August 21, 2005

Travel

My vacation is over and I'm flying back to New York from Sao Paolo in a few minutes. This means a) no blogging for a little while and b) that when blogging resumes it will be during normal evening hours, usually after 10 PM on weekdays. On the blog agenda this coming week, time permitting? A bit on the Cindy Sheehan going-ons, and also a response to Kevin Drum per his post quoted below:

Greg Djerejian says the "status quo is becoming increasingly untenable" and admits that no one is convincingly explaining how we can beat the insurgents — but nonetheless hammers against the idea of any kind of near-term withdrawal.

If these folks were wingnuts, I'd just ignore them. But they aren't. They're people I respect. Yet they, and many people like them, keep telling us that we need to stay in Iraq even though they seemingly agree that no one has a credible plan for accomplishing our goals there. This doesn't make any sense. Either you believe that there's a way we can win in Iraq — a real way that involves the leadership of George Bush and his staff, not some fantasy scenario in which he suddenly turns into the reincarnation of FDR — or you don't. And the only reason to stay in Iraq is if you think we can win.

So: if you do believe we can win in Iraq, let's hear what you mean by "win" and how you think we can do it, and let's hear it in clear and compelling declarative sentences. "Stay the course" isn't enough. What Bush is doing now obviously isn't working, so what would you do that's significantly different?

Fair questions. More soon.

Posted by Gregory at August 21, 2005 09:17 PM | TrackBack (12)
Comments

I have been wondering the same thing. What sort of constructive steps are available. It would be a shame if the debate in the public sphere remained the two stupid, knee-jerks of 'stay the course' or 'get out of dodge'. Looking forward to your thoughts!

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

"not some fantasy scenario in which he suddenly turns into the reincarnation of FDR"

Not that it's saying very much but Bush has already proven to be a much better president than FDR. But, I guess he must have the mythological FDR in mind and not the real one.

Posted by: andrew at August 22, 2005 01:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can one say with certainty that Bush's plan is "obviously not working"? I know Greg has had some doubts lately but I'm still not convinced that the GWOT is not progressing as well as can be expected. Remember, we are still in the opening chapters of the "long-hard slog".

Posted by: drbrett at August 22, 2005 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, these are very fair questions.

The problem with the above-quoted remarks of the liberal Mr. Drum is his support of FDR. That president's policies - on domestic and foreign affairs - did [so-far] irrepreprable harm to our nation, and to our system of republican liberty that our Founders left us.

Unfortunately, our current president has continued many of these policies, with respect to the unconstitutional expansion of the Leviathan state.

This madness needs to be reversed... ASAP.

Posted by: Aakash at August 22, 2005 02:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Last September, Eugene Volokh asked three well-formed questions on Iraq. The third was, "what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?" My answers are here.

Read the whole response, then ask yourself, are the questions repeated on BD the most useful ones? Ask yourself what principles are core to civilization and what your responsibilities are to encourage a civilized world in which you and your children can live.

Look, the coalition shouldn't have felt obliged to move on Iraq, but the United Nations was AWOL. Fix it, dammit, so these questions won't arise next time.

Posted by: sbw at August 22, 2005 03:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But to give you a more immediate answer, I just completed two long road trips during which I listened to David McCullough's "1776" and his "John Adams." For answers to your questions, read them.

In the last chapter of "1776," McCullough concludes that the single most important contribution to winning the Revolutionary War was not alliances, the army, weather, or geography, but Washington's perseverance. Knowing the importance of civil society in Iraq, have we such character that we will not give up? Fully one percent of the population of the colonies was lost in the Revolutionary War, but our forefathers still had the will to persist.

Courage and resolve come from understanding what is worth fighting for and why. If we are to win, main stream media will have to ask what is worth fighting for and why -- which, incidentally, is abundantly evident in both McCullough books and noticeably absent from most school curricula.

Posted by: sbw at August 22, 2005 03:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good questions, and (thought of from certain points of view) not all that difficult to answer. If we look at the public statements of Bush et al, it would appear that the axiomatic goals are first, to destroy the ability of the islamic fascists to attack the US and its allies; second, to replace the fascist governments in the region with more liberal ones; and third, to eliminate as much of al Qaeda and similar groups as possible.

