January 21, 2007

Lieberman to Bush: "Be Bold"

"Mr. President, I have two words for you...Be bold. "

Is a barely convincing "surge", one likely doomed to failure, what passes for boldness these days? I find this kind of intellectual enablement of POTUS rather shabby, I'm afraid. Joe Lieberman seems to be auditioning for the history books as some Arthur Vandenberg in reverse (politics stopping at the water's edge, etc etc). But someone should clue him in that he's falling well short. Vandenberg was assisting Truman in erecting a soberly constructed multilateral order based on policy initiatives like forging the NATO Alliance and pursuing the Marshall Plan. Lieberman is casually conflating al-Qaeda with Iran, providing "independent" cover for a dangerous unilateral escalation of the Iraq conflict, and pooh-poohing the urgent need for diplomacy in the region with our adversaries. His policies, unlike Vandenberg's which were non-indulgent, cautious, and methodical, are instead likelier to stoke further chaos in the region. History will not treat the Senator from Connecticut kindly, unless this 'hail mary pass' accomplishes miracles, the chances of which are slim indeed.

Posted by Gregory at January 21, 2007 05:17 PM
Comments

You prefer this instead, Greg?

The Senate is preparing to undercut the president and the troops by passing a "non-binding" resolution that will signal our enemies that all they need to do is survive the new battle for Baghdad and take as many American lives as possible and the support for the war will collapse.  The resolution will have the immediate effect of telling the troops that they don't have the support of the Congress and that they are being asked to sacrifice for a battle which the Congress of the United States believes is already lost.

Posted by: neill at January 21, 2007 06:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill--

So what's your position? An indefinite occupation with troop strength insufficient to attain a decisive result? A draft to introduce the required troop strength sometime in 2008? Picking a side, and assisting in genocide?

Having told us what that position is, can you describe what the objective is? Not the BS "victory" or "success" but a clear mission objective.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 21, 2007 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 21, 2007 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Unfortunately, these guys seem to have confused bold and stubborn. Bold would be sending in 150,000 troops, whose mission would be limited to providing security for massive reconstruction projects across the country. Not necessarily wise or advisable, mind you. But bold. The president's plan? Oh for three, I'd say.

Posted by: judah at January 21, 2007 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The resolution will have the immediate effect of telling the troops that they don't have the support of the Congress and that they are being asked to sacrifice for a battle which the Congress of the United States believes is already lost.

actually, given that "the troops" don't believe in the war effort anymore either, the resolution will be telling the troops "we're with you"...

Posted by: p.lukasiak at January 21, 2007 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Monica Lewinsky did more for Lieberman's career than anything that Joementum did himself. If not for her, he never would have got on the first rung of the Sunday TeeVee gasfest ladder. He'd be what he really is, a compliant tool of the finance industry, and an obscure back-bencher like Baucus or Grassley.

Posted by: sglover at January 21, 2007 10:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Joe Lieberman seems to be auditioning for the history books as some Arthur Vandenberg in reverse (politics stopping at the water's edge, etc etc). But someone should clue him in that he's falling well short. "

"Quisling" might be a good comparison.

Posted by: brendan at January 21, 2007 11:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Surge, and the debate, aren't about the War in Iraq. They're about the War about Iraq in the United States. In that struggle, Bush has no more loyal friend than Holy Joe.

Bold would be cancellation of the tax cuts, a draft, and hanging everyone associated with Abu Ghraib (with the correct size rope, though). The Surge is just another attempt to give Pres. Alfred E. Neumann back the "Bring it On" mojo he once had. The second time is farce.

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at January 21, 2007 11:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You, sir, are not serious.

Posted by: Few Fewitt at January 22, 2007 12:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill's position? How about bent over and slurping away??

Posted by: los at January 22, 2007 12:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'I'd advise against this 'surge' into the area of the enemy-held area, General, sir. Highly risky, and if it fails, then what? There's no question we'll have higher losses. We simply don't have enough men, we're at half-strength, at best, because of sickness and injury, and they outnumber us 3 to 1. We'll be crossing the river at night in fast current. It's madness, General Washington, madness!'

