September 21, 2004

Novak Redux

The point is that by winding down America's military presence, while promising aid to those who don't harbor anti-American terrorists and retaliation against those who do, the U.S. can probably leave behind an Iraq that isn't an American ally, but isn't a threat either. And that, at this point, is probably the best we can hope for.

Steve Hadley, Condi, or a chastened Wolfy?

Nope. Paul Krugman, writing in today's NYT.

Krugman doesn't work for Kerry (officially, at least!). But you can be sure that his comments reflect a large swath of Democrat-think on going forward Iraq policy. My gut tells me more senior elite Democrat foreign policy-makers are thinking along these lines (hell, Kerry would never have gone in to begin with per his upteenth latest Iraq position) than Republican ones--despite Bob Novak's story (which I am even more dubious about today than I was yesterday).

I think Novak's (so thinly sourced and speculative) story was mostly a variegated combo of: 1) paleos enjoying a bit of schadenfreude at the neo-con's expense; 2) trial ballooning Condi and Steve Hadley for promotions; 3) helping pre-emptively (pun intended) abort Wolfy-as-SefDef speculation (related to 1 above); and 4) injecting a reality check into the Iraq debate--message: if we want to turn Iraq around; more resources and resolve are going to be needed.

1 and 3 don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Let Novak and Pat Buchanan have a laugh at the neo-cons expense (perhaps Taki can join them, now that the Athens games have concluded, for a giggle). On 3, let people better understand that Wolfowitz is likely not confirmable as a Rummy replacement (er, isn't that just stating the obvious; or am I losing by Beltway prognostication skills over here in far-away London?).

2 and, in particular, 4 do matter. On 2, I wonder if Condi as SecState and Hadley at the NSC is the smartest Bush II team. Bush should at least consider Hagel and Lugar for State too (after all, it shows confidence to bring occasional critics into your tent). Plus, I think the President is comfortable with Condi near him--why move her to Foggy Bottom? And, looming in all of this, we need a new Secretary of Defense, imho.

Mr. President--announce in one of your impending debates that, having loyally and ably served, Rummy will be returning to the private sector--and McCain will take over the Pentagon in your second administration. McCain will, all told, be loyal and controllable--if a bit blustery sometimes. But, and most important, he will signal to your war supporters that you are serious about seeing Iraq through!

Which leads us to the all important Point 4 above. The biggest one of all. Novak's story, while highly dubious in large part, will at least likely have the beneficial effect ( perhaps intendedby some) of throwing into the open how mammoth a challenge Iraq presents--and forcing the President to reassure his war supporters that he will not pull a stealth Kerry (Kerry, I am convinced, is not taking Iraq seriously enough--his foreign policy team has woefully underperformed in terms of thinking of real options there (the Euros will come!); leading me to believe he will, as he's all but said openly, cut and run by the second half of '06).

Bottom line: The President can stay on his basic Roveian message about the march of freedom if he wishes (Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Fallujah etc. aside). Many voters like such straight-forward, simple narratives--it's probably good politics. But, at the same time, he must at least signal to his supporters that he a) knows it's tough in Iraq right now (and not just b/c of Anbar Province and Steyn-in-Surrey crapola) and b) he's going to try to make it right, even if it involves (gulp)--more troops, more money, more time.

If Novak's article helps elicit such statements of resolve from the White House--he will have done his good deed for the day--even if his real motive was to rub a little mud in the faces of the (increasingly utopic) non-Fukuyamaites neos.

P.S. People have written in to say I'm being hard on Wolfowitz. Er, check the "B.D. in the Press" section to the right below. I've defended Wolfowitz in the past--and admire his intellect. But a lot has happened over the past three odd years and, like it or not, it hasn't made any going forward Senate confirmation hearings for him any easier (putting it delicately).

Posted by Gregory at September 21, 2004 02:08 PM

With regards to Mr. Krugman's latest, I was not aware of any plan for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. Were any of you?

I don't think the U.S. should or will establish permanent bases in Iraq, regardless of who wins the election on November 2.

Posted by: Arjun at September 21, 2004 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Iraq doesn't need more troops, but it DOES need more money and more time. Unfortunately I don't think the time factor is inexhaustable.

I love Rummy and would hate to see him go. But the last time I saw him speak, he looked tired. I wouldn't be surprised if he WANTS to go. I'm not sure McCain is the right man for SecDef. Rummy is a real think outside the box guy and I don't see McCain as that. Add that to, we lose a Republican vote from the senate. Right now I don't know who I'd replace Rummy with.

Posted by: Ted at September 21, 2004 03:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting, except I believe McCain is running for relection and we have a Democrat as Governor in AZ

Posted by: John at September 21, 2004 03:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How about Sen. Biden for Sec. State in the second Bush admininstration? I think wehn the chips are down, he'd be more loyal to the president and less prone to showboating than Sen. McCain, notwithstanding that McCain is backing Bush and Biden is backing Kerry. And substantively, there's not a whole lot of difference between Biden and Bush - Bidens's complaints are all about execution, not policy, and bringing him inside the tent will give him a chance to fix some of the execution problems.

