August 18, 2005

Get Real, Sayeth Gideon

Gideon Rose cuts through a lot of chaff today in the New York Times:

SEVEN months into George W. Bush's second term, it is clear that whatever his expansive second Inaugural Address may have promised, American foreign policy has taken a decidedly pragmatic turn. In practice, the Bush administration has recently begun to pursue interests rather than ideals and conciliation rather than confrontation.

First-term foreign policy hardliners like John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith have moved to jobs outside of Washington or left the administration entirely. The State Department has regained the ear of the White House and won support for repairing relations with Europe and negotiating with Iran and North Korea. And the Pentagon, overextended and trapped in a grueling counterinsurgency, has taken to rehashing Kerry campaign rhetoric about the limited utility of military force, lowered its expectations in Iraq and sent up trial balloons about withdrawal. The only people not to have gotten the memorandum, it seems, are the president and vice president, who feebly insist that the "war on terror" remains a useful concept and that everything in Iraq is going just fine.

What explains the shift? Administration supporters either deny it has occurred or argue that it constitutes only a slight change in tactics, appropriate to a world already improved by the administration's earlier pugnacity. Journalists and administration critics, meanwhile, generally attribute it to haphazard changes in politics or personnel, such as declining poll numbers or the brilliant performance of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.

The real story is simpler: the Bush doctrine has collapsed, and the administration has consequently embraced realism, American foreign policy's perennial hangover cure...

...Seen in proper perspective, in other words, the Bush administration's signature efforts represent not some durable, world-historical shift in America's approach to foreign policy but merely one more failed idealistic attempt to escape the difficult trade-offs and unpleasant compromises that international politics inevitably demand - even from the strongest power since Rome. Just as they have so many times before, the realists have come in after an election to offer some adult supervision and tidy up the joint. This time it's simply happened under the nose of a victorious incumbent rather than his opponent (which may account for the failure to change the rhetoric along with the policy).

BEING fully American rather than devotees of classic European realpolitik, the realists-today represented most prominently by Ms. Rice and her team at the State Department-offer not different goals but a calmer and more measured path toward the same ones. They still believe in American power and the global spread of liberal democratic capitalism. But they seek legitimate authority rather than mere material dominance, favor cost-benefit analyses rather than ideological litmus tests, and prize good results over good intentions.

So what can we expect next? A spell of calm without dramatic visionary campaigns or new wars, along with an effort to gradually wind down the current conflict while leaving Iraq reasonably stable but hardly a liberal democracy. This is likely to play well - until domestic carping over the realists' supposedly limited vision starts the wheel of American foreign policy turning once again.

As I said before the November election, a Thermidor of sorts was on its way. By the by, look for some of the less intelligent and more (blindly) exuberant of the neo-cons, ironically, to now try to lay the blame for any failure on the 'stabilicist' cowardice of the much derided realists. Yep, the ironies will be rich...and the shamelessness breathtaking. Exhibit A, perhaps not surprisingly, comes from David Frum!

Seeking cause for optimism, Hadley noted that the latest round of talks on North Korea ended a 13-month boycott by Pyongyang. "They were basically testing us to see if they could split the [other] five . . . and they failed," Hadley said. "Similarly now, the Iranians are trying to test the E.U. Three to see if they can split them."

Yet in the broader picture, the fitful pace of talks in both cases belies the urgency Bush has expressed in the past, and some Bush supporters believe the time has come for a more robust approach.

The present course cannot be followed forever," said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who helped coin the "axis of evil" phrase in the 2002 State of the Union address to target countries believed to be developing weapons of mass destruction. "The president made his statement -- that he will not permit that -- so now he has to find a course of action. In Iraq, the president said he will see the job through. The job's not through, and we'll see if he'll follow through on that."

Frum said he sometimes worries that Bush has become a captive of a status quo bureaucracy. "The Bush administration since 9/11 has been again and again fighting to escape gravity, fighting to escape the weight of the way things have always been done," he said. "Things are now coming to a decision point, and we'll know soon.

Since David Frum is dwelling in la-la land, let's play pretend, just for a naughty second, and consider parachuting the Frumites into 'strategic rear-theaters' like Teheran and Damascus first, OK? David can then ponder whether Bush is being emasculated by the Foggy Bottom status quo'ers from his new gravity-defying perch there....while us feckless and short-sighted realists meekly keep the home fires burning over here.

Better yet, let's get real, as Gideon says. Precipitating a military confrontation with either Syria or Iran right now would be a mistake of epic, catastrophic proportions--all but guaranteeing that Iraq plunges into chaos. Not to mention, though I know tough guys aren't supposed to care about such things, that the rest of the world would go full-blown ape-sh*t. Even Tony Blair and John Howard wouldn't follow us into Iran or Syria. So what are people like Frum talking about? What status quo is getting them so hot under their collars? That we are negotiating with the North Koreans and, via Euro proxies, the Iranians? Can Frum provide a serious alternative course of action to this--given the so difficult state of play in Iraq and other resource constraints--rather than instead just breezily piss on State? I'm all ears, David....really, polemics aside, I'd like to hear Iran policy prescriptions better than Ray Takeyh's or Ken Pollack's. I haven't yet. Whose got 'em?

P.S. I'd just like to add, for the record, that there is a strain of idealism in American foreign policy that, on some level, has always appealed to me. At times, of course, it has been part and parcel of a belief in some form of American exceptionalism. And there is much of this idealist strain in neo-conservatism, of course, much of it at least superficially compelling. Yes, democratic states are less likely to start wars, breed terror, otherwise be rogue state actors. So democratization is indeed both a worthy goal on a idealistic as well as a practical, brass-tacks level. Still, however, the reason there have been some schisms in the neo-con camp as, for instance, between the Fukuyama and Krauthammer wings, is because some neo-cons like Frum do not appear to wholly comprehend how difficult democratization is (a process, not an event!), how long it can take, and how it may yet run aground in Iraq.