'Boldness, lieutenant! Boldness will carry the day!!'

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 02:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There was quite a detailed essay a few weeks ago, Neill, on Washington's Trenton attack. (I'll have to see if I can track it down). He thought it out VERY carefully, and he concluded that it was a worthwhile roll of the dice for the simple reason that the revolutionaries' cause was going so disastrously at that point that a victory there -- despite the huge risks -- was the ONLY possible way left to win the war. He carried out that attack because he had absolutely nothing to lose by doing so, which made it a rational and wise decision.

Now tell me, Neill: how much will we gain in the overall worldwide War Against Megaterrorism (especially nuclear terrorism) if the Incredible Shrinking Surge succeeds, how much will we lose if it fails, and what are the chances of success? Answers: (1) a lot; (2) a lot: and (3) almost none. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Meanwhile, it has become excruciatingly clear that Lieberman is about as much use to this nation as a second belly button. His "advice" (and McCain's) to "be bold", without ever quite getting around to letting us know what to be bold WITH, reminds me of the Captain's command in the movie "Yellowbeard": "Proceed under sail as fast as we can without a sail!"

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 02:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, remind me when Washington taunted the British with Mission Accomplished and Bring 'Em On.

Support for the war collapsed not because of Congress. Support for the war collapsed because we were unable to attain any of our objectives, with the exception of the removal of Saddam "He tried to kill my dad" Hussein. No democratic government is anywhere in sight. The status of women and non-Muslims has been set back by decades. Infrastructure reconstruction was a completely unsuccessful $30B (?) boondoggle for well-connected American contractors. Many Iraqis' daily life is, in fact, worse than it was under Saddam.

And while this was going on, President Gameboy was listening to his courtiers tell him everything was going great, the insurgency was in its last throes. On the domestic front, his lickspittles told him he possessed legal powers that the British Crown had surrendered by 1688 at the latest.

We can't undo the damage. But we can stop this drunken, vicious, Oedipus-obsessed moron from sending more American soldiers to their deaths for nothing. Sure, better outcomes were possible if an intervention had been staged earlier (say, November 2004), but now we just have to rein in a crew that I wouldn't trust to fix a broken toilet.

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at January 22, 2007 02:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regulars here know that "arguing" with neill is really a losing proposition. You won't get anything like an argument in the sense that the word is normally understood. Instead, you'll get recycled litanies, punctuated with insults ("liberals always surrender", etc.) when you suggest a contrary view. Your local preschool offers more informed and fair-minded debating partners. So I really hope that everyone here can follow the timeless message board advice -- DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

Posted by: sglover at January 22, 2007 02:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Neill's position? How about bent over and slurping away??"

O contraire. Neil is advocating that we continue to kick ass-the only message that resonates in the wild, wild mideast. Pity it doesn't resonate in the bowels (opps, I meant halls) of congress.

You can challenge surge-lite on the basis of logistical impotence, more is better than less, but this war like all war is equally about perception. To that extent, the surge transcends its statistical edge. From AQ to Sadr's mafia to the Baathist assassins, the surge enters the psyche of those haunted wackos like Katrina thru New Orleans. Time to prepare. Another wave coming at you ladies; or as the man said, it's dying time.

But make no mistake: if the surge makes things temporarily ugly in that Hell called Baghdad, the real Hell would be seen without us.


-resh


Posted by: resh at January 22, 2007 03:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think I'll file kick-ass with last throes, under

Warmongers, dementia of

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at January 22, 2007 04:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM:

"Now tell me, General: how much will we gain in the War Against The British if the Incredible Shrinking crossing of the Potomac succeeds, how much will we lose if it fails, and what are the chances of success? Answers: (1) a lot; (2) a lot: and (3) almost none."

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 04:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Now tell me, Herr Field Marshal: how much will we gain on the Western Front if Wacht am Rhein succeeds, how much will we lose if it fails, and what are the chances of success? Answers: (1) a lot; (2) a lot: and (3) almost none."

