January 24, 2007

Dead Man Walking

This SOTU felt like something of a requiem. It was almost painful to watch. Like, say, Jacques Chirac, the President seemed a dead man walking. The domestic policy part, despite some initiatives of arguable import (energy conservation, health insurance), reeked of half-hearted delivery, a sense that little of it would come to fruition, in short, that is was mere filler/prologue. Put simply, Bush's heart wasn't in the domestic policy section (and Cheney even mischievously winked to the gallery during one of the reduction in energy usage parts). None of it was truly convincing, in the least.

Then Bush transitioned to foreign policy (after the obligatory homeland security boiler-plate), the linch-pin of his Presidency, and how his legacy will largely be determined. And of this section, what can one say? His tactical political goal was clear, stop the hemorrhaging in support of Republicans on the Hill. Might he have swayed a Norm Coleman, say, to stay on the reservation and support Plus-Up? Maybe, but it was weak fare, a recitation of much that had been said before, and nothing I heard tonight gave any additional faith that injection of 17,500 troops into a raging civil war in the capital city of Iraq will change the direction of the conflict absent massive crisis management with all the key neighbors via a diplomatic offensive led by a chief diplomat of real caliber (if one were available).

There was also the obnoxious trotting out of thinly veiled 'flypaper' fear mongering, and the equally obnoxious presentation to Congress of something of a fait accompli with regard to the so-called "surge" ("Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq - and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field - and those on their way.") We also heard the "victory" word, a Panglossian fantasy at this stage. And worrisome, we saw more hyper-simplistic narratives being bandied about (the Middle East reduced to an evil duo of Sunni extremists allied with al-Qaeda, and Shi'a extremists managed out of Mullah Central in Teheran), showcasing yet again this Administration's gross inability to grapple with the complexities and ambiguities of the region (for instance, Sadr is not but an Iranian agent, as most regional specialists well realize, given his Iraqi nationalist stripes).

True, there was the typical SOTU theater that was somehow moving, despite the abject debacles we find ourselves mired in. The Dikembe Mutombo moment was touching, and for someone who lives in and loves New York City with passion (and rides the subway daily), it was a nice surprise to see a tip of the hat extended to Wesley Autrey. But however moving, these asides are but applause lines , and any SOTU of import must rise or fall on whether the American people can trust and feel genuinely inspired by their President on matters of utmost gravity like the war in Iraq. And here, as I said, we heard nothing new, rather recycled hyperbole, gross over-simplifications, and yet another appeal to faith. It is a mark of how weak the speech was that the Democrat (sorry, Democratic) response, by James Webb, was much more powerful (the somewhat ill-defined economic populism aside), despite the lack of pomp and circumstance afforded by POTUS' venue in Congress. To wit:

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues ­ those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death ­ we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us­ sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable ­ and predicted ­ disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

That bolded portion sums up why the Bush Presidency is dead. His Administration violated this basic duty, and can no longer be afforded our trust, our faith, our support. The Bush Presidency is something of a damage control exercise now, as we run out the clock to January 2009. It's over, in short (the risk of an epoch-shaping blunder in Iran aside), though as an American praying for us to salvage something from the Iraq wreckage, I can only hope against hope that Petraeus can work a miracle against all odds, despite my massive doubts about whether our surge-lite strategy in Baghdad can succeed.

Posted by Gregory at January 24, 2007 02:54 AM

the term for the above is, I believe, projection.

Posted by: neill at January 24, 2007 05:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Bush administration: Quack and limp. Quack and limp.

I especially enjoyed the strategic seating placement of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- one directly behind the other -- to offer Americans a view of the future... or at least a highly probably version of it.

Posted by: Matt Stone at January 24, 2007 05:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rosa Brooks' op-ed in the LA Times from not long back, I believe, best explains Bush's strategy for these next two years.

Posted by: Dan at January 24, 2007 08:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dan at January 24, 2007 08:15 AM |

Rosa Brooks' op-ed in the LA Times from not long back, I believe, best explains Bush's strategy for these next two years.

You are correct, and so is Ms. Brooks, but you and she should use the word. Bush's, nay, the Republican, strategy for these next two years will be that of the Dolchstosslegende. I'm sure that you know what that means (it's basically, the Bart Simpson defense, "I didn't do it, it's not my fault"!), but, if Mr. Djrejian doesn't, there is an entry on it on Wikipedia. The Republicans have been using the Democrat's supposed Dolchstoss at Yalta since the end of WWII to demonize the Democrats and to hide their own foreign policy failings.

Note to Mr. Djrejian: I've been reading your blog for only a few months, and have gotten the impression that you approved the Iraq war when it was initially proposed. Given what little I've read about you here and elsewhere, your roots are in the Republican party, and so I shouldn't be surprised. But I have to tell you, some of us got rid of our Republican party roots long ago, and recognized the Republican party for what it was. I quite frankly couldn't imagine any intelligent person approving the war on Iraq in 2002, when it was obvious that it would only divert attention to the on-going war to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan, and that's exactly what happened. So, as far as I was concerned in 2002, and as far as I'm concerned now, the US basically screwed Afghanistan twice in less than 15 years. The Republican party led-US left Afghanistan in the late 1980s after the Russians withdrew, which led to a power vacuum that led to the horrors of the Taliban. The Republican party led-US failure to finish the job in Afghanistan in 2002 has led to a rebirth of the Taliban in too many parts of Afghanistan. The US screwed Afghanistan, not just once, but twice. And any intelligent person should know that there was no need for the US to divert resources to Iraq in 2002-2003 and thereafter, because there was no need for the US to go to war against Iraq in 2002-2003.

I seriously have to wonder about you young Republicans. Apparently, young Republicans nowadays react to immediate events, but don't really learn from history.

Posted by: raj at January 24, 2007 02:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

C. Wright Mills 'crackpot realism" redux (though it never really went away).

"They know of no solutions to the paradoxes of the Middle East and Europe, the Far East and Africa except the landing of Marines. Being baffled, and also being very tired of being baffled, they have come to believe that there is no way out – except war – which would remove all the bewildering paradoxes of their tedious and now misguided attempts to construct peace. In place of these paradoxes they prefer the bright, clear problems of war – as they used to be. For they still believe that "winning" means something, although they never tell us what."

