so because we understood not just the abilities, but the characters "of those charged with prosecuting it."

The best analogy I can come up with is that of finding a huge leak in your roof (i.e. 9-11) that needs to be dealt with immediately. The only contractor that can do the job right away is Bush and Co. --- you can tell straight off that that are shady, but you let them do the job anyway --- and they do manage to stop the worst of the leak without actually sealing your roof properly (overthrowing the Taliban without capturing bin Laden). If this contractor tried to sell you on a complete remodelling of your kitchen (invading Iraq), you'd be insane to hire him to do it -- especially when he was telling you that you had major structural problems that required immediate attention (WMDs) that, upon closer examination, did not exist.

Sure, the kitchen could use a complete remodelling --- but one was not absolutely necessary -- most importantly, under no circumstances would you ever consider allowing Bush and Co to do the remodelling, because you knew they were not merely incompetent, but dishonest. The same goes for the invasion of Iraq. The contractor that tried to sell you the job sucked, and regardless of whether the job should be done eventually, that contractors was not the guy to hire.

(BTW, doesn't calling Bush "bovinely stupid" put you in the "Bush Hater" camp?)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at March 15, 2006 09:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My apologies for the confusing use of italics above. I think I forgot to italicize two paragraphs of kevin's comment. My mea culpa,

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 09:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
But on the whole, Iraq has been a net negative for us. The actual metric might be hard to pin down, but not the underlying dynamic. The dynamic has been recorded in comparative opinion polls, and reams of similar data.
I will concede that this is likely true. However, my primary concern is that our foreign policy not become dependent on the fickle nature of the Arab street. There is no way for us to do anything (including nothing) and not offend some faction or the other in the Middle East. Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So calling for a better plan is completely bogus. It's only a red herring, a stinky distraction.

No, it is a serious question that deserves a serious answer. If you are calling the Administration (of which I am no great supporter) criminally incompetent, that implies that there was some other plan that would have worked, and will now work better than what the Administration is currently doing.

Well, KevinP, you're wrong. It's a red herring, of no use whatsoever except to score rhetorical points.

See if this story makes it clear. You're a stockholder in a company that has recently gotten an extremely stupid CEO. The new CEO has done everything he could to suck liquidity out of the company, and used the money to play at the casino. He originally claimed that he had a gambling strategy that would pay off far better than the company's regular ROI.

But it hasn't been working, and the company's losses so far are over a quarter trillion dollars, and possibly as high as two trillion when various of the liquidity schemes finish playing out. You suggest that perhaps it's time for a proxy fight since the current CEO has repeatedly proclaimed that he intends to keep following his gambling strategy until it pays off. But a fellow stockholder issues the following challenge, "It's no good to criticise the CEO's gambling strategy unless you have a better gambling strategy. Until you can present a better plan to win at the casino, shut up."

This administration was criminally incompetent in starting this war. We have been losing for something like 30 months now. I have no suggestion how to win. Every plan to win I've seen so far has looked ludicrous. Utter wishful thinking. We might perhaps have come up with a winning plan as late as October 2003. The chance has passed.

Pulling out would work better than what the Administration is doing. We would lose the chance to control iraq, the iraqis would do whatever-the-hell they want, just as all the nations we aren't currently occupying do. So it wouldn't *feel* as good. It feels comforting to think that our army is in there stopping bad people from doing bad things. Ten billion dollars a month of comfort. It costs more than it's worth, more than we can afford -- unless you're a politician who's up for re-election.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 15, 2006 09:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Absolutely. But neither should our foreign policy ignore this. It should be one factor amongst many to be considered when entering numbers into the great foreign policy Calculatron 3000.

In real life terms: it should not have de-railed our Afghan campaign, nor alone derailed our Iraq campaign. But it sure makes the notion of spreading democracy through invasion a bit tricky when one factors in all that resentment stuff that happens in the wake of an invasion. Not exactly an ideal setting for us to urge others to abandon their comfort zone and embark on radical new societal transformations.

Nor does it help others in the region pursuing similar goals. They find themselves instantly tainted with our poisonous image - and the concept of democracy itself becomes more unsavory.

War supporter Fareed Zakaria said it best:

Bush does not seem aware that the intense hostility toward him in every country in the world (save Israel) has made it very difficult for the United States to be the agent of freedom. In every Arab country that I have been to in the last two years, the liberals, reformers and businessmen say, "Please don't support us. American support today is the kiss of death."

Just something to consider.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 09:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

I readily concede 2 or 3% of the vouchers ended up with crooks like Oscar Wyatt. I will further concede that our blind eye to smuggling thru Turkey and Jordan of Iraqi oil hurt our credibility tremendously. My point remains that if the rest of the industrialized world had demonstrated the same level of ethics as the US and Britain, smart sanctions would have made this war unnecessary. Why do sanctions work against a South Africa, or, hypothetically, a Chile under Pinochet, but not against the Pol Pot of our generation? That's a question UN defenders and reformers should be asking.

Posted by: wks at March 15, 2006 09:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Since most of us are not being called to sacrifice our own lives for this war, here is the question I ask of hawks I meet: how much additional income tax are you willing to pay each year to "stay the course" in Iraq?

Posted by: Mike at March 15, 2006 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Henley wrote:

Do you think that the unhappy US experience in Iraq these last couple of years might itself tend to deter other outside powers from, what's the word, meddling?

Yes, definitely. The russian fiasco in afghanistan kept other outside powers from meddling for a very long time.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 15, 2006 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, I'd give up arguing with KevinP. His initial examples were either extremenly foolish, or extremely dishonest. Either way...

Greg:
"Yes, it's true, we've made some headway of late these past 12 or so months and gotten smarter about counter-insurgency in places like Tal Afar, or Samarra, or Ramadi (though the situation still ranges from tense to still perilous in these towns)."

Last I heard, Tal Afar has been swept three (?) times, the last time with a triumphant proclamation that they wouldn't get away this time - but they did.

Greg: "Also, it should be said, war is a tremendously complex endeavor, and while it's a cliche to state, it's very true that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. We can beat up on the war-planners, and their arrogance and reluctance to admit mistakes makes it feel good, but their jobs are never easy ones, and those of us brandishing laptops to castigate all and sundry do well to recall this now and again."

Now, this is just 100% wrong. The people criticizing the dreams of the administration include Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General 'hundreds of thousands of troops for years' Shinseki, the RAND Corporation, and the plans drawn up at the State Dept in 2002.

The administration failed not because they couldn't know ahead of time, but because they refused to know ahead of time.


Posted by: Barry at March 15, 2006 10:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What American companies were violating sanctions up until the end? I think this is another DemocraticUnderground factoid like "we armed Saddam to the hilt" or "we gave him chemical weapons." I think those that accuse the Bush Regime of misinformation on 9/11 ties and such should try to be more circumspect in their charges.

I should have been more clear. I wasn't thinking of Oil-for-Food sanctions violations so much as I was Dick Cheney doing commerce with Iraq not long before he began agitating for its invasion. Here's what a New Yorker article says:

The Dresser merger also raised ethical questions. The United States had concluded that Iraq, Libya, and Iran supported terrorism and had imposed strict sanctions on them. Yet during Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton the company did business in all three countries. In the case of Iraq, Halliburton legally evaded U.S. sanctions by conducting its oil-service business through foreign subsidiaries that had once been owned by Dresser. With Iran and Libya, Halliburton used its own subsidiaries. The use of foreign subsidiaries may have helped the company to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

In some ways, the Libya and Iran transactions were consistent with Cheney’s views. He had long opposed economic sanctions as a political tool, even against South Africa’s apartheid regime. During the 2000 campaign, however, Cheney said he viewed Iraq differently. “I had a firm policy that we wouldn’t do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal,” he told ABC News. But, under Cheney’s watch, two foreign subsidiaries of Dresser sold millions of dollars’ worth of oil services and parts to Saddam’s regime. The transactions were not illegal, but they were politically suspect. The deals occurred under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, at a time when Saddam Hussein chose which companies his government would work with. Corruption was rampant. It may be that it was simply Halliburton’s expertise that attracted Saddam’s regime, but a United Nations diplomat with the Oil-for-Food program has doubts. “Most American companies were blacklisted,” he said. “It’s rather surprising to find Halliburton doing business with Saddam. It would have been very much a senior-level decision, made by the regime at the top.” Cheney has said that he personally directed the company to stop doing business with Saddam. Halliburton’s presence in Iraq ended in February, 2000.

Sorry for the long blockquotes. Judge for yourself the veracity of the source and the nature of the offense. My main complaint is that this is pretty outrageous moral hypocrisy. But, after all, it's Cheney.

Posted by: sglover at March 15, 2006 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks,

My point remains that if the rest of the industrialized world had demonstrated the same level of ethics as the US and Britain, smart sanctions would have made this war unnecessary....Why do sanctions work against a South Africa, or, hypothetically, a Chile under Pinochet, but not against the Pol Pot of our generation? That's a question UN defenders and reformers should be asking.

Depends on what you mean by "work." The inspections/sanctions did not work in the sense that Saddam was able to undermine them in order to improperly enrich his coffers. But the inspections/sanctions worked extremely well in terms of preventing Saddam from acquiring/developing WMD - especially nuclear weapons which dwarf all other WMD to the extent that they render the term imprecise. In the sense of WMD-prevention/containment, they were a great success story.

Improving them all around was necessary though - and it wouldn't have been easy. Yet I believe that we would have had an easier time achieving that end than, say, success in the current imbroglio. We could have probably used our saber rattling, bluster and other 9/11-imbued moral high ground to tighten the ship so to speak.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, definitely. The russian fiasco in afghanistan kept other outside powers from meddling for a very long time.

Heh. I salute you, sir!

Of course, we were powerfully motivated to intervene militarily in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis and to a lesser extent the Iranians played around there pre-September 2001, but not in force. And our own military intervention in Afghanistan has been much more circumscribed in extent and ambition than the Soviet one.

Turning to Iraq, it's hard to see the Syrians or Iranians being motivated to bring to bear enough force to make up for their potential clients' own military shortcomings. It's almost as hard to see the Turks doing it, though man they do hate those Kurds, so I suppose it's possible.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 15, 2006 10:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Henley asked,

No faction in Iraq has sophisticated logistical capability. Could any of them, absent substantial outside help, really make much progress on territorial conquest or mass slaughter?

Not conquest. But in mixed areas they could do ethnic cleansing.

Low-intensity warfare. Small-unit infantry operations drain people even when they don't get wounded. But it isn't so bad when you're making little raids against civilians. They don't know where you'll pop up, they mostly aren't ready, you can slaughter a few people and leave. Do it enough and the civilians decide they can't stay there and they move someplace more congenial, and you've won some territory.

Say there's no logistics to speak of. A place where your people are the 2:1 majority, you can get twice the troops to attack half as many civilians. You get 4 times the intensity of attacks. You'll probably win.

So without armor, artillery, air support, or much logistics they might establish somewhat where the internal borders will be. They probably can't push the borders far that way, but they can narrow them.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 15, 2006 10:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Eric, I'd give up arguing with KevinP. His initial examples were either extremenly foolish, or extremely dishonest. Either way...
This is a good way to construct a bubble around yourself and win elections... your opponent has no argument, no valid perspective, he is not just wrong, he is foolish and dishonest...

In a democracy, you have to do the hard work of persuading people to your point of view. Insult and dismissal are self-satisfying, but don't persuade anyone.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 10:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. D:

1. The elections that Iraq has held over the past 14 months have only been possible -- that is, only uninterrupted by insurgents -- because the US military imposed an unsustainable security lockdown for the few days necessary. You can't point to the elections as any kind of evidence of progress along the road to lessened dependence on US force.

2. I guess you can call it spilt milk, but they're still pouring more, and, as you can see above, plenty of people are still true believers.