Notice the order, by the way: first, protect the US; second, encourage the development of a more acceptable and morally just system in the region, thereby ; and only third capture that Bad Guy. This may seem a little odd, but consider: if we had assassinated Hitler in 1942, would that have ended WW II? What if is always hard, but with Himmler, Goebbels, et al in Germany, plus Mussolini and Franco, it seems likely that there would have been a power struggle, but without ending the war. If what we wanted was to end the way, and make Europe relatively safe, we had to take care of the strategic issues before you went after the Big Guy.

From those axioms, the current progress makes a good bit of sense: first Afghanistan, the "home base"; second, hit Iraq, which was both a festering sore in itself, which was providing extensive support to islamic fascists of many stripes, and which (look at a map) screwed up supply lines and logistics for all the groups in the area; and third, ensure that other countries in the area are made at least nervous.

Afghanistan is out from the islamic fascists; Iraq is unlikely to become a unitary fascist state again, and (read the milblogs, Michael Yon, or Chrenkoff) most of Iraq is doing pretty well; it appears likely that we're abouty to see a "two state solution" in Isreal and Palestine; and the new King of Saudi Arabia is talking about democracy in the near future. Again, notice from these axioms that it isn't necessary for Iraq to be Massachusetts, just that it is sufficiently changed so as to no longer be a direct threat, to be an impediment to easy logistics and likely to stay that way.

Seen from those axioms, or those statements of principles, it would appear that we're pretty well on the road to success.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at August 22, 2005 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In response to Kevin Drum, when he asks:

So: if you do believe we can win in Iraq, let's hear what you mean by "win" and how you think
we can do it, and let's hear it in clear and compelling declarative sentences. "Stay the course" isn't enough.

You already offered these clear actions in your earlier post:

Our hand-holding of the parties on constitutional compromise (and on the inevitable, post-constitutional myriad haggles over interpretation of said document).

Our continued lead role in quashing a vicious insurgency (with more and more Iraqi forces participating alongside).

Our methodical, sober and non-rushed parceling out of equipment and training only to forces that will increasingly align themselves with a central government rather than local militias.

Too banal for Drum, or what? I think he’s being disingenuous in the extreme. What's really going on here is that he, like many on the left, smells defeat for Bush and longs for it to come sooner rather than later.

Posted by: m.g. at August 22, 2005 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I kept getting an error message ... and so kept trying."

Better hope Drum doesen't get a hold of that one, m.g., you can imagine the Iraq metaphor that would follow :-)

Posted by: Anodyne at August 22, 2005 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To "win" in Iraq is to trigger a reformation of Islamic thought leading to a mideastern renaisance that affects their society by disengaging religous fanatacism from politics and brings down the walls of taboo that create closed societies and inhibit socio-economic growth. In so doing the threat of current and future Al-quedas is permanently removed from global politics.

Posted by: moron99 at August 22, 2005 03:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, is that all?

It took us a good half century to persuade Europe west of the Elbe that Communism was maybe not such a good thing, and in historic terms Communism had not been around that long. Even now there are people -- for example, the President of Russia -- who don't appear completely convinced. Expecting non-Muslims to effect the level of transformation in Islamic thought suggested here, in the time frame suggested, is expecting the moon and all the stars.

The way to achieve one's objectives begins by setting realistic objectives. The failure to do this has been the bane of our Iraq policy from the beginning.

A seperate comment on Kevin Drum's question and Greg's response: public support for our campaign in Iraq is dependent on the public perception of our chances of winning through to a good outcome more than on anything else. That perception is in turn powerfully influenced by the public's view of how competent our leadership is. Public support for the Union war effort and the American fight against the Germans and Japanese eighty years later would have been much more problematic given the leadership of men other than Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Even during the latter stages of Vietnam a President who was widely disliked personally, and distrusted as well, retained considerable public respect as someone who knew what he was trying to do.

This is a problem for the administration now. There may be, objectively, serious mistakes being made by the Secretary of Defense, or by senior military commanders, or by Ambassador Khalilzad. Where public support for the war is concerned, though, these all together weigh far less than the public's view of the President's leadership. Does he know what he wants in Iraq? Is he engaged in the steps required to get what he wants? Is he explaining our goals there in ways that make sense?