Posted by: jr786 at January 24, 2007 02:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I think the bolded part in Webb's speech above speaks for the expectations many -- including us Republicans -- had in 2003. And remember, the administration's moderate Republicans -- Powell, Armitage -- that many of us looked to to tell us the truth did not do so -- either because they were deceived, or because they valued their important jobs too much.

So, poor Greg. He supported the war like Hillary Clinton, and trusted our leadership like Hillary Clinton. Is that why you figure he's inclined to support Hillary Clinton?

Raj -- quite honestly, phooey. Our host has made ample amends. Powell and Armitage, to my knowldge, haven't.


So the presidency is dead. So who's going to run the country for two years? Is there anything we can do as a nation now?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at January 24, 2007 02:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Withdrawal from Iraq would almost certainly benefit Shiites, because they are in the majority there and Iran is such a powerful neighbor. Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni movement, at severe odds with Shia Islam. So, in a sense, our withdrawal from Iraq may in fact do more harm to Al Qaeda than our continuing to stay, since our presence has been such an inflammatory rallying cause to such groups.

Incidentally, this may explain Bush's State of the Union blurring together of Hezbollah and Al Qaeda -- an attempt to create another fraudulent piece of popular assumption that the preeminence of any sect of Islam in Iraq is nothing less than a "Terrorist" takeover of that country.

It's just part and parcel of the same bigotry that got us into Iraq in the first place: Osama is a dirty A-rab, Saddam is a dirt Arab, so why not kick around one for the crimes of the other. I think this motivation behind the Iraq war is plain as day, but apparently the media is just too "polite" and "civil" to call it what it is.

Posted by: sashal at January 24, 2007 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding Raj's comments about the Republican Party screwing Afghanistan twice in 15 years:

This is nonsense. After the Soviet retreat ("redeployment"?) from Afghanistan, it's true that Afghanistan wasn't a huge focus for Republicans (or Democrats), but even if it was, what could we have done to influence the outcome there? Putting boots on the ground in 1989-1990 would have been a complete non-starter. I'm not sure how we "screwed" the fourth world nation of Afghanistan here. We helped the Afghans expel their occupiers -- what else do you suggest we should have done?

As far as your alleged second screwing of Afghanistan: we have more troops in Afghanistan now than we did before we invaded Iraq. The reason the Taliban hasn't been wiped out isn't because we are in Iraq, it's because we're not in Pakistan and the Taliban is. I'm not suggesting we invade Pakistan, but the reality is that no one will ever wipe out the Taliban as long as they have a safe haven there.

Posted by: Dave P. at January 24, 2007 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Rosa Brooks' op-ed in the LA Times from not long back, I believe, best explains Bush's strategy for these next two years.

Brooks cites 'historian Jeffrey Kimball', without specifying any titles.

I checked my local library, and a book called The Vietnam War files : uncovering the secret history of Nixon-era strategy seems a likely source.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 24, 2007 08:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Brooks piece exaggerates the success of the 'decent interval' strategy. The first phase, 'declaring that "peace was at hand,"', may have helped win the 1972 presidential election. But the second phase, blaming the Democrats for losing South Vietnam in 1975, didn't win the 1976 presidential election. And of course the Democrats controlled Congress throughout this period and for years thereafter.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 24, 2007 09:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dave P.

I agree that Raj's characterization of screwing Afghanistan in 89-90 is hyperbole. But to say that we have enough troops there now because there are more now than when we invaded is flawed Rumsfeld logic. We never had enough troops in Afghanistan to secure the country. The US military has proven that it can topple a government with very few troops, but it can't maintain security with smart bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan. Four years later, parts of Afghanistan are still outside of the central government's control. I don't buy the argument that there are enough troops in Afghanistan. I don't think there ever were.

Posted by: Nick Aubert at January 24, 2007 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


No number of troops in Afghanistan would be sufficient to stabilize that country completely as long as Taliban fighters have a safe haven with their fellow Pashtuns on Pakistan's side of the border. Given that limitation, I think the best case scenario going forward will be a measure of progress and stability in some parts of the country (Kabul is now becoming a vacation destination according to the NY Times's Travel Section) and a continual low-grade war in the border regions.

If more troops would be helpful in that war, why can't they come from our Nato allies? Afghanistan is, after all, a Nato mission now, and we are already providing more troops than the rest of our allies combined.

I find it interesting that many of the same folks who think adding troops to Iraq would be futile think adding more to Afghanistan will completely stabilize that country. It's amazing how high the bar has been set for Afghanistan, which, thanks to us, has made remarkable progress from desolate, fourth world hell hole to third world progress.

BTW, if anyone is interested in lending a hand in either Afghanistan or Iraq, these are two relevant charities to which I have contributed:

Business Council for Peace

Spirit of America

Posted by: Dave P. at January 25, 2007 12:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Forgot the link for this one in the last post: Business Council for Peace

Posted by: Dave P. at January 25, 2007 12:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What you cowardly backstabbing liberal hippie peacenik traitors don't understand is that we're in a war. It doesn't matter if the Republicans eat the hearts of aborted children while hooking up the testicles of crippled elderly men to car batteries, the war is the only issue that matters. President Bush is great, no, sublime. He is greater than Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and Aragorn rolled into one. My heart flutters just thinking about him and how inconceivably brave, resolute, and Churchillian he is. This is exactly like World War II after all. Our plan is VICTORY. Our strategy is VICTORY. Out of our way, appeasers!

Posted by: Few Fewitt at January 25, 2007 12:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I thought the line about Hezbollah was particularly pathetic. True, Hezbollah probably has killed more Americans than any other group other than AQ but how many years has it been since an American was killed by Hezbollah? Has any American ever been attacked in any way by Hezbollah on US soil? Comparing Hez to AQ is a pathetic attempt to confuse. Disgraceful.