My point is that I don't mean to denigrate such nostrums and beliefs (the importance of spreading freedom, as it were), but such ambitious doctrines must be linked to the hard facts that prevail in the real world. In Iraq, we replaced brutish neo-Stalinism with, often, rampant anarchic conditions. To Dostoevsky's eternal query, whether people prefer to be free or to obey, the answer is more likely to be the latter, alas, if freedom means chronic chaos and disorder. This is not to say I believe many Iraqis are nostalgics for Saddam, he was a brute monster, and the vast majority of Iraqis well understand his exit is a net positive, even more Sunnis than we might realize. And yes, it's early days in Iraq, and we must keep at it and attempt to secure a better outcome in the months and years ahead. But we have taken up a massive project indeed there, and have our hands more than full, thank you very much. After all, is it really any surprise that a society that never went through the Enlightenment, and that is riven by class, sectarian and ethnic discords, that it takes more than a snap of a finger to get Jeffersonians rosiliy manning the polity as beacon to all those crude Cairenes, say, still haplessly wallowing in authoritarian despair? But I digress. The real way to make progress with Iran and North Korea is to show we will really try to see Iraq through in meaningful fashion. This is what will get the attention of our enemies. Not fanciful talk of new adventures that buckle some presumed nefarious status quo. Again, our idealism must not become unmoored from reality. Fantasists don't enjoy real credibility on the world stage.


Posted by Gregory at August 18, 2005 09:32 PM | TrackBack (1)
Comments

No need to go to Frum - Podhoretz pere has been pounding this beat for quite a while. Check out his take on the Vast Realist-Liberal conspiracy in http://www.commentarymagazine.com/special/A11902025_1.html -

Before November 2, some realists had feared that Bush’s reelection would, in Hendrickson’s words, “confirm and ratify the revolutionary changes he has introduced to U.S. strategy.” Having calmed down a bit since then, they are now hoping to avert the apocalypse through another possible outcome that some of them envisaged before November 2: namely, that “once revolutionary zeal collides with hard reality, . . . the Bush policies . . . will end in tears.”

One can only admire Hendrickson’s candor in admitting what is usually hotly denied: that even many leading realists, along with many liberal internationalists, are rooting for an American defeat. Direct action not being their style, they will not participate in the “mass demonstrations and civil disobedience” advocated by Tom Hayden, who advises following the playbook of the “peace” movement of the 60’s (of which he was one of the chief organizers) as the way to get us out of Iraq. But neither will they sit back passively and wait for “hard reality” to ensure that the Bush Doctrine “ends in tears.”

Instead of taking to the streets, the realists and the liberal internationalists will go back to their word processors and redouble their ongoing efforts to turn public opinion against the Bush Doctrine. Mainly they will try to do so by demonstrating over and over again that the doctrine is already failing its first great encounter with “hard reality” in Iraq.

Needless to say the article by Hendrickson to which he is referring says nothing of the sort.

Posted by: Henry Farrell at August 18, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The world's reality is an awful place to live, especially in muslim administered areas. Getting involved in muslim reality is largely for those who cannot avoid it, who find themselves mired in muslim reality against their best efforts and wishes.

Reality can be uncomfortable. Certainly the reality in Baghdad is too uncomfortable for most reporters, who rarely stray out of their hotel bars.

Posted by: Rafael Merada at August 19, 2005 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg said:

After all, is it really any surprise that a society that never went through the Enlightenment, and that is riven by class, sectarian and ethnic discords, that it takes more than a snap of a finger to get Jeffersonians rosiliy manning the polity as beacon to all those crude Cairenes, say, still haplessly wallowing in authoritarian despair?

Er...where were you in say, Februaru 2003? Sage advice such as that was strangely lacking. In its stead, we got candies, flowers, most troops home by August 2003 (down to 30,000!!!), and, according to Wolfowitz, a country that would come together under one leader because it didn't have the same history of ethnic strife as the Balkans. Live and learn I suppose.

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 03:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Greg is essentially saying that the gamble to convert Iraq into a western style democracy - and Greg does acknowledge it's a gamble - is worth allowing North Korean agression and a nuclear armed Iran on top of the the costs directly associated with the invasion of Iraq. And we really can't go after any other countries because.......

Or is Greg saying that the Iraq adventure was worth the gamble, but it didn't work out and oh well, it wasn't me or my children getting killed and and I predicted it anyhow along with Bush foreign policy calming down and looking more like Kerry's.

So I guess then that Greg voted for Bush over Kerry because of.....tax breaks?

Posted by: avedis at August 19, 2005 04:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Yep, the ironies will be rich"

Don't know how I missed that one, in this post, by someone who strongly supported a re-election of Bush because Kerry- allegedly, according to the writer - would be not be aggressive enough pursuing military intervention around the globe and because Kerry - allegedly - would not have the guts to see Iraq through to complete democratization.

And by someone who supported war, but now claims he perceived attainment of the objectives to have been unrealistic.

The color changing ability of the chameleon is an effective survival adaptation.

I suppose that in chameleon society color changing is normal and that if any of the citizens of that society even paused to think about the ability, they would think it a fine one and, generally, a noble characteristic.

Posted by: avedis at August 19, 2005 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, you're not worth answering, I suggest switching dealers.

avedis, you are a fool, a born fool from all the practice you seem to have had. Right now, the casualty count in Iran/NK is at or near zero, and we haven't been nuked either. There is no imminent threat of their use, right? So we are handling it not catastrophically. What should we have done? Would you like us to attack them now? Well, OK. Believe it or not, we do have the means to achieve needed goals. But I am not sure I see the vice inherent in kicking these cans down the road. The Euros want to mess around for a while first so let 'em. What was your point exactly?


...As for Rose, Greg seems to miss that he advocates everything Greg opposes in terms of the war aims. Realism has often set us up for bigger hits later. Think of Eisenhower at Suez in 1956. Screwing our friends then didn't do Hungary any good, nor was it helpful in setting direction of the history of the ME for the next half-century.

But there are realist critiques to be made. One problem with the humanitarian approach is the use of inadequate force, the desire not to hurt the enemy too much. If "grasp the nettle," "rip off the Band-Aid" is realism, I am for that. I was against the gutting of the Shock and Awe program. I was also for making more use of the Iraqi Army, of more selective de-Baathification, of earlier cooptation of tribal structures, and of better PR.

Plenty of blame to go round for the government not to heed and obey my private thoughts, including a fair share to Bremer, Powell, CPA and State. Some to Defense and the Pentagon, to Rumsfeld and, sure, even to Bush if you like. Oh yeah, don't forget Tenet; and then, don't forget twenty, thirty, fifty, a thousand years of world history.