Now, personally I think the answers to these questions are pretty clearly "sort of," "no" and "no" respectively. That isn't everyone's view, and I'll admit to never having had much regard for Bush in the first place. The problem for the administration is that more and more people are starting to move toward this view, and if current trends continue the Iraq commitment has a firmly stamped expiration date whether a "timetable" for withdrawal is announced or not.

Posted by: JEB at August 22, 2005 05:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/0,,SB112415128069713898,00.html
Gauging Iraqi Readiness Centers on 'Feel'

Beyond Metrics, U.S. Taps
Battlefield Views to Assess
Local Troops' Strength, Progress of War

The U.S. military meticulously tracks indicators of Iraqi troops' progress toward assuming control of security, but can't say for sure if they'll be prepared next year and is relying on subjective assessments to track readiness.

Posted by: carabinieri at August 22, 2005 05:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is simple: to accomplish anything, Bush has to admit he was wrong in a fairly significant fashion.

Why?

Because, as JEB points out, folks have lost faith in his good sense when it comes to Iraq. Even if you believe pulling out is a defeat for the United States that will have significant, but somewhat unknowable consequences, it gets harder to believe that staying in will not result in something that still looks like defeat, and the same unknowable consequences. This blog has been home of the "more troops" argument, but has never persuaded me that they are now immediately available, or that more troops now would look like anything more than a desperation play.

Anyway, the only way to pull some of the people around to his point of view for a few more months is to admit a historically large error. And Karl likely won't let him do that -- it would save the policy for a few months at the cost of the Senate in 2006. So look for continuing to muddle through, and hope that the Iraqi people will provide these guys with another miracle that they can take credit for.

Oddly enough, I think this would have worked out better under Kerry. John K had no investment in the earlier mistakes, and therefore whatever actions he took would have had more credibility. I wonder if our host regrets his support for Bush?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 22, 2005 06:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would caution against using Lincoln as an example of a president that everyone had confidence in.
The Draft Riots and 1864 election had a sizable minority speaking out against the failed policies of the president, who's bungling had caused thousands of casualties and was described by his oppponents as a stupid ape.

It wasn't until after the 1864 election, when the north showed that it was willing to pursue the war until unconditional surrender, that the south began to lose heart.

Lincoln as beloved savior is a post-war creation.

Posted by: monkeyboy at August 22, 2005 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That Lincoln was a strong leader with clear objectives is the relevant point. Even among Northerners there were many who disagreed with his objectives, and Lord knows he made many mistakes in choosing his generals. But let's remember that during Lincoln's administration the constituency that counted -- because the war could not be won or even fought without it -- was the Union Army. In spite of all they had gone through since his election in 1860, Union soldiers voted for Lincoln in larger majorities than the civilian population. Had he not had their confidence he would not likely have been able to get their votes, let alone get them to risk their lives.

Granted the situation today is different in numerous respects. But you don't need a Ph. D. in history to tell that discussions about whether Americans have the resolve or staying power to see through the war in Iraq are missing something if they don't account for Americans' view of the guy running the show. And their estimation of Bush is slipping.

Posted by: JEB at August 22, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> the only way to pull some of the people around to his point of view for a few more months is to admit a historically large error.

What error was that? My guess is that Appalled Moderate has been duped by a cliché or two. Bush was clear early on about the reasons for asking the UN to face down Saddam and going in with the coalition when the UN failed.

September, 12, 2002, at the UN, Bush said, "If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it -- as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions. If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkemens and others -- again, as required by Security Council resolutions."

April, 2004, Bush said, "America's commitment to freedom in Iraq is consistent with our ideals, and required by our interests. Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a threat to America and to the world."

No error in those statements. The minds that need to change are those who believe there is nothing at risk.

Posted by: sbw at August 22, 2005 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sbw:

I see. WMDs had nothing to do with our going into Iraq. It's just that the American people have been duped into thinking so. Ok. I see must reprogram my brain as the reality paradigm has shifted...Must make all facts and 2002/3 discussions disappear.

SBW, I am glad to see that you have achieved the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. Maybe if I pour some Clorox into my left ear, and let it drain out my right, I can accomplish the same effect....