Posted by: DBL at September 21, 2004 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you're spot on about Condi and Wolfie...McCain can't run for Prez as Sec. Def. and Hagel has leadership ambitions in next Congress (The Hill mentioned him as possible whip). Lugar has gravitas but maybe not the desire for the job...he's comfy in the club.

As for Novak's motivations...I don't think its a big secret that some republicans are beginning to see Iraq as an electoral drag...especially since the odds are pretty good that we'll still be carrying a heavy load militarily come 2006. Trial balloon or not, his thinking reflects a group of republcans without much stomach for the difficult work ahead. As you suggest, this could be cured by some strong words from the President.

Posted by: superhawk at September 21, 2004 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe there is more utility to be found in establishing permenant bases in Iraq, than there is in maintaining them in Europe.

Posted by: Parker at September 21, 2004 04:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can you explain to me, with specific examples, just exactly waht about Steyn's last article is "crapola"? I bet you can't.

Posted by: Joshua Chamberlain at September 21, 2004 04:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I 'll tell you who I'd like to hear from: experts on guerilla and counterinsurgency warfare. Guys in the 5th SF group in Iraq who've written PhD theses on the Malaysian emergency. I want to hear from people who know something, not more pundits like Novak or George Will or Bob Schieffer or any of these other clowns who don't know a damn thing except who is kissing who's ass inside the Beltway. Both MSM and the bloggers need to shut up and admit they don't know anything about what's going on in Iraq.

Posted by: Joshua Chamberlain at September 21, 2004 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think we do need semi permanant bases in Iraq.

If Iran goes nuclear, we will need missile defense systems in the area that can target the boost phase (such as the airborn laser once it comes on line).

Even if we are able to keep Iran out of the nuclear club, there needs to be a suitable counterweight in the area.

Posted by: Brendan at September 21, 2004 05:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Paul Krugman adds his voice to Fred Kaplan's disingenous lament: that the neo-cons could have succeeded in engineering a pro-American liberal democracy in Iraq, but because of their blunders, the U.S. has lost control of the situation, and now Iraq's fate is out of our hands.

I agree that the Bush Administration blundered badly in many ways. I disagree with the premise that the U.S. could or should engineer favored outcomes in other countries. Iraq belongs to Iraqis, not to the U.S., so Iraqi democratization ought to be an Iraqi project, not just a U.S. project.

I'm pro-American, but it's not fair to restrict democracy to countries that are likely to elect pro-American governments. Such cynicism and hypocrisy will only decrease the likelihood of democratically-elected pro-American governments throughout the world.

Posted by: Arjun at September 21, 2004 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i'd agree to a point w/ chamberlain, but in addition, many bloggers are genuine experts. i like steyn as well.

Posted by: Tadeusz at September 21, 2004 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

McCain will signal we intend to win in Iraq and Rumsfeld doesn't?

Good Lord, Rumsfeld reeks of Old Spice and good old-fashioned killing-the-enemy-until-we-win determination. IMveryHO

Posted by: Brian J. Dunn at September 21, 2004 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding this notion of "blunders," it is important to realize that probably NOTHING is more difficult in statecraft than waging war and rebuilding conquered nations. After all, the enemy has a vote, and he doesn't exactly disclose his plans. The facile notion that "Bush blundered" belies the difficulty of the task; it underestimates the difficulty the enemy pose to warriors and policy makers; finally, it underestimates the planning and deep thinking that occurred before and currently regarding the U.S.'s actions in Iraq (and if you don't think they seriously thought this thing through, I've got tin-hats for sale...).

That all the intelligence services of the world believed (or better yet, knew) that Saddam had WMD is uncontested; that the Iraqi people were enslaved and terrorized by a brutal dictatorship is uncontested; that Sadddam was a threat to his neighbors is uncontested; and that Iraq was dealing with al Qaida and related terrorists is uncontested (by those who know, anyway).

That the terrorists, Baathist remnants, some Sunnis and Shias would ally to conduct insurgencies with outside support was probably war-gamed - but it isn't like this is science, and all testable things are knowable. And to the degree it was, it is relatively clear that the U.S. decided a smaller military footprint and lower profile would not only aid the transition to an Iraqi government, it would enable us to maintain deterrence against North Korea (remember them?).

So yeah, it hasn't worked out exactly as planned, but to deem it a failure (where are the insurgent terrorists divisions, or their provisional government?) in the face of setbacks, difficulties and resistance doesn't mean it is anywhere close to over for us (and by extension, to a free Iraq either). I've not heard Bush's speech to the UN this morning yet, but my guess is he's made no indication of pulling back or conceding defeat. It is unfortunate this front in the war has been so politicized, for it has clearly restrained U.S. forces.

My guess is Bush and Allawi (sp?) are having serious discussions regarding Fallujah and Sadr, and my next guess is that an offensive to end the terrorist insurrection will be coming shortly. In which case, the security situation should improve reasonably enough before the January elections that they don't only proceed, but mark a real, positive turning point.

So making mistakes, or underestimating the enemies resistance isn't tantamount to "blundering" or failure. With persistence and fortitude we can see this thing through. If we fail, the war on terror promises to get much, much more worse.