3. I think if you spend any time at all reflecting on what the best case scenario really is here -- Anbar is sort of a Waziristan, where the Islamists have a haven for attacking enemies outside Iraq -- you'd have a hard time calling anything at all victory. I say it's the best case scenario, because eventually, the factions are going to reach an armed truce of some kind. There will NEVER be Sunni Arab army units deployed in Kurdistan to 'protect' Kurds from either outsiders or internal enemies, or the 'protect' Basra from infiltration by Iranian 'agents.' When they do, each will harbor radicals who pose no threat to the home team, but are a threat to outside enemies. That is, Kurdistan won't roust out everyone Turkey wants extradited, and the Shi'a will protect Hezbollah people from Lebanon, if/when it come to it. the national government will be, by design, too weak to prevent this sort of thing. (Unless a Sunni strongman emerges from the army). This means that no actual progress will have been made in the US struggle against violent Islamism.

4. I don't understand any basis for not blaming the President, and Sec. Rice, for each and every bad decision. They were in a position to direct Rumsfeld (Rice as NSA was certainly in a real position to work this, and the President's position was obvious) and you cannot show any decision made by DOD at any point that they did not agree with. They are absolutely fully responsible, and until you recognize this, your analysis of the problem is really less than half done. 'Heck of a job, Rummy' just is not the story.

5. Sure you go to war with the army you've got. Unless you don't have enough army to win. Then you build a different one before you go to war. In early 2003, Canada suggested that inspections be extended, and war delayed, in hopes that better proof of real violations would have brought more countries on the UNSC into the war. The US rejected this suggestion, saying we had all we needed. And held to the point, even after Turkey turned away the 4ID because we didn't have UN sanction. Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld all gambled, betting that it would be easy, and that they would find sufficient evidence after the fact to prove that they'd been right, and everyone else over cautious. They lost. And still want to pretend otherwise.

6. There was a real chance to get out from under this losing bet in 2004. New US leadership could've admitted the past mistakes, and sought real help. They'd have gotten help that the current regime is too arrogant to seek properly. Instead, we, as a society, chose to stick with our losing strategy. Rather than admit we've got a problem. There is zero chance that the president will change course on this. Instead, he'll . . .

7. pursue, again, a war drums strategy. Look for major escalation in the fall of 2006 wrt Iran. All of the governance by the Bush team is driven by domestic electoral politics. The reality they will try to create in the fall will again be fear that voting Dem will result in defeat. They'll do it because (a) it's what they know how to do and (b) it will work.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at March 15, 2006 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim Henley:
The logistics angle is interesting.

My sense of it is that logistics gives you a relative advantage, particularly w.r.t. the enemy that does not possess the same logisitical support.

Imagine for a moment that every coalition soldier in Iraq vanished with her equipment.

The playing ground would be fundamentally different and the players would adjust accordingly.

The people with better organization, motivation and leadership (and small arms supplies) would tend to prevail.

Posted by: Kevin P. at March 15, 2006 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But what about the cost of the US staying in Iraq with 100,000 plus troops? Can this country, with record deficits, keep our troops there? Who wil finance this? If it continues to be China, how much power will they have over us?

Posted by: Steve at March 15, 2006 10:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

When John Dillinger was public enemy number one, he once broke out of jail by carving a bar of soap in the shape of a gun and pushing it in the back of a prison guard. His reputation and aggression did the work for him, not the fact that his gun was a fake. Following your logic Dillinger did not commit a crime, since it was the fault of the stupid guard that believed he had a gun.
When Saddam was international public enemy number one, had violated 17 UN resolutions, had starved his country from a standard of living equal to Australia's to a standard of living equal to Haiti's, etc.,etc.,etc. -- all to prove to the world he had WMD. How would any inspection regime prove that he did not. After the first Gulf War he was told he was not allowed to intimidate his neighbors. Can you argue with a straight face that any option other than his forcible removal from power could have enforced that sanction? Remember, delegations from the French National Assembly were touring Iraq complaining how America was starving Iraqi children with our beasty sanctions, yet they fought tooth and nail against that warmonger Colin Powell's attempts to modify them.
I wish this war had been conducted differently, by a different President and administration, but I still think it was the morally necessary choice to make when we made it.

Posted by: wks at March 15, 2006 11:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Genghis Khan killed millions of people without artillery, tanks, or aircraft.

Posted by: David Tomlin at March 15, 2006 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you put Ralph Peters, Greg Djerejian (of the Kissenger school of foreign policy), some NY Times, Francis Fukuyama, a dash of Christopher Hitchens and the Beep (for gas / flatulence) you may come up with your own perspective on Iraq.

Rumor has it Greg has it in for Rummy because at a major / minor Wahington event Rummy commented that Greg's nosehairs some vichyssoise on them.

Rummy basher.

Posted by: Peter at March 15, 2006 11:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WKS, I'd be interested to hear why it was necessary to invade Iraq before the capture of Usama bin Laden.

Much less before countries like Mexico were willing to vote for the thing on the UNSC and Turkey to permit invasion from the north. The situation in February/March 2003 was not static. A show of good faith -- rather than of fixing the rationale around the policy -- could well have made a real difference. (And, of course, there was nothing really to lose from delaying the 6 or 8 weeks suggested by Canada).

I think we should have declared victory and gone home, and that we've had several opportunities to have done it. the longer we stay, the more it will appear that our departure is because we're worn out and driven out -- exactly the wrong message we want to be sending. (I'm afraid that the recent mosque attack might have been the death knell for get-out-and-declare-victory though).

The transformation goal was also a chimera. We've created the conditions for a weak, de-centralized, and Iran-friendly Iraq. Efforts to make it into something else are like shouting at the tide.

BTW, those of you who do not think there's a civil war on ought to take a look at the combatant death toll in the month after Ft. Sumter was shelled. Or the six months after.

Posted by: CharleyCarp at March 15, 2006 11:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well wks, there was the fact that inspectors were on the ground in 2002/2003 poking around, so that is one way that an "inspection regime [could] prove that he did not" have WMD. Saddam needed to be intimidated into opening up his country. But we're good at intimidating.

After the first Gulf War he was told he was not allowed to intimidate his neighbors. Can you argue with a straight face that any option other than his forcible removal from power could have enforced that sanction?

Look, there's no way to insure that Saddam wouldn't have sought to intimidate some of his neighbors. Althoug, in retrospect, there is probably one neighbor (an animosity for which we share in common with our erstwhile mini-proxy Saddam) that we wouldn't mind shaking up a little ourselves (Iran, ahem). But at the end of the day, is that a sufficient casus belli? Does it make war so inevitable and necessary?

I think not. We would have lived with his regional saber rattling. It would have been an unfortunate but tolerable grievance - kept contained by the no fly zones.

We have put up with more murderous, despicable and odious regimes than Saddam's Baath in the past, and we will likely do so in the future. Some we even actively support. Actually, the current situation in Darfur - which is spreading to Chad with a mind-boggling death toll mounting across the Sudan border - is one such recent example. What are we doing there? Does Sudan's strategic importance cause us to adjust our moral compass?

It isn't pretty, but we can't afford to - and don't have the means to - take out any and all leaders that defy the UN or intimidate their neighbors.

Another example: why aren't we invading North Korea? If you can answer that question, you might also answer the one you posed to me about Iraq. The reasoned outcome of strategic calculations of risks and rewards, costs and benefits and potential ramifications.

That is not to say that leaving Kim Jong Il or Saddam in power doesn't have it's very significant and serious drawbacks (both in a cold Realism sense and an idealistic human rights sense), but that doesn't mean we can always make the situation better through the redemptive power of military intervention. Doesn't always work that way.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 15, 2006 11:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas wrote

Not conquest. But in mixed areas they could do ethnic cleansing. etc

Agree completely. I'd add two things from which you might or might not demur:

1. This is what is already happening. Arabs are fleeing Kirkuk, Sunnis are skedaddling from Basra and mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad are unmixing, all under the threat or actuality of violence.

2. Iraqi civilians are, as we know so well, really well armed. No one sect or ethnicity has the weapons advantage that, say, Hutus held over Tutsis in 1990s Rwanda.

Kevin P wrote

My sense of it is that logistics gives you a relative advantage, particularly w.r.t. the enemy that does not possess the same logisitical support.

A minimum logistical capacity lets an armed force operate at all. The bigger and more powerful the force, the higher the threshold that counts as "minimum."

You can only mount an offensive if you can move force to the target you're trying to conquer. Right now, no force in Iraq can move *much* force on its own. You can only *destroy* a target if you can keep it from retreating before you can kill it. And before all of this you have to find it.

A target, btw, could be military or civilian. It could be people or a place. To slaughter 5,000 Kurds at Halabja Saddam's forces had the advantage of terrain (a natural "bowl") and massive superiority of force. They were able to cut off the exit routes with conventional artillery bombardment. Geography and artillery served the "Fix" function. Then came an all-day chemical bombardment (artillery again), serving the "flank" function. Take away artillery, heavy munitions (explosive and chemical) and the ability to get them where you want them and the massacre at Halabja doesn't happen. The residents may get chased out, and maybe eventually the Baath regime resettles the town with Arabs. But they don't die.

The alternative Halabja scenario is not peaceful multiculturalism, but it's not the slaughter that actually took place. And fears of carnage - bodies, massacres - are what seem to haunt Greg and other's who regret starting the war but can't see a way to leave it.

My tentative conclusion is that the US could forestall *mass slaughter* by simply refusing to provide the assistance any faction would need to mount offensive operations against any other faction. That includes elint, sigint and satellite recon data, transportation, communications and artillery/air support. Instead, the current official line, per Rumsfeld in Congress the other day, is that if it comes to a big ol' civil war rather than a lil' one, we'll "support the government," which is to say, the UIA.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David wrote

Genghis Khan killed millions of people without artillery, tanks, or aircraft.

David, if you'd like to participate in the good-faith discussion around these issues, you don't even have to ask, just make a good-faith post.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 12:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ah, to rehash recent history.

Look, if I had been in charge I would have preferred we take up the Canadian suggestion mentioned somewhere above. I agree we had more to gain than to lose once our troops were in place, maybe we could have impressed some of our feckless friends to reluctantly support us. What I don't know is how the Sultan of Qatar or the other actors would have reacted if we backed down once more, after a 20 year history of leaving our friends to twist in the wind. I think it's very likely that Bush had promised the locals that this time we really, really meant it, and refusing to pull the trigger would have had other consequenses.
As to the swimmingly effective inspections going on under Mr. Blix and friends; remember we were hunting for something that could be hidden in a closet (or, at best, a garage) in a country the size of California. Remember the young fellow who jumped in the UN car with a notebook, begging to be saved? The elegant Mr. Blix allowed him to be pulled out and taken who knows where, screaming for his life.
Bottom line, I think Saddam was a unique case [I would have avoided the axis of evil rhetoric or preemption doctrine stuff]. I think he combined the fascist's brew of meglomania, bloodthirstyness, paranoia and delusions of grandeur that we experienced in the past, and allowing him out from under sanctions would have cost us more later than we have paid so far.

Posted by: wks at March 16, 2006 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

What regimes worse than Saddam's do we support, now or even in the past? The man killed over a million people in several wars, murdered hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, and promised to eventually turn Tel Aviv into another Auschwitz. He saw himself as the reincarnation of the previous hero of Trikrit, Saladin, and wanted to go down in history by remaking the world. The man could not be trusted with WMD, or the resources to aquire them.

Posted by: wks at March 16, 2006 12:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In a democracy, you have to do the hard work of persuading people to your point of view. Insult and dismissal are self-satisfying, but don't persuade anyone.

Kevin, there are people who're so far from the consensus that they can be safely ignored. It isn't an insult to claim that some particular person is in that position, but it might be incorrect.