Posted by: tre at January 25, 2007 01:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The surge will not work to give us a "victory" in an of the shifting ways we have been sold. It isn't meant to. None of those goals were real either. They always were just a PR job. What the real goals were is difficult to pin down. The various actors who brought the war to us all had their own agendas. They all boil down to achieving raw political power in the worldwide sense as well as in the domestic US semse. Inetertiwined with all that was and is money and oil.

Those goals are at best delayed and perhaps destroyed. At any rate the surge is meant to futher divide Iraq and give us a pretense to bomb the hell out of Sader City and other areas and pile up the bodies. There is going to be a high price paid in blood for embarrasing America. A high price paid for the bodies being sent home to America.

Think Fallujah times 1000. That doesn't even include Iran.

Posted by: rapier at January 25, 2007 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


'TERROR group al-Qa'ida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has defiantly mocked US President George W. Bush's plan to send extra troops to Iraq, saying he should send his entire army to be annihilated.'

In other words, 'Bring it on.'

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 25, 2007 02:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dave P,

Agreed, complete stability in Afghanistan is impossible for outsiders to achieve. Only the Afghans can make their country stable, and with Pashtun sympathizers in Pakistan providing safe haven, relatively small numbers of fighters can cause considerable problems. However, complete stability isn't the only reasonable measure of progress. It would be sufficient if the southern tribes would look to the central government rather than toward the Taliban to provide security. I don't expect the US to be able to eliminate the Taliban entirely. I would want the US to provide enough security so that southern Afghanistan would perceive the government as legitimate. By several accounts the security needs in Afghanistan are not being met.

Yes, the lack of support coming from our NATO allies is disappointing, and it reflects poorly on them. Now, given that they're not ponying up more help, the US should step forward, or rather, should have been able to step forward and fill the gap.

It's nice and all that you find it interesting that many people who support more troops in Afghanistan don't also support more troops in Iraq. As argumentum ad hominem, it's also completely beside the point. As a matter of fact, the circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan differ significantly. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. Afghanistan is a relative success. Sending, say, 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan would strengthen the success (though as you say, it would not provide complete security). Sending 20k troops to Iraq is a drop in the bucket, and as Greg and others have explained, will amount to very little without a major diplomatic effort.

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


It looks like you got your wish. According to the NY Times, 3800 troops in Afghanistan are getting their tours extended to expand the force there by about the same percentage that we are expanding or force in Iraq (15%).

You can dismiss my observation about the same folks calling for more troops in Afghanistan and fewer in Iraq as an ad hominem attack, but then you would be ignoring some key facts behind that observation. First, many of the same downsides to adding troops in Iraq apply to adding troops in Afghanistan: more combat troops equals more logistics troops equals more likely casualties.

Second, many of the same people calling for more troops in Afghanistan insist that the solution in Iraq can't simply be military. The same is true in Afghanistan: for example, a more rational policy toward opium would greatly improve things there as would some outside-the-box diplomatic thinking to border issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ultimately, I think most people on this site who bring up Afghanistan seem to use it only as a cudgel to bash any effort toward stabilizing Iraq; domestic politics seems to override objective discussion about both wars. As for Greg's repeated calls for intense regional diplomacy to solve Iraq, I'm still waiting to see him answer some basic questions about that. Since he so far demurred on this, perhaps you'll take a crack at them? Here you go:

1) Let's say we sit down with the leaders of Iran and Syria. What do you propose we ask them to do? What do we offer in return?

2) What role do you envision the elected government in Iraq should have in these negotiations? Should we still conduct them if they object to us talking about the future of Iraq with their neighbors?

3) How can we expect Iran and Syria to help stabilize Iraq when they, along with our putative allies Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have contributed to its instability by funding armed factions?

Posted by: Dave P. at January 25, 2007 04:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Last I heard, NATO has 30K troops in Afghanistan. Given the fact that most of them have militaries designed for internal/border/neighboring country deployment, that's a lot.

Second, one of the effects of Iraq is that the governments of a lot of countries no longer trust this administration (IMHO, of course). Not in some idealistic way, such as being shocked! shocked! that a government official might not have told the pure truth, but shocked at how badly Bush f*cked up Iraq.

Back before the war, I heard the sentiment from some opposed to the war that at least "Bush won't f*ck this up; it's too important".

He did. And when he saw what he had done, he did it again and again and again.

He's done it enough so that he's lost the faith of the majority of the American people, even those who were long-time Republicans. By that point, it's not unreasonable for foreign governments to have also lost faith both in his integrity, and his competancy. At that point, the rational thing to do is to stall until 2009, hoping for a change for the better in US governance.

Posted by: Barry at January 25, 2007 02:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq did not work out the way the politicians had hoped, but make no mistake, history will record the Iraq adventure a victory for the political and corporate elites in America, if not for the administration of George W. Bush. Welcome the neo-realists. They do have a plan.

The oil companies are building a huge, multi-billion dollar refinery in Kurdish Iraq. When completed, it will be in position to exploit the vast northern and southern oil fields—second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Shiite controlled Iraqi 'Government' is on the eve of passing legislation that will turn state-controlled oil extraction over to the big five Western petroleum conglomerates in exchange for decent royalties. Hence the permanent bases (and the world's largest U.S. Embassy at $500 billion).

Our tacit approval of the ongoing destruction of the Sunnis in Baghdad indicates that Bush will go with the 80 percent solution. Sure, we’ll round up a few of the usual Shiia suspects from from time to time, but we will let the majority Shiites consolidate power (except in Kurdistan) and hope for the best—the al-Mahdi Army is already the country’s real power base outside of Kurdistan. After the “surge”, in six months or a year, our troops will hunker down in their bases and come out only to put down any incidents that get out of hand. The plan is for the Sunnis to retreat to the barren reaches—outvoted, outgunned, and penned in. Those who won’t leave Baghdad and other dedicated Shiite areas will be pushed out, one way or another. From a power projection standpoint, under 100,000 American troops will secure the Southern oil fields for the Shiites while the refining operations, in Kurdistan or Kuwait, are run by the corporations. Everybody (almost) wins. We can also point something out to Syria and Iran: Don't mess with us or we will turn you into Iraq.