Posted by: Doug H. at January 22, 2007 04:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Er, Neill. I already went over this, remember? The revolutionaries had NOTHING to lose if Trenton failed -- it was their last throw. We have plenty more to lose if the Iraq surge fails -- specifically, military strength which we badly need elsewhere. And the Surge's failure is near-certain, which was not true for Washington's attack. He planned it very well.

So grow up, hm? (And, while you're at it, would you mind answering "jayackroyd's" obvious question? To say nothing of answering Derbyshire's and Krauthammer's question about how we could pressure al-Maliki into actually helping us when he currently shows no interest in doing so.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 05:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And, while we're on the subject of al-Maliki's cooperation, let us examine tonight's Washington Post ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/21/AR2007012100227_pf.html ):

"The parliamentary bloc of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced an end to a boycott that has kept Iraq's young National Assembly semi-paralyzed for two months.

"The Sadr bloc returned to the assembly after a parliamentary committee and the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, agreed to a series of demands, said Falah Hasan Shenshel, a member of the Sadr bloc. The demands included establishing a timetable for the buildup of Iraqi troops and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a condition that the presence of foreign troops would not be extended without a vote by the assembly, Shenshel said. U.S. troops should retreat from Iraqi cities and return to their bases by the end of August, he said. 'By doing so, America would confirm that it came to Iraq as a liberator and not as an occupier,' Shenshel said.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And still more on that subject, from Peter Beinart:
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20070129&s=trb012907

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 05:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And the Surge's failure is near-certain..."

Why do we need the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs.....we've got Bruce Moomaw!

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 05:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I warned you, Bruce Moomaw......

Posted by: sglover at January 22, 2007 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why do we need the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs, when a landslide majority of them (and the ISG) told Bush that the Surge's failure was near-certain and he decided to go ahead with it anyway?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 06:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(1) David Kurtz ( http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/012046.php ):

"Remember the long-delayed National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that the Bush Administration managed to push off completing until after the election? Well, the Administration has slow-rolled completion of the NIE past the introduction of the surge and the State of the Union address, according to Ken Silverstein at Harper's:

" 'The situation came to a head last week, during a closed-door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This committee expected to be briefed on the long-awaited NIE by an official from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which coordinates NIEs by gathering input from all of the nation's various intelligence agencies. But the NIC official turned up empty-handed and told the committee that the intelligence community hadn't been able to complete the NIE because of the many demands placed upon it by the Bush Administration to help prepare the new military strategy on Iraq. He then said that not all of the relevant agencies had offered input into the NIE process, and thus it had proven impossible to put together a finished product.'

"Why, yes, of course. They were too busy rolling out what they're calling a new Iraq policy to prepare the NIE which should inform creation of that new policy. That tells you everything you need to know about the surge."

(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/09/AR2007010901872_pf.html :

"Another problem for the administration was the Iraq Study Group, the prestigious bipartisan panel headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.)...

"Although the president was publicly polite, few of the key Baker-Hamilton recommendations appealed to the administration, which intensified its own deliberations over a new 'way forward' in Iraq. How to look distinctive from the study group became a recurring theme. As described by participants in the administration review, some staff members on the National Security Council became enamored of the idea of sending more troops to Iraq in part because it was not a key feature of Baker-Hamilton."

(3) NY Times, Jan. 11:

"[Bush] put [the logic of his plan] far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. 'I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,' the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: 'Because it has to.' "
_________________________

Isn't it comforting that we are about to initiate this new military policy entirely because Bush and several of his aides are acting like 2-year-old toddlers throwing a temper tantrum?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 06:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'I said to Grant this has to work or you’re out,' the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Lincoln shot back: 'Because it has to.' "

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 07:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why did Lincoln fire McClellan?

Because he was looking for a general to prosecute the war who was..................bolder?

Posted by: neill at January 22, 2007 07:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'I said to Abrams this has to work or you’re out,' the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Nixon shot back: 'Because it has to.' "

Posted by: Doug H. at January 22, 2007 08:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sglover--

-- DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

Noted.

It's been a while since I've done so in any forum. But, you know, sometimes you just get ticked off. The utterly brainless banality just can get to you.

Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that now the argument, in public, by the "serious" people is now "aw hell, let's give it a shot. It might work."

(I have to add that it's kinda funny that neil puts this misbegotten imperial invasion on the par with the revolution and the Civil War. Heh. Indeed.)

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 22, 2007 10:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dr.Johnson was right: criticism really is wasted on pure idiocy. Let me try to explain to Neill one last time, however: the Iraq War is only ONE campaign in the worldwide War Against Megaterrorism (especially nuclear terrorism), which is the war we really MUST win -- the real analog of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (and of WW II). Sticking stubbornly to one stupidly planned, couterproductive campaign is NOT the same thing as abandoning the whole damn war. The REAL historical analog to the Iraq War is Hitler's refusal to withdraw his army from Stalingrad until it was too late for it to escape.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 22, 2007 10:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lincoln gave McClellan 500,000 drafted men and he raised the taxes to pay for them.

Two and a half million men served in the union army. Lincoln never said "The officers in the field say they have enough soldiers, they don't want any more. If they tell me they want more men I'll get them more men." Lincoln did what it took to win. Including rig the 1864 election.

Would Bush be that bold? Would he rig the 2004 election to prevent defeat?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 22, 2007 12:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I must admit to not getting what Lieberman is trying to do. I get Bush's motives, and McCain's - but why this strange fealty from Joe? What's in it for him? What has he been offered? Another shot at VP with McCain?
It's hard to figure. Could be the guy's just an idiot, I guess.

Posted by: saintisimon at January 22, 2007 12:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bruce,

I'm afraid I disagree. The spectacular nature of the WTC attacks has led to a misapprehension of the threat of Terror. This is not on the same order of magnitude of Southern secession, or Nazi conquest, or Soviet designs on world domination.

These are thousands of stateless individuals, loosely organized, lacking resources for any sustained campaign. It's an intelligence and policing problem, not a military problem. The trumped up war in Iraq, waged by a state agency against a state agency, has killed many more people and has been much more destabilizing than the sum total of all terrorist acts in the post-war period. That includes everything from the Tamils to the Oklahoma City bombing, not just the jihadist branch.

Since WWII, the government has used overstated threats to justify keeping the government on a permanent war footing. It's true that the Soviet threat could plausibly have been said to exist in 1960. Their growth rate in the last decade had been stunning, and they expressly threatened American interests and directly threatened Europe. But by the Brezhnev era, that threat had dissipated under a badly broken economy. But, you know, they did have all those nukes, and they were definitely targeted on US cities.

To say that global terrorism, in particular, Islamist terrorism is on a par with even Brezhnev's dying nation is, frankly, absurd. It's just Eisenhower's words about the military-industrial complex haunting us again.

James Fallows had an article in the Atlantic exploring the idea that we should just declare victory over terrorism and move on. His central point is that the Bush administration reaction to the 9/11 attacks has served the interests of the Islamists. For an operation that cost less than 100,000 dollars and 29 operatives, they have set a nation of 300 million into a tizzy, and had them launch a misbegotten war that generates islamist propaganda every day. It's no wonder that bin Laden endorsed Bush on the eve of the US election.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 22, 2007 02:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that now the argument, in public, by the "serious" people is now "aw hell, let's give it a shot. It might work."

Yep. But given the -- ahem -- "rationale" that launched this idiotic war, it seems perfectly consistent with our "strategy" to date.

Posted by: sglover at January 22, 2007 03:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe Washington crossed the Delaware River, Neill, not the Potomac. If one must draw parallels with other conflicts, think Britain in the colonies, not Washington, when comparing the American Revolution with Iraq.

Had Sherman not captured Atlanta, Grant's bloodletting in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor might well have cost Lincoln the Presidency. This administration can only attempt to spin success where very little exists, and where it is overwhelmed by the number of failures.

Posted by: Tom S at January 22, 2007 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Niell:

So you are saying the Iraq War is as important to the USA as either (i) the Civil War or (ii) the Revolution? If so, why aren't you (i) calling for a draft (ii) calling for tax increases or...Hell (iii) joining up yourself?

