May 30, 2006

Iraq....

A week or so on the road and the question looms large, as usual, namely: what to do about Iraq? We have what Atrios has taken to calling the "six monthers" (the next half year or so will be critical! And yes, I've been guilty of that kind of quasi-serial punting here and there as well...) like Tom Friedman who write:

Mr. Ibrahim compares the U.S. invasion of Iraq to Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, which punched the first big hole through which modernity could seep into the Arab world. It was the key ruler of Egypt after the Napoleonic invasion, Muhammad Ali, who started sending students to Europe, introduced secular education and ushered in a mini-Arab renaissance that culminated with the first Egyptian parliament, elected in 1866.

What you are seeing in Iraq today is the "hard labor" of nation building in a country that has gone through almost 50 years of tyrannical rule, Mr. Ibrahim said. It is a naturally messy process, much messier than Eastern Europe's, with the outcome uncertain. "Everyone with a grievance for 50 years there is now breathing freely and wanting to act on their newfound freedom," he added.

The reason that the violence in Iraq is so intense — mass executions, mosques blown up — is in part because of all these pent-up grievances. But in part it is also because two very entrenched forces in that part of the world — the theocrats and the autocrats; that is, the Qaedas and the Arab regimes surrounding Iraq, even the "pro-America" ones — are deeply worried that we might succeed.

"The theocrats fear modernity taking root in Iraq," in the heart of the Arab world, "and the autocrats fear democracy taking root there," Mr. Ibrahim said. Therefore, they are pulling out all the stops to make Iraq fail. America, Britain and their Iraqi allies must fail, the theocrats and autocrats say, so the Arab theocrats can tell their people that modernity is not an option and so the Arab autocrats can tell their people that democracy is not an option. The future of the Arab world is at stake here.

Nevertheless, thanks to the incredible sacrifice of U.S. and British soldiers, Iraqi elections have been held, a parliament convened. The process is indeed messy, and, given all the shameful mistakes by the Bush team, much deadlier than it had to be. But Mr. Ibrahim, who spent from 2000 to 2003 in an Egyptian prison for pushing free and fair elections in Egypt, is no starry-eyed dreamer, and he believes there's a decent chance that in a few years, Iraq will make its transition, build up an army and settle down.

"Every major transformation since Napoleon in this part of the world has been the function of an external jolt," Mr. Ibrahim said.

The best thing the Americans could do now to help this process is to move into the background in Iraq, he added. Let the Iraqis invite our help, but let's get out of their faces wherever possible. Also, Mr. Ibrahim said, "We need America to get back on the moral high ground that it has slid down from since 9/11."

Put aside the perhaps overwrought analogies to grand Napoleonic campaigns. Like Friedman, I've got much respect for Mr. Ibrahim, and we should take his words seriously. But there are a couple issues here. One is that Ibrahim has previously written elsewhere that he hopes Islamic parties in the Middle East, once allowed to participate in a more egalitarian democratic process, will over time moderate and become like European religious parties (like the Christian Democrats and such in Germany). But I'm far from sure SCIRI types in Iraq, say, will really go down this path, even looking over a 10-20 year time horizon. And, if not, a big part of Ibrahim's assumptions and hopes for the region would appear to fall by the wayside. The other issue is that Ibrahim advocates the U.S. getting "out of their faces wherever possible." In other words, let's trend down our participation in Iraq and only be active where we are explicitly invited to do so. This will go down well with Democrats like Kerry who are seeking more evidencing of the advisability of their calls for the U.S. to pull out (particularly when, as here, such action is advocated by regional experts), and it will also go down well with the Rumsfeld (and, to an extent, Abizaid) wing that talk of 'dependency' and the need to leave less and less of an occupation 'footprint' wherever possible. All well and good, you say. And then you are reminded, if you needed to be, just how god-awful the situation in places like Baghdad is, and you wonder, how can we be speaking of lessening our troop presence in Iraq, in the face of growing anarchy screaming out for some Leviathan to emerge?

Nir Rosen:

Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device.

I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya , or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.

Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq "the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere.

At first, the dominant presence of the U.S. military -- with its towering vehicles rumbling through Baghdad's streets and its soldiers like giants with their vests and helmets and weapons -- seemed overwhelming. The Occupation could be felt at all times. Now in Baghdad, you can go days without seeing American soldiers. Instead, it feels as if Iraqis are occupying Iraq, their masked militiamen blasting through traffic in anonymous security vehicles, shooting into the air, angrily shouting orders on loudspeakers, pointing their Kalashnikovs at passersby.

Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy. They, too, are killing Iraqis.

Not only do we have fewer troops in Iraq (from a post-invasion high of approximately 160,000 we are hovering around 130,000-135,000--and the political debate is almost always about trending down, very rarely trending up), but force posture has become more conservative. As the war has become more unpopular at home, efforts are being made to ensure casualty rates go down if at all possible. But all this comes at a cost. We are losing Baghdad, the center of the nation and a city that needs to remain unified if we are to have a prayer of seeing through a unitary Iraq, and we are roughly stalemated in Anbar (with places like Basra becoming increasingly problematic too). Zalmay Khalilzad, unlike Rumsfeld not a discredited and disingenuous fibber extraordinaire, said it plainly recently: "I believe that parts of Anbar are under the control of terrorists and insurgents."

It's not just the Ambassador, of course. Michael Ware has an excellent dispatch from Ramadi for Time detailing how critical the situation remains in Anbar. And, lo and behold, guess what remains a major problem? We still have too few troops in country, as John McCain recently stated too, in the context of an article on Afghanistan (which, by the way, is getting harder and harder slogging too): "The handoff to NATO [ed. note: McCain is speaking of Afghanistan here] is the right thing to do, but we should certainly assess our troop presence there...If you study the Iraq war, one of the major reasons for our difficulties clearly is that we never had enough troops on the ground, ever." "Ever" includes the present, of course, and he's absolutely right.

Back to Ware's Time piece:

There's no reason to believe that the Americans' battle against Iraqi insurgents is going to get better. With U.S. support for the war sinking, the Bush Administration is eager to show that sufficient progress is being made toward quelling the insurgency to justify a drawdown of the 133,000 troops in Iraq. The U.S. praised the naming of a new Iraqi Cabinet last week, even though it includes some widely mistrusted figures from the previous government. And even as commanders try to turn combat duties over to Iraqi forces and pull U.S. troops back from the front lines, parts of Iraq remain as deadly as ever. At least 18 U.S. troops died last week, raising the total killed since the invasion in March 2003 to 2,456.