To our political elites and corporate folks, this is a real victory. Who suffers and who gains? It may seem crass, but the fact that a bunch of Muslims (Sunni and otherwise) are dead, maimed, hungry, sick, or just FU does not evoke much sympathy in the US. Centrist Democrats will be tacitly behind this plan, so there is good bipartisan support for continuing, on some level, in Iraq for the long haul (cf. Hillary’s ongoing refusal to demand the troops be “redeployed”). The plan has some long term risk but very good potential for reward. After we return to our bases and draw down the troops to 50,000 to 70,000, Iraq will disappear from the headlines the same way Afghanistan has. Iraqi “infighting” (don’t call it civil war when 80% of the population is fighting 20%, try ethnic cleansing) will be downplayed, and the Sunnis marginalized. Assuming the Saudis can be kept in line (supporting their Sunni brethren, but only up to a point—remember the Saudis love stability more than anything), a sort of honorable “victory” will have been eked out, possibly in time for the next presidential election, but more likely early in next president’s term (which is why centrist Dems are on board).

But what of the “young democracy” that the Administration refers to so fondly? According to the New York Times, "nearly every session of the parliament has been adjourned since November... because as few as 65 of the 275 members there showed up.” So all the deals take place in the back rooms of Baghdad, just like they always have. We want the Shiia majority to stay in control. We’ll pay lip service to “democracy” in Iraq, but we also know that those with the most fighters get the most votes.

The point is this: there is no way that the US military will be leaving Iraq in the forseeable future, so get over it. What the centrist US politicians want is to ensure voter apathy on the subject. The way to do that is to make sure the casualties are reduced to 10 or 20 a month, like Afghanistan, and we can go on like this forever.

The bottom line: we pay a hundred billion or so a year in military infrastructure to secure delivery of $2.00 - $2.50/gallon gas. The Bush/Cheney adventure represents only a 1 percent “tax” on the economy. In return, the river of cheap oil keeps the machinery of our profligate country running smoothly and the American people fat and happy.

Posted by: Michael Haitch at January 25, 2007 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's an old article, but gives a pretty weird picture concerning state sponsored terrorism and the "enemies of the United States"

Summary: Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis, but its elite is bitterly divided on how to escape it. Crown Prince Abdullah leads a camp of liberal reformers seeking rapprochement with the West, while Prince Nayef, the interior minister, sides with an anti-American Wahhabi religious establishment that has much in common with al Qaeda. Abdullah cuts a higher profile abroad -- but at home Nayef casts a longer and darker shadow.

The Saudi Paradox

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 25, 2007 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled Moderate at January 24, 2007 02:42 PM |

Raj -- quite honestly, phooey. Our host has made ample amends. Powell and Armitage, to my knowldge, haven't

Hey, whatever. As far as I can tell, "our host" can speak for himself: he doesn't require a surrogate to speak for him. I'm not sure what the references to Powell or Armitage are supposed to mean something, but, let's understand something.

I really don't give a tinker's damn whether "our host" has made amends. What I am interested in is knowing just why he supported Bush's idiotic invasion of Iraq ab initio, and whether he has learned anything from the likely failure of Bush's idiotic invasion of Iraq. "Our host" has, over the last few months, posted a few inciteful commentaries (I'd have editted them more than a bit, but that's beside the point) about the failures of Bush's lil' expedition into Iraq. What I have not seen here (and, I'll admit, I haven't made any effort to find them) is "our host's" recognitions of his failures of information or judgement that led up to his initial support for Bush's lil' expedition into Iraq.

What that tells me is that "our host" now would be perfectly happy with Bush's lil' expedition into Iraq if, as the Bush administration had promised, some or more than a few Iraqis had greeted American invaders with flowers, etc., and the invasion would have gone well. His objection now is to the fact that he was disappointed in his prognostication. His objection is not to the issue of whether or not he was wrong in approving of the invasion in the first place. Let's understand something. What I get out of that is that "our host" would just as well approve of an American invasion and "regime change" (a Republican euphemism for "overthrowing a government") of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick if it suited his purposes for this, that, or the other.

What "our host" hasn't told me is whether "our host" would have then had reservations about Bush's lil' expedition into Iraq concerning other issues. The latter is the important question, the latter is the issue that I had raised elsewhere, and the latter is something that I had not seen addressed here. Just what were "our host's" reasons for approving of Bush's lil' adventure in Iraq in 2002-2003, just what were "our host's" (or his brethrens') reasons for belittling the nay-sayers, and just what were "our host's" (or his brethrens') reasons for now changing from his earlier support for Bush's lil' adventure in Iraq to his current objection to it?

I'm sorry, but as far as I can tell, "our host" is a "Greggy come lately" to recognizing that his pResident's policies were folly. It is easy to see that after the fact--after all, hindsight is 20-20. But why did he not see that ahead of time. Quite frankly, why didn't all of his brethren? Were they really that enamored of getting rid of Saddam that they ignored other issues? Like the ongoing problems in Afghanistan? Or were they so readily swayed by the apparently easy victory in Afghanistan that they believed that they believed that they could go anywhere and repeat it?

Well, let me tell you now. They have come pretty close to achieving both. A defeat in Iraq and a defeat in Afghanistan.

More on Afghanistan tomorrow.

BTW, "our host" owns the web site, and he is well within his rights to delete this comment, as well as any other derisive comment by me or anyone else. It will be interesting to see what he does.

Posted by: raj at January 25, 2007 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"Our host" has, over the last few months, posted a few inciteful commentaries . . .

There's an interesting Freudian typo.

Posted by: David Tomlin at January 25, 2007 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm with Michael Haitch. The Saudis and their allies within The Bush Admin have their agents cause trouble and the trouble gets blamed on other actors.

The Saudis are deep into supporting groups who have killed more Americans than Iraq and Iran could ever dream of.

Bush is protecting someone and it ain't Americans.

Profile: Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz

9/11 victims’ relatives add nearly 50 defendants to their $1 trillion lawsuit against mostly Saudi citizens and organizations (see August 15, 2002). The suit alleges the defendants knowingly provided money and other aid to terrorists, which enabled the 9/11 attacks and other attacks to occur. There are now a total of 186 defendants named in the suit.

-Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef
-Minister of Defense and Aviation Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
-The Saudi American Bank, that nation’s second largest financial institution.
-Bank Al Taqwa, for raising, managing, investing, and distributing funds for al-Qaeda.
-Mohamed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law.
-Individual members of the bin Laden family, including Bakr bin Laden, Tarek bin Laden, Omar bin Laden, Abdullah Awad bin Laden, and Yeslam Binladin. The suit claims that in the early 1990s, Tarek bin Laden was the general supervisor of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi charity suspected of terrorist ties.

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 25, 2007 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Right-Wing nihilists/nationalists will hate who ever the right-wing Alpha Male tells them to hate.

And the Right-Wing Alpha-Male loves his Saudi Monarchs and hates all those who hate his Saudi Monarchs.

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 25, 2007 07:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The tone for the evening was set early on in the speech when Mr. Bush referred to the "Democrat majority." The transcript given out to the newspapers said "Democratic majority." The use of the word "Democrat" in this context has been pointed out by Democratic legislators in Washington and elsewhere as an insult. So the SOTU ritual was turned early on into a petty fight. And that of course expresses this entire presidency.

Posted by: JCC at January 25, 2007 09:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael Haitch has the US Establishment's plans for Iraq about right. Point out 1). that the defacto Kurdish govt. authority is already negotiating with various oil companies for agreement concerning the oil fields under their control in Kurdistan, while ignoring protests from the ineffective Iraqi central govt. . 2). Cleansing Baghdad of Sunnis & those of mixed Sunni/Shia background will drive out or kill most of Iraq's modern technological class with the result that the Shia govt. will be far more dependent on Western technical experts for some years then Saddam & the Bathists everwere. This will improve the Western Oil Companies barganning position.
One thing I am not sure of is whether the US will be able to get the death toll of American soldiers down far enough for the US Public to accept the permanent station of US Troops in Iraq. In which case, believe nearly all of them will be withdrawn from Iraq, except for some "advisors" & US Air Force bombers (South Vietnam in 1972 would be the model for this). The need for ground troops to guard oil facilities will be filled by "private security" outfits like Blackwater, Executive Outcomes, etec.

Some Other Dude has it right about the Saudi role in 9/11 which they and their mouthpieces like Big Jimmy Baker are doing their best to cover up. Suspect one of the reasons for the US Invasion & Occupation of Iraq was to divert attention from the Saudi ties to Bin Laden.

Posted by: David All at January 25, 2007 10:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The tone for the evening was set early on in the speech when Mr. Bush referred to the "Democrat majority." The transcript given out to the newspapers said "Democratic majority." The use of the word "Democrat" in this context has been pointed out by Democratic legislators in Washington and elsewhere as an insult. So the SOTU ritual was turned early on into a petty fight. And that of course expresses this entire presidency.

I know that the "DemoCRAT" trope was deliberately cultivated by Republicans as an unflattering term, and it irritates me as well. But I hate to see liberals dwell on it too much. For one thing, there's never any shortage of things to dislike in almost ANY Bush statement. For another, we know he not exactly a nimble thinker, or a particularly articulate guy. In the circles where he's spent his entire life, "Democrat Party" is probably just the routine term. Thirty years ago, he'd still be talking about "coloreds".

Posted by: sglover at January 26, 2007 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq in Talks With Chevron, Exxon

LONDON — Iraq is in negotiations with Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to build a new $3 billion petrochemical facility, and is in talks with several other Western companies over industrial projects.
In an interview Thursday, Iraq's minister for industry and minerals Fowzi Hariri said the discussions with Chevron and Exxon began this week in Washington and are at an early stage.

"It will be one or the other company for this new facility, not both," he said. "We're hoping to have a (Memorandum of Understanding) in place by about July."

Hariri took his first trip to Washington early this week and met with several companies about industrial projects. The other leg of his trip took him to London, where he also met with a number of firms.

The minister, who has been in his post since last June, said the issue of security was a prominent feature of the discussions, given the sectarian conflict that has come to characterize Iraq over the past year. He said he emphasized to the companies that much of the violence has been in Baghdad. "What you see on the television is real ... but it's concentrated in the capital," said Hariri.

The discussions with the companies have been greatly aided by an Iraq foreign investment law that won final approval last October, he said.

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 27, 2007 01:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to admit to being more than a bit disappointed in Mr. Djerijian's obvious unwillingness to address the rather significant issues that I raised above.

I'll continue to read his blog, but I doubt that I'll pay it much attention.

Posted by: raj at January 27, 2007 01:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Raj, if you're real interested in Greg's current thinking about what he was thinking back then, you could look it up in the archives. Presumably when he changes his mind again he'll update all that. You can't expect him to drop everything and explain it again whenever some new kibitzer drops in.

My own ideological view is that we shouldn't invade another country unless they've committed an act of war against us, or at least we agree with the UN that it's time to invade them for their actions against the UN charter.

And we shouldn't aid resistance movements in foreign countries unless we're sure the large majority of the public in those countries are against their repressive governments. When it's only 60% against we're encouraging a bloodbath, better not to.

Of course, when the overwhelming majority is agsinst a government the government tends not to last long unless a much larger foreign power is ready to send in troops to maintain it. The eastern european governments all fell quickly when the USSR fell, many of them without a lot of violence. The Batista government in cuba fell very quickly when the public turned against them, mostly independent of the guerrillas in the mountains. Marcos in the philippines fell without a fight -- when the public mostly turns against you, pretty soon the army does too.

The other case comes when a majority or large minority has the weapons to do ethnic cleansing. What's our responsibility then? It really doesn't make sense to invade a country and kill people to teach them not to kill each other. It does make sense to invite the victims to live elsewhere.if they don't want to fight. I don't know a good method to make people live together in peace even if we accept the responsibility to prevent every current and future holocaust.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 27, 2007 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was told by a US official yesterday that US military spokesman Caldwell will present alleged US evidence on Iranian materiel support to militants in Iraq at a press conference in Baghdad early next week.