Anybody could have predicted a hairball in such a conflict. Doesn't make Iraq not worth doing. Could it have been done better? Sure, and France and Britain could have stopped Hitler in '36 or '38. Glad we won that one.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 19, 2005 05:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hopefully the same sort of pragmatic realignment will occur in the minds of those Americans who believe their military force is the answer to all problems. I doubt it but I hope they realise that like the initial Bush policy of telling the world how it should run, which failed; the policy of using a modern barbarian army with scant regard for public safety, yet alone human rights, is also destined to fail.

Posted by: Jeremy at August 19, 2005 09:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeremy, nothing would ever satisfy you. Unless you wanted it to. Your beliefs are simply not falsifiable. You no longer think, you only believe. And feel. Oh, how you feel. When it suits you, of course.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 19, 2005 09:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks Greg, a nice comment.

I sincerely hope cold pragmatism is indeed returning. I note that Elliot Cohen's favourite quote is Talleyrand, by the way....

Posted by: Lounsbury at August 19, 2005 01:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Its not that Americans - or even neo-cons ( cue sinister music ) believe force is the answer to everything

Its that we understand force is sometimes the right answer

A lesson the leftist fifth column hasn't learned since the 1930's

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 02:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nichevo, I'm not sure that Eric is the one that has a dealer, it might be you. You also might want to stay above ad hominem attacks and instead, say, focus on a compelling argument instead of hand-waving about your "private thoughts."

Pogue also (again) forgets to actually address the matter and instead attacks his "leftist fifth column" straw man. Jeremy said "those Americans" not "ALL Americans." I think we can agree that there are significant numbers of Americans who think we should use the military to eliminate issues like NK and Iran.

As for Greg, I'm happy to see that you're seeing what you should've seen some time before November. I don't understand how a Democratically controlled White House with a Republican Congress would've been any worse than what we have now. I remember thinking that your explanations of why you were voting for Bush over Kerry were based on hope... hope that the personnel moves you were hearing about would mark some radical improvement in foreign policy execution.

The problem as I've been seeing it is one of thoroughness, not of high level policy. It marks this presidency on all fronts in the war on terror especially. They have these wonderful, high-minded ideas but the followup isn't there.

This is utter speculation, as I have no good sources in the White House, but the symptoms seem familiar to me. These are all skilled practitioners who don't get any peer review of their work or plans. By all reports, Bush is a delegator, but one who doesn't actually get hands on or follow up. He trusts his people, and asks them to take point on issues while he focuses on message and on politicking. The problem seems to me that they don't talk to each other. It's like writing without an editor (as the editors I know say, "everyone needs an editor") or programming without code reviews or QA. Regardless of the skill of the practitioner, peer review is an essential component of being thorough.

I don't think these people talk to each other enough, nor do they seem to trust each other in anything. I'm certain this was the case during the first term and I'm not seeing any progress in this term.

Another interesting data point: the recent release to the GWU NS Archives of some of the planning documents ( http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB163/index.htm ) annoyed me, but not for the reasons that Eschaton and AllSpinZone and others are getting all worked up about.

It upsets me because in the State docs there *are all the damn questions they should've answered* before they went in. It's clear from reports at the time and with this new information that State wasn't getting heard in all of this, the war got delegated down to Rummy, and he focused on that which he and his knew well.

And it's amusing and sad to see the number of times "Note military government idea did not go down well." appears in the PPT presentation...

Posted by: just me at August 19, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You simply cannot keep harking back to WW2. One of the real problems is that Americans (and British) people cannot forget rightness of WW2. Which is right but not the end of it. But there have been a lot of dirty wars that have failed since then where force has clearly failed (Britain and the Suez for example) but Vietnam is the other bovious American example (but also US involvement in LAtin America).

Iraq wasn't worth a gamble, it was a stupid idea from the start. And accept the fact that the 14 permanent bases in Iraq were part of a larger objective in the region than merely providing democracy (if the US is so big on democracy why try and topple Chavez the whole time).

I enjoy reading this site because sooner or later even the hard core nutters on this site are going to have to admit that their big manly army is getting a good kicking from a group of brave and determined young men who believe in the rightness of their cause at least as much as you do (and most more because you guys just write about it). You tried to control a brave and warlike people because you thought your technological advantages would allow you to subjugate them and allow you to dominate their country and they have decided not to play ball.

The saddest thing about this is that America has ruined a country (that wasn't in great condition anyway) and now you will wonder why the people there hate you. Go figure?

Posted by: Jeremy at August 19, 2005 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq was certainly a ruined country under Saddam. In spite of the low life garbage terrorists it is slowly rebuilding to pre-Baath splendor.

Did I say low life garbage terrorists? Perhaps I was a bit harsh. By neglecting to mention the enablers in the media and in the intelligentsia of the west I made it sound like only the low life garbage terrorists were obstructing the peace. No, they get plenty of help.

Posted by: Rafael Merada at August 19, 2005 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Iraqis are writing their own "Owners Manual" with the help of the US.

In many ways, the ways and means of settling the American west 100+ years ago have been updated and are being implemented in Iraq. The lessons learned in post WWII Germany and Japan will also come into play. Things will work out fine. Role models will be established within the Iraqi communities that have reasonable and sensible values.

Those "involved" in discussions about Iraq can say what they want. It is a free world. Those "commtted" to Iraq are building the infrastructure and the nation. When those committed souls have completed their work, those involved will say "I told you so"... Will those involved souls be thankful?

Posted by: Canucklehead at August 19, 2005 05:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeremy added -

"I enjoy reading this site because sooner or later even the hard core nutters on this site are going to have to admit that their big manly army is getting a good kicking from a group of brave and determined young men who believe in the rightness of their cause at least as much as you do (and most more because you guys just write about it). "


Heres the latest report about those you call "brave and determined young men" Jeremy

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9005694/

MOSUL, Iraq - Gunmen seized three Sunni Arabs hanging posters urging people to vote in the constitutional referendum, drove them to a mosque and shot them dead Friday, an official of their political party and witnesses said.

WHAT can I add? I am revolted by these murdering facists - and equally revolted by the Western apologists who only hate the US and the CoW and are gleeful with the prospect that Iraq may yet descend into complete anarchy if only they keep banging their drums "is it vietnam yet"

"You tried to control a brave and warlike people because you thought your technological advantages would allow you to subjugate them and allow you to dominate their country and they have decided not to play ball."