Nowhere is the fighting more intense than in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and for the moment the seething heart of the Sunni-led insurgency. The city remains a stronghold of insurgents loyal to Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who U.S. intelligence believes is hiding in an area north of the city. In recent weeks, the soldiers and Marines in Ramadi have come under regular assault, forcing commanders last week to order reinforcements to the besieged city. In the past year, the Army's 2/28th Brigade Combat Team, the unit the Marines are attached to, has lost 79 men in Ramadi--yet the brigade's commander, Colonel John Gronski, says, "The level of violence remains about the same..."

....Sitting sentry in the center of town, the Marines are a ripe target for insurgent assaults. On April 24, mortars begin crashing down on the compound, and the shuddering impacts force the grunts to take cover in their rooftop bunkers. From an alley in the northeast, an insurgent fires a rocket-propelled grenade that slams a wall along the narrow mouth of a sandbagged gun pit. Shards of hot metal penetrate the opening, hitting Corporal Jonathan Wilson. Blood pours down his neck. "Corpsman up, corpsman up," he cries--asking for a medic to head to the roof. He runs downstairs and collapses into the arms of a sergeant.

Meanwhile, shrapnel has shredded the left thumb of Lance Corporal Adam Sardinas. But he keeps his finger on the trigger of a grenade launcher, and it's not until another Marine arrives to relieve him that he finally turns for the slit doorway. "Let me get outta here," he says. "I'm hit pretty bad." But the battle goes on: below the Marines' outpost, al-Qaeda fighters toting AK-47s dart in and out of view. As blood from Sardinas and Wilson pools at his feet, Sergeant William Morrow grips the grenade launcher. A fellow Marine spots an insurgent in the open. "Waste his ass," Tasayco urges as they open fire on the enemy below.

(BTW, I've got a new policy in these parts. I won't waste a second refuting any blogger who declares the Sunni insurgency "fundamentally finished" anymore. Because time is too tight, and playing with the kiddies in the sandbox arguing such prima facie bullshit isn't in the cards anymore. Those who believe that are simply abject cretins, and must be allowed to go their merry ways, thinking things are swell and hunky-dory. Life is too short, and we're done suffering fools over here).

More from Ware:

The bigger problem, though, is one that few in the military command want to hear: there aren't enough troops to do the job. "There's a realization, as every military commander knows, that you cannot be strong everywhere," says Gronski of Ramadi. "In the outlying areas, we think in terms of an economy of force where we are willing to accept risk by not placing as many troops." But while Gronski says his fighting strength is "appropriate," other commanders bristle at the limitations. "I can't believe it each time the Secretary of Defense talks about reducing force," says a senior U.S. officer. War planners in Iraq say just getting a handle on Ramadi demands three times as many soldiers as are there now. Several U.S. commanders say they won't ask superiors for more troops or plan large-scale operations because doing so would expose problems in the U.S.'s strategy that no one wants to acknowledge. "It's what I call the Big Lie," a high-ranking U.S. commander told TIME.

Iraq today is an intense maze of complexities. Sunni residents of Baghdad, ironically, increasingly want the Americans to stay. But Sunnis in Anbar, more cowed by al-Qaeda and neo-Baathists, are still mostly opposed (or sullen fence-sitters) with regard to the American presence, thus allowing Sunni nationalist insurgents to continue to attract recruits with relative ease so as to sustain its ranks. Meantime we are becoming more and more unpopular with the Shi'a, to the extent our continued presence has us protecting Sunnis from Shi'a militias. In short, you've got a nascent (and intensifying) Shi'a insurgency against the British in the south. You've got a Sunni-Shi'a low-grade civil war afoot. You've got, of course, the Sunni insurgency against the Americans mostly centered (albeit not exclusively) in Anbar. And then too, lest we forget, you've got Kurdish reverse Arabization efforts underway in Kirkuk and other parts of Kurdistan. So, you say, let's stand firm and see all this through, right? Why all the whinging from the side-lines?

But here's the rub. If the war effort is being manned, on a day to day basis, by a leader you view as ineffectual damaged goods (Rumsfeld), and if you believe we still don't have enough troops in country to win the war (as I do), how can you support the prosecution of the war effort anymore? Should we not be, at this stage, becoming more Barry Posen-like? The question to myself, and to my readers, boils down to this: if you believe, as the saying goes, that we have "just enough troops to lose", if you believe despite the valiant efforts of many troops doing great things at a individual unit level, that the lack of an overarching strategic 'macro' top-down plan will ultimately render many of such efforts ineffectual, how do you continue to support the war? Put differently, will the 2,500th or 3,000th American to die have died for anything noteworthy, or will he or she have died for nothing much more than empty bromides about seeing the effort through? This, it seems to me, is the question that people who still support the war effort, like BD, must wrestle with at the present time. There are no easy answers. Owen West writes, today:

We are at the outset of a long war, and not just in Iraq. Yet it is being led politically by the short-sighted, from both sides of the aisle. The deterioration of American support for the mission in Iraq is indicative not so much of our military conduct there, where real gains are coming slowly but steadily, but of chaotic leadership.

Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America's historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.

One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.

It is true that the much derided MSM (we are frequently told they file their dispatches from the Green Zone as they slurp down Scotches by imbeciles on the 'Right', although today CBS lost 2 and a third was critically injured) often focus on the latest suicide bombing devoid of "context" about, say, a successful 'clear, hold, build' effort underway in another part of the country. But, if you are like me, and you believe Baghdad is the strategic epicenter of Iraq, and that a Baghdad descending into Beirut like civil war means that the country will likely mostly disintegrate, then I'm afraid I am less optimistic than West. And so, again, on this Memorial Day, when we thank and remember the sacrifice of our troops over the decades, we must also ask, painful as it is, what precisely they are accomplishing at the present hour in Iraq? Yes, here and there they are making progress. Yes, they are staving off total anarchy. But, if you fear it's a slow grind that we are losing, rather than winning, particularly given the continued lack of credible leadership at the Pentagon, the continued incorrectly placed concerns on 'dependency' theory, the continued dearth of troops, you must, at least to some extent if you are honest with yourself ponder, would it be worth my life (or the life of my son or daughter)? And the answer, it seems to me, is a very, very, very close call indeed.