It's fair to say that a very many people are speculating offline that Iran may possibly have been behind the Karbala abduction and killing. The more sophisticated the operation, the more it smells of Iran, one said. We'll see. More here and here.

Posted by Laura at January 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Posted by: SomeOtherDude at January 27, 2007 06:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Small Wars Journal:

Don't confuse the "Surge" with the Strategy

Much discussion of the new Iraq strategy centers on the “surge” to increase forces in-theater by 21,500 troops. I offer no comment on administration policy here. But as counterinsurgency professionals, it should be clear to us that focusing on the “surge” misses what is actually new in the strategy – its population-centric approach.

Here are the two core paragraphs from the President’s speech, outlining the strategy (emphasis added):

“Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.”

What matters here is not the size of forces (though the strategy will not work without a certain minimum force size), but rather their tasks. The key element of the plan, as outlined in the President’s speech, is to concentrate security forces within Baghdad, to secure the local people where they live. Troops will operate in small, local groups closely partnered with Iraqi military and police units, with each unit permanently assigned to an area and working its “beat”.

This is different from early strategies which were enemy-centric (focusing on killing insurgents), or more recent approaches that relied on training and supporting Iraqi forces and expected them to secure the population.

The new strategy reflects counterinsurgency best practice as demonstrated over dozens of campaigns in the last several decades: enemy-centric approaches that focus on the enemy, assuming that killing insurgents is the key task, rarely succeed. Population-centric approaches, that center on protecting local people and gaining their support, succeed more often.

The extra forces are needed because a residential, population-centric strategy demands enough troops per city block to provide real and immediate security. It demands the ability to “flood” areas, and so deter enemy interference with the population. This is less like conventional warfare, and more like a cop patrolling a beat to prevent violent crime.

This does not mean there will be less fighting – indeed, there will probably be more in the short-term, as security forces get in at the grass-roots level and compete for influence with insurgents, sectarian militias and terrorist gangs. But the aim is different: in the new strategy what matters is providing security and order for the population, rather than directly targeting the enemy – though this strategy will effectively marginalize them.

Why the focus on Baghdad? Because about 50% of the war in Iraq happens inside Baghdad city limits. Improving security in the capital therefore makes a major difference. (Not that the enemy will meekly roll over and accept this – hence the need for more troops and a reserve to deal with the inevitable enemy response, which will probably see spikes of activity outside Baghdad even as security in the city improves.)

There are no guarantees in war, and there is no guarantee that the new strategy will work, or that success will happen overnight if it does work. Iraq is an extremely complex and difficult problem, as all of us know – if there was a “silver bullet” solution we would have found it by now. All that the new strategy can do is give us a fighting chance of success, and it certainly does give us that.

All of this represents a true departure from previous strategy, but the “surge” is not the strategy – the switch to population security and a residential, high-force-density, long-term approach is what matters here.

Posted by: neill at January 27, 2007 06:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink



Posted by: neill at January 27, 2007 06:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there really that much of a change? The contrary position is expressed here by Gwenne Dyer:

'As for the tactics, it's the same mix as before: block-by-block "clear and hold" operations in Baghdad (last tried unsuccessfully last summer); a major offensive against the Mahdi Army (tried twice without success in 2004); and nothing much beyond trying to keep the roads open in Anbar province in western Iraq, the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency. There are no surprises, no new approaches -- and the alleged "surge" in U.S. troop numbers is meaningless in military terms.'

Certainly your expertise and knowledge about this matter is greater than mine, but I'm inclined to believe that these tactics are not really all that new, and that they are unlikely to result in any change of the strategic atmosphere, which is one in which the US is in an ever weaker position.

Posted by RyanLuke | January 19, 2007 9:24 AM

Posted on January 19, 2007 09:24

Dave Kilcullen :


I think we will have to wait until operations develop to be sure of how they will differ tactically on the ground from previous efforts. There's no doubt that it's an extremely tough problem and, as I say, there are no guarantees of success here.

But I do think the strategy is different. The examples that Gwynne cites are good illustrations of this, actually. "Forward Together" involved a much lower force concentration than we are talking about here, and as such there was no "clear and hold" because, once cleared, areas could not be held. In this case I think we're more likely to see an oil-spot expansion from more permissive areas of the city, and the residential approach (which is new) will improve the ability to hold once cleared.

And the fighting against the Mahdi Army in 2004 was pretty much an enemy-centric assault into Sadr City. In that instance, and a couple of others, the local Shia population actually stood to one side and waited for us to secure them, but once they saw we weren't planning to stay permanently they were too exposed to support us. In this case, we are talking about extending influence and governance into the city by gaining and building on the population's support -- more Tal Afar than Fallujah.

Also, of course there is no purely military solution here, and no one is suggesting there is. This is just part of an overall political/military/economic effort where political strategy has primacy.

Posted by Dave Kilcullen | January 19, 2007 2:44 PM

Posted by: neill at January 27, 2007 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In response to Neill, William Arkin on Jan. 22 ( http://blog.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2007/01/the_surge_begins_shhh.html ):

"This Saturday proved as deadly a day for awhile as any in Iraq, yet the news out of the country really is in some ways as if nothing has changed. A top deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr was arrested, raids were made on Sunni and Shi'a 'insurgents,' 'terrorists,' death squad leaders, and Iranian agents; roadside bombs exploded throughout the country, killing not just U.S. soldiers and reservists, but also Iraqi soldiers and police as well as Kurdish peshmerga.

"The Black Hawk helicopter that crashed, killing 12 Americans, did so south of Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad. Five soldiers were killed and three were injured in Karbala, one of two Shi'ite holy cities. A 1st Cavalry Division soldier was also killed by an improvised explosive device near Mosul northern Iraq. A Marine also died in northern Iraq on Friday.

"There were some soldier deaths in Baghdad as well, don't get me wrong, and the normal cavalcade of Iraqi deaths, bombings, kidnappings, etc. But I found the news interesting for the continued deadliness in the rest of the country. None of the deaths cited above took place in the capital or in the al Anbar hot beds of Fallujah and Ramadi.