RIGHT - those "brave and warlike" people who dragged these young men off and shot them for hanging posters.
Its truely sad that you can't spare one ounce of concern for the innocent people of Iraq ( 8 MILLION voted! ) and instead use your time to heap praise on the terrorists
Make no mistake - if they read your words they will blush from the honor you bestow upon them


"The saddest thing about this is that America has ruined a country (that wasn't in great condition anyway) and now you will wonder why the people there hate you. Go figure?"

NO - the saddest thing is that children of priveledge like yourself can only find evil if it is located in Washington when a Republican is in office.

Since the terrorists of Iraq are such heroe's to you why don't you post at Iraqthemodel.com for a while and see what Iraqi's think of your hero worship

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeremy added -

"I enjoy reading this site because sooner or later even the hard core nutters on this site are going to have to admit that their big manly army is getting a good kicking from a group of brave and determined young men who believe in the rightness of their cause at least as much as you do (and most more because you guys just write about it). "


Heres the latest report about those you call "brave and determined young men" Jeremy

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9005694/

MOSUL, Iraq - Gunmen seized three Sunni Arabs hanging posters urging people to vote in the constitutional referendum, drove them to a mosque and shot them dead Friday, an official of their political party and witnesses said.

WHAT can I add? I am revolted by these murdering facists - and equally revolted by the Western apologists who only hate the US and the CoW and are gleeful with the prospect that Iraq may yet descend into complete anarchy if only they keep banging their drums "is it vietnam yet"

"You tried to control a brave and warlike people because you thought your technological advantages would allow you to subjugate them and allow you to dominate their country and they have decided not to play ball."


RIGHT - those "brave and warlike" people who dragged these young men off and shot them for hanging posters.
Its truely sad that you can't spare one ounce of concern for the innocent people of Iraq ( 8 MILLION voted! ) and instead use your time to heap praise on the terrorists
Make no mistake - if they read your words they will blush from the honor you bestow upon them


"The saddest thing about this is that America has ruined a country (that wasn't in great condition anyway) and now you will wonder why the people there hate you. Go figure?"

NO - the saddest thing is that children of priveledge like yourself can only find evil if it is located in Washington when a Republican is in office.

Since the terrorists of Iraq are such heroe's to you why don't you post at Iraqthemodel.com for a while and see what Iraqi's think of your hero worship

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 05:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post on an analytic, intellectual level. Responsible, mature Republicans are waking up.

While we're "getting real" let's have a few words about what will happen to our remaining troops on the ground when we begin a politically motivated, election timed, "measured" withdrawal.

Turning doubtful "intelligence" into a "preemptive" war with too few troops and insufficient logistic support; idiotic. Undermining and weakening our military and intelligence capacity; unforgiveable. Lying about the deteriorating situation while soldiers are being maimed and killed; criminal.

Idealism is not a defense for commiting other peoples' lives to be wasted and destroyed.

Please don't apologize for going after Cheney, his past contributions notwithstanding. He was a prime architect of the disinformation campaign that took us to war unprepared and without an exit strategy. He continues to impede informed public discourse.

And please don't apologize for the emotional tone of your blog. The body count is increasing. Strategic coherence is replaced by political opportunism. Our country is diminished in military strength and international reputation.

As for Rumsfeld, thank you for your clarity on his incompetence. He must go write his memoirs; titled "Oops". Sold in a boxed set with McNamara's.

One can only wonder what might have been, had Bush appointed someone with military knowledge and experience to Defense. Or even someone who didn't systemically interdict intelligence and advice that failed to support preordained conclusions.

Posted by: Adams at August 19, 2005 05:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

just me,

two words: I parse. Eric Martin was incomprehensible. There is no trucking with such a case of logorrhea. I thought the drug reference was funny. I don't think anyone will nark on him.

My point about the 'private thoughts' was not that I had any special insight, but that all of that was perfectly obvious, and those who wave it around as a revelation are doing no service even unto themselves. I mean, stories about corruption in Iraq? Can you say, "dog bites man?"

I see that was all I got from you, so I guess this is all you get from me.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 19, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Adams,

Since just me abjures ad hominems, I will not reflect on your comments personally:

"One can only wonder what might have been, had Bush appointed someone with military knowledge and experience to Defense. Or even someone who didn't systemically interdict intelligence and advice that failed to support preordained conclusions."

However, as a fighter pilot and former Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld's knowledge and experience are simply undeniable. Perhaps they are not the right experience, or they are not enough experience, or the wrong lessons were learned, but to deny his background is simply incoherence of the sort that, so sorry, raises contempt.

I would be much more appreciative (and not as a Rumsfeld votary) for a critique that said: "How could a man of Rumsfeld's knowledge and experience preside over failures like X, Y and Z?" This at least is sane, even if wrong, and is discussable. It leads to questions that are interesting, instead of presuming you really have all the answers.

Posted by: Nichevo at August 19, 2005 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WOW - Adams is really firing on all cylinder there

"While we're "getting real" let's have a few words about what will happen to our remaining troops on the ground when we begin a politically motivated, election timed, "measured" withdrawal."


PRESUMING you are in favor of withdrawl - I can't help but wonder how you can cast aspersions at that very thing. Now it won't be the "right" withdrawl to suit your tastes.


"Turning doubtful "intelligence" into a "preemptive" war with too few troops and insufficient logistic support; idiotic. Undermining and weakening our military and intelligence capacity; unforgiveable. Lying about the deteriorating situation while soldiers are being maimed and killed; criminal.

Idealism is not a defense for commiting other peoples' lives to be wasted and destroyed. "

AND naivte about the war is no rationale for presenting a laundry list of "errors" - oh if only we had all listed to you eh


"Please don't apologize for going after Cheney, his past contributions notwithstanding. He was a prime architect of the disinformation campaign that took us to war unprepared and without an exit strategy. He continues to impede informed public discourse. "


WOULD your contribution be considered "informed"?

"And please don't apologize for the emotional tone of your blog. The body count is increasing. Strategic coherence is replaced by political opportunism. Our country is diminished in military strength and international reputation."

HOW I yearn for that wonderful "international reputation" we enjoyed with Clinton - while our enemies plotted 9/11


"As for Rumsfeld, thank you for your clarity on his incompetence. He must go write his memoirs; titled "Oops". Sold in a boxed set with McNamara's.

One can only wonder what might have been, had Bush appointed someone with military knowledge and experience to Defense. Or even someone who didn't systemically interdict intelligence and advice that failed to support preordained conclusions."