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 22, 2005 07:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But the idea that Lincoln was a leader with clear goals who stayed the course is based on the fact that he won.
Had he been defeated in the election of 1864 or in the war, history would probably have been written differently, with more concentration on the changing war aims, casualties, and meddling in the army command. Harry Turtledove's "How Few Remain" shows that pretty well.

I don't think that we should compare today's issues with an idealized past where the entire union army marched to set men free, or where everyone grew victory cabbage because Eleanor asked them to. Contemporary accounts show a much more fascinating reality.

Posted by: monkeyboy at August 22, 2005 07:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB,

there's no such thing as instant Karma. There are too many amoung us who wish to solve in 1 year a problem that took 1000 to create. It can't be done.

Posted by: moron99 at August 22, 2005 08:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why on earth should we 'know' in advance what will work? It seems obvious to many people that we should, but not to me. The fact that something doesn't admit of a simple solution, or even that you don't know what the solution will be, doesn't mean you don't go on trying. People who feel committed, for example, to staying married, or getting a child to behave, or keeping a business going may have to trundle on through despair til ultimate success or failure.

The poster who mentioned "perseverence" as the ultimate virtue here is right. And I don't see the slightest sign that anything will work better than the Bush approach, which seems to me, pace Djerejian, to be working splendidly, though it's taking time.

Posted by: Jeff at August 22, 2005 09:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can certainly agree that we should not idealize the past. The present either. It should not have taken five years for the third-rate son of a second-rate President to be recognized for what he is, and there are plenty of people who haven't made it that far.

I'm sorry, but the "instant karma" comment flew right over my head.

Posted by: JEB at August 22, 2005 09:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

With so many shifting objectives going in, it is going to be tricky to measure success coming out.

I think the problem - the reason for asking the question - originates from the beginning of the war, when the Bush people apparently felt that the truth was not something that would sell very well with the citizens. In Wolfowitz's words, the WMD rationale was somethinig they could all agree on and would sell the war to the people.

"Nation building" was never a "good enough" reason to go in, and yet we're now about to measure "success" in exactly those terms. The success question seems to boil down to "have we "built" a "nation" with enough government and infrastructure to be stable?

And given that it now looks like any such "nation", should it come about at all, will be a strict new Islamic regime, with all that that may entail.

I wonder how the citizens (and the "willing" coalition) would have responded to the call to war knowing this potential end result?

Posted by: Jack Lindahl at August 22, 2005 10:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb,

If the "karma" of a social fabric is paranoid/aggressive then it will not change until a new generation grows up and dilutes the influence of the older generation. There is no such thing as instant change - or, in the case of cultural/social ideologies, there is no such thing as instant karma.

Posted by: moron99 at August 22, 2005 10:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM?

I've parsing for an actual rebuttal of sbw's argument, particularly reference the, you know, actual quotes .

That your additional modifier - one of several - didn't pan out, seems not to be of much utility in this regard.

But hey, thanks for the amusing vignette.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 22, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

[...] affects their society by disengaging religous fanatacism from politics and brings down the walls of taboo that create closed societies and inhibit socio-economic growth.

Generally speaking, I would much prefer that we accomplish this part here in America before worrying about fixing it in the rest of the world.

Posted by: Catsy at August 23, 2005 12:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tommy G:

Actual quotes do little good when violently ripped from context of the era. Arguing that one of the major rationales presented to the USA and the UN wasn't the WMD threat really isn't worthy of five minutes on Google. Nevertheless:

Colin Powell's February 5, 2003 speech before the UN:

For more than 20 years, by word and by deed Saddam Hussein has pursued his ambition to dominate Iraq and the broader Middle East using the only means he knows, intimidation, coercion and annihilation of all those who might stand in his way. For Saddam Hussein, possession of the world's most deadly weapons is the ultimate trump card, the one he most hold to fulfill his ambition.

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression, given what we know of his grandiose plans, given what we know of his terrorist associations and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not some day use these weapons at a time and the place and in the manner of his choosing at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond?

The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.

My colleagues, over three months ago this council recognized that Iraq continued to pose a threat to international peace and security, and that Iraq had been and remained in material breach of its disarmament obligations. Today Iraq still poses a threat and Iraq still remains in material breach.