To reason by analogy, your analogies have to be reasonable.

Curious if you have a RESPONSIVE response.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at January 22, 2007 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I must admit to not getting what Lieberman is trying to do. I get Bush's motives, and McCain's - but why this strange fealty from Joe? What's in it for him? What has he been offered? Another shot at VP with McCain?

Two not mutually inconsistent reasons: 1) fealty to AIPAC 2) Bottom of the ticket with McCain on the Unity08 ballot line.

McCain's positioning himself on the stab in back side is partly cover for losing the Republican nomination. He and Lieberman would run as the "serious" "bipartisan" candidates on national security in opposition to the wussy dems and the incompetent republicans.

Oh, and there's also personal vengeance in play. He's punishing them, even his erstwhile friends like Mary Landrieu, because he can.

Posted by: jayackroyd at January 22, 2007 04:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg - I've been trying to figure out Lieberman for three years. His positions on the war have been so nonsensical politically that it seems the only logical conclusion (other than that he is trying to commit political suicide) is that he actually believes them. I find that thought terrifying, not because he is stating what he believes (which in an ideal world would be the norm) but because what he appears to believe is (to me) so horrifying wrong.

Posted by: John at January 22, 2007 05:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. President,

Be obsequious, purple and clairvoyant...oh, and bold.

Posted by: Steve Martin at January 22, 2007 06:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Joe Lieberman found a niche (a Democrat who will talk shit about Democrats) and he is not about to let it go. With all of the media attention, it’s good for business.

Remember, it was Republicans who didn't like Weicker, who got Lieberman.

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 22, 2007 07:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I've been trying to figure out Lieberman for three years. His positions on the war have been so nonsensical politically that it seems the only logical conclusion (other than that he is trying to commit political suicide) is that he actually believes them.

Not plausible. Lieberman echoes every administration talking point, even the brazen lies obviously meant for that part of the public that isn't paying much attention.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 22, 2007 11:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm with SomeOtherDude: Holy Joe has found his niche as the Zell Miller Mk II, the last true DINO, and he's milking it all the way to the great Unity08 flameout.

Posted by: Doug H. at January 22, 2007 11:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM:

"To say that global terrorism, in particular, Islamist terrorism is on a par with even Brezhnev's dying nation is, frankly, absurd. It's just Eisenhower's words about the military-industrial complex haunting us again.

James Fallows had an article in the Atlantic exploring the idea that we should just declare victory over terrorism and move on. His central point is that the Bush administration reaction to the 9/11 attacks has served the interests of the Islamists. For an operation that cost less than 100,000 dollars and 29 operatives, they have set a nation of 300 million into a tizzy, and had them launch a misbegotten war that generates islamist propaganda every day. It's no wonder that bin Laden endorsed Bush on the eve of the US election."

To paraphrase: Bush is wrong about the nature of the threat we face, and his reaction to it has further endangered us.

BM, I'm sure you'll he happy to let us know why this transnational existential threat to moderate governments throughout the world, driven by one unified terrorist ideology (btw, with a detailed 20-year plan), anchored in a religion followed by a billion people, which is responsible for the worst attack on our soil in our history by only twenty-nine individuals thaat traumatized the most powerful nation on earth -- is just not that big a deal.

And why making comparisons to enemies we faced of an entirely different nature 30 or 50 years ago, who used entirely different tools, is not entirely meaningless?

And, of course, YOUR plan for success.


Posted by: neill at January 23, 2007 03:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lieberman reminds me of Churchill's remark about a British candidate switching sides & taking a similar politically suicidal stand as "the first case on record of a rat swiming towards a sinking ship!"

PS: It is not about AIPAC or supporting Israel etec. Israel is supported by most of those who oppose "the surge" (more like a trickle!) or the war itself. Seems there is defintely an Israeliphobic theme among some folks who post here. Perhaps it is result of taking Sauid money.

Posted by: David All at January 23, 2007 05:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In 10 years historians will be looking back at the collapse of the US and trying to figure out what was the deciding factor in its decline. Answer: too many brain-dead morons who thought that will could overtake reality.