WOW - are you comparing Iraq to Veitnam? I have never heard that one before

As for the "informed commentary" - sinces Rumsfeld was a FORMER Sec Def - I would say he has the MOST experience of any Sec Def of the past 100 years for the job when he took it.

Did any Clinton Sec Def have such experience??

I think we can safely place your opinion under "uninformed"

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nichevo, point taken.

I meant, and should have said, command level, field experience, ala Powell. The point (which I apparently failed to make) being that a SD with such experience would have been less likely to 1) attempt to transform the military strategically at the same time as planning and executing an invasion, 2) enter a potential quagmire without specific military objectives and a specific exit strategy, etc.

I'm still trying to be brief here, so please allow me to say that I don't consider "create democracy" in a country such as Iraq to be a realistic, achievable, or even, strictly speaking, a military objective.

Thanks for your correction.

Posted by: Adams at August 19, 2005 06:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i disagree with the original point. listing personnel doesnt prove a thermidor - it could be read as more like an attempt to do the jacobin thing, but more competently. Since the inauguration, weve seen Condi pushing democratization pretty vocally in Egypt, and walking away from a base in Uzbekistan. Weve seen revolution in Kyrgizistan, and change in Lebanon. And we've seen continued support from the NSC and State Department for democratization in Iraq.

And I would point out that the core neocons are NOT complaining bitterly about thermidor - im thinking Kristol at the WS, and McCain, etc.

Now if what we had was REAL neorealist, stablicists, of the Jim Baker/Brent Scowcroft variety, Id be concerned. and yes, i know Condi once worked for Scowcroft. But from what ive seen, she is her own woman, and not a Scowcroftian.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 19, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nichevo,

Do you require pictures? How about pictures that don't pop out of the book?

Greg intends to let us all know how hard transforming Iraq will be. My point was that few people were talking about how hard it would be BEFORE the invasion - hence the reference to February 2003. Instead of telling the people how hard it would be, we got treated to a bunch of fantasies about how EASY it would be (the ones I listed are but a short list, as there were others).

Was it really that incomprehensible?

In general I find it sadly amusing how now, some two and a half years later, war supporters are lecturing the rest of us about how much patience is required, how slow these processes are, how delicate and precarious the prospects for success, and how we must not demand instant results. Those same arguments were wielded by the likes of me before the invasion, and I was called a scaremongerer, a cassandra and a racist, and that I had no grasp on geo-political machinations. My how the worm has turned.

By the way, my dealer got busted, does anyone have any recommendations?

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

what is strict democracy?

Is sharia law over muslims on marriage and divorce incompatible with strict democracy? Then Israel and India still arent strct democracies. Is some degree of corruption, some degree of local coercion, and voters who vote based on tribal, religious, or local patronage instead of ideology incompatible with democracy? Than India wasnt the largest democracy in the world for all those decades we thought she was, and much of the US wasnt a democracy till well into the 20th century. (and parts of Chicago werent till a couple of decades ago)

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 19, 2005 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

EM - I recall a lot of people suggesting that Iraq would not look like Sweden, etc. It was the people who suggested not that Iraqi democracy was a hard project, but that it was a pipe dream, who were called racist (well at least by those of us who are sane - there are all kinds of nuts out in the blogsphere, on both sides)

And of course much of the reason its been so hard is for reasons folks didnt expect - who knew how well prepared the Saddamite state was for an extended insurgency, down to weapons caches, arrangements with released criminals, arrangements with Zarqawi, etc. Perhaps Rummy should have known - i wont say the rest of us ordinary folks should have.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 19, 2005 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I might have missed some of the thread, but who was talking about "strict democracy" and in what context?

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

State knew. The INR knew. The folks that worked on the Future of Iraq Project knew. But at the time, such prescience was dismissed as pessimism. Now it is hailed as wisdom by the same who showed disdain beforehand.

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 06:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Speaking of knowing, here was James Baker Post Gulf War I:

"Iraqi soldiers and civilians could be expected to resist an enemy seizure of their own country with a ferocity not previously demonstrated on the battlefield in Kuwait.

Even if Hussein were captured and his regime toppled, U.S. forces would still have been confronted with the specter of a military occupation of indefinite duration to pacify the country and sustain a new government in power.

Removing him from power might well have plunged Iraq into civil war, sucking U.S. forces in to preserve order. Had we elected to march on Baghdad, our forces might still be there."

George Sr. had some thoughts on the subject as well:

"We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect rule Iraq," Bush wrote. "The coalition would have instantly collapsed. . . Going in and thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish.

"Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome."


But hey, who knew?

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...but that it was a pipe dream..."

The way the trend is going that'll be the mantra of the warhawks by next year. They'll move the goalposts once again, "well, we never believed Iraq had a real chance of becoming a democracy, that was just an objective we could all agree upon. Really, there were other more important objectives - objectives of a geopolitical realism that regulat citizens just can't comprehend...."

and, in the end (5 to 10 years?), "we failed to achieve anything in Iraq because the liberals at home undermined our brilliant plan...."

weasels and chameleons, the lot of them, but this is what you'd expect from an administration that sought out and employed convicted criminals, shakers of hostage takers hands, etc

Posted by: avedis at August 19, 2005 07:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whats it like to live in a world where 9/11 never happened Eric?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

huh? Sure cause, you know, none of these guys wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11. It just suddenly came to them. Epiphany-like...

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 19, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

9/11 is carte blanche to do whatever we want to whomever we want?

First I don't see any connection between Iraq and 9/11..........but then warhawks have been trying and trying with tortured logic and outright lies to create a connection and, well, you can fool some of the people.......

But what about a world where 9/11 confers that sort of carte blanche? Where war are started on the slightest of evidence of possible threat? What an ugly, brutish, and woefull world that would be. You know, we are not the only country to have experienced an attack at some point in its history. We are not the only country threatened by hostile parties. Many countries share borders with hostile states. If they all acted towards perceived threats as we did regarding Iraq....well you should get the picture.

And just because we can isn't a fair answer; partly because it lokks like maybe, in the long run, we cannot. Also, because the truth is that any state actor can.