But that's not a fair answer, is it? Because it's not really an answer at all. Finally, all I can say is that I am deeply torn. If we withdraw hastily we will leave behind a dismembered, increasingly anarchic Iraq, leaving Iraqis to a tremendously bleak future, and likely providing significant safe havens to international terror groups. But if we stay, under the current leadership and force presence/posture, the same result might ultimately come about, with more costs in blood and treasure, only more slowly. So, what is to be done?

Posted by Gregory at May 30, 2006 01:55 AM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Gregory,

I think you already know the answer to your final question. The war was started under false pretenses and with imperial hubris. It cannot be won because there was no plan to win, no blue print for what was to be accomplished and what would constitute winning. Would you sacrifice a son or daughter? I think not. Perhaps yourself but your offspring: too precious for this mess. It would be different if we could effect stability but we will not now.

Oliver

Posted by: Oliver Chadwick at May 30, 2006 05:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Fundamentally, Greg's post here is about what is best for Iraq. I am more concerned about what is best for the United States.

From a purely tactical point of view it makes sense to deploy reinforcements to crush concentrations of Islamist fighters, for example around Ramadi. In the short term there is no chance of Iraq's ever being able to dial down the intensity of sectarian conflict as long as these fighters retain a stable base of operations; they will always seek to target Shiite "infidels," and Shiites will continue to turn to sectarian militias in self-defense.

But for the United States the short term cannot be the only consideration. Our imperative must be to liquidate the commitment in Iraq -- with a stable Iraqi government if possible, without one if necessary. Over the last three years Iraq has not only cost many lives. It has also cost more money by a factor of four or five than all the foreign assistance America has spent on the rest of the world, every last cent of which has been borrowed. It has absorbed the lion's share of the time and attention of anyone in Washington who works in the foreign policy field, time and attention that cannot be directed at the many areas of the world more important to America's future than one mid-sized Arab country. And it has bogged us down in an intellectual as well as a physical quagmire, as we try to figure out how to graft a form of government highly demanding of civic virtue onto a backward culture in which that concept is unknown.

How much longer are we to pump resources -- borrowed resources at that -- into this one country, a country that is likely to fail and which if it succeeds will not help us all that much? How much longer are we going to continue to act on the absurd idea that the key to America's future in the world is what Iraqis do? Granting that even commitments unwisely made by an American administration should not be lightly abandoned, for how much longer are we to bide our time in Iraq, waiting for Iraqi leaders to show by their actions that all the Bush administration's rhetoric about democracy in the Arab world was at least plausibly right and not merely fatuous?

In the past Greg has dealt with these questions mostly by not dealing with them. He has mostly attributed troubles in Iraq to failures of specific people and policies in the administration -- and I can at least share with him the understanding that an administration in which the public has little confidence is bound to be less able to sustain public support for something so serious as a war. I'm glad to see he is at least thinking of thinking about the grotesque lack of proportion in our foreign policy now. The fact is, as it always has been, that the objective the Bush administration set for itself in Iraq is only attainable by Iraqis, not by Americans. It is true, further, that the cost to America of pursuing this objective we cannot attain ourselves is not one we can afford. The ends, not just the means, of the Iraq commitment have been wanting. What this ought to mean for the future of that commitment has been clear to me for some time. It doesn't seem as if it is yet clear to Greg, and of course to the administration the thought may not even have occurred.

Posted by: Zathras at May 30, 2006 05:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


The idea that one mid-sized Arab country is the central issue of American foreign policy is of course crazy - but that's what most of the people shaping our foreign policy think. The real threat to the US is of course not Iraq - which was never a threat at all - no, craziness is the threat. We can get out of Iraq if we so choose, but how do we escape the problem of a nutty ruling class?

Posted by: gcochran at May 30, 2006 06:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, interesting discussion Greg.

Second, as to the first comment, "false pretences" and "imperial hubris" (as such) has fuck all to do with American failure in Iraq.

Getting yourself sidetracked with this nonsense doesn't get you anywhere.

Third, Zathras' discussion has quite a lot of merit. I wish, however, that he'd stop whanking on about Iraqi and regional culture as I know well he knows little. And frankly, writing things like "....as we try to figure out how to graft a form of government highly demanding of civic virtue onto a backward culture in which that concept is unknown" is stupid, shallow and vaguely bigotted.

Civic virtue of course is hardly unknown, the problem rather maps onto civic virtue is not anywhere strong enough to overcome the negative incentives of the hard men with guns, the spiraling security problem associated, and the spectacularly corrupt and incompetent launch to the new apparatus the US CPA-Iraq gave. A staffing of which that was rather devoid of ... civic virtue on the part of the American staff (civic virtue in this instance being in connexion with restraining the urge to line pockets and/or indulge in short-termist career boosting at the expense seeing general American objectives succeed).

Perhaps in the future our Georgia man who is smart and has interesting things to say can restrain himself from letting his superficially informed pedestrian bigotry get in the way of otherwise interesting comments.

Lounsbury
Aqoul.com

Posted by: the lounsbury at May 30, 2006 06:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I won't waste a second refuting any blogger who declares the Sunni insurgency "fundamentally finished" anymore. Because time is too tight, and playing with the kiddies in the sandbox arguing such prima facie bullshit isn't in the cards anymore. Those who believe that are simply abject cretins, and must be allowed to go their merry ways, thinking things are swell and hunky-dory. Life is too short, and we're done suffering fools over here).

OK! That's a good start.

These guys don't know they're discredited, though. And there appear to be a lot of guys in the administration who publicly refuse to admit it.

There's a quote that goes something like "It's nearly impossible to get a man to understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it."

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> one mid-sized Arab country

Well.

Saudi Arabia exports a lot more oil, but we're as close to their ruling class as we know how to be right now?

Russia exports a lot more oil -- hmm, what are we doing about getting some of that?

Norway also has a big surplus I think -- maybe we should be working on transhipping from siberia and across the arctic -- I have no idea if we are or if that really makes sense?

Iran produces a fair amount, and exports more than half of it, and additionally has a lot of natural gas reserves -- apparently our Iran strategy involves a very expensive occupation of Iraq and thoughts of attacking Iran. I admit it isn't clear to me how this leads to us getting more of their oil -- it seems to lead to China getting more of their oil, and Iran getting more Chinese weapons.

I won't speculate on Venezuala, or Nigera, as I don't know what we're doing vis-a-vis them.

Posted by: frank wallace at May 30, 2006 03:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What to do about Iraq?

That is a great question to ask. These are my thoughts. I have two options. This is the first.