So for example, people who believe that the Bush Administration committed 9/11 on purpose. There's no credible evidence. The FBI agents who were prevented from investigating the al Qaeda agents who did it are not evidence even that they knew 9/11 was coming, that could have been a favor to the saudi government or to the bin Ladin family or something. Similarly with all the evidence they present. Similarly for the theory that the israelis were involved. The story about the israeli agents who were videotaping the WTC before the first tower was hit, who got reported and arrested by city police -- it might not even have happened. City police records are easy enough to fake, it could have been just another piece of disinformation like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A reasonable study shows no definitive proof, and people who say it's definitely true are being unreasonable. But more than that, the big majority of the public simply doesn't believe it. They don't believe that americans would be willing to do something like that. So they will ignore anybody who makes the claim.

We aren't at the point yet that pro-war advocates get tuned out just because they're pro-war. People still listen to them, hoping they'll say something that sounds hopeful. But there isn't anything hopeful for them to say, they can only talk about how bad it will be if we lose. So people turn away again, disappointed.

Maybe your claims aren't worth refuting except in the process of making some other point. But it hasn't reached the point people will treat you like a 9/11 theorist. They want to listen and hope you have something worthwhile they can pay attention to. I would like it a whole lot better if you did.

I think Bush sees there's nothing he can win in iraq, and yet it would cost him to lose. So I figure he's going to dole out just enough resources to iraq that he can plausibly deny that we've lost yet. And unless we have some dramatic defeat, we'll be stuck there mostly passive except for airstrikes, for the next 3 years. I'd be grateful for a more hopeful view of it that I could halfway believe.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 16, 2006 01:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I'm impressed with your honesty and integrity, and your willingness to accept and listen to facts on the ground. Instapundit is full of nothing but misleading and snide links about how the civil war is all a media concoction. It makes me sick, listening to them blithely dismiss the thousands of Iraqis dying as we speak.

I'm also,after what seems like an eternity of absence, quite gratified to see a complex discussion on relatively free of insults.

wks:

Saddamn Hussein was a very bad man. Yes. I don't accept that he was a unique case, though, in any way. He was a merciless scumbag with zero regard for human life and we had no business conducting any kind of relationship with him. We have seem plenty of these. Even supported them. I don't agree with that, and it has cost us, and there's no reason to do it, but neither do we, as said, have to be personally responsible for bombing out every meglomaniac scumbucket. Not just because it costs us money and troops, but because we leave places worse than we found them.

To make the case that saddamn was unique, you'd have to declare him worse than syria, which has launched just as many aggressive wars post world-war II, supported more terrorism, and killed its own citizens just as ruthlessly. You'd also have to declare him more dangerous than Stalin, who invaded maybe 12 nations and killed more than fifty million people. We survived Stalin just fine. We'd survive Saddamn just fine. Quite frankly, there is no nation on earth that can attain the power to threaten us as long as we maintained the pre-eminent economy and army in the world, not to mention a nuclear arsenal, and as long as we respond with overwhelming force when we are attacked.

Stateless terrorists are an exception, but it's rarely neccesary given our abilities, to invade countries to get them.

There was never any urgency, at any time. Chemical and biological weapons are held by dozens of countries and don't even pose a serious military threat in any form. Nuclear weapons are dangerous in theory but have never been used since the second country obtained them.

Invading countries in this century is a bad idea for the nation who's doing it, almost regardless of who's doing it. Especially if you're not capturing some form of strategic resource.

Wars weaken all parties relative to those who are not in them.

Having said that,

this war was bad for us strategically, and bad for Iraq on a human scale, but the governance in the middle east will yet benefit as a whole. Even after 9/11, there were other ways to get that result, equally drastic but with lower cost, like a total end of support to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: glasnost at March 16, 2006 02:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I forgot the part of your argument I don't agree with, and in fact consider unserious, a blind assumption.

Who says Iraq will get worse if we leave?

Who says the Sunnis won't be more willing to compromise, since their prime goal is our removal and the alternative to compromise after we leave is a civil war they cannot win?

Who says the Shiites won't be more willing to compromise, now that the costs of suppressing Sunnis rises immensely when we leave? The sunnis are not helpless. All the Shiites have are numbers. There will be fragmentation and some variant of ethnic migration (cleansing, in some form), but that's already happened and happening. It can't be stopped now without truly, truly massive numbers of troops, at least three times what we have, and a total wipeout of the indigent government and a restart from scratch.

Having said that, I acknowledge that things COULD get worse if we leave. But I think it depends a lot on how we do it. We could use the carrot of our departure and the stick of our presence to negotiate a real consensus among Iraqi leaders. It's the only real leverage we have left. We should use it to angle for the best kind of exit possible.

Before it's too late.

There, there's my answer to all the right-wing thugs who tell leftists, "so what's your better idea?"

Posted by: glasnost at March 16, 2006 02:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a brilliantly clear exposition of the future from one who couldn't even see the mendacity and incompetence of the Bush Administration. At least part of it is true, this administration will scale back to well below 100,000 before much longer.

If we leave Iraq tomorrow, or scale back to well below 100,000, the country will explode. We will see savagery and mass killings on a horrific scale, and it is not clear that any of the parties will be able to decisively conquer the other in some tense , exhausted Mearsheimeresque entente post killing fields. It could go on for years, allowing for fecund conditions for international terror groups to take root, and all kinds of troublemaking by neighbors. Our democratization strategy will lie in tatters, with only a few die-hards at faux-think tanks in Washington delusionally playing pretend that all is well, but for those brutish Sunni Arabs (they have a "genius" for failure, Ralph Peters informs us) who couldn't appreciate the fruits of freedom we had bestowed upon them (the more civilized Persians will understand better, of course, so on to Teheran!).

This is a good idea, but who ya gonna call? McCain?

What is needed now is fresh leadership and renewed committment to this fight.

Posted by: Bunker at March 16, 2006 02:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nothing's going to change for the better while Bush is in office. Bush doesn't have the slightest clue what to do. He relies on his advisors. His advisors are the same ones who got us where we are in Iraq. Bush won't change advisors, either because Bush doesn't make those decisions (Cheney does), or he's too stubborn, or it would be like admitting error. The only way the war leadership will change is if the advisors recognize their shortcomings and resign - and that's about as likely as my winning the Powerball Lotto.

So we have 3 more years of the status quo. Only the status quo isn't static.

The militias are getting more confident, and their attacks more bloody. The lockdown averted an immediate obivous civil war, but shows no signs of halting a slow-growing civil war. The insurgency was slow-growing, too. Remember? How long after Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished!" photo op in May 2003 did it even dawn on the Bush Admin, and its pro-war supporters, that the insurgency was growing? How long was Cheney still saying the insurgency was in its "last throes"? How long did you, and other pro-war commentators, keep saying the same thing?

Considering how long it took, and how wrong you all were, how can you possibly say the civil war "hasn't really started yet"? What epiphany, what incontrovertible action, are you looking for? Are you waiting until the Iraq "national unity government" gives up and never seats itself? Are you waiting for deconfederation to be formalized by closed borders and pitched battles along those borders? Do you understand that waiting for any of that is as futile as waiting for some formal spokesman to issue a press statement announcing the official start of an insurgency?

Iraq's civil war is part of its insurgency. It's a natural outgrowth of the insurgency. There will be no hard and fast line signaling the end of the insurgency and the start of the civil war. They're the same damn thing.

So think about where we'll be in 3 years. We'll have a President and an Administration that keeps thinking all it has to do is keep giving hopeful speeches, and keep accusing opponents of "aiding and abetting the enemy." The Iraqi Insurgency will have blended seamlessly into a civil war and we'll look backwards wondering how that happened, how we missed the danger signs, when the fact is we simply refused to see what was already happening. We might even have an insurgency in Iran, if Bush decides to attack that country (I can't judge how likely that is, but I do know that nothing short of a mutiny by the military will stop Bush if he decides he wants to attack Iran).

The casualty count for Iraqis will be dozens or hundreds per day. Families, towns, entire cities will be riven as people are forced to choose which side they're on; and those who make the wrong choice will be killed. Families, towns, entire cities worth of people will be on the move as people flee strongholds of one ethnic or sectarian group to relative safety in areas controlled by their own ethnic or sectarian group. US forces will either be caught in any one of dozens of "middles," and taking fire from all sides - or they'll have retreated to their bases, the Green Zone, and the occasional few city blocks they ephemerally control.

Nothing Bush does will stop that from happening. He has no idea, and his advisors have no ideas. Every choice they've made - beginning with the decision to invade in the first place - has been wrong. Every choice they've made has led to disaster. They really did cry havoc, they really did set loose the dogs of war, and they really did unleash a whirlwind that they have no control over, that they have no idea whatsoever how to control.

What choices do you see for the President who takes over in January 2009?

Posted by: CaseyL at March 16, 2006 03:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it's very likely that Bush had promised the locals that this time we really, really meant it, and refusing to pull the trigger would have had other consequenses.

The thing about this theory is, the locals didn't want us to do it. Mubarak was strongly, and vocally against. One of our strongest allies, Turkey, balked at giving us a land route from the north. Jordan was against. Syria against. Saudi Arabia against. Iran was probably pretty mirthful though. Israel too. Don't recall Kuwait's stance, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were pleased. Not sure who we promised what to, but most of those neighbors weren't exactly thrilled at the prospect. Less so now probably.

Not that their opinions should have determined our actions necessarily. But the claim that Bush staked his cred on this matter with the locals just doesn't seem all that plausible

As to the swimmingly effective inspections going on under Mr. Blix and friends; remember we were hunting for something that could be hidden in a closet (or, at best, a garage) in a country the size of California.

Look, if we were really looking for a mass of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that could fit inside of one closet, in the aggregate, then we didn't really have anything to fear in the first place. The big issue was nukes. They are grandpappy of all WMD, as I said above, to the extent that they make all other WMD look like junior versions. And any real nuke capacity requires enormous facilities that span very large areas.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 16, 2006 03:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"1. This is a paraphrase on Posen: All factions in Iraq are well-provisioned with defensive weapons and poorly provisioned with offensive ones (artillery, air power). No faction in Iraq has sophisticated logistical capability. Could any of them, absent substantial outside help, really make much progress on territorial conquest or mass slaughter?"

How many did they kill in Rwanda with machetes?

Posted by: Tom at March 16, 2006 03:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What regimes worse than Saddam's do we support, now or even in the past? The man killed over a million people in several wars, murdered hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, and promised to eventually turn Tel Aviv into another Auschwitz.

Well, would Saddam himself count? Remember, when he was killing hundreds of thousands in his war with Iran, we were supporting him. Further, the period of our support of Saddam overlapped with some of those civilian massacres. Not saying we were his biggest boosters, but he seemed useful to us at the time.

As for our record of playing footsie with brutal despots, here are some pretty unsavory characters from recent history: Rios Montt, Pinochet, Suharto, Diem, Somoza, Batista, Duvalier, the Shah of Iran was no angel, Mobutu Sese Seko, whoever was in charge in El Salvador during the 1980s, Marcos, Idi Amin at some point, Islam "boil them alive" Karimov until very recently, Bashir in the Sudan (to some extent at least through the OECD), and Noriega - as a partial list. Hey, Cold War was a bitch. So is the GWOT.

In the present we support some, er, human rights challenged folks in and around the region. Saudi Arabia for one. Egypt has a spotty record to say the least. Tunisia. Jordan has some nasty habits. Algeria. And others.

I don't know if these leaders/regimes were technically "worse" than Saddam, some might have been, some not. I don't know what metrics to use, but I definitely agree that many of those regimes weren't as bloody as Saddam.

Still, there isn't enough room between Saddam and some of the others. And no room at all between Saddam and himself.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 16, 2006 03:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Knowing everything you know about our enemies insistance that the west in general, and the US in specific, is a paper tiger that will not stay until the job is finished, you are now willing to prove them right. You know damn well what happens when you cave to bullies, and none of it is nice.