Indeed, by its failure to seize on its one last opportunity to come clean and disarm, Iraq has put itself in deeper material breach and closer to the day when it will face serious consequences for its continued defiance of this council.

Bush's final speech before the Iraq invasion:

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.

The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.

The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed.

The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.

Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq.

Let's, please, not try to remake history.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 23, 2005 02:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM,

"Era"? "History"? What in the world are you talking about?

You're exactly right about the context, which is why the entire Iraq War Resolution of the 107th Congress is worth your reading before you write here about "Actual quotes do(ing) little good when violently ripped from context of the era"

Appalling? Yes.
Moderate? Hardly.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 23, 2005 03:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tommy G:

Why did you think it was right to go to war against Iraq? Was it the genocide against the marsh arabs? Was it that Saddam was just a very bad man? Was it his alleged support of Al Qaeda? Or were youb upset that there were Iraqis yearning to be free of the tyrannical yoke?

Or were you convinced that saddam had chemical and biological weapons. that he would soon have nuclear weapons. That he would pass them to Al Q to detonate in American cities. That a failure to act now would condemn some American city somewhere to the fate of Hiroshima or at least the victims of Tokyo sarin attack.

What moved you to an attack on Iraq? You telling me it wasn't the thought that Saddam had those weapons?

If you say it wasn't WMDs, where should we go next? because there is still a whole lot of evil out there. Darfur?

If you want to continue arguing your point, however, check out the Congressional debates and congressional committee reports on your resolution. (www.loc.thomas.gov has that info) What did Congress discuss? Was it mostly WMDs? What was the threat that put Saddam in a different class than your garden variety UN resolution violater. What messages did the President send down to Congress in urging this resolution?

Are you willing to invest time in your argument? because, otherwise, I am inclined to dismiss you. I lived in 2002-3 and remember what was on CNN,Fox,NPR,ABC. It was wmd, wmd, wmd. Prove me wrong.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 23, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It looks like the Constitution will be opposed by the Sunnis. Things are going to get really ugly after the referendum.

Posted by: Guy at August 23, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why does the Chimpymchalliburton left continue to beat their "where are the WMD's" drum?

Isn't it clear yet that too few are dumb enough to accept this "No WMD = we shouldn't have toppled Saddam" line of semi-thought?

I sure felt it most likely Saddam was hiding WMD - either programs or actuals stocks in some quantity

Is it your contention that you felt this was most unlikely?

Or rather - that only a ticking atom bomb pointed at Los Angelas with Saddam about to push the button would be enough to make his removal a US priority?

Something happened 4 years ago next month to make such a policy unwise

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 23, 2005 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

Read this.

It's a pretty good plea for the President to start making statements that reflect reality. And, IMHO, one of those would be to admit error. That one of the lynchpins of the war did not turn out to be correct. At all.

I don't think the President was stupid or evil in his decision to go to war. But he was clearly acting on inaccurate information. It's time to put that argument behind us. I don't have much respect for those who try to argue that (i) WMDs weren't the primary reason we went to war or (ii) they might still be found (in the same neighborhood where OJ is looking for the "real killer", I expect). This is a refusal to notice the world as it really exists. It's as helpful as the anti-war sorts who believe that chanting "Bush Lied" provides the basis for any sort of action in Iraq.

Bush needs to explain why we need to stay the course. It's going to be hard to accept the explanation if he does not appear to accept fairly plain facts.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 23, 2005 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sometimes in life there are many reasons for doing something. Sometimes some of the reasons fit within predefined laws and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the best reason for doing something doesn't fit into the box but another, not quite so compelling reason for doing the same thing does.

For example - the police are sure that Mr. Smith is running a crack house and they want to shut him down. But they can't prove it. On the other hand they also know that his house is in violation of a local ordinance calling for indoor smoke detectors. So they get a warrant to search the house for smoke detectors and, while inside, they find a whole bunch of drugs and illegal weapons. I'm okay with that.