1. Hold those who failed these past three years to create a stable Iraq responsible. That includes our president, vice president, defense secretary, his undersecretary, the generals who dismissed the need for greater numbers, Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, and everybody else at the Weekly Standard for their inherently flawed logic and visions, as well as any who broke military codes and standards in the treatment of prisoners and civilians. We need to reestablish that America stands for the rule of law.

2. Be honest with Americans. Tell them that the previous administration (because to accomplish this right, the Bush Administration must be removed from office), failed because they were more interested in political points, and in winning elections and establishing a dominant Republican government, rather than doing the right thing. Let Americans know that in order to fix the problem made by the previous administration, Americans will need to make an actual sacrifice. It will be costly. Give Americans the choice. Make it a referendum. Establish a mandate. Let them know that this is for the greater good.

3. Flood Iraq with American troops. Forget creating some international "coalition of the willing (or billing)". We've broken Iraq; we own Iraq. We fix Iraq. Flood the country with half a million troops. put them on every corner of the country. stifle the morass, the bog, the cesspool from which insurgents get their support. make it so there is no place for an insurgent to hide. Realize that for Iraq to work, and for this insurgency to end, we've got to think of Iraq like a colony.

4. Create a situation in which the Sunnis and Shi'ites both can get out their frustrations of the past without killing each other in the present. Let them know there is no toleration of tribal killings.

5. Create the structure of the government we wish them to establish. By de-Baathifying the country, we removed all professional and experienced government workers. We cannot expect untrained workers to know how to run a government from scratch without training wheels.

6. Take hold of the country for at least 5-10 years, and let the Iraqis know that this is how it will be. With 500,000 soldiers guarding every corner, tell Iraqis that they can either choose to help us out, or they can choose to try and take on our soldiers. It will inevitably be their choice, but make sure that the "insurgent" choice is not as proficient as it has been in the previous administration.

7. Get the support of any country that is willing to support, but let them know that our intentions are to fix the problem we began, and we will ensure that Iraq turns out alright.

or here is option 2.

1. get out of the country and let the Iraqis duke it out. Let them air out their frustrations on each other until they are tired of fighting and one side comes out on top.

2. understand that whatever comes out, we have to accept it for what it is.

there are no other options that could possibly work in Iraq right now. The direction things are going right now are terrible and counterproductive.

those are my thoughts.

Posted by: Daniel at May 30, 2006 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the U.S. recently halted appropriations for rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure. And at the same time that external help is diminishing, Iraq is losing its most valuable internal resource, its educated classes.

We can talk about counterinsurgency tactics and governmental structures for eternity, but it's all a diverting parlor game if the Iraqi economy is hollowed out. I always figured this war would be a vast strategic error, but I do believe in the "you broke it, you bought it" line of thinking -- we owe Iraq a tremendous moral debt. Now, however, I don't see how American forces can accomplish anything useful there: Our political system will never allocate the resources that are really necessary (yet another development that was obvious before the war began). So more and more I'm leaning toward the "get out now" camp.

Posted by: sglover at May 30, 2006 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Napoleon's invasion of Egypt may have brought the European enlightenment to Egypt, but it did little good to Napoleon, and more importantly, to the army he took with him, very few of whom returned to France.

Posted by: TomS at May 30, 2006 03:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Daniel's got it: either do it right - which means saturating Iraq with US troops - or don't do it at all; i.e., leave now.

Posted by: CaseyL at May 30, 2006 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given that any plan for victory at this point-- even one perfect in conception handed down from God on high-- would depend on more or less the same "leadership" (and I use that term loosely) that created the current mess (given that Bush will be President for the next two and a half years), I think there simply can be no plan for victory. Which means we should leave. I hate to say it, because I did support the war at the outset-- I don't know why I trusted the administration to get this right, but I did. I was stupid, clearly. And also because our leaving will bring an even more complete hell to Iraq. But there is simply no course of action that this White House is capable of that will not end up in disaster anyway, at much greater cost in US treasure and blood than if we bail out now. There are no "turning points," "milestones," "watersheds" or any other damn thing coming down the pike to save our efforts there. There are no damned "last throes." We can leave now or leave later, and the only difference will be how many die in the meantime.

Posted by: Jeff in Texas at May 30, 2006 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the problem is that we have had no leader in the White House for over six years now.

What we have is a frightened, bewildered juvenile, who has no idea what he is doing. He has no ideas at all, in fact, except that he must do everything possible to conceal his own weakness and helplessness.

Luckily for him, he has always had the help of a subservient press willing to tell him that paralysis is toughness and panic is resolve. So he continues in a state of paralysis and panic, frantically doing nothing at all.

For years I have been advocating what CaseyL said: do it right, with a tripling of troops and a full-scale Marshall Plan. Or get out.

But neither of these can happen so long as we have the gutless loser in the White House. So our great nation drifts onto the shoals.

We must have a change of leadership--at the Pentagon, and at the White House. The country cannot survive much more of this debacle.

Posted by: moreIn at May 30, 2006 04:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Judge the tree by its fruit, as far as Arab culture is concerned. Count the cost and assess the likelihood of success in the context of history, as far as attempting to create an Arab democracy in Iraq is concerned.

As far as Lounsbury is concerned I have little to say. My paramount concern is American interests; his is not. I regard most areas of the world as more important to the United States than the Arab countries, which have oil and not much else of value, and view the right course of American relations toward the Arab countries as primarily involving damage control; his business associations in the Arab countries appear from his writing to have given Lounsbury such sense of personal identity as he has. We are bound therefore to be always talking past one another in this forum.

I am glad nonetheless that he found my remarks upthread interesting.

Posted by: Zathras at May 30, 2006 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How do we get to having enough troops? If there were 200,000 extra troops sitting around then the answer would be easy. But to get "enough troops" we have to recruit them, send them, and train them. Is that even feasible?

The problem with the hawks on Iraq has always been thus. Our troop strength was a known quantity. So were the troops sent the last time around (it was around 420,000). To get us to go on Iraq, we either had to accept that we needed to get a lot more troops to deal with the threat, or buy the administration's leaner meaner staffing would work. Alas, the country, not really understanding the issue, went with (b).

But there was never, ever a real argument about troop strength, or any kind of cost benefit with Iraq. And so...this.

If it were a matter of 10K, 20K troops, I think we try to stick it out. But 100K? 200K?. Greg. Where are they coming from? And why would the country not revolt?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at May 30, 2006 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Moderate, getting the troops is no problem if we choose to get them.