You will buy our own demise for a short time of peace, if even that. Congratulations on joining the appeasement brigades.

Posted by: Defense Guy at March 16, 2006 04:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tom, I'm pretty sure the answer is, a lot, while controlling the national army and the police and outnumbering the Tutsi by about 5:1.

I've been wondering about Rwanda and Darfur as possible counterexamples and how relevant they might be to Iraq, actually. I hit Strategy Page just now trying to find their regional profiles where they break down a country's armed forces by service and equipment, but they seem to have changed their site. I do know that the Rwandan genocide ended when Tutsi rebel force launched a lightning campaign into Rwanda that isolated many government troops in their fortresses and chased the rest of them, with the government, out the bottom end of the country. That suggests to me that military superiority had as much to do with the slaughter as machetes, but that's all provisional.

I would like to hear hard facts about Rwanda and Darfur that explicitly address whether they're examples of logistically-challenged forces launching successful slaughters *in a manner transferrable to the Iraqi context*. Maybe Eric Martin, as a good liberal internationalist, has some details to hand?

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 04:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One paper (on arms proliferation) suggests that the Hutu government had a lot more than machetes going for it.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 04:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'We should have smelled the danger signals better, and we deserve the scorn of those who were against this effort from the get-go, at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate.' WOuldn't the nature of Bush himself as well as those he surrounded himself with, be an indication of our chances in Iraq? Without going into detail, other than getting himself elected(the work of others), Bush has shown little skill in anything.

'I heard George Packer (author of the superb Assassin's Gate) last night here in NYC convincingly sketch out just how rapacious the deep hatred many Shi'a harbor for their heretofore Sunni oppressors.' Wasn't this well known before the invasion?

(if we pull out)'We will have betrayed our own ideals, the lives of our lost soldiers, and countless Iraqis as well.' Ideals? Do you mean like overthrowing democracies in Iran, Guatamala, Chile or El Salvador? Which ideals do you speak of sir? I may say that my ideals are honesty and forthrightness and then go out and swindle old ladies...which speaks louder about my 'ideals'? My words or my actions? Don't call me names, provide examples of altruistic foreign policy instead.

'What is needed now is fresh leadership and renewed committment to this fight.' Your are ignoring that we are now completely at the mercy of events that are completely out of our control, events that are taking place in the middle of a civil war. Do your really want to win this war? Are you ready to do whatever it takes to do so? If so, here is your solution. A draft, we need 2 to 3 times the number of boots on the ground we have now, we may also have to turn a large portion of Iraq into a parking lot, and then rebuild the whole shebang ourselves...or do you think more half-measures are enough. Of course we are flat broke, 8 trillion in the hole and we have nothing to sell to raise money as the US produces nothing, except entertainment, and these actions would dwarf current amount of money we have already spent. You said we need new commitment, are your ready to commit to a draft? Because if you're not, then you never should have supported this war in the first place. You've complained about the manner in which this war has been fought, but offered nothing other than 'What is needed now is fresh leadership and renewed committment', which sounds somewhat Rumsfeldian frankly.
You and many who supported this war, which is a failure not because of bad execution but because it was IMPOSSIBLE TO BEGIN WITH(in the words of John Burns), have been living in a dream world made of John Wayne, Bruce willis and Schwartzenegger movies. I would have more respect for you opinions if you just said 'We are the most powerful empire in the world and we should fight to maintain our power and hegemony and all that goes with it, no matter the cost'. Speaking of fighting for our 'ideals', frankly makes you sound childish. Don't talk about 'ideals' and 'new commitment' without stating that you are now ready to send YOUR OWN CHILDREN to fight.

Posted by: Arch Stanton at March 16, 2006 05:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our job is to protect the emerging gov't. They just had their first session of parliament, for chrissakes, we can't up and leave now! They all know the consequences if their respective militias are not reined in. We can now presume that many have stared into the abyss; having had a taste of what a civil war might be like. I question the presumed toxicity of American presence there. Most of those who wish us ill are too busy with their rivals now. Is it REALLY civil war or just Iraqi politics?

Posted by: Chuck at March 16, 2006 05:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear Arch: RE:

***************************************************
(if we pull out)'We will have betrayed our own ideals, the lives of our lost soldiers, and countless Iraqis as well.' Ideals? Do you mean like overthrowing democracies in Iran, Guatamala, Chile or El Salvador? Which ideals do you speak of sir?
***************************************************

Perhaps the same ideals that brought democracy to Germany, Italy and Japan; to South Korea; to Eastern Europe; and to Nicaragua, whence I post.

Posted by: GrenfellHunt at March 16, 2006 06:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Glasnost, I can't speak for GD, but since I agree with him, I would say that your idea is something that I basically agree with. I mean, we are going to have to find a way to leave sooner or later. Thinking about all this and our earlier discussion, the real difference is willingness to stay til we finish, however that may be defined. We can't put a (public at least) time frame on it.

I also think that until Iraq has a secure government that can provide basic security and has independence from a single ethnic group, Iran and Saudi Arabia, etc, are going to try to run things if we are not there. They will oppose each other and that in turn will create an investment in continued war as neither side will be able to win from afar, most likely. The rest of the world will not let Iran take over.

Posted by: Napablogger at March 16, 2006 07:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Thanks for the mental exercise. Now for a morning cup of coffee, a little political jousting, and then off to work.

Does Saddam count? -- No, Saddam does not count. Granted, we tried the carrot approach first, then realized his true nature. Even by the pliable standards of the foriegn policy realists, Saddam was beyond the pale of American support. This is something that makes me proud of my country, we needed an ally against Iran, but we were not willing to go that far.

As for the tired list of Central American bad guys, various other nogoodniks, all the way back to Stalin himself; yes, when fighting a war [i.e. the cold war for anyone slow-witted reading this posting] you sometimes make unsavory allies. I don't agree with every jot and tittle of American foreign policy [although I think the caracature of our support for even this list of bad guys could be refuted in a longer post] but I don't think any of them rise to the unique level of danger/menace/threat that Saddam did.

As for the Ali shuffle we now make on WMD's -- that nukes were the only real worry -- go back and read the headlines from that period about Dr. Germ, read about the weaponized smallpox experts Saddam had visit the country from Russia, review Colin Powell's emphasis at the UN on biolabs vs nuke facilities and I think you would admit we had a legitimate fear of ricin, anthrax or Congo/Crimean hemmoragic fever getting spewed around one of our airports.

Got to go to work now, but thanks for the debate.

Posted by: Wks at March 16, 2006 11:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most Americans I know believe the USA leads the world with form of national exceptionalism and virtuous hegemony . One country under god as if by assumption that we all aren't under some form of god. Bushes ravings about the end of tyranny and the US leading the free world reflects a national megalomania that is unaware of a delusionary bipolarity between the vision and the reality. Watching Condi Rice last night on TV there is this assumption that the US are here to play this grandiose role in the future of the world. The difficulty those of us outside of the US see with this grandiose vision and role is that the US model doesn't reflect something that many of us feel should be replicated anywhere at all.

These kind of opinions further feed the psychosis, people get labeled anti American , we are reminded of the courageous role it played in WW2, their claim the world would fall apart without a autocratic manipulative US foreign policy. The predict a world of tyranny and enslavement under the exotically projected evil tyrants that the US perceive to be threatening it behind every corner and in most cases helped create in the first place.

My reading of the Muslim / Islamic is that its just the latest manifestation of the pychosis. Rumsfeld and Co basically invented the threat the USSR posed and created a level of national fear that suited their ends. Similarly Joe Macarthy played out a complete paranoid episode in public and took most of the American people along with him. My view is that the American system has significant instability built into its sociology that if displayed in an individual would be considered mental illness.

American Exceptionlism echoes a collective form Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

NPD is characterized by inflexible, deeply ingrained, maladaptive patterns of adjustment to life that cause either subjective distress or significant impairment of adaptive functioning within the world that they find themselves. I wonder if it's the greater manifestation of Tofflers "future shock" where people become so stressed by a changing world that as a collective they become a dysfunctional culture.

It was Kantor who first described Narcissistic Personality Disorder , when you read through the clinical description its not hard to tick the boxes.

Kantor (1992, pp. 203-204) describes the clinical characteristics of NPD as:

* inordinate self-pride;
* self-concern;
* an exaggeration of the importance of one's experiences and feelings;
* ideas of perfection;
* a reluctance to accept blame or criticism;
* absence of altruism although gestures may be made for the sake of appearance;
* empathy deficit; and,
* grandiosity.

The problem is that most of the worlds people rather than look to the USA for leadership , instead question the sanity of most of its citizens.

You folk should dedicate should build a new West Point dedicated to the great America generals like General Custer. You could have buildings dedicated to Donald R and George Bush.

Folks you can go around in circles forever America is a spent force and most of you know it and I dont blame you for not wanting to actually believe it. Peak Oil, Twin Deficits, Fiat currency abuse etc etc its over guys its time to pass the baton.


Craig

Posted by: craig tindale at March 16, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Our job is to protect the emerging gov't. They just had their first session of parliament, for chrissakes, we can't up and leave now! They all know the consequences if their respective militias are not reined in.

[sigh]

The problem with militias is like the problem with nuclear weapons and the problem with armies generally. Everybody agrees that nukes are a menace that could result in killing everybody in the world. A lot of people think there shouldn't be any nukes. But we don't think *our* nukes are the problem, the problem is *other people's* nukes. A whole lot of americans don't even think that israel's nukes are a problem. It's arab nukes that can't be tolerated.

By precisely the same logic (precisely!) for each group that have a militia protecting them, it isn't *their* militia that's the problem, it's all the other militias. And the central government trying to "rein in" the various militias is in a very similar position to the UN trying to get control of the world's nukes. But there is a difference. The iraqi government does at least have its own army, one that's commanded and supplied by the USA. The UN doesn't have any nukes at all.

So how would you expect the iraqi parliament to herd those cats? How could they even bell them? Isn't the iraqi parliament still staying in the Green Zone where they won't get blown up? Kind of like a government in exile.... How much influence would you expect them to have on the civil war?

I agree we musn't abandon the iraqi parliament. When we leave we must offer each of them the chance to come with us.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 16, 2006 01:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Folks you can go around in circles forever America is a spent force and most of you know it and I dont blame you for not wanting to actually believe it. Peak Oil, Twin Deficits, Fiat currency abuse etc etc its over guys its time to pass the baton.

Who would we pass the baton to? China?

Once we accept that horrible things will happen unless some strong force for good prevents them, then it follows that once we give up then horrible things will happen. Eventually, to us.

So of course we get more fanatical as we get weaker. Mussolini was calling for sacrifice and firmer resolve pretty much up to the end.

It's only natural that Napablogger wants us to stay in iraq until we're finished.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 16, 2006 01:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WKS believes that Saddam Hussein after 1992 was a morally worse, bigger threat than Stalin in '45.

Seriously, WKS, are you that unbalanced? You do realize that we were backing Saddam right up until he seized Kuwait? That most of his massacres occurred prior to that time?

Posted by: tequila at March 16, 2006 02:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Can not the world's leading superpower do better?"

That's the silver lining to the Neocon's Iraq debacle -- this is the last gasp of the imperial, universalist mindset that says "my way is the best way" and that everyone, willing or not, should live under my enlightened ideology.

The age of conquest and consolidation is giving way to the age of trade and self-government. The 19th and 20th century ideals of empire and forced uniformity cannot compete with globally connected city-states and culturally based, human-sized nations.

Posted by: Mike Tuggle at March 16, 2006 02:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's the silver lining to the Neocon's Iraq debacle -- this is the last gasp of the imperial, universalist mindset that says "my way is the best way" and that everyone, willing or not, should live under my enlightened ideology.