I think even Neill would, if pressed, admit that "belief" is not sufficient enough to change such factors as, say, the critical mass of plutonium. So why does he insist that it will for such areas as military strategy?

Posted by: grumpy realist at January 23, 2007 09:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Israeliphobic theme among some folks who post here. Perhaps it is result of taking Saudi money.

No, but I would like that. Where do I sign up?

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 23, 2007 10:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In 10 years historians will be looking back at the collapse of the US and trying to figure out what was the deciding factor in its decline."

Answer: belief vs. lack of belief.

nukes are but tools of war. belief in a cause is what wields them.

you are painting a target on all of our backs, and those of our children.

this non-binding resolution is treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, pure and simple. and a shit sandwich to petraeus and the troops who you DON'T SUPPORT.

Posted by: neill at January 24, 2007 01:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"... Answer: too many brain-dead morons who thought that will could overtake reality."

Victors in war impose their will, and in so doing overtake reality. The defeated submit to the victor's will and so are undertaken.

Posted by: neill at January 24, 2007 02:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Amazing that the source of in-apt (and inept) analogies should criticize others for comparing the mess in Iraq--and now Afghanistan--to real existential threats to the United States.

Posted by: Tom S at January 24, 2007 02:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mon ami,

which government is it, be it on the rim of the current islamic umma or America itself, that the jihadists DON'T desire and AIM to overturn, including the European states.

doesn't that define 'existential'?

Posted by: neill at January 24, 2007 05:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

an active duty officer who will remain nameless while on active duty:


Why Iraq Matters


Does victory in Iraq matter? Why must American fighting forces remain indefinitely in a country that has never known democratic governance and a region that has been at war for what seems centuries? It appears the Iraqis are not interested in domestic tranquility and therefore the United States should not waste another dime or drop of American blood to quell the violence… All of these platitudes are wonderful sound bites for US politicians and graduates of journalism schools but they fall far short of considering the true importance of success in Iraq, or more critically the consequences of US failure either by true defeat or the more likely defeat being engineered by Democrats, craven Republicans and the mainstream media who unwittingly, or perhaps with full knowledge, are doing exactly what the enemy hopes they will do when they react this way. By so doing they vindicate bin Laden’s assessment of America’s endurance for a long war.

A grad school teacher once argued to my class that this region is important for three reasons, religion, geography and oil. Home to the world’s three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it represents billions of the world’s believers and therefore is of serious interest to them and hence to the United States with its pluralistic society composed mostly of Christians and Jews but also a growing Islamic population. At the end of the last century, Islam was the world’s fastest growing religion so for that reason alone, it should be of significant policy interest to American leaders.

The Middle East is the strategic geographic gateway between Asia and Europe. The ancient spice route runs right through the heart of the region. Today the Suez Canal is the major marine gateway for shipping moving goods from Europe to Asia and from Asia to Europe. While certainly not the romantic spice route of Marco Polo, it is of critical importance for world commerce and world economic stability.

Finally we come to the issue of oil. The American extreme left (to be distinguished from serious liberals with whom we simply disagree) loves to argue that this war is about oil and oil alone. For them it is about the evil Haliburton (most cannot tell you anything about this company but it’s a wonderful sound bite) and “Bush’s oil friends.” It may seem an obvious point, but the unimpeded transportation of oil from the Arabian/Persian (pick your favorite adjective) Gulf is a vital national interest to the United States. It is one of the few vital national interests publicly identified and it was done so by President Jimmy Carter, not exactly a knee-jerk conservative, in what is now known as the Carter doctrine. It is not about enriching anyone in particular but about maintaining American and world economic security. One need only think back to the approach of $3 per gallon gasoline last summer and what it was doing to the economy. Many economists were predicting $100 a barrel prices and greater. Imagine what this does to consumer prices. Consumption drives the economic engine of America and when Americans stop consuming, others, not just Americans, stop working.