Simply arrange the economy so there are essentially no jobs for high school graduates apart from hamburger flipping. That takes care of a lot of it right there.

Then arrange that college loans dry up except for veterans. That takes care of the rest of it.

Then make a bunch of patriotic speeches about what a wonderful thing it is that just when we needed them, America's youth responded to the call and did their heroic duty.

Easy. Simple. Cheap.

There's the problem that, though the data is mostly classified, in a variety of locations women in the military have had around a 15%/year pregnancy rate. If the big majority of 18-year-old women joined, it might be true for them too. But apart from the problems that causes the military, a new baby boom might do us some good.

But there is the problem that it takes a long training program to get competent in today's hi-tech military. Maybe we could train a bunch of people just to be occupation troops? Maybe we could train them pretty fast, apart from learning arabic which is a big deal.

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

hey, if men could figure out a way to avoid combat by having sex, you can bet the rate would be a lot higher than 15% per year for the male drop-outs, too.

Posted by: unImp at May 30, 2006 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with J Thomas in that it is actually not that hard to get extra troops. What is hard about it is that it will actually require a sacrifice from regular Americans. Bush thinks he can win wars with regular Americans living their lives normally, totally detached from the war itself. No wonder his support has dropped so quickly and so significantly. Most Americans have no attachment to what happens in Iraq.

It was inevitable that the War in Iraq was going to head in this direction because from the onset, the plan (or lack thereof) laid out by the Bush Administration was severely flawed.

1. In order to nation-build, you need a seriously large number of troops.

2. In order to get approval for the use of such a large number of troops, you need political capital that you fear you will not have if you actually ask your people for a real sacrifice.

therefore, since you really desire this war, you try to get the best of both worlds, as many troops as you can, while you promote the war as having as little impact as possible on the nation and the economy. the obvious problem with this is that all plans go to hell the moment the first shot is fired.

You can get the necessary troop level you require, but it will be costly for the regular American. Bush failed to ask America for that sacrifice. Instead, he told Americans to just go on living their regular lives and trust him.

Posted by: Daniel at May 30, 2006 06:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh yes, Unlmp!

If american 18-year-old males found out they could avoid combat by having sex, I'm sure a lot of them woud find ways to make the sacrifice and avoid celibacy.

But it isn't enough to have sex. You have to get pregnant. A lot of men would rather go into combat than make *that* sacrifice. Any of their friends who saw them pregnant would laugh at them.

;)

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

unImp, J Thomas--

You're both forgetting something.

There *was* a mechanism like this during the Vietnam war, and our current Chicken-Hawk in Chief used it.

Remember? Dick Cheney got out of the draft by having a kid. They announced the deferment for fathers, and nine months and one day later, if I recall the details, the Cheney's first child was born.

And you see? He didn't even have to put up with swollen ankles.

Of course, that was only one of the five or so times that Dick the Chick skipped out of combat.

Posted by: don't at May 30, 2006 06:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"How do we get to having enough troops? If there were 200,000 extra troops sitting around then the answer would be easy. But to get "enough troops" we have to recruit them, send them, and train them. Is that even feasible?"

Short answer: No. And the Bush Admin knew that going in, too.

Less short answer: No. It isn't now; it might have been, way back when - back when Shineseiki et al. were saying we needed at least 250,000 troops; back when Rumsfeld was saying, no we don't; back when there was no debate over the war other than how fast we could start one; back when anyone who asked serious questions about troop strength was being written off as not sufficiently loyal, or not sufficiently patriotic, or not sufficiently bellicose, or not sufficiently Christ-knows-what.

So you see, that's the problem: In order to succeed in Iraq, we need 500,000 troops - which, barring a draft, we are not going to find. But the reason we don't have those 500,000 now is the same reason we didn't go in with the 250,000 minimum Shinskeiki et al., called for: because it did not suit the pathological incompetents and liars in the WH, and their even more pathological enablers in the Congress and MSM and punditocracy, to plan a realistic and workable strategy, to be honest about what it would take to "win" in Iraq.

And now that the situation in Iraq is so bad, and the US' presense there so tarnished, that it has to be seen as such by anyone not certifiably insane - now that it's even LESS likely there will be another 250,000 much less 500,000 troops... there is simply no point in staying in Iraq.

Posted by: CaseyL at May 30, 2006 07:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JThomas:

Politicians do prefer reelection to having to find jobs in the private sector, so I don't see much hope for your suggeston. In any event, it takes time to ruin an economy to the extent you suggest. Maybe, if we enact Freace's employment protections, we can get there in 10 years or so. So, perhaps not so easy.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at May 30, 2006 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

greg

Id like to discuss this. But my sense is that anything I say about Iraq that is not pessimistic, will be taken as apologia for Donald Rumsfeld and the administration. It will blended with the silly things said by Mr Cheney, or by some right wing bloggers.


Robert Kagan had a good article in the WaPo on why its ESSENTIAL to elect a Dem as president in 2008. We have to get away from the assumption that this debate is all about the admin, that the war on terrorism is something made up by Bush and co. (he wasnt speaking speficially to Iraq, but I think it applies there as well)

Do we have just enough to lose? I dont know, Greg. I still dont understand, for example, why, if Sadrs support in the Shia community is so overwhelming, he has been content to remain inside a United Iraqi Alliance that gives him less than a quater of the slots on its list? Youre right Ramadi is largely out of control. But whats interesting about those stories, is the sheiks saying they WOULD break with Zarqawi if given the chance. As sheiks elsewhere seem to have done. Will one more brigade be enough to tame Ramadi? I dont know. Should we focus more on Ramadi or Baghdad? I dont know. How efficient is the Iraqi army, overall? well ive seen lots of articles that indicate considerable progress - but I'll be damned if Im gonna say that the forecasts of Iraqi control over most of the country by end of Dec 2006 are realistic. I suspect theyre not. And of course alot depends on who the next Interior Minister is, and how effective they are at reforming the police - and a week after the rest of the cabinet was announced, we still dont know who that will be.

Posted by: liberalhawk at May 30, 2006 09:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Moderate, the Bush administration could fix the economy to do those two things in 6 months, easy. Getting rid of the college loans would be no problem at all, a minor change in the tax structure would be enough to dry those up. Similarly, a hefty increase in the minimum wage could make it uneconomic to hire most 18-year-olds, and many of those jobs could go to illegal immigrants.

That's one approach each. Lots of other methods would work too. Probably more effective to do several at once to make it harder to track what the actual causes were.