Not much of a silver lining, there. I don't think that nominal democracies (pretty much what the States are, now) do well after military defeats that trigger economic declines. We'll always have clowns saying things like, "Sadr never beat us on the battlefield!", but in the end, Iraq will certainly be a strategic defeat. Don't be surprised if American political life becomes even more rabid and detached from reality.

Posted by: sglover at March 16, 2006 02:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does Saddam count? -- No, Saddam does not count. Granted, we tried the carrot approach first, then realized his true nature. Even by the pliable standards of the foriegn policy realists, Saddam was beyond the pale of American support.

Realized his true nature? Beyond the Pale? WKS, when we were supporting him, we knew what his "true nature" was in the sense that he was using chem weapons and engaged in a brutall and massively bloody war with his neighbor. What, exactly, did he reveal about his "true nature" after that?

And I don't think we "tried the carrot approach first" in any meaningful sense that we were attempting to compel him to liberalize. We assisted him as a proxy to fight Iran. He wasn't beyond the pale of American support for many years.

If you care to read up on some of the stuff that wasn't "beyond the pale," here is a link with info from declassified docs (citations included):

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/index.htm


As for the Ali shuffle we now make on WMD's -- that nukes were the only real worry -- go back and read the headlines from that period about Dr. Germ, read about the weaponized smallpox experts Saddam had visit the country from Russia, review Colin Powell's emphasis at the UN on biolabs vs nuke facilities and I think you would admit we had a legitimate fear of ricin, anthrax or Congo/Crimean hemmoragic fever getting spewed around one of our airports.

Legitimate fear? Yes. Casus belli? No. Worth the mind-bogglingly enormous costs of this invasion? Certainly not (as an aside, attacking non-nuclear Iraq has cost us big time in terms of confronting other actual nuclear threats).

The truth of the matter is, chem and bio agents are hard to use in combat/terrorist attacks. And many are not all that hard to make if one has the desire. Terrorists didn't need Saddam for those. The really nasty stuff would have required large, integrated and thus detectable facilities - for the most part.

For example, as twisted as the Japanese cult was that used sarin, they probably would have killed more civilians with a backpack bomb ala London or Madrid. The sad fact is, conventional weapons are well suited for mass civilian casualties. With nukes? - that's a different story.

Further, you seem to contradict yourself here. First you tell me that the entire nuke, chem, bio arsenal could have fit in a closet and thus Blix was hopeless, then you start talking about laboratories, facilities and multiple mobile bio units each the size of large trucks and the like. You should pick one side of that coin.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 16, 2006 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

tequila wrote

You do realize that we were backing Saddam right up until he seized Kuwait? That most of his massacres occurred prior to that time?

I agree with you re the relative menaces of Saddam v Stalin, but "backing Saddam right up until he siezed Kuwait" is way to strong a characterization of our relationship with Iraq back then. In fact, if you give any credence to Tariq Aziz's statements, the Iraqi regime believed we were egging the Kuwaitis on re the slant drilling and "overproduction" that prompted Iraq's conquest. I have no idea if we were or weren't, but we spent the 1980s playing footsie with both sides, the better that each could bleed the other. Very late we tilted toward Iraq enough to keep Iran from winning (the tanker reflagging exercise).

As to the massacres, yes, largely. The exceptions would be the Shiite revolt in 1991 and the Erbil incursion in 1995, which was facilitated by intra-Kurd rivalry.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"playing footsie with both sides" meaning, Iraq and IRAN. As written, the sentence looks like it could refer to Iraq and KUWAIT. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I look forward to your 2010 mea culpa for arguing that 80,000 troops stay in Iraq.

Posted by: Chris at March 16, 2006 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The New York Times reports that the Dutch government has decided to upgrade the compulsory “cultural integration” exams prospective immigrants have to take before obtaining a visa to the country of Erasmus...in order to “filter away all unwanted religiously conservative individuals”

“A lesson, about the Netherlands' nude beaches, is followed by another: homosexuals have the same rights here as heterosexuals do, including the chance to marry.

Just to make sure everyone gets the message, two men are shown kissing in a meadow.

The scenes are brief parts of a two-hour-long film that the Dutch government has compiled to help potential immigrants, many of them from Islamic countries, meet the demands of a new entrance examination that went into effect on Wednesday

Or course citizen of certain countries with high numbers of “religious conservatives” such as Israel and the US are exempted from taking the exam…but the Dutch government wants us to believe this shouldn’t be interpreted as blatantly racist double-standard directed at Arabs and Mohammedans!

But there’s even worse that sheer racism at work here: ironically, by focusing its message on nude beaches, swingers clubs, hash bars…etc. the Dutch government is contributing to the distortion and debasement of Western culture in the eyes of its critics, thus reinforcing their prejudices.

Just like their Neocon friends in Washington and Tel-Aviv, the Muslim-bashers of Amsterdam and The Hague are useful idiots feeding the anti-Western narrative of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Instead of promoting humanistic and secular values by building schools and universities with modernist secular curricula in the Middle-East and South Asia, instead of telling prospective immigrants the world over that Europe is a beacon of humanism and democracy, we’re content with provoking Muslims gratuitously.

In Hitler’s Germany, Jehovah's Witnesses were forced to accept blood transfusion and force-fed ham so they could become “good Germans”.

In Guantanomo’s prisons, Arab and Muslim detainees were routinely forced to watch gay porn movies while listening to the Israeli national anthem

I guess this must have paved the way for the Dutch government’s new immigration law…

Posted by: Dr Victorino de la Vega at March 16, 2006 04:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

"Further, you seem to contradict yourself here. First you tell me that the entire nuke, chem, bio arsenal could have fit in a closet and thus Blix was hopeless, then you start talking about laboratories, facilities and multiple mobile bio units each the size of large trucks and the like. You should pick one side of that coin. "


I don't think I'm contradicting myself at all. A mobile bioweapons lab could have fit in a garage. David Kay did find various concoctions, including starter samples of Congo/Crimean Hemmoragic Fever spores, in lab refrigerators. No amount of grudging, foot dragging, "cooperation" of the kind Saddam's regime was affording the UN team would have ever removed the threat of WMD development or transfer. Every honest person has to admit said "cooperation" was a stalling tactic to wear down the will of the dwindling number of countries willing to enforce sanctions. There is a long history of countries that have voluntarily rid themselves of WMD, from South Africa thru the Ukraine to Libya, and Saddam was clearly not willing to follow those protocols: even Mr. Blix admitted that.

Saddam wanted to terrorise the world, especially Iran, with the credible threat of WMD. This was forbidden after the First Gulf War. This was a man who demonstrated his restraint and common sense by attempting to assassinate GHW Bush [a casus belli], by paying suicide bombers' families $25,000 to kill teenagers at a pizza parlor [a casus belli], by sheltering the bail jumpers from the first WTC bombing [a casus belli], by sheltering terrorists like al-Zarqawi and Abu Nidal [a casus belli], by having his intelligence service teach al Qaeda how to make poisons and chemical weapons in the Sudan and the Kurdish regions [a casus belli].

The Mullahs that run Iran and, hopefully, keep Ahmadinejad on a leash, we can deal with. The Dear Leader in North Korea is content as long as we leave him with his pornography collection. Saddam was a danger of a different order of magnitude, and I still believe taking him out was the least bad alternative.

Posted by: wks at March 16, 2006 05:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a snarky, no-nothing liberal it's hard for me not to impose domestic politics and partisanship into this discussion, but it simply doesn't make any sense to ignore the reality of it. One of the foundations of this war has been partisanship gain on the part of the Republicans. In theory, this hasn't been a bad thing at all. By further dividing the already weakened Democrats the Administration gave itself a very large window to do exactly as they saw fit in conducting this war. It's not nearly as strong a basis as going in as a unified bipartisan effort (i.e. Afghanistan), but unifying the Democrats on any war is a risky proposition.

But now that the President has conclusively failed to keep his base together behind the war we are moving into a whole new stage of the war effort. WHATEVER STRATEGY WE UNDERTAKE IS GOING TO NECESSARILY BE MORE BIPARTISAN IF IT IS GOING TO SUCCEED. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely. We have no leaders capable of bridging the gap between the extremists on the right (who are starting to hold the Republican majority hostage to their domestic agenda) and the moderates on the left who are sober enough to appreciate the gravity of our situation. (I think the extremists on the left have been successfully marginalized. Their only effective role is to unify and fire up the Republicans at this point. [see Feingold])

Politically, we are witnessing a failure of democracy, not just in Iraq, but here at home as well. To keep his base together politically, the President will need to keep throwing the red meat on abortion and taxes in order to maintain the 'unitary executive' theory needed to make difficult decisions. This will further split the nation on domestic issues while giving insincere lukewarm support to the President on the war.

Whoops--there we go. Aerial bombing in Samarra! Nothing like a big ole show of force to boost the nutjobs on all sides!! Here come the lefties! Here come the Righties! Sunnis! Shia! Everybody's goin' nuts! How Rovian. Sigh.

Good luck guys! Thanks for the mea culpa! Congratulations on destroying my party. I really sincerely hope you succeed in pulling a rabbit out of this hat, boys. Maybe increasing the tension between India and Pakistan will help to unify the moslems against somebody else for a while.

Posted by: harris at March 16, 2006 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am really sorry that Greg has decided to throw in the towel. He and I decided to switch sides at around the same time before the last election when we realized that the democrats very possibly were not serious about Iraq. Maybe I am ready to throw in the towel as well, but I will need more convincing. I will be convinced when the Iraqi military is no longer able to enforce a curfew due to pitched battles with the militias; or if there are mass defections FROM the military TO the militias. The suicide bombings are nothing new except the targets are increasingly becoming more Shiite. This is to be expected due the recent religious violence. The Sunni bodies turning up are likely are an indication that the Interior Ministry is emptying its detention centers. Are they making room for new prisoners or just making sure they tell no tales? The public hangings in Sadr City are a new twist. I plan to wait and see whether this indicates a weakening of the Iraqi military or not.

Posted by: Chuck at March 16, 2006 06:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kevin P.: "This is a good way to construct a bubble around yourself and win elections... your opponent has no argument, no valid perspective, he is not just wrong, he is foolish and dishonest..."

Hmmm.... sounds like standard GOP propaganda.

In a democracy, you have to do the hard work of persuading people to your point of view. Insult and dismissal are self-satisfying, but don't persuade anyone.

See, Bush, George, political campaigning methods of.

Posted by: Barry at March 16, 2006 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To clarify, "In a democracy, you have to do the hard work of persuading people to your point of view. Insult and dismissal are self-satisfying, but don't persuade anyone" was written by Kevin P.

Posted by: Barry at March 16, 2006 07:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you're kidding yourself, Greg. Pacifying Iraq was always going to be a decade-long effort, if not generational. And it's going to fall on the Iraqis to do it.

Yes, Iraq is violent. What a shock, an incredibly brutal police state hasn't transformed into a hippie commune of peace and love in three years. It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of bad people are going to have to die, and they are going to take a lot of good people with them.

We have accomplished our major goals: Saddam is removed, the process of democracy is up and running. Everything else is details.

If we leave Iraq tomorrow, or scale back to well below 100,000, the country will explode. We will see savagery and mass killings on a horrific scale

No, we won't. The foundations to prevent anything on the scale of the Shia/Kurd massacres are well-laid.

Posted by: TallDave at March 16, 2006 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me just add that I'm amazed how many otherwise intelligent people have fallen for the media's breathless repetitions of allegedly imminent "all-out civil war." It's not just impossible, it's laughable. The IA eschews sectarianism from all accounts, the Sunni militias are already fighting, the Kurds are happily building a peaceful, Western enclave. That leaves the Shia militias, who have infiltrated some police units and are in fact carrying out reprisals... but against the Salafis and Wahabbis, Sunni minority sects who are enabling Al Qaeda in Iraq. That's about as big as this civil war can ever get, because no one else has any interest in fighting. Most people just want to get on with their lives.