When the price of oil goes up dramatically it sends shock waves throughout the US and world economy and we all suffer and not just at the gasoline pump. Everything that is transported by fossil fuels becomes more expensive as transportation costs climb precipitously. Every item made with or though the use of petrochemicals increases as well. Last summer, many Americans buying or upgrading homes were surprised to find that the cost of new carpets had skyrocketed because they were made with petrochemicals and of course were transported by trains and trucks. Increased prices mean less demand and often surpluses that sit in warehouses. Of course market forces take over and ultimately employers scale back production to meet the new reduced demands and that means a reduced requirement for workers, skilled and unskilled. The costs of transportation don’t merely affect the manufacturers of goods but the providers of services as well. People out of work don’t consume beyond the necessities. People feeling the pinch of high gasoline prices don’t take vacations because the costs of “getting there” are simply too high. Naturally, those who provide tourism goods and services and the labor that supports them all suffer as the necessary cutbacks are made to stay afloat. Hence we see the obvious ripple effects of higher petroleum prices. But what does any of this have to do with the War in Iraq?

Let’s assume that the anti-war left and the American legacy media have their way and America cuts and runs as is it did in Vietnam. Forget about the devastation this will cause the morale of American fighting men and women who will once again have been sold out by politicians. Look at the likely consequences IN Iraq and around the region. What nations in the region have serious interests in Iraq? Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. What nations have interests in the region generally? What types of interests are they - survival, vital, major or peripheral?

In the ensuing violence certain to fill a US withdrawal vacuum, the only secure region of Iraq is likely to declare its independence from Iraq. The Kurds to the north have long desired a nation-state of their own and will very likely seize the opportunity to establish a free and independent Kurdistan. They have a cohesive population with a common language and strong sense of national identity. This likelihood is a near certainty and with it comes the near certainty that Turkey will invade northern Iraq in force. The Turks have been battling Kurdish separatists in eastern Anatolia for decades. They have long objected to the establishment of a Kurdish state because it represents a serious security threat to their eastern and southern borders. Kurds in eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran will view the establishment of a Kurdish state as the vindication of their long pursuit of such a state and will be emboldened to press for the annexation of their lands into the new state. The most likely logical outcome of this is invasion by Turkey and perhaps even more Iranian intrigues in Iraq.

Iran has very serious interests in Iraq. With fully two-thirds of the Iraq being followers of Shia Islam, the religious attachment is profound and long-standing. Two of Shia Islam’s holiest shrines are in what is today southern Iraq. The Ali Mosque, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Ali Hussein in 680, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, stands in Karbala. Twice each year Shiites can be seen reenacting the passion play and the death of Ali Hussein. It is a very powerful event and this shrine is precious to Shiites and therefore the Iranians. Imam Ali Hussein’s father, credited with being the father of Shiism, is buried in Najaf. It would seem obvious that the Iranians are likely to recognize and seize the opportunity to annex southern Iraq as the violence associated with an American early withdrawal escalates and jeopardizes Shiites in the south.

Saudi Arabia has already notified the United States that it cannot and will not sit idly by and watch its Sunni brethren be massacred by Shiites. As the violence rapidly deteriorates from localized sectarian violence as we see it today, to general civil war, the entry of Iran, either through increased clandestine operations in the north or overt military aggression in the south, can only guarantee the military entry of Saudi Arabia to protect its interests along its northern border from Iranian intrigue and to defend the followers of its branch of Islam. Now one might be tempted at this point to say, “I told you so! General Powell warned against this.” While that may be a satisfying argument while chatting at the office network printer or the campus club, it simply is not enough in 2007. We are there and the academic and policy lessons learned about why will be useful at a future date, but simply fail to address real consequences from today forward that may shape the 21st century world. For the hard core Realist who argued against going to Baghdad in 1991, the same reasoning NOW applies. A US failure now will usher in the kind of instability that Realists hate! Given the geopolitical realities of this region, torn by wars and stapled together with no regard for culture, language or religion and the hatred this has engendered, what are the likely consequences of a precipitous US withdrawal absent a secure and stable functioning government in Iraq? What we will likely have is the invasion of Iraq by Turkey, Iran and then Saudi Arabia and a general and perhaps nuclear and chemical war at the crossroads of civilization between Europe and Asia because Israel will most like get drawn in amidst the chaos. We have not even considered what the pursuit of Iraq’s oil rich lands will do but it is obvious that Syria and Jordan will be pushed or pulled into the conflict which is yet another reason that Israel and possibly Egypt could be drawn is as well.