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas:

of course, you assume that the Congress would vote for all these ideas. if Congress were that dismissive of public opinion, then they could have just voted in a draft and solved the problem directly.

(It is amazing how utterly surreal comment threads can be.)

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at May 30, 2006 09:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Robert Kagan had a good article in the WaPo on why its ESSENTIAL to elect a Dem as president in 2008. We have to get away from the assumption that this debate is all about the admin, that the war on terrorism is something made up by Bush and co. (he wasnt speaking speficially to Iraq, but I think it applies there as well)

The "War on Terror" most definitely IS something made up by Bush and company. It's of a piece with the equally quixotic, equally inane "War on Drugs" -- something guaranteed to be endless, with ever-shifting "goals", perpetual "crises", and an inexhaustible appetite for public treasure.

Unless you're gonna persuade me that Osama is going to somehow plant his Caliphate in Des Moines, it seems to me that we could go a long way toward deflating "terror" if our "leaders" stopped playing up fear, and spoke to the maggotry in candid terms, thus:

Yes, it is quite possible that bin Ladenites and their ilk will again inflict casualties on American soil. Your government is going to work to make it very difficult for them (e.g., monitoring ports, protecting dangerous industrial targets, diverting hazardous cargoes from population centers, etc.). But remember that other advanced societies have coped with this same problem, and that the likelihood of any one of you dying in an act of sabotage is minute. Let's not lose our best traditions in a search for absolute security from demons.

Posted by: sglover at May 30, 2006 09:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

oh god...a "liberalhawk". God save us from the like.
It's "liberalhawk" and those like him/her that have helped get us into this mess. Why should his optimism be taken seriously at all?

Posted by: Angryman at May 30, 2006 10:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,


See what I mean?

Posted by: liberalhawk at May 30, 2006 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Yes, it is quite possible that bin Ladenites and their ilk will again inflict casualties on American soil. Your government is going to work to make it very difficult for them (e.g., monitoring ports, protecting dangerous industrial targets, diverting hazardous cargoes from population centers, etc.). But remember that other advanced societies have coped with this same problem, and that the likelihood of any one of you dying in an act of sabotage is minute. Let's not lose our best traditions in a search for absolute security from demons."


The other advanced societies that have dealt with the problem of the global network of Islamist terrorism, have supported the war in Afghanistan, and the global struggle against AQ, even if not our policy in Iraq. None of them think its adequate to focus entire on infrastructure protection.

And no serious Democrat thinks we should focus entirely on infrastructure protection. Thank you for making my point for me.

Posted by: liberalhawk at May 30, 2006 10:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Armed Liberal, they could mostly eliminate college loans with IRS interpretations, no need to involve congress. Minimum wage would take congress, probably better to use one of the other methods. Bump up minimum wage a little, to help, but don't use it as the main method.

I agree it gets surreal.

Angryman, I take Liberalhawk seriously when he comes up with interesting or useful ideas, and mostly ignore him otherwise. It's easier on the liver to do it that way. Try it, maybe you won't be angry all the time.

Of course, ideas can be interesting in more than one way.

Liberalhawk said, but I'll be damned if Im gonna say that the forecasts of Iraqi control over most of the country by end of Dec 2006 are realistic.

I think it's very very likely that iraqis will control most of the country by then end of 2006. Very very likely. The question is, *which* iraqis....

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The other advanced societies that have dealt with the problem of the global network of Islamist terrorism, have supported the war in Afghanistan, and the global struggle against AQ, even if not our policy in Iraq. None of them think its adequate to focus entire on infrastructure protection.

That would be the Afghanistan war that we're pulling troops from, no?

Funny, I don't recall Germany or Spain or the UK invading countries that were tangential to their own terror problem. I can see why you'd want to gloss over that minor incongruity. Talk about making other people's points for them.....

And, by the way -- you should drop the "poor me, victimized by all the Michael Moore types". You've been spreading the shit wide and deep more consistently than maybe any other poster here. If you're called out for it, if the Dr. Pangloss routine gets you nothing but raspberries from the gallery, maybe you ought to take a second look at the schtick.

Posted by: sglover at May 30, 2006 11:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And no serious Democrat thinks we should focus entirely on infrastructure protection.

I'm not at all a serious democrat, but I believe that the focus should be primarily on infrastructure protection etc, and second on police methods.

See, once we tell the world that we have utterly inadequate defense against sabotage, we can expect to be hit that way by anybody who really wants to hit us. Putting most of our resources into catching yesterday's terrorists is not good enough.

Posted by: J Thomas at May 30, 2006 11:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really, I love you, liberalhawk. More specifically, I love the vast discrepancy between how you react to arguments posed by BD and the same ones posed by commentors here. Some of us in here have been arguing that we had no chance of using military force to tame this insurgency and create the new Switzerland for years, and we were just your friendly neighborhood liberal wack jobs. But as BD moves one step at a time down the road to perdition, you squirm every which way but calling him wrong or agreeing with him. You have a belief system, not an analytic capability. Most people here think you're a putz for not your willful blindness, and I don't blame them.

BD has taken an agonizingly long time to get the drift, but I give him credit where it's due - he doesn't blithely dismiss Iraqis and US soldiers dying by the thousand as worth showing the size of our d*ck, ad infinitum.

BD, it's not just about the troops, although, honestly, I'll settle for that, if that's what you focus on as the fundamental flaw - at least you can see some sort of fundamental flaw. The fundamental flaw is the inability of western nations to democracies to win counter-insurgencies in foreign-occupied countries.

The only counter-insurgency wins are negotiated "wins" *(usually draws, at best) or very, very nasty - horrifically violent wins carried out by local proxies. The first answer is politically unpalatable, and the second option is also politically unpalatable and also 100% contrary to our prime humanitarian (or whatever) objective.

This war was strategically flawed from the beginning, but we could have pulled victory from the jaws of defeat by unliterally declaring a truce with the Sunni insurgency after Fallujah and using our withdrawal as a bargaining chip for the best unity coalition we could manage. But we didn't, and now the Shiites are too empowered too need us anymore, and heads will roll. And you're right. It's out fault.
We broke it. We own it.

Posted by: glasnost at May 31, 2006 01:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> our prime humanitarian (or whatever) objective.

Given how Reagan supported Saddam during the Anfel, and given how Bush Sr sat by with the troops watching Saddam during the helicopter massacres of the Kurds, maybe we can put aside the pretense that we attacked him ten years later out of humanitarian outrage for those genocides... Or is there some other humanitarian reason (or pretense) here?