Posted by: TallDave at March 16, 2006 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

at least those who honestly believed we were doing the wrong thing rather than just opposing anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate.

Doesn't this contradict the start of the same paragraph, which more or less says that the fact that Bush was in charge of the war means it was bound to go poorly? It seems like the people who just opposed anything the horrible Bushies would bring to the plate had more foresight than you did.

Posted by: neil at March 16, 2006 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

March 20, 2003. I remember it well. I had just moved to Manhattan, the big city. I was walking around Times Square with some friends because that was still novel to me. There it was flashing off the walls of the surrounding buildings: U.S. invasion of Iraq began this morning.

You know, in a lot of ways, it was like Katrina. Here you could see this monumental disaster coming from miles away and you know from the track of the storm -- this is going to be the big one, this is going to destroy a cultural institution. But the difference is, you could see Katrina coming, and you could respond by getting out of its way. But when your nation -- your national identity -- is rushing towards a disasterous war, what can you do? I'm an American. I can't change that.

Anyways, I told you so, nyah! Fucking Bush Sr., of all people, told you so. "Regime change in Iraq would be too expensive and fruitless" is not a new meme invented solely for the benefit of dubya.

Nyah!

Posted by: Greg Alexander at March 16, 2006 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks wrote

review Colin Powell's emphasis at the UN on biolabs vs nuke facilities and I think you would admit we had a legitimate fear of ricin, anthrax or Congo/Crimean hemmoragic fever getting spewed around one of our airports.

There is no record of bioweapons being any more weapons of MASS destruction than chemicals, or even AS destructive. Ricin and anthrax have been busts from a casualty perspective. No one has even much bothered with the others.

Check out the casualties from the Soviet bioweapons accident at Sverdlovsk sometime, when the factory vented anthrax into the atmosphere for *hours*. Unimpressive numbers.

You know what can kill people pretty reliably? Guns. And things that explode. The post-2001 obsession with chemical weapons and germs had more to do with social psychosis than reasoned threat assessment. That, and cynical salesmanship by cheerleaders for Woolsey's "World War IV."

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 08:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is no record of bioweapons being any more weapons of MASS destruction than chemicals

The South American natives of Cortez' time might disagree, smallpox having killed 80% of them and toppled the mightiest empire on the continent.

Posted by: TallDave at March 16, 2006 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If only algore had won in 2000...
If only Johnny Ketchup had won in 2004...
If only H. Rodham Clintstone had won in 2008...

Posted by: GoetzvonBerlichingen at March 16, 2006 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Amazing isn't it. Some true believers are still saying the low level civil war currently going on in Iraq is a media invention. It's not. Death squads are roaming unchecked. Scores of people are being killed every day. In order to swear in the parliament, which immediately dispersed, they have to lock down the country. You can slice this anyway you want, but by any empirical standard it is a shambles and public opinion in America recognises it as such. Some of the ardent armchair generals are at least having the honesty to admit it which is a step in the right direction because until we get out of the land of denial we are not going to be able to develop realistic ideas for disengaging. Unfortunately this does not include the president and his circle who are still in denial. In fact we've probably reached the point where his charm offensives on Iraq are becoming counter productive and reinforcing a perception in the country that he is both out of touch and incompetent.

Were I a Iraqi, particularly a Sunni, I would be joining my local militia for self protection. A couple of days ago the press ran a story of how we had blasted some hovel and ended up killing five children, four women and two men. We claimed it was only four total, but I counted the bodies of the women and kids. If I was a relation of these poor folks I would enroll to fight the Americans. One really has to totally lack imagination, not uncommon in America alas, not to understand the passions we are releasing. This whole mess is truly one of the greatest blunders in our history and Bush and all those who supported it bear a huge burden of responsibility.

Posted by: John at March 16, 2006 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Three questions:

1) If we had known at the time we invaded Iraq that over the next three years we would suffer approximately 2300 US combat deaths there, would we have been despondent or relieved?

2) If "Ralph Peters can drive around [Iraq] for an afternoon and report to the know-nothings at home", why shouldn't we consider Gregory Djerejian, along with the rest of us, Ralph's audience?

3) If an earlier poster on this blog believes that "one of the foundations of this war has been partisanship gain on the part of the Republicans", do we think he knows any Republicans?

Posted by: Reluctant Commentator at March 16, 2006 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TallDave, official cockeyed optimist of Hit and Run, wrote

The South American natives of Cortez' time might disagree, smallpox having killed 80% of them and toppled the mightiest empire on the continent.

Which has nothing to do with successfully weaponizing germs in the present day.

Posted by: Jim Henley at March 16, 2006 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric M & Jim H

I don't think you realize what a backhanded complement you pay the Bush Administration when you pooh-pooh fears of biological or chemical weapons. I recommend you Google "crop duster" and "Afganistan documents" or "crop duster" and "Mohammed Atta" and try to put yourself in Bush's shoes way back when. Remember that h was listening to life-long liberal Dem George Tenet tell him WMD's were a slam dunk, as well as life-long liberal Dem Richard Clarke tell him that if Osama was not nabbed in Afganistan he'd probably "boogie to Baghdad."
I remember what it was like to go through an airport while the anthrax crisis closed down the Capitol. I do not want to have to go through that again. I've stated repeatedly that I agree Bush has totally screwed up this war. I still think, regretfully, it had to be fought when it was or we would have had another 9/11.

Posted by: wks at March 16, 2006 10:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rumsfeld's remark last week that in event of an Iraqi Civil War, we would expect the Iraqi Army & Interior Ministry Security forces, both heavily Shiate, especially the latter, to take the lead in fighting such a civil conflict is ridiculus on the face of it and means, I believe that we are getting ready to cut and run out of Iraq, if full scale civil war does break out. If any one does not believe that an Iraqi Civil War is not already occuring at local level in Baghdad, the should read Zeyad at Healing Iraq.

Posted by: David All at March 16, 2006 11:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Remember that h was listening to life-long liberal Dem George Tenet tell him WMD's were a slam dunk

Did Tenet tell Bush that?

Or did he later get carrot-and-sticked into agreeing that he said that?

Posted by: J Thomas at March 16, 2006 11:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The thought that Tenet is a lifelong liberal democrat is kind of laughable, no?

The other thing I find interesting in your argument wks, is that you point to certain exaggerations of the chem/bio threat by the Bush administration as evidence that such threats were, in reality, as advertised. If I say that sarin gas released in the subway systems here in NYC can kill 50,000 people, it doesn't make it so.

Look, I was scared of Anthrax too, but what was the death toll again?

As for this, allow me to take on a little of what you wrote:

Saddam wanted to terrorise the world, especially Iran, with the credible threat of WMD. This was forbidden after the First Gulf War.

Agree for the most part, but it was more Iran than "the world" and it was more deterrent than "terrorize." Take this from the lifelong Conservative Republican ;) Charles Duelfer:

Throughout the 1990s and up to OIF (March 2003), Saddam focused on one set of objectives: the survival of himself, his Regime, and his legacy. To secure those objectives, Saddam needed to exploit Iraqi oil assets, to portray a strong military capability to deter internal and external threats, and to foster his image as an Arab leader. Saddam recognized that the reconstitution of Iraqi WMD enhanced both his security and image. Consequently, Saddam needed to end UN-imposed sanctions to fulfill his goals. [...]

Iran was the pre-eminent motivator of this policy. All senior level Iraqi officials considered Iran to be Iraq's principal enemy in the region. The wish to balance Israel and acquire status and influence in the Arab world were also considerations, but secondary. [...]

Iraq Survey Group (ISG) judges that events in the 1980s and early 1990s shaped Saddam's belief in the value of WMD. In Saddam's view, WMD helped to save the Regime multiple times. He believed that during the Iran-Iraq war chemical weapons had halted Iranian ground offensives and that ballistic missile attacks on Tehran had broken its political will. Similarly, during Desert Storm, Saddam believed WMD had deterred Coalition Forces from pressing their attack beyond the goal of freeing Kuwait. WMD had even played a role in crushing the Shi'a revolt in the south following the 1991 cease-fire.

And by the way, your argument about Saddam's WMD motivations vis a vis Iran, backed up by the Duelfer Report, calls into question the theory that after spending three decades and tens of billions in currency, Saddam would give away his long sought after WMD to some terrorist op that he only shared common interest with in tangential and contingent settings. What about Iran? What about the deterrent - which would then turn into an absolute justification for his demise.

This was a man who demonstrated his restraint and common sense by attempting to assassinate GHW Bush [a casus belli]

If it wasn't a casus belli back when it happened, it's kind of hard to reheat those leftovers. Either way, assassination is a game played by all.

...by paying suicide bombers' families $25,000 to kill teenagers at a pizza parlor [a casus belli]

Wait a minute. Funding Palestinian terrorist groups attacking Israeli interests is now a casus belli for the United States of America? Really? Since when? What if we found some government funding ETA attacks on Spain? Would that also be a casus belli for us? Is Pakistani funded terrorism in Kasmir a casus belli? Exactly which nationalist struggles do we have to get involved with in such a manner?

by sheltering the bail jumpers from the first WTC bombing [a casus belli]

hmmm, reading a bit too much Laurie Mylorie I think.

by sheltering terrorists like al-Zarqawi and Abu Nidal [a casus belli]

Not exactly. By that standard, we should be invading Pakistan as we speak. By the way, didn't one of those "sheltered" folks turn up dead rather suddenly? The fact that he let Zarq hump around in the no fly zone to mess with the Kurds is hardly a casus belli.

by having his intelligence service teach al Qaeda how to make poisons and chemical weapons in the Sudan and the Kurdish regions [a casus belli].

Link please. Citation. From what I have observed, these claim were, in the end, either the product of the discredited account of Ibn Shaykh al-Libi who was, er, "aggressively interrogated" into giving up some falsehoods or some other dubious intel. The Sudan claim is highly speculative and not considered solid - despite Clinton era guesswork. Throw in a dash of Butler Report dicta. I don't think anyone is standing by these claims now. Yet more talking points on the scrap heap of cherry picked intel.


Posted by: Eric Martin at March 17, 2006 12:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I still think, regretfully, it had to be fought when it was or we would have had another 9/11.

I totally disagree. I don't think Saddam was working on another 9/11. That is just a gut reaction with no supporting evidence. Another 9/11? Based on what exactly?

What if, back in 2002/2003, Bush was making the case for invading, say, Iran. Or Pakistan. Or Syria. Similar evidence of WMD/al-Qaeda/terrorism connections could and would have been trotted out. Some of it probably more compelling than Iraq.

And say we did invade one of those two places. And things went whichever way, and it was costly and difficult and the anti-invasion argument began to look the stronger. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that almost the same number of Bush supporters (not necessarily you wks, but others) would be telling me how the invasion of Iran/Pakistan/Syria was necessary, and how without said invasion, we would have experienced another 9/11. That there was no other way to defuse the terrorist threat without the invasion.

How could I argue against such a claim? But does that make it true?

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 17, 2006 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By the way, three paragraphs of the Duelfer statement should have been italicized. Still trying to get the hang of that.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 17, 2006 12:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

George Tenet -- My information is that his first job out of Georgetown U was with the Democrat staff on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He worked his way up to top staffer on that committee, then made a lateral transfer to CIA. He was appointed director by Clinton. If this information is in error I stand corrected, but I got it from reputable sources.

Charles Duelfer -- selective quoting is really not cricket. Why don't you ask him, or quote him, as to whether he thought the war was justified. I think you would get an answer similar to David Kay's, who determined after his tour of duty that Saddam was a greater threat than he thought going into the assignment, not less.

Maybe Saddam did really convince himself Iran justified everything. Mr. Hitler convinced himself Stalin justified everything too. That doesn't make his behavior acceptable. WMD's, long range scud missles, etc. were forbidden by the ceasefire agreements and various UN resolutions. Saddam did not feel like complying.

Assassination - sure we all do it. So that makes it ok.