"All eyes are focused on Baghdad, but it is the entire country that has descended into virtual anarchy. It seems that one of the unintended consequences of all of the Iraqi 'forces' moving to the capital is that they are just ceding more and more land outside Baghdad to a violent end.

"So far so good, Gen. Casey says. What is it that he is seeing that we aren't?"

Mostly the desirability of continuing to suck up to the Decider, I imagine. What I feared and suspected would happen (see my responses to " Dave P." over on the "Sad State of McCain" thread) seems to be happening: we're trying to deliver a knockout punch to a waterbed.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 28, 2007 08:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for Petraeus' competence, see also Arkin's Jan. 23 column ( http://blog.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2007/01/ready_of_not_here_we_come.html ):

"Tom Ricks' front page article today dishes the Gung Ho, even while it delivers a bombshell of sorts: Petraeus is so raring to go and intent on winning, he's already onto his Plan B of American action 'regardless of whether Iraqi army units join the fight as planned.'...

"But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the President seem to have their own plan: either the Iraqis participate and take the lead or we're out of there. There is no plan or intent to operate without Iraq -- Earth-to-Petraeus, it's just not a sustainable proposition."

More precisely, as even Krauthammer has noticed by now: operating without Iraq -- even if it is somehow sustainable -- would be utterly useless, since we would simply be doing an anti-American Shiite government's dirty work for them.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 28, 2007 08:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

SWJ Blog

Small Wars Journal

January 27, 2007
Two Schools of Classical Counterinsurgency

Discussion of the new Iraq strategy, and General Petraeus’s recent Congressional testimony have raised the somewhat obvious point that the word “counterinsurgency” means very different things to different people. So it may be worth sketching in brief outline the two basic philosophical approaches to counterinsurgency that developed over the 20th century (a period which I have written about elsewhere as "Classical Counterinsurgency"). These two contrasting schools of thought about counterinsurgency might be labeled as “enemy-centric” and “population-centric”.

The enemy-centric approach basically understands counter-insurgency as a variant of conventional warfare. It sees counterinsurgency as a contest with an organized enemy, and believes that we must defeat that enemy as our primary task. There are many variants within this approach, including "soft line" and "hard line" approaches, kinetic and non-kinetic methods of defeating the enemy, decapitation versus marginalization strategies, and so on. Many of these strategic concepts are shared with the population-centric school of counterinsurgency, but the philosophy differs. In a nut-shell, it could be summarized as "first defeat the enemy, and all else will follow".

The population-centric approach understands counter-insurgency as fundamentally a control problem, or even an armed variant of government administration. It believes that establishing control over the population, and the environment (physical, human and informational) in which that population lives, is the essential task. Again, there are many variants within this approach, including some very hard-line methods and some softer approaches, but the underlying philosophy is "first control the population, and all else will follow".

(Note that we're talking about classical counter-insurgency theory here, not modern counter-insurgency practice, so much. Also, I'm not suggesting one school is always right and the other always wrong -- both can be well-done, and both can be hopelessly counterproductive if done badly. The key to "good counterinsurgency practice" is the agile integration of civil and military measures across security, economic, political and information tracks -- and this is something that has to be done regardless of which approach you adopt, and is just as necessary in both).

Now, some people are quite committed to one or the other school of thought (Galula, for example, flatly states that the population-centric approach is always correct, and the new FM 3-24 takes a similar but less absolute stance). But my experience has been that both are applicable in varying degrees in most insurgencies, and at different times in the life of any one insurgency - since, over time, the nature of insurgencies shifts.

The real art is to "read the battle" and understand how it is developing, fast enough to adapt. Neither the enemy-centric nor the population-centric approaches are always or universally appropriate -- there is no cookie-cutter, and no substitute for situation-specific analysis informed by extremely deep local area and cultural knowledge.

As an example of the need to read the battle and adapt, I hope you will forgive a brief personal anecdote. In Timor in 1999 I worked closely with village elders in the border districts. I sat down with several of them one afternoon to discuss their perception of how the campaign was progressing, and they complained that the Australians weren't securing them in the fields and villages, that they felt unsafe because of the militia (the local term for cross-border guerrillas) and that we needed to do more to protect them. In actual fact, we were out in large numbers, securing the border against infiltration, patrolling by night, conducting 14 to 21-day patrols in the jungle to deny the militias a chance to build sanctuaries, and working in close in the villages to maintain popular support. There had not been a single successful attack by the insurgents on the population for more than two months. So, "objectively", they were secure. But -- and this is the critical point -- because our troops were sneaking around in the jungle and at night, staying out of the villagers' way and focusing on defeating enemy attempts to target the population, they did not see us about, and hence did not feel “subjectively” secure. This was exacerbated by the fact that they had just experienced a major psychological trauma (occupation, insurgency, mass destruction and international intervention) and as a society they needed time and support for a degree of "mental reconstruction". Based on their feedback (and that of lots of other meetings and observations) we changed our operational approach, became a bit more visible to the population and focused on giving them the feeling, as well as the reality, of safety. Once we did that, it was fine.

In other words, we had to shift from a more enemy-centric approach to a more population-centric approach to adjust to the developing situation. My personal lesson from this experience was that the correct approach is situation-dependent, and the situation changes over time. Therefore the key is to develop mechanisms that allow you to read the environment, to be agile and to adapt, as John Nagl showed so brilliantly in Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife.

So, in summary, two broad philosophical approaches in classical counterinsurgency (and remember it's classical 20th century counterinsurgency we're discussing here) -- population-centric, and enemy-centric. Both have merit, but the key is to first diagnose the environment, then design a tailor-made approach to counter the insurgency, and - most critically - have a system for generating continuous, real-time feedback from the environment that allows you to know what effect you are having, and adapt as needed.

Posted by Dave Kilcullen on January 27, 2007 8:32 PM | Permalink |

Posted by: neill at January 28, 2007 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

robert kagan:

....Back in Washington, however, Democratic and Republican members of Congress are looking for a different kind of political solution: the solution to their problems in presidential primaries and elections almost two years off. Resolutions disapproving the troop increase have proliferated on both sides of the aisle. Many of their proponents frankly, even proudly, admit they are responding to the current public mood, as if that is what they were put in office to do. Those who think they were elected sometimes to lead rather than follow seem to be in a minority.