The United States cannot ignore a total war in Southwest Asia given its interests as described earlier and given that two of its best (if not its most democratic) allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, not to mention Israel, may be at war. Imagine what a general war in this region will do to the price of oil and the global economic shockwaves it will propagate? Global shipping to and from the Persian Gulf as well as the Red Sea will come to a standstill. Oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden will be reduced to a trickle if not stop altogether and the Asian economies so dependent upon them will crash. If Asian economies crash, the economies in Europe and the United States will suffer terrible losses and a world-wide depression may result. Of course neither the US nor China can or will tolerate this level of economic threat so their participation in a greater Middle-East war is likely, but only after the regional chaos has already inflicted serious pain on the global economy. Hence the fallout from bringing our troops home early, retreating in defeat to fortress America once again, will in all likelihood precipitate a global conflagration that will dwarf WW II in its potential destruction and human misery. It may place the US in the middle of a broader religious war that began in the late 7th century and the devastation attendant to those hatreds. It matters if we win! Moreover, no one BUT the president has offered any calculus of HOW to win.

Posted by: neill at January 24, 2007 05:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill:

You seem to have major difficulty differentiating between claimed desire and actual capacity to acheive those claims.

You--and the nameless officer--must realize that we have arrived at the stage we are at because the Bush administration was willfully unaware or uncaring about all the potential effects of the overthrow of Saddam. Shrugging one's shoulders and saying that these were all unanticipated consequences doesn't cut it. There were plenty of stated misgivings and concerns about what would happen, and they were blithely ignored or shrugged off with wishful thinking.

I will grant you this: The US invasion and botched occupation of Iraq have increased the threat of Islamicist terror in the region and around the world, revived Al Qaeda, and increased its ability to destabilize governments with majority Islamic populations. Over the next decade, regardless of whether or not the US pulls out of Iraq, we will have to deal with the effects of this. That is quite a legacy that the Bush administration will have left us. It is in the nature of a self-fulfilling prophesy, and it was completely avoidable.

Posted by: Tom S at January 24, 2007 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By the way, some in the Bush administration seem to favor bringing the conditions that Neill's post warns about by launching strikes on Iran (possibly involving Israel) and possibly Syria as well.

Posted by: Tom S at January 24, 2007 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This "nameless officer" is the the hawks' latest talking tool. He was first posted over at Hugh Hewitt on Jan 23rd. Expect to see him reposted on every conservative website still supporting Bush's Iraqi Adventure. Suppose if we were like the conservative bloggers we would demand to know this officer's name, rank & unit, otherwise we would charge he was an imaginary creation of Rove's Propaganda Machine, but being trusty souls, we will not. After all the fuss they made over whether an Iraqi Police Captain actuually existed. surely the War's supporters would never ever create a fictional person just for Propaganda. Why that would be like Bush lying about Iraq having WMD's!

Note: the next time someone brings up a Civil War/WWII analogy for Iraq, let's ignore them as someone living in a fanasty world!

2nd Note: You can find the original identical post at http://hughhewitt.townhall.com for Tues. Jan. 23rd under heading "Why Iraq Matters"
Last Note: Greg thanks for having that link to HughHewitt on your side bar. He is an excellant guide to the Bush Fanatsy World.

Posted by: David All at January 24, 2007 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BDers to Bush:

be wimpy and unwilling to account for potential consequences like we are.

Posted by: neill at January 26, 2007 03:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian 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.


More About the Author
Email the Author

Recent Entries
Search



The News
The Blogs
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Law & Finance
Think Tanks
Security
Books
The City
Epicurean Corner
Archives
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS

Belgravia Dispatch Maintained by:
www.vikeny.com

Powered by