Blowing up teens in a pizza parlor - if there were American teens present we have a casus belli.

abu Nidal - wasn't he involved with the Achille Lauro?

poisons and chem weapons in Sudan - Clinton administration charges, not the diabolical Bush team. Read Ken Pollack for details.

Blah, blah, blah. I could continue by pointing out his rude lobbing of SAM missles at our airplanes 3 or 4 times a month, or several other ideas that would persuade the persuadable, but I won't go on. I think this war has changed the entire dynamic of the mid-east. I would argue further that if we had not changed this tragectory the various malfactors would have competed to push the envelope until we did respond. And that would have caused us a lot more pain than we've suffered by chosing the time and place of engagement. You're allowed to disagree, but I don't think my perspective is unreasonable. I do not think this war was immoral or unjustified, and we owe it to the Iraqi people to do the best we can for them here on out.
This will be my last comment on this issue, good discussion until the end when snark started to seep in.

Posted by: wks at March 17, 2006 12:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We have accomplished our major goals: Saddam is removed, the process of democracy is up and running. Everything else is details.

"A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic."

Posted by: Doug H. at March 17, 2006 05:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shorter wks: "f*ck it, I wanted to do it".

Posted by: Barry at March 17, 2006 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Death and destruction means, "We really mean it!"

It worked for Bin Laden.

Posted by: NeoDude at March 17, 2006 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

From an article linked by Oxblog:


'They have now said this again. In a poll conducted in January for WorldPublicOpinion.org by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, Iraqis were asked, among other things:
“Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?” 77% say it was worth it, while 22% say it was not. [my emphasis]'

Posted by: liberalhawk at March 17, 2006 04:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks, pardon the snark. I thought it was just good natured silliness, and I wasn't meaning to insult you. It was definitely not my intention to do so. So I apologize for my tone if it was at all inappropriate because I also enjoyed the conversation.

Couple of thoughts even though I don't expect you to respond if you don't care to as you've indicated that you might consider this conversation over:

Tenet might have been a Democrat, but the "liberal" tag would not apply. And by any stretch, he bent over backwards to accommodate the Bush administration and fell on his sword rather meekly in the aftermath. And got a nice Freedom Medal for his efforts.

As to Duelfer, I was not quoting selectively. I quoted the relevant sections on this matter. I don't think I have to reprint the entire report every time I extract the portions discussing Saddam's motives/attitudes toward WMD. There is nothing contradicting this position elsewhere in his report.

poisons and chem weapons in Sudan - Clinton administration charges, not the diabolical Bush team. Read Ken Pollack for details.

I think I actually acknowledged that above. I called it "Clinton era guesswork." Still, not solid evidence either way.

I think this war has changed the entire dynamic of the mid-east.

I couldn't agree more, though I suspect we might describe the changed dynamic somewhat differently.

I would argue further that if we had not changed this tragectory the various malfactors would have competed to push the envelope until we did respond.

Not sure about this in all cases. Do you think Iran is more or less brash today? Osama? Zarqawi? Pakistan's Islamist contingent? Hamas?

If Bush and Rummy are right about Iran's interference with Rev. Guard in Iraq and Tehran's assistance with advanced IED tech, I would suggest that Iran is perfectly comfortable nudging the envelope believing we can't respond.

You're allowed to disagree, but I don't think my perspective is unreasonable.

Not unreasonable at all wks. I don't think I ever said it was. We simply disagree, that is all.

I do not think this war was immoral or unjustified, and we owe it to the Iraqi people to do the best we can for them here on out.

I agree about our debt to the Iraqi people. It might surprise you to know that I do not favor the immediate withdrawal of US Troops. Contrary to what you might imagine given my position on the wisdom/folly of this war, I actually agree with Greg on the thrust of this post with respect to our troop presence going forward.

This position is not immutable, and is contingent on the evolving situation and how our presence affects it, but I would cautiously maintain troop levels as per Greg for the immediate future. That has been my position all along.

Posted by: Eric Martin at March 17, 2006 05:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In case you didnt see this

By David Ignatius
Friday, March 17, 2006; Page A19

BAGHDAD -- Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Sadly, these are precisely the skills that should have been mastered before America launched its invasion in March 2003. It may prove one of the costliest lessons in the history of modern warfare.

I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week. U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role. This is the way it should have happened from the beginning.


A brutal stress test came on Feb. 22, when Sunni insurgents destroyed a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra. For a moment, Iraq seemed to be slipping toward civil war, but the Iraqi army performed surprisingly well. In many areas Iraqi forces -- backed up by overwhelming U.S. firepower -- helped restore order. "You never know the tipping point until you're past it," says Gen. George Casey, the commander of American forces here. With many other U.S. and Iraqi officials, he hopes Samarra may have been such a tipping point, for the better.

Iraq is still a mess. Traveling over Baghdad by Black Hawk helicopter, you can see piles of fetid trash on nearly every block and pools of raw sewage glinting in the sun. Car bombs and roadside explosions are still a daily feature of life, and the death toll remains horrific, especially for Iraqi civilians. But it would be a mistake to think that nothing is changing. The country is fragile, but it hasn't splintered apart.

I visited two bases where you can see the new U.S. strategy begin to take hold. The first was at Taji, straddling the Tigris River north of Baghdad, where the American 4th Infantry Division is gradually handing off responsibility to Iraqi units. After the Samarra bombing, enraged Shiites killed two Sunni clerics, and there was a danger that the reprisal killings could escalate.

Tensions eased after an Iraqi brigade commander, a Shiite, rolled his armored vehicles into the Sunni stronghold of Tarmiya and told local imams that his men would protect their mosques against Shiite attacks -- and that in return, they must control Sunni militants. "He laid down the law," remembers Col. Jim Pasquarette, who commands U.S. forces in the area. The crisis gradually eased there, with U.S. forces mostly remaining in the background.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done," Pasquarette says of the new rules of counterinsurgency. "In the old days, it was black and white -- see a guy and shoot him. But counterinsurgency is a thinking man's sport. Every decision you make, you have to step back and say, 'What's the next thing that's going to happen?' " He says he drills his troops to remember the "three P's" of the new Iraqi battlefield: "be polite, be professional, be prepared to kill."

The town of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, faced a similar test after Samarra. The area is almost entirely Sunni; the Iraqi army unit that has responsibility there is largely Shiite. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the Iraqi brigade commander, a feisty Shiite from southern Iraq named Gen. Aziz, is making it work. After the Samarra explosion, Aziz told me, he convened a meeting with local tribal and religious leaders.

"I am responsible for your safety," he admonished them. "The law should protect us all. There are no militias in this area." He told the local leaders they could protect their homes and mosques, but if he found anyone carrying weapons on the streets, he would kill him. The message seemed to work. A fiery local Sunni imam told his worshipers last Friday they should try to live with their neighbors.

Inside his headquarters, Aziz showed me a video of a suicide bomb that nearly killed him and his American adviser, Lt. Col. Mark Samson, two weeks ago. "He has the blood of my soldiers on his uniform," he says respectfully of the American. Outside Aziz's office is what he calls a "martyr tree," listing the names of the 22 men in his brigade who have died. "There can be only one hero in Iraq -- the army," he tells me.

I wouldn't pretend that these two snapshots are an accurate representation of the whole of Iraq. If that were so, the country wouldn't be in such a mess. But this is the way this war is supposed to be going. It's a few years late, but the new U.S. strategy is moving in the right direction.

Posted by: liberalhawk at March 17, 2006 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Dear Leader in North Korea is content as long as we leave him with his pornography collection."

I try not to respond to trolls, but I think that this is a Bush supporter rather than a troll.

The idea that Kim Jong Il has no territorial ambitions is pretty far fetched. You can read here about the tunnels that North Korea has dug underneath the DMZ.

North Korea's major export is weapons. Why? Because getting an communist economy to produce anything requires major pressure from the top, which means that the only things produced effectively are items of vital importance to the government. In North Korea, that means weapons.

Once North Korea has a sufficient supply of nuclear weapons, it will have the option of selling some to obtain foreign currency. The idea that Kim Jong Il has no interest in foreign exchange is, quite frankly, absurd. He has been clearly willing to at least limit the production of nuclear weapons if we pay him to do so. If he can't get paid to not produce nuclear weapons, it makes sense that he would consider getting money by producing nuclear weapons and selling them.

The only thing I can see that might stop him is deterrence. I think we can assume that he wouldn't sell a nuclear bomb to al Qaeda unless he was convinced that the bomb could not be traced back to him. On the other hand, if someone claiming to represent Iran approached North Korea about a secret nuclear weapons purchase, just how carefully would North Korea verify that the purchaser was actually Iran and not al Qaeda?

As I see it, there are two basic approaches to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, both attractive. One is to decide that the program poses an unacceptable threat to America's national security, and hope that North Korea has the good sense to back off before we have to invade. The other, which is the one taken by the Bush administration, is to decide that we can live with a North Korea that is manufacturing nuclear bombs, and hope that none of these bombs end up being detonated in a major American city.

Both of these approaches could turn out very badly, and I don't know which one is the right approach. To pretend that there is no danger is to live in a fantasy world.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at March 17, 2006 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, sure you're not chuck hagel in disguise?

Posted by: al at March 17, 2006 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

I've got a pretty thick skin. Rereading my comment it does sound as if I was stomping off in a fit of pique; all I really meant was that I had other responsibilities to take care of. Enjoyed your commentary and wish you the best.

Mr. Almquist,

I did not mean that I thought Kim Jong Il was not a threat, just not a threat of the same proportions as Saddam in 2003.

Posted by: wks at March 17, 2006 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear Greg: Not having returned here for several months, I am amazed to find such trepidation and such a term as your mea culpa. It seems like a long vacation is needed (Kurdistan?). I guess my outlook from reading the newspapers assiduously day by day from 1939 to 1945 from age 12 to age 17 is just vastly different from yours.

I remember the rants of my father, who was a sincere Hitler supporter - at least till Germany was starting to be pulverized. The work I had to put in to our victory garden, collecting the fat for munitions, my mother finally putting meat on the table after 3 weeks without it and asked where it came from, replying "don't ask!" The B-52's going across and the high probablity that only 70% of them would return, the fire bombing of Dresden, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No, it tore your guts out as a young fellow. My idols after that became Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa (who also became a dear friend).

But I never felt that I was responsible for the war, or had to run it. I felt very upset by Roosevelt at Yalta, with Patton for the mess we go into in Belgium 1944, for Harry Truman and The Bomb. for so much crap and so many mistakes. But it got done and I never fell apart criticizing what was done.

I realize we have made a lot of mistakes in this one, (tho as I see it a lot fewer than in WW II) but more important than the mistakes has been the devotion to the task by the ones fighting it and their unbelievable dedication to what they do. The almost total lack of casualties (compared to WWII), the readiness of the Iraqi people to make it work. the immensity of the vision of GWB that we must have friends and allies in this region and that we are indeed making them, that something like this has really never been done before and that these majors and light colonels have the understanding and skill to overcome the immense inferiority complex of these people who have never accomplished anything worthwhile yet now have the new-found bravado that is necessary to really understand what they must accomplish for their people. This is all such heady stuff to me, it is all but unbelievable.

But I have lived in the slums of Asia (Nepal and Vietnam) most of my life and most of my friends came by way of my first treating their TBC. So I know they had and still have it in them. But still their response has been amazing to me. Seeing it happen again in Iraq now leaves me in awe.

The only reason we lost in Vietnam was that our Air Force didn't fly when the North came back down. Tet had destroyed the VC and during that whole golden period the strides made in SVN were amazing to me - and I could be a part of them. You are right I guess to worry lest USA give it all up after we have essentially won it and created the new and democratic Iraq. But before Bush's term is up the gains will be too apparent I believe for anyone to ignore them. So go take a vacation in Kurdistan and come back a bit more assured. It is happening, but you're standing so close you don't see it.