In another example, we may know that certain dictators avoid the anger of their people by blaming the established order for their failure to improve the lives of their citizens. In some cases these same dictators are swimming in oil wealth and the frustration of their people is enormous. We may also know that these dictators promote clerics who echo this sentiment of external conspiracy and help to redirect internal frustration towards an external enemy. We may also realize that this paranoid duopoly creates an environment that will deliver an unending supply of terrorists. We may further realize that the only way to break the cycle of terrorism is to fundamentally change the political landscape. But we can't do it within the realm of international law. On the other hand, we may know that a certain dictator is in violation of international law regarding WMD. So we get an "international warrant" to search for WMD. While we are there we build a new model for governance that breaks the cycle of frustration/externalization/blame/paranoia/revenge. I'm okay with that too. I Have been since before Iraq was invaded.

The problem is simple: If you tell everybody that it is a trojan horse, then it doesn't work. Some people just weren't bright enough to figure it out. Either that, or the administration was too too dumb to realize what they were doing and - like Peter Sellers character Inspector Clouseau - they did the right thing by accident. Either way, I'm okay with it.

Posted by: moron99 at August 23, 2005 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM:

I say again: You are not dismissing me with your ridiculous line of argument, you are dismissing the Congress of the United States. United..., 50 of 'em..., they send their representatives to the Washington governing district every other year.

You were not lied to...You were simply not paying attention. You received what you wanted to receive in order to bolster your flawed opposition to the soviern act of this Republic. I'm sorry that you don't agree with the resolution, but there you are.

Now then, as to your tangents at the front end:

More later.
No.
No.
No.
Yes.

The rest, later. I'm only too happy to discuss this line of argument with you, because I know the Congress' position to be unassailable.

But, in the meantime, you need to wrap your brain around this extremely easy probability:

How is it that it has never occurred to you that Hussein acted in the manner in which he did because he, himself was convinced that he had sufficient quantities of WMD to stop the invasion?

For Pete's sake, I thought it was the 'moderates' who were the great, deep thinkers of things outside of the box.

Sheesh.

All your's Mahone, Lunch is over.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 23, 2005 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aside from being amazed that ANYONE can think this totally ineffectual anti-democratic plutocrat idiot is a better president than FDR, a quick review of the comments here pretty clearly discloses that most people who pay attention to international relations think the War in Iraq was sold on misinformation, and has all but certainly made us less rather than more safe from terrorism. I read people like Marshall Wittmann, who is dead sold on the wisdom of invading Iraq, and staying there despite the cost, and I just shake my head. What strategic interests are we protecting?

I think the U. S. should go to the Security Council, and ask for a plenary session on Iraq. Own up to serious mistakes, and failure to consult and obtain consensus. Point out that the U.S. and Britain, for better or worse, have borne most of the brunt of the conflict to oust Saddam Hussein, irrespective of whether that was well-advised or not. And ask the U. N. to step in now and provide peace-keeping troops.

OK, not too realistic a scenario, either domestically or in terms of expectation of cooperation from the U. N.... but which idea here is better?

Posted by: David Studhalter at August 23, 2005 07:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To dwell on everything else, and omit concerns about WMD would not accurately reflect what were the legitimate pre-war perceptions of almost everyone. To dwell on WMD and disregard everything else would not accurately reflect the way things are.

Like him or not, Bush moved the lens of world attention in the Middle East, to the point where quality of life is an issue, where legitimate consent of the governed has value, and where establishing a process of peaceful change has potential.

You are welcome to hurl clichés, but that can only serve as your own private entertainment. For my preference, I welcome the return of Belgravia Dispatch soon, as this turn of discussion is unfulfilling.

Posted by: sbw at August 23, 2005 09:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sbw:

The problem, which you seem disinclined to get, is that Bush, probably without intending to, said things that just turned out not to be so. In some cases, the deviation between what Bush said, and what turned out to be the case, was large. This isn't to say he lied. But, he did err.

We are now at a vexing pass in Iraq. Circumstances do not appear to be improving. And all we hear from GW is the same thing. And that things will be getting better, after a long hard road.

Why should we believe him? His track record doesn't seem to be so good. Can you think of a good reason, that is convincing? How does Bush wash the reigning cliches out of our heads, when it looks like he has a few governing illusions of his own?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 23, 2005 10:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appalled:

You must be part of the "Now" generation -- immediate gratification required.