Posted by: frank wallace at May 31, 2006 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If we withdraw hastily we will leave behind a dismembered, increasingly anarchic Iraq, leaving Iraqis to a tremendously bleak future, and likely providing significant safe havens to international terror groups. But if we stay, under the current leadership and force presence/posture, the same result might ultimately come about, with more costs in blood and treasure, only more slowly. So, what is to be done?"

You've provided the answer to your own question. If we cut and run, we fail with near certainty.

If we stick it out, failure is a possibility but not a certainty.

Posted by: mike at May 31, 2006 04:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mike, what do you think our military is accomplishing?

We aren't doing anything toward security for iraqis, outside the Green Zone. We're basicly one more militia, a very strong one that mostly doesn't speak the language and that has a big grudge against some of the others.

We're providing logistics for the iraqi army, which does not provide security for iraqis but which under our orders fights some of the other militias.

We aren't providing protection for reconstruction work -- that job got left to $1000/day or $2000/day private security forces and now we've cut off the funding.

What result are we even aiming for that isn't failure?

Posted by: J Thomas at May 31, 2006 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we stick it out, failure is a possibility but not a certainty.

What will not failing be? I'm serious -- I really want to know what war advocates believe we can accomplish at this point. The best case, the very best case I can imagine, now, is a state with the same borders that the British drew up, ruled by a guy not terribly different from the '70's-era Saddam. He'll need to be a right brutal bastard, because he'll be riding herd over an economic basketcase whose most talented and progressive members will be gone -- dead or fled. Real fucking inspiring, that picture....

Posted by: sglover at May 31, 2006 05:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The thing that really bothers me about the prospect of leaving -- what happens to the Iraqis who worked for, were funded by, or supported America ? I don't mean the Allawi's or the Chalabi's -- the high and mighty have a habit of landing on their feet and have their own militias and undoubtedly have their own money siphoned off via corruption from reconstruction money, or Iraqi Government funds.

I mean the translator who worked for a US ministry, the school teacher whose school was funded by the US or the like. What happens to them if the US leaves ?

Posted by: erg at May 31, 2006 12:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Incidentally, could Basra be considered a "model" for post withdrawal Iraq ? The Brits largely withdrew and in Basra we seem to have rule by criminal gangs and miltias.

Posted by: erg at May 31, 2006 01:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Erg, they'll get the same thing that they're getting now - killed one by one. That's the big problem. In any occupation/guerrilla war, an obvious first step is to kill those who are collaborating. This seems to have been done successfully - there have been repeated news articles where people who work with US forces don't tell their families. The police have been a prime target, and they can't even protect themselves. That means that we are operating largely blind, and with clumsy implements. That right there dooms a nation-building operation.

Posted by: Barry at May 31, 2006 02:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Owen West:

"We are at the outset of a long war, and not just in Iraq. Yet it is being led politically by the short-sighted, from both sides of the aisle. "

This is nothing but a flat-out lie. The people who are in charge are all from the Republican Party. Every screw-up is strictly their fault, their blame, their guilt - and I use 'guilt' as a literal, legal term.

Posted by: Barry at May 31, 2006 02:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mike's

"You've provided the answer to your own question. If we cut and run, we fail with near certainty. If we stick it out, failure is a possibility but not a certainty."

sounds like an argument in favor of Hitler's disastrous debacle at Stalingrad.

That is, it sounds like an argument in favor of never retreating from any battle, no matter how Pyrrhic.

This is obviously a potentially disastrous failure of judgement.

I wonder if this is really what he intended to argue.

Posted by: frank wallace at May 31, 2006 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The thing that really bothers me about the prospect of leaving -- what happens to the Iraqis who worked for, were funded by, or supported America ?

We really ought to offer them a ride out.

Come to think of it, if that was one of the perks of working with us it might be a lot easier to get iraqis to work with us.

But the safer way for iraqi collaborators is to work for us and work for the resistance both. Then they get us paying them, and the resistance not killing them. But there's the problem that the resistance isn't all that unified, so one insurgent group might kill the informer that another group depends on. There's no safe path for iraqis.

And of course iraqis who collaborate with us hoping they can come to the USA when it falls apart, don't have the full incentive to make things work. So maybe it's better to pull out whoever we can when we leave, but don't tell them ahead of time that we will. Let them think they have no alternative but to work their little hearts out for victory because they're going to die if they fail. And then rescue whoever we can at the last minute.

Posted by: J Thomas at May 31, 2006 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And of course iraqis who collaborate with us hoping they can come to the USA when it falls apart, don't have the full incentive to make things work. So maybe it's better to pull out whoever we can when we leave, but don't tell them ahead of time that we will. Let them think they have no alternative but to work their little hearts out for victory because they're going to die if they fail. And then rescue whoever we can at the last minute.

So a canny bin Ladenite signs up to help the occupiers, and eventually gets evac'd back to the Far Enemy -- courtesy of the Far Enemy himself!

Awesome! GW Bush, Osama's premier partner in building the American al-Qaeda network! There's a certain perverse beauty to the whole thing.....

Posted by: sglover at May 31, 2006 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let's all remember to fight like its 1941!!!

I'm tough and liberal and I believe we should nuke evil!

(See I have a big one...please believe me when I tell you I have a big one and I am not a wimp)

Posted by: Roid-Rage-Liberal-With-A-Gun at May 31, 2006 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The people who are in charge are all from the Republican Party. Every screw-up is strictly their fault, their blame, their guilt - and I use 'guilt' as a literal, legal term.

This is literally true. But still there are some Democrats who are not entirely blameless.

Some Democrats in Congress went along with the Republicans and didn't oppose them. Even though the Republicans would have done exactly the same things without that support, still tjhose Democrats were equally to blame compared to the Republicans who voted the same way.

And some Democrats opposed the war. Every time they saiid something against the war, every insurgent in iraq immediately heard about it and got cheered up. If we'd been united it wouldn't have been that way.

If only we'd been able to persuade every single iraqi that every single american agreed. If every iraqi knew that if the USA lost the occupation to the point that we pulled outo f iraq then we would all cheer when Bush gave the order to nuke iraq until every single iraqi was dead. Then they'd do their best to adapt to us and the resistance would instantly stop.

But by showing iraqis that we weren't unainimously in favor of everything we did in iraq, the war has dragged out.