Posted by: Dick Matern at March 18, 2006 12:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Americans feel betrayed.

We were lied to.

9-11 happened and our leaders manipulated the event.

This whole war is built on dreams and sand.

It's time to make those responsible, pay!

It's time to come home.

Posted by: Sam at March 18, 2006 03:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Reading the comments on this page, I can see that most of you are serious people with a great deal of knowledge. Yet many remarks indicate that the writer believes the president and his administration are actually competent, that these criminal bumblers have second thoughts, and having had them, adjust their strategy accordingly. With the evidence in front of all of our eyes, how can anyone still believe that?

Posted by: Mickey Finn at March 18, 2006 05:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Congo/Crimean Hemmoragic Fever spores

You know, this is endemic in parts of Iraq and would be an utterly normal subject of iraqi scientific research, don't you?

The problem with defining WMD down is that pretty soon it becomes something my son's junior high chem teacher could concoct with the honors students in a few hours. (Indeed, some of the equipment associated with the wmd related program activities would be found in any decent high school science lab). And that means we have to live in terror of the science classes in every unstable or anti-American country in the world. Or we could restrict ourselves to things like nukes or systems to deliver truly mass destruction, but in that case, all this crazy parsing of documents is silly: we've been up and down the whole country, and, contrary to those "We know where they are" claims of 2003, we didn't know where they were, and they didn't exist.

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at March 18, 2006 06:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yet many remarks indicate that the writer believes the president and his administration are actually competent, that these criminal bumblers have second thoughts, and having had them, adjust their strategy accordingly. With the evidence in front of all of our eyes, how can anyone still believe that?

I think the administration is letting the military run their own strategy in iraq, requiring only that they don't visibly contradict administration propaganda. So no extra troops, and they have to say they're promoting democracy, and they have to keep casualty levels down, and they're supposed to do whatever they can to avoid scandals, and beyond that they have pretty much free rein.

It looks like our military's OODA loop is around 6 months. When they come up with a new strategy and try it out, it takes 6 months to find out it isn't working and then they're ready to try another new strategy. So we're starting our sixth new strategy now, and we'll start the seventh in about 6 months.

In the american civil war the union military kept trying new strategies (under new generals) until they found one that worked. If we hold out long enough the US military will find a working strategy, provided there's one to be found.

Here's what I think might work -- we have absolute control of the iraqi food supply. 80% of all their food comes in through Basra or thereabouts. We can shut off food supplies to any part of the country we want to. So when we're ready to actually get tough, we'll just starve out every area that's too uncooperative with us. We needn't tell the press what we're doing, the press can just talk about how sad it is that iraqis go on fighting a civil war even while it makes such economic disruptions that they're starving.

I doubt lesser measures will do it, and it might take us a few more years of trying more pleasant strategies before we get around to that one.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 18, 2006 01:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'Perhaps the same ideals that brought democracy to Germany, Italy and Japan; to South Korea; to Eastern Europe; and to Nicaragua, whence I post.'

Looks like you mean WW2, well Germany and Italy had democracies prior to the rise of fascism, so we didn't 'bring' them democracy and if anyone is most responsible for victory in the European theater that would probably the Soviets(ironic as that is in terms of bringing democracy). South Korea, alright, but the impetus for that wasn't to spread democracy, but to check red China. You are confusing political expedience for altruism.
Nicaragua???? Are you talking about 1912? Didn't we cause a revolution there around 1900 just because they wanted to do business w/ British banks as opposed to US banks? Come stronger.

PS I love that someone posted a lyric from a Marilyn Manson song.
PSS I love it that some people here are naive enought to think we can afford the iraqi adventure indefinitely or even for a generation. See you in the soup kitchens.

Posted by: Arch Stanton at March 18, 2006 09:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Dick Matern (three message up). Except those were B-29's, Dick, not B-52's.
Also, Baghdad will never be Torquay. It is a city of several million, including many thugs. It always was and always will be. So the Iraqis themselves need plenty of on-the-job police training before the Coalition departs, and I'm glad they have started. 87 bodies in three days was so out-of-the-ordinary it made news around the world. Eventually they could get the murder level down to that of Chicago, Los Angeles, or Atlanta.

Posted by: Exguru at March 19, 2006 01:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the current plan is the very best that could be devised.

It is called muddling through.

Or to make it sound better: adapting to circumstances. Which Americans do very well.

In any case guerilla wars take 10 to 20 years to sort out. The question then is: do Americans have the bottom for it?

Posted by: M. Simon at March 19, 2006 07:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Andrew J.,

That Saddam was a real smart feller. He convinced a lot of folks that he had a huge chemical weapons reserve. The Italians, the French, the Brits, hell, even the Americans.

The stupid Americans fell for it hardest of all. That Saddam. Too smart by half.

Posted by: M. Simon at March 19, 2006 07:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In any case guerilla wars take 10 to 20 years to sort out. The question then is: do Americans have the bottom for it?

It doesn't look like it..

Posted by: Doug H. at March 19, 2006 09:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

War is the last great hope of the incompetent to order the unwilling to attempt the impossible.

William Eastlake 'The Bamboo Bed'

That said there isn't anytthing preventing our eventual success in the Middle East, ie. getting our oil, that the deaths of several hundred million Semitic and Persian Muslims can't fix.

Posted by: rapier at March 19, 2006 02:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wars are always hard to control. War breeds corruption, fanaticism and innocents are always killed. It's justified only when a country is itself attacked. Problem is that the US of A meddles in so many countries that it feels threatened every week by some event. I'm not crying for Iraq. I cry for the US of A with its 8 trillion dollar debt, its disabled Congress who continue their earmarking- both parties are guilty- and have no intention of ending corporate sponsorship of the Congress. Now, most CEOs know that the Iraq war is a disaster and will in time bankrupt the US. You'd think that they would tell their Congressional lackeys to shut down the war.

My city is closing schools and laying off teachers while the war state is building more nuclear submarines. My country can't handle disaster like Hurricane Katrina when FEMA spent millions on renting a cruise ship from a Republican contributor, buying thousands of trailers, which are still unused. The President wants to appoint a religious fanatic as head of the FDA. There will be more disasters. Is there any department in the Federal government that is well managed? The longer the war goes on, the more the President will feel the need to spy on American citizens. In Belarus, those who criticize the government may go to jail. How long until we see such a measure, justified because of our permanent state of “war", in this country? Who will be our Gibbon, who writes the Decline and Fall of the United States of America?

Posted by: malvolio at March 19, 2006 09:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No one who supported the war in 2003 can be happy with the present situation, but I'm starting to think that the alternative, i.e. no war, continued sanctions, would have been no different and possibly even worse.

The stability of Saddam's regime was in terminal decline, with the likelihood of Iranian/ Syrian interventions on behalf of their respective confessional allies, and Turkish intervention in the north against the Kurds, seeming very likely. Having intervened, Iran/ Syria would be finding it as hard as the US, encountering the same set of problems in the centre of Iraq where the confessional groups interpenetrate. Add to this the possibility of conflict emerging b/w Iran and Syria - precipitated by the bombing of, for example, the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and the present situation appears reasonable.

Or maybe we should have just rehabilitated the regime, removed sanctions, ensured as a part of the quid pro quo, access to Iraqi oil, etc.

Or maybe I'm just cheering myself up....

One thing I'm certain of, none of the options available were without considerable cost.

Posted by: sbona at March 20, 2006 08:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"No one who supported the war in 2003 can be happy with the present situation, but I'm starting to think that the alternative, i.e. no war, continued sanctions, would have been no different and possibly even worse."

Well, no. War is different from peace. While it's possible that we'd be spending ten billion dollars and 60 dead a month containing iraq, still it would be different.

Yes, it's possible that if we weren't fighting an undeclared war in iraq that things might be worse. Anything's possible. It's even possible that we'd be worse off if Bush hadn't become president.

It's even possible that if we weren't involved in this disastrous occupation you'd have an *even harder* time coming up with some way to spin it. It might look *even more* like a total diaster. Anything's possible.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 20, 2006 02:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But as retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former head of Central Command, which includes the Middle East and Persian Gulf, argues, the United States may be greatly mistaken in believing that it can determine the future of Iraq.

In his new book, The Battle for Peace: A Frontline Vision of America’s Power and Purpose, Zinni and co-author Tony Koltz recall the general’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 11, 2003, just a few weeks before Bush took the nation to war.

Zinni knew, he says, that many of his military colleagues thought Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was underestimating the manpower needs for an occupation of Iraq.

“And I had heard interpretations of intelligence that many of us with deep experience in the region felt were far off the mark from the true threat,” Zinni said.

So when Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, asked Zinni whether he did not agree that anything would be an improvement on Saddam Hussein, the general demurred.

Recalling that the ouster of the Soviets from Afghanistan had left that country in the hands of the Taliban, Zinni said: “Anyone who has to live in this region and has to stay there and protect our interests, year in, year out, does not look at this as a start and end, as an exit strategy, as a two-year tenure. As long as you are going to have a U.S. Central Command, you are going to be out there and have to deal with whatever you put down on the ground.”

This is not latter-day wisdom from the general. In the summer of 2002, seven months before the war began, he told an audience in Florida what would be required if the United States invaded Iraq.

“You could inherit the country of Iraq, if you’re willing to do it,” he said. “If our economy is so great that you’re willing to put billions of dollars into reforming Iraq. If you want to put soldiers that are already stretched so thin all around the world and add them into a security force there forever, like we see in places like the Sinai. If you want to fight with other countries in the region to try to keep Iraq together, as Kurds and Shiites try and split off, you’re going to have to make a good case for that.”

Now it is 2006, and Bush is still trying to make that case.

Posted by: history at March 21, 2006 04:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg - I have been reading you regularly since the beginning, and frankly I do not understand the sense of betrayal that you are exhibiting. As a student of history I have a hard time finding any major political change, like the one we are witnessing, that went any better. Is there any societal transformation that you think went well and the management of which you admire? If you have an example, from anytime in the past, please mention it in your commentary. Otherwise, I feel you are indulging in naive handwringing, which is actually very damaging to the final results. If your prescription is "fire Rumsfeldt" then who/what do you want in his place?

Posted by: Claudia at March 21, 2006 05:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This past weekend Vice-President ("Insurgency is in the Last Throes") Cheney denied Iraq was in civil war. Coming from Cheney, this means that Iraq's civil war has indeed started!

Posted by: David All at March 21, 2006 03:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PS: "History", thanks for the quotes from General Zinni. He was unfortunately very accurate in his predicitions. Not surprising that the Administration ignored what he said, just as they have ignored and continue to ignore any criticism of their policy in Iraq or any where else.

Posted by: David All at March 21, 2006 03:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PS: "History", thanks for the quotes from General Zinni. He was unfortunately very accurate in his predicitions. Not surprising that the Administration ignored what he said, just as they have ignored and continue to ignore any criticism of their policy in Iraq or any where else.

Posted by: David All at March 21, 2006 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PPS: Sorry for the double post.

Posted by: David All at March 21, 2006 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"We need a new War Secretary, of course, but our President appears too bovinely stubborn to realize this."

I've read many thoughtful conservatives ready to admit we need a new DS, and also ready to admit POTUS seems unable either to grasp this fact or to act on it, and yet seemingly reticent to draw the obvious conclusion. Perhaps impeachment is not the proper course, but then impeachment isn't the only way to show this president the door.

Posted by: "Q" the Enchanter at March 22, 2006 12:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Perhaps impeachment is not the proper course, but then impeachment isn't the only way to show this president the door.

Unfortunately, we don't have a mechanism set up to give a president an involuntary medical discharge.

Posted by: J Thomas at March 22, 2006 12:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've managed to save up roughly $70007 in my bank account, but I'm not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?

Posted by: Courtney Gidts at May 31, 2006 05:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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