Posted by: Tim at September 21, 2004 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DOD doesn't need a professional politician. DOD needs a reforming manager like Rumsfeld. It is critical that US force structure be reshaped to meet the demands of the 21st century. Rumsfeld has made a good start but the effort must continue.

McCain is a professional politician and a loose canon. As SecDef he would continue to campaign for higher office, be wholly uncontrollable and shoot the admin in the foot while preening for the camera.

Rumsfeld looks tired but I hope he stays.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at September 21, 2004 06:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll let others examine the Bush Administration's "deep thinking" about Iraq.

My main point is that there is a difference between "democratic" and "pro-American". The Kissingerian "realists" who want the U.S to impose an undemocratic pro-American government on Iraq are wrong.

Please see Reuel Marc Gerecht's article Ayatollah Democracy in the September issue of the Atlantic:

The "strategic value" of liberal democracy in Iraq is the idea of liberal democracy itself.

Posted by: Arjun at September 21, 2004 09:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not at all sure that Rummy has to go. Most of the criticism aimed at him, which does not originate with the lunatic left, comes from the civilian and military bureaucrats in the DOD he dragged kicking and screaming into a rapid deployment special forces oriented military. Changes he started before 9/11 which turned out to be exactly what was needed.

Posted by: Stephen at September 21, 2004 09:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arjun says: "The 'strategic value' of liberal democracy in Iraq is the idea of liberal democracy itself."

I agree in a sense, but we should still put a finer point on that idea.

The strategic value of liberal democracy in Iraq is that it will 1) encourage Arabs to think of themselves as citizens of legitimate nation-states, 2) provide a practical forum in which to resolve political, sectarian, and economic conflicts, and thereby 3) dilute the appeal of toxic supra-national ideological fantasies.

Posted by: Matt at September 21, 2004 10:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I could give a rip about Novak's sources. The President's address to the UN was clear today and counters any lame departure from Iraq.

Posted by: Capt American at September 21, 2004 11:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Biden is an idiot, as is Holbrooke. Two blowhards with an ounce of integrity.

Posted by: Capt American at September 21, 2004 11:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Agreed, but more selfishly, liberal Arab democracies will accomplish two more things critical to our security: permit common Arab citizens to devote their time and energies to improving their and their families lot in life; marginalize and disinfect radical Islamicism from Arab culture.

This notion others advance of the "Arab Strongman" is a movie we've seen before, and it always end with Islamic Arab terrorists killing Israelis or Americans. It's time to change the story, or else we have to change all the players. The first is bloody; the second much bloodier. It's our call, and theirs too.

Posted by: Tim at September 21, 2004 11:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Matt and Tim,

Each of you gave a clear and concise explanation of the connection between liberal democracy in the Arab/Muslim worlds and American national security. I wasn't able to express this point successfully, but I do agree with your admirable statements. Thank you.

Posted by: Arjun at September 22, 2004 12:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think speculation on a possible early withdrawal in a Bush second term is to focus the Iraqi mind. Do the Iraqis want a civil war? And whose side with the US be on? If they thought Bush was committed to four more years no matter what the brinksmanship could get intense.

In a weird way the US presence shields the Sunnis from revenge attacks. But what if the US leaves a well equipped Shia military behind? Something for the Sunnis to think about.

Posted by: Howard Greene at September 22, 2004 02:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luger Hagel and McCain

WOW you could not have hit a bigger hot button. Any of the above would so enrage most Rebublicans. You might never have peace in the Party again. Very few amoung us trust any one of these coniving self serving idiots. The press loves them because they are always good for a disloyal pompous statement that, when broken down usually makes no conservative sense at all. Not a conservative amoung the bunch. Not even psuedo conservatives. There, you have me sputtering in incoherent rage! THE VERY THOUGHT!!!!!

BODEN leaves me speechless.

Posted by: +Linda at September 22, 2004 03:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's not just Bush's recent speech that makes me think Novak is blowing big smoke. It's the whole Bush Doctrine (full explanation:, enunciated consistently over the past 3 years.

There is a debate about it in conservative as well as liberal circles (shades of 1947-52:, but a climbdown on that would be much more than Kerry's positioning du jour - it would be seismic.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at September 22, 2004 09:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whether or not Bush pulls out of vietnam, do you think we'll have a draft?

Some people argue that the army needs volunteers and we don't need draftees. But what the army needs may not be the deciding factor.

Some people argue that we can get enough volunteers to increase the army enough. That's assuming we can get by in iraq with only a few more troops, and we won't need many troops anywhere else.

But consider this -- we have a great big pool of unemployed people, that we don't count as unemployed because they've given up looking for work. The bigger the drafted army, the smaller the gap between jobs and workers.

And you have to *pay* volunteers. Draftees can be a lot cheaper.

The fair way to do it is to draft everybody. No deferments. Conscientious objectors can do something demeaning that doesn't require them to kill people. If we do it the fair way, the number of people the army needs has nothing to do with it. They have to take all the 18-year-olds whether they want them or not.

Is there any reason for Bush not to do a draft?

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