Posted by: avedis at August 19, 2005 08:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No one has ever explained to me how the Bushies would risk all political capital by knowingly lying about WMD. We know that no battle (or after-battle) plan survives contact with the enemy; and the winner is the one who can adjust to the changing situation. The biggest intelligence failure was not knowing to what extent Iraq had become a failed state. Such places can be just as dangerous to our national security as rogue states. We invaded Iraq because we were in a race to counter proliferation AND the privatization of war. We stay in Iraq because there is no other choice at the moment. Realist thinking has set in long ago in the Pentagon and White House. They are just trying to break the news to us gently. What people can't accept is that this conflict was inevitable.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at August 19, 2005 08:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well Eric - regime change in Iraq had been the official policy of the US Gov't sine 1998

Kind of makes your "they wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11" comment non-sensical - at least if by "they" you mean the evil Bushie neo-cons ( which I am sure you did )


What you don't get - and its clear you never will - is that 9/11 made the rapid implimentation of that 1998 policy a very advisable option

The response to 9/11 was, properly, not to get the guys who perpetrated this act - although that was and is pursued - but to seek to prevent the next 9/11 - a WMD 9/11

Now you may say "Iraq doesn't achieve that goal" - and maybe it won't

But you don't offer any alternative suggestion - just constant criticism

As John Kerry learned - criticism is not an alternative plan

As for this

"Where war are started on the slightest of evidence of possible threat? What an ugly, brutish, and woefull world that would be. "


Yes Avedis - it IS an ugly brutish world out there - where attacks can come out of the blue for no defensible ( other than to Michael Moore types ) reason - eg 9/11

Bush and the neo-cons haven't made it so - this is your fantasy where you need to place the blame on them

To quote from Tarantino - "I didn't create this situation - I'm dealing with it"

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 19, 2005 09:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"is worth allowing North Korean agression and a nuclear armed Iran on top of the the costs directly associated with the invasion of Iraq."


I always find this critique odd. Would you be suggesting an invasion of North Korea or Iran if only we weren't currently in Iraq?

"One problem with the humanitarian approach is the use of inadequate force, the desire not to hurt the enemy too much. If "grasp the nettle," "rip off the Band-Aid" is realism, I am for that. "

This identifies a key problem. You have to win before you can be magnanimous in victory.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 19, 2005 10:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I always find this critique odd. Would you be suggesting an invasion of North Korea or Iran if only we weren't currently in Iraq?"

I would be suggesting a defense of S. Korea should N. Korea attack. I would also be suggesting a deterent to N. Korean attack by promoting a strong and capable rapid US response (which can't exist right now because of Iraq).

I would have further suggested a more robust effort in Afghanistan; the type of effort we did not project due to a diversion of resources to Iraq. I would have suggested a 100% effort to kill Bin Laden and his high ranking officers.

I would promote readiness to attack Iran should they develop certain nuclear capabilities and adopt certain hostile postures.

It's very simple Sebastion. It's a multi-dimensional chess board with multiple players. Every competitor has a pretty good idea of everyone else's strength's and limitations. Iraq has caused us to have serious military limitations. THose limitations are now recognized by other players. In my opinion those limitations and the potential negative outcomes resulting from the recognition of those limitations by opponents are greater than the gains from a successful Iraq adventure (think costs X probability of success).

And I think that success in Iraq is highly unlikely. I'm assigning that a probability of .1.

Posted by: avedis at August 20, 2005 12:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, yes, we'll all wait patiently for your go-ahead on the Iranian invasion, Avedis. You and Eric let us know, OK?

But that's the nut of your ennui, isn't it boys? You didn't want to force the issue, but enough of us did. So we knocked over a couple of despots, and you pretend to care how it adversly pre-occupies our military. Meanwhile Brigade Transformation continues apace.
You didn't want something, but it happened anyways.
Oh my God! It turns out it doesn't matter what you think - you haven't been able to transmit your "cunning plan" to enough of us, eh Baldrick? You predict dire consequences, but it turns out that life goes on, and the President gets re-elected. Huh? Go figure. What're their, 20 of us that come here?

Cheer up, my troubled little Armenian friend, it happens to the best of us. There's always joy to be had in gardening.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 01:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Cheer up, my troubled little Armenian friend, it happens to the best of us. There's always joy to be had in gardening."

You're directing this at Greg, right?

Posted by: Just a question at August 20, 2005 05:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Cheer up, my troubled little Armenian friend, it happens to the best of us. There's always joy to be had in gardening."

Are you hearing Tommy G., Greg? He's talking to you.

Posted by: observer at August 20, 2005 05:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue wrote, "Now you may say "Iraq doesn't achieve that goal" - and maybe it won't But you don't offer any alternative suggestion"

Uh, maybe one alternative that you might have heard mentioned was "don't invade", I'm just saying, you know we really do have a choice. There is no Constitutional imperative to invade some country, any country, after a terrorist attack.

"Yes Avedis - it IS an ugly brutish world out there - where attacks can come out of the blue for no defensible ( other than to Michael Moore types ) reason - eg 9/11. Bush and the neo-cons haven't made it so - this is your fantasy where you need to place the blame on them


To quote from Tarantino - "I didn't create this situation - I'm dealing with it"

So what does any of that have to do with invading Iraq? And if Bush is attacking countries based on a false premise (WMD) or simply because he doesn't like their form of government (somewhat out of the blue and for no more a defensible reason than terrorists attacking us because they don't like our government) then is he dealing with the situation or is he making it worse?

People like you are stuck in this weird self-reinforcing feedback loop where you never examine the logic (or lack thereof) or the premises that whirl around in your little closed thought system.


Posted by: avedis at August 20, 2005 04:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

P.S. You are aware that Iraq did not attack us on 9/11, that none of the terrorists involved in any of the attacks on or before 9/11 were Iraqi, and that Saddam sought out and destroyed any religious fanatics of the sort that espouse jihad.

Surely that info has reached your cave

Posted by: avedis at August 20, 2005 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

RE: "Observer" and "Just a Question"

God, that's right - thanks for reminding me. They're aren't really 20 of us here, It's more like 12, and Avedis chiming in as 3 to 4 other people.

Yeah - no one's ever thought of doing that. Gods, what a ground-swell.

Avedis, you should have your pseudonyms debate each other - wouldn't that be a trick?

Posted by: Tommy G at August 20, 2005 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And you as at least 4 people on the right - Pogue Mahone, Jim Rockford, Tommy G. and Nachivo.

On a forum of this size it is too against the odds that there would be four people with IQs three standard deviations below the mean. You must be one.

Posted by: guess_who at August 20, 2005 08:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue,

Go to my site, or the LAT site, and scour the archives for plans to react to 9/11 and foreign policy in general. I do much more than criticize and complain, and use probably too many words to do it. In fact, I am preoccupied with not JUST criticizing - hence the freakin treatises.