How long do you suppose the Revolutionary War took? Do you by any chance appreciate that one percent of the population of the colonies were killed during the conflict? Might you possibly appreciate how many times George Washington did "err"?

I suppose what I'm suggesting is that today's media don't really put things into perspective and that they would do us a better service if they delivered better yardsticks by which to measure the current circumstance.

By the way, what George W. had in good measure was a sense of purpose and the will to persevere in the face of adversity. Funny. George B. seems to have a similar sense of purpose and perseverence to match.

Could it be that you can't seem to see a purpose?

Posted by: sbw at August 24, 2005 02:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"How long do you suppose the Revolutionary War took? Do you by any chance appreciate that one percent of the population of the colonies were killed during the conflict? Might you possibly appreciate how many times George Washington did "err"?"

This isn't a very good comparison, is it? At least, it's not so good if you're talking about the American side in Iraq.

Remember, we are the occupiers, not the freedom fighters. A far better comparison would be with the Russians in Afghanistan, or the French in Indochina.

The Bush administration started out as rightly skeptical about nation building. And yet, here we are, trying to "build" a new Iraq. And what are we building? A new, probably strict, Islamic republic. And moreover, one that will have Iran as its closest ally!

Please assure me that this is all part of the plan. Otherwise, I can't help thinking that someone really, really screwed up.

Posted by: Jack Lindahl at August 24, 2005 03:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Aside from being amazed that ANYONE can think this totally ineffectual anti-democratic plutocrat idiot is a better president than FDR,"


Hmmmm, let's see. Patriot Act vs. internment of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Which one is a greater violation of civil liberties?

9/11 vs. Pearl Harbor. One president who was in office for eight months failed to stop a stealth attack by a sleeper cell which had been planned long before he was president. The other guy had been president just shy of nine years when a conventional sneak attack by airplanes was launched. I would say that FDR's failure was ten times greater than Bush's when it comes to preventing sneak attacks.

And how would the Left react if Bush, like FDR, tried to expand the size of the Supreme Court so he could pack it with his judges?

And don't forget the utter and complete failure of the New Deal to end the Great Depression.


And of course top it off with the selling out of a large chunk of the world because he was acting under the naive assumption that Stalin was a man he could do business with.

Posted by: andrew at August 24, 2005 03:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David:

Just where do you think the UN peace-keeping troops would come from? Do you think the French, Russians and Germans would suddenly cough up a bunch of troops after a UN resolution? Or do you think they’d put in a token force, let the US do most of the work, claim to be the cause of any success and point any blame at the US?

And certainly you don’t think putting blue helmets on people makes them less of a target. The UN WAS bombed out of Iraq, you know. One bomb and they were outta there…

AM:

I couldn’t vote for Kerry precisely BECAUSE he had no prior investment in Iraq – OK one vote, but then he cancelled out that investment at the next opportunity. I didn’t see John K sticking around long enough to take responsibility for the outcome, or to add any more resources to the effort lest it become “Kerry’s War”. I saw him getting out at the first opportunity, blaming Bush, and putting the military back in the box for the rest of his Administration. He certainly couldn’t win the nomination of his party again if he actually sent troops somewhere, now could he?

Posted by: kevin at August 24, 2005 04:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

David:

Just where do you think the UN peace-keeping troops would come from? Do you think the French, Russians and Germans would suddenly cough up a bunch of troops after a UN resolution? Or do you think they’d put in a token force, let the US do most of the work, claim to be the cause of any success and point any blame at the US?

And certainly you don’t think putting blue helmets on people makes them less of a target. The UN WAS bombed out of Iraq, you know. One bomb and they were outta there…

AM:

I couldn’t vote for Kerry precisely BECAUSE he had no prior investment in Iraq – OK one vote, but then he cancelled out that investment at the next opportunity. I didn’t see John K sticking around long enough to take responsibility for the outcome, or to add any more resources to the effort lest it become “Kerry’s War”. I saw him getting out at the first opportunity, blaming Bush, and putting the military back in the box for the rest of his Administration. He certainly couldn’t win the nomination of his party again if he actually sent troops somewhere, now could he?