The most popular resolutions simply oppose the troop increase without offering much useful guidance on what to do instead, other than perhaps go back to the Baker-Hamilton commission's vague plan for a gradual withdrawal. Sen. Hillary Clinton wants to cap the number of troops in Iraq at 137,500. No one explains why this is the right number, why it shouldn't be 20,000 troops lower or higher. But that's not really the point, is it?

Other critics claim that these are political cop-outs, which they are. These supposedly braver critics demand a cutoff of funds for the war and the start of a withdrawal within months. But they're not honest either, since they refuse to answer the most obvious and necessary questions: What do they propose the United States do when, as a result of withdrawal, Iraq explodes and ethnic cleansing on a truly horrific scale begins? What do they propose our response should be when the entire region becomes a war zone, when al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations establish bases in Iraq from which to attack neighboring states as well as the United States? Even the Iraq Study Group acknowledged that these are likely consequences of precipitate withdrawal.

Those who call for an "end to the war" don't want to talk about the fact that the war in Iraq and in the region will not end but will only grow more dangerous. Do they recommend that we then do nothing, regardless of the consequences? Or are they willing to say publicly, right now, that they would favor sending U.S. troops back into Iraq to confront those new dangers? Answering those questions really would be honest and brave.

Of course, most of the discussion of Iraq isn't about Iraq at all. The war has become a political abstraction, a means of positioning oneself at home.

To the extent that people think about Iraq, many seem to believe it is a problem that can be made to go away. Once American forces depart, Iraq will no longer be our problem. Joseph Biden, one of the smartest foreign policy hands in the Senate, recently accused President Bush of sending more troops so that he could pass the Iraq war on to his successor. Biden must assume that if the president took his advice and canceled the troop increase, then somehow Iraq would no longer be a serious crisis when President Biden entered the White House in 2009.

This is a delusion, but it is by no means only a Democratic delusion. Many conservatives and Republicans, including erstwhile supporters of the war, have thrown up their hands in anger at the Iraqi people or the Iraqi government. They, too, seem to believe that if American troops leave, because Iraqis don't "deserve" our help, then somehow the whole mess will solve itself or simply fade away. Talk about a fantasy. The fact is, the United States cannot escape the Iraq crisis, or the Middle East crisis of which it is a part, and will not be able to escape it for years. And if Iraq does collapse, it will not be the end of our problems but the beginning of a new and much bigger set of problems.

I would think that anyone wanting to be president in January 2009 would be hoping and praying that the troop increase works. The United States will be dealing with Iraq one way or another in 2009, no matter what anyone says or does today. The only question is whether it is an Iraq that is salvageable or an Iraq sinking further into chaos and destruction and dragging America along with it.

A big part of the answer will come soon in the battle for Baghdad. Politicians in both parties should realize that success in this mission is in their interest, as well as the nation's. Here's a wild idea: Forget the political posturing, be responsible, and provide the moral and material support our forces need and expect. The next president will thank you.

Posted by: neill at January 28, 2007 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Translating Kagan: anyone who opposes the 20,000-man surge (formerly 30,000; formerly 50,000; formerly 80,000) -- on the grounds that it will do no good and instead simply further exhaust our military strength and get several hundred more Americans killed, after which we'll have to do what we would have had to do anyway -- is unpatriotic. No doubt this includes Krauthammer.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at January 28, 2007 09:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

only the simple-minded, or disingenuous, debate this in terms of troop numbers alone. it's how those troops are going to be used differently that is key to success or failure.

of course you avoid Kagan's central point, that withdrawing only worsens our problem exponentially, because.....?

Posted by: neill at January 28, 2007 09:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

of course you avoid Kagan's central point, that withdrawing only worsens our problem exponentially, because.....?

because...the US will withdraw sooner or later the civil war will most likely be raging like it is now or latent, only to flair up after we leave.

Kagan says we have to stay forever because it will get worse when we leave.

Kagan's ilk also said SE Asian nations would fall like a series of dominos once we left Viet Nam and as a result we would lose the cold war.

Posted by: centrist at January 29, 2007 03:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I am glad you read the headline from the cover the Weekly Standard from about 22 month ago....

"WE ARE WINNING....how the US learned the are of counter insurgency"

I' sure it is a true now as it was then!

Posted by: Lowry at January 29, 2007 03:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"of course you avoid Kagan's central point, that withdrawing only worsens our problem exponentially, because.....?"

my apologies, not well worded.

please address kagan's main point that the hoped-for solution will not be provided by a withdrawal.

Posted by: neill at January 29, 2007 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the war against us will not end if we withdraw from iraq.

personally, I think it will intensify -- on us, here.

Posted by: neill at January 29, 2007 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neill, you're right that the war against the USA won't end when we withdraw from iraq.

But at the moment we're having some successes. It's far too soon to say that we're winning the war but we're at least doing far, far better than we were this time last year.

Maybe in 2 years we'll be delivering resounding blows against this nation's enemies. We have them well on the defensive now, and there's a chance we can get some real victories.

So don't give up hope. With luck the long war of the GOP against the USA may eventually be over. If they become a third party I doubt they'll bother to continue.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 29, 2007 02:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas: Believe you have stated the Democratic Party strategy for the next two years. If the Republicans want to commit political suicide in support of Bush's Wars against Iraq & (probably) Iran, the Democrats are not going to get in their way. And you are also right, that the real war of this Administration & its supporters is against the USA; the wars in Iraq, etec. are just a pretext for their war at home against Americans and their Republic.

Posted by: David All at January 29, 2007 03:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most of the fear mongers that have Neall terrified are also the same crowd that had people terrified as late as the 1980s that we were about to lose the cold war.
These people need to see a large threat. If 911 had not happend it would have been a new cold war with China(remember the spy plane stand off).

Posted by: centrist at January 29, 2007 03:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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