As for your citation to official policy, you should read the article Regime Change and Its Limits by Richard Haas. He discusses the fact that regime change is a goal with many strategies, most of which do not involve military invasion, and the track record is actually not all that great when using that tactic. The Bush crew on the other hand wanted to "invade" Iraq. That is taking a different approach to the policy of regime change. They used 9/11 as the pretext to execute a pre-existing goal. And WMD provided a convenient shoe-horn, and so they hyped, distorted, exaggerated and in some cases lied about the threat. Not to mention cut short the actual weapons inspections themselves that would have revealed the success of the dual sanctions/inspections regime in terms of keeping Saddam weaponless.

If you would like some excerpts from Haas, here is an extended look:

Using regime change as a policy panacea is nothing new. Nor are the challenges posed by repressive countries possessing threatening weaponry; these are certainly not exclusively post-Cold War or post-September 11 phenomena. Indeed, the Cold War itself can be understood as a prolonged confrontation with a state of precisely this sort; the Soviet Union threatened the United States by what it did beyond its borders and offended Americans by what it did within them. So had Nazi Germany and imperial Japan before it.

Simply acquiescing to Soviet behavior at home and abroad, however, was not acceptable to Washington either. The result was a policy of "containment," which George Kennan (then a U.S. diplomat in Moscow) helped formulate in his "long telegram," which ultimately found its way into this magazine in 1947. Containment was never as modest a policy as its critics alleged. Although it prescribed resisting Moscow's attempts to spread communism and expand Soviet influence, it also had a second, less cited dimension.

"It is entirely possible," Kennan wrote, "for the United States to influence by its actions the internal developments, both within Russia and throughout the international Communist movement. ... The United States has it in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and circumspection than [the Kremlin] has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power."

In other words, containment's second, subordinate goal was regime change. It eventually achieved this end through incremental means. But this method was so gradual (it took more than 40 years to succeed) that it could better be understood as regime evolution, and it took a back seat to containing Soviet advances. Whereas regime change (as the Bush administration uses the term) tends to be direct and immediate and to involve the use of military force or covert action, as well as attempts to isolate both politically and economically the government in question, regime evolution tends to be indirect and gradual and to involve the use of foreign policy tools other than military force.

Advocates of regime change generally reject most, sometimes any, dealings with the regime in question, lest the process of interaction or engagement somehow buttress the offending government. Diplomacy is therefore marginalized, as it has been in U.S. Cuba policy for 40 years, and as it has been more recently in U.S. policy toward both North Korea and Iran.

Regime evolution, however, accepts the need for give-and-take. The United States carried out an active diplomacy with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. It mattered not whether the policy was characterized as "peaceful coexistence" or, somewhat more optimistically, as "detente"; either way, the United States was prepared to deal with the Soviet Union when doing so served U.S. interests. Containment took precedence over rollback, or regime change, and influencing Soviet foreign policy took precedence over influencing Soviet behavior at home. This did not mean the United States ignored questions of what was going on inside the Soviet Union -- it did not, as evidenced by sustained U.S. support for radio broadcasts addressed to the Soviet people, for individual human rights cases, and for the right to emigrate. But Washington did not accord these issues the same weight as Soviet foreign policy.

In the end, the Soviet regime did change. Historians will continue to debate how much of this was due to internal flaws in the Soviet system and how much resulted from U.S. and Western policy. The easy answer is that both forces were effective. The important thing is that an end did come, and it came peacefully. The third great conflict of the twentieth century, like the first two, ended with the result desired by the United States. Unlike the outcomes of the first two conflicts, however, this one was achieved without total war.
[...]
The Soviet experience holds important lessons for current U.S. foreign policy. Removing odious leaders -- "regime ouster" -- is no easy thing. The Soviet Union survived for nearly three-quarters of a century. The United States found it difficult to locate and arrest Manuel Noriega in Panama in 1989 and impossible to oust Mohamed Farah Aideed in Somalia in 1993. Fidel Castro remains ensconced in Havana today.

Regime replacement, the second step in regime change, is even more difficult, however. In the end, toppling Saddam Hussein was easy compared with putting in place a new Iraqi government that could run a secure, viable country. Although the Iraq venture was made far more expensive and difficult than necessary by Washington's poor planning and questionable decisions, it is possible it would not have gone more smoothly even had Iraq's occupation been approached differently. And occupations elsewhere will not be much easier. The rise of nationalism, together with globalization (and the increased availability of powerful means of resistance), may have doomed prolonged occupations of foreign countries by sharply increasing their human, military, and economic costs.

Indeed, the uncertainties surrounding regime change make it an unreliable approach for dealing with specific problems such as a nuclear weapons program in an unfriendly state. Neither North Korea nor Iran appears to be on the brink of dramatic domestic change. A decade ago, many believed that North Korea was near collapse, yet the regime still stands, and it may persist for years more, notwithstanding North Korea's impoverishment, its cruel and eccentric leadership, and its utter lack of freedom. Iran, too, is unlikely to throw off its current clerical leaders, despite their unpopularity. Even if these assessments ultimately prove incorrect, regime change cannot be counted on to come quickly enough to remove the nuclear threats now posed by these countries.


http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050701faessay84405/richard-n-haass/regime-change-and-its-limits.html

Tommy,

I would point out that sometimes you have to maintain the threat of force in order to muscle up on regimes like Iran, even if you don't actually invade them. Now, we have little in that area as the curtain has been pulled back and Iran and NoKo know we can't do anything against them for the time being. They also now know our limits for acting in general at any time better than they did prior to the Iraq invasion.

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 21, 2005 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Of course there are other explanations....

"God told me to strike at Al Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did."

~ President George Bush to
Palestinian PM Mahoud Abbas
June 4, 2003

Could be true???!!??!!??!!

Posted by: avedis at August 21, 2005 08:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For what its worth - none of the terrorists of 9/11 were Afghan either

As for Saddams his hatred of religious fanatics - that didn't stop him from supporting them

Any more that Hitlers judgement of the japanese as inferior kept him from allying with them

Maniacal dictators do the craziest things ya know

I won't waste any time on your chapter and verse "proof" that the Bush admin "wanted" to topple Saddam by any means pre 9/11

If no 9/11 - no Operation Iraqi Freedom

Its as simple as that

And those who understand the broader war understand the rationale all too well

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 22, 2005 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"For what its worth - none of the terrorists of 9/11 were Afghan either"

Idiocy- the terrorist training bases were in Afghanistan as were the terrorist leaders that orchestrated 9/11 at the highest levels.