Posted by: kevin at August 24, 2005 05:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When I read the comments of those who continue to support Bush's actions (one can't really call it a policy) in Iraq, the image that comes to mind is the person who puts his fingers in his ears and sings "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA" at the top of his lungs in order to avoid hearing the unfortunate facts.

When Kurdish militias are kidnapping and killing representatives of the Iraqi Provisional Government who attempt to carry out the edicts of that government, those militias have become terrorist organizations. The same holds true for the Shiite militias in Southern Iraq. Should the US attempt to impose/restore the authority of the Iraqi government it midwived and supports in the Kurdish north or the Shia south, the Sunni based insurgency is going to look like a small dust-up.

There is no solution --- we are left with a range of options that will all have negative outcomes. At best, he US should cede control of Iraq to its neighbors; let Turkey take over Kurdish Iraq, Iran take over Baghdad and southern Iraq, and cede control of western Iraq to Syria. Forget "autonomous regions" and federalism --- those are mere prescriptions for three separate civil wars....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 24, 2005 01:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When I read the comments of those who continue to support Bush's actions (one can't really call it a policy) in Iraq, the image that comes to mind is the person who puts his fingers in his ears and sings "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA" at the top of his lungs in order to avoid hearing the unfortunate facts.

When Kurdish militias are kidnapping and killing representatives of the Iraqi Provisional Government who attempt to carry out the edicts of that government, those militias have become terrorist organizations. The same holds true for the Shiite militias in Southern Iraq. Should the US attempt to impose/restore the authority of the Iraqi government it midwived and supports in the Kurdish north or the Shia south, the Sunni based insurgency is going to look like a small dust-up.

There is no solution --- we are left with a range of options that will all have negative outcomes. At best, he US should cede control of Iraq to its neighbors; let Turkey take over Kurdish Iraq, Iran take over Baghdad and southern Iraq, and cede control of western Iraq to Syria. Forget "autonomous regions" and federalism --- those are mere prescriptions for three separate civil wars....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 24, 2005 01:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Remember, we are the occupiers, not the freedom fighters."

The hell?...Kack, please tell me you don't really beleive that. Exactly what freedoms are Zaquari and the former baathists fighting for? By that definition the KKK are "freedom fighters".

Posted by: monkeyboy at August 24, 2005 01:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack Lindahl: "'How long do you suppose the Revolutionary War took?' ... This isn't a very good comparison, is it?"

Jack, above I suggested reading McCullough's books (1776 and Adams) to appreciate the mindset, the situation, and the war experience. The books describe a very apt comparison.

Not reading the recommended books while automatically assuming the comparison is bad makes it very difficult to help you expand your understanding and further this discussion. I would not have recommended them if I did not think they were germane.

Posted by: sbw at August 24, 2005 02:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sbw:

It was pretty clear why the Revolutionary War was being fought. (No taxation without representation, etc) This has been true of most of our other wars

The Bush error is that his primary stated war aim (elimination of Iraq WMDs) turned out to be unecessary, as there were no Iraq WMDs. That would have been OK, had there been no ongoing resistance. Bush invaded because of grave and gathering threat that turned out not to be there.

This invites the question to Bush, what grave and gathering threat our we fighting now? And why should we believe that you would know what a grave and gathering threat is? And, whether or not we should be patient with our leader and we who our discouraged by the war's conduct are a bunch of ungrateful children, he has to answer this question to mainain any political support for this war.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 24, 2005 02:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sbw

Thanks for recommending the McCoullough books. I had read both and learned a lot from each.

My problem with your comparison is simple: the action in Iraq is not a war of independence from a colonial power, and the protagonists (i.e. us) are not freedom fighters but occupiers.

Perhaps I misunderstood your position. Are you talking about the Iraqi insurgents, comparing them to our forefathers? That would be odious, but it would make a little more sense in terms of their respective positions in the two wars.

Finally, I have to completely agree that Washington fought with a glorious sense of purpose.

But when you ask, regarding Bush's Iraq war, "Could it be that you can't seem to see a purpose?" I have to admit I'm having trouble defining the purpose. Perhaps because the Bush people have swapped out their rationales so many times?

And if there was a purpose that was publicly proposed by the administration