So it isn't just Republicans. Every Democrat who supported or opposed the war is also culpable.

Something abot my argument leaves me with a nameless doubt, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe I shouldn't post after the fifth cup of coffee.

Posted by: J Thomas at May 31, 2006 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think we have all the time in the world to get it right. Look how we liberated these two women just the other day:


BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women — one of them about to give birth — when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in a city north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials and relatives said Wednesday.

Freedom on the March

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at May 31, 2006 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You mean those buildings in NYC really was something Hollywood came up with.

Could have fooled me.

Amazing.

Posted by: joe at May 31, 2006 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq's Prime Minister today declared a State of Emergency for Basra, the main city in mostly Shiate southern Iraq following a wave of murders of about 140 people, mainly Sunnis.
In Baghdad, Sunni bombers & Shiate death squads continue to slaughter whatever Shiates & Sunnis they can. Elsewhere in Iraq, Sunni insurgents continue to kill those Iraqis who work with the US-backed govt. Complete story can be found at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/24/irag/main541815.shtml

Posted by: David All at May 31, 2006 10:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>You mean those buildings in NYC really was something Hollywood came >up with

Quick. How many of the hijackers were Iraqis?

a.) 19

b.) 3

c.) 1

d.) None of the goddamed above

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at June 1, 2006 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You mean those buildings in NYC really was something Hollywood came up with.

Ah, Joe, I have no idea who or what you're responding to here.

But I want to point out that our attempts at port security etc have been pretty much ineffective so far, despite the mild warning we got from 9/11.

9/11 was not really a serious attack. We lost around 3000 people and one large building. Luckily they hit the Pentagon on the side that was finishing up a lot of remodeling that gave some defenses against just that sort of attack. There weren't so many people in that wing.

Losing the WTC is not really a serious loss. Losing Cincinnati would be a serious loss. We are doing very little to forestall that unless the attackers are connected to al qaeda.

Posted by: J Thomas at June 1, 2006 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For some depressing, but accurate news from Baghdad, go read Zeyad's latests posts at http://healingiraq.blogspot.com . Especially read his NYT post on the death of the owner of his neighborhood's electriciy generator.

Gerrit has it right. The sooner we get out of Iraq, hopefully leaving something halfway stable behind, the better.

Posted by: David All at June 1, 2006 10:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

The biggest problem I have with your line of argument is how do we square the still sky-high morale and reenlistment rates of our troops if the lack of progress is so overwhelming? I am a card carrying member of the imbiciles-trashing-the-MSM set, and was very offended that said MSM chose the Memorial Day weekend to showcase their saturnalia about Haditha. I've argued before in these comments that if WWII was covered by our current press corps the drive from Normandy to the Rhine would have been portrayed as an unremitting saga of rape and pillage. [Over 500 troops were court marshalled for gang rape in that campaign.] The big difference is that WWII, after June 21, 1941, was popular with the intelligencia and the avant garde because it became a war to make the world safe for the gulag. If this war was not fought for Halliburton and those rascally Republicans the prism we view these sacrifices would be entirely different.

Posted by: wks at June 2, 2006 11:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks, I'm not convinced that high morale trumps facts...

I thought I saw that the FCC was investigating the, hmm, who? the administration or the Pentagon for seeding false stories to mislead the US media, but even if the US media has been seeded with a lot of pro-war propaganda, even the non-pro-war stuff that has slipped through is enough to show that the claim that the war was won several years ago is apparently false.

Posted by: frank wallace at June 3, 2006 02:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wks,

Are you calling the brave American warriors of WW2 an army of gang raping thieves?

You freakin traitor!

Posted by: NeoDude at June 3, 2006 06:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NeoDude,

I said that our current press corps would call the "Good War" a pillage by gang raping thieves. Indeed, if you read The Nation, The New Republic, etc. prior to June 21, 1841 you see that was the politically correct view of the British, French and Finns' efforts against the feisty little populist in Germany and Uncle Joe in the worker's paradise. It was only after Operation Barbarrosa began that the printing presses were stopped, editorials rewritten, and the editorial stance of those publications was redirected - with a 180 degree pivot - that WWII became the "Good War." Orwell wrote a scene in "1984" where the Party Line turns in the middle of a mass rally/propaganda harangue to commemorate that switch.

Posted by: wks at June 3, 2006 12:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1941 before someone points it out - sorry for the typo.

Posted by: wks at June 3, 2006 12:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bullshit, American right-wingers were always against a war with fellow German right-wingers.

It was liberals and leftists who never trusted German Nationalists/Right-Wing Statist...American Nationalists/Right-Wing Statist have always viewed fellow Americans as a greater threat than say Right-Wing Nationalist in other parts of the globe.

Why do you think Bin-Laden is still free and you call leftys defeatist?

Posted by: NeoDude at June 3, 2006 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You American Right-Wingers would have given the Axis powers a handjob and then would have jailed union organizers and progressives, if you were in power on Dec. 7 1941.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 3, 2006 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NeoDude, you're objectifying. Just because some people who could be labeled Right Wing supported Hitler 65+ years ago, doesn't have to say anything about people who can be kabled Right Wing today.

Posted by: J Thomas at June 3, 2006 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That's what you think.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 4, 2006 02:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

NeoDude, *it doesn't have to*. They might have reformed since their grandfathers' days -- if it was even their grandfathers.

This is considered a moderately conservative board. Why come in and insult people? What good does it do you, beyond that little warm glow from sassing people in their own place?

Posted by: J Thomas at June 4, 2006 03:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You do not believe there is ideological evolution?

All snark aside, really....I mean you do not need to be a right-Hegelian or left-Hegelian to believe this; however it seems that there is indeed...ideological political traditions that propel and influence the following generation.

It seems obvious that right-wingers always attempt to claim the pass, even if it is way out of their political tradition...because that seems to be their characteristic....to claim the pass as theirs. Even though it was their ideological class preventing progressive change.

I mean, now they yearn for JFK!? Truman!? FDR?! Of course, always lie about their relationship to progressive change, in history, while attempting to install reactionary theories.

I know there used to be an isolationists stripe through America’s right-wing….but the right-wing Nationalists are stronger and when there are darkies to be strung-up, isolationists and libertarians are being wimps…the reactionary authoritarians need their blood---rational planning is for the soft.

Another generation and they'll be singing Carter's praises and wonder why today’s progressives do not have his foresight and commitment, while they continue to kill in the name of human rights and America’s greatness.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 4, 2006 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

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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