You still fail to demonstrate a Iraqi connection to attacks against the US and - I suppose - you never will because 1) there aren't any and 2) you continue to issue ever more pathetic nonsequitors in reply to requests for proof.

"As for Saddams his hatred of religious fanatics - that didn't stop him from supporting them"

Please state your proof, name fanatic groups, etc. in other words, what the hell are you talking abouting.

"If no 9/11 - no Operation Iraqi Freedom
Its as simple as that"

Right, because a scared and confused public was vulnerable to Bush's scare tactics (eg WMD, mushroom clouds over NYC, etc); scare tactics used to promote and carry out a plan that was clearly described in writing, more than once, by men that would become the key players in the Bush administration foreign policy apperatus.

Otherwise, again, what the hell are you trying to get at.


"And those who understand the broader war understand the rationale all too well"

What is this? You have inside information straight from the higher levels of our government? You get private briefings from Bush? Please enlighten me. Nothing Bush has shared with average citizens like me could be configured to explain things in a master plan kinda way as you seem to allude to.

Posted by: avedis at August 22, 2005 12:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Saddam hosted Abu Nidal - thats 1

Saddam paid Hamas 25K per suicide bomber - thats 2

Although I am sure that is not enough for you

You simply can't grasp the wider implications of 9/11 - to you its about getting the specific people involved

To me its about changing the ME and promoting open systems to give people an option beyond despotism or theocratic facism

The Clinton approach didn't work - why do you advocate it still

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 22, 2005 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It has now become very clear and much confirmed that the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the assassination of the Palestinian terrorist Sabri al-Bana, known to the world as Abu Nidal."

That's from Jane's, but it is common knowledge and is repeated all over the place. Saddam killed Nidal after Nidal entered the country illegally. While Iraq had supported Nidal in the early '80s, that support had ceased by the '90s.

And, Nidal was interested in Palistinian affairs. He even wanted to kill Arafat.

Furthermore, past support can't make one a terrorist sponsor for life. Afterall we have supported Saddam....

Hamas. Saddam did not supply ordnance. His compensation to families of suicide bombers is often cited, but never proven. Even if true, it is 1) a common behavior in the ME. Suadis openly contribute. 2) Again, this is a Palistinian/Isreali issue. A nationalist type movement. It is not a religious based jihad. Nor has it ever sought to attack the US homeland.

Posted by: avedis at August 22, 2005 12:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue is there anything in between the Clinton approach and the invasion of Iraq - even if Saddam did aid Palestinian terrorist groups? If so, you can put me there, in that middle ground.

As for your "no 9/11, no Iraq invasion" construct, I don't necessarily disagree. Many neocon scholars were lamenting the lack of domestic support for invading Iraq before 9/11. But that doesn't justify the policy. For them, 9/11 proved convenient in terms of mustering the support that they previously lacked (for the record: I do not mean to imply that any of them were actually pleased with the events of 9/11 in any way, shape or form).

Posted by: Eric Martin at August 22, 2005 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:
To me its about changing the ME and promoting open systems to give people an option beyond despotism or theocratic facism

1. A worthy endeavour, but so far counter-productive and likely to remain so. US policy (Dem & GOP alike) over the last 60 years has changed the ME for the worse. Much of it has been cold-war expedience, much of it has been support for Israel, much of it has been commercial interest and precious little of it has been democracy inculcation. Open systems involve non-exceptionalism and multilateralism. Not much sign of that ever, but especially lately.

2. A limited endeavour. Despotism and theocratic fascism (a bit of a stretch of fascism's meaning there) are not confined to the ME and current US ME policy is internationalising these problems even faster than globalising trends have already internationalised these problems.

3. A hubristic endeavour. Even if the theory is 100% right, success requires 100% accurate execution. The US is institutionally incapable of unerring execution. This is no great criticism - no other nation sings in perfect unison under pressure - but we've seen overreach in demands for privatisation that go beyond democratisation goals and subvert them. We've also seen US religiosity handicap its endeavours all the way from Bush's "crusade" comment, through Boykinesque ravings down to the USMC website happily showing one of its tanks in Iraq dubbed "New Testament" with its name prominently wrapped around its gun barrel.

4. A hypocritical endeavour. Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, rendition. The denial of legitimate anti-US grievance undercuts response to illegitimate reaction to legitimate grievance.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I make little distinction between Bush & Clinton, Reagan & Carter, Kennedy & Eisenhower. The problem is systemic and cultural. It goes way deeper than political fine-tuning. The US is a mighty state, but does repeat characteristic blunders under all administrations.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 23, 2005 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:
To me its about changing the ME and promoting open systems to give people an option beyond despotism or theocratic facism

1. A worthy endeavour, but so far counter-productive and likely to remain so. US policy (Dem & GOP alike) over the last 60 years has changed the ME for the worse. Much of it has been cold-war expedience, much of it has been support for Israel, much of it has been commercial interest and precious little of it has been democracy inculcation. Open systems involve non-exceptionalism and multilateralism. Not much sign of that ever, but especially lately.

2. A limited endeavour. Despotism and theocratic fascism (a bit of a stretch of fascism's meaning there) are not confined to the ME and current US ME policy is internationalising these problems even faster than globalising trends have already internationalised these problems.

3. A hubristic endeavour. Even if the theory is 100% right, success requires 100% accurate execution. The US is institutionally incapable of unerring execution. This is no great criticism - no other nation sings in perfect unison under pressure - but we've seen overreach in demands for privatisation that go beyond democratisation goals and subvert them. We've also seen US religiosity handicap its endeavours all the way from Bush's "crusade" comment, through Boykinesque ravings down to the USMC website happily showing one of its tanks in Iraq dubbed "New Testament" with its name prominently wrapped around its gun barrel.

4. A hypocritical endeavour. Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, rendition. The denial of legitimate anti-US grievance undercuts response to illegitimate reaction to legitimate grievance.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I make little distinction between Bush & Clinton, Reagan & Carter, Kennedy & Eisenhower. The problem is systemic and cultural. It goes way deeper than political fine-tuning. The US is a mighty state, but does repeat characteristic blunders under all administrations.

Posted by: AlanDownunder at August 23, 2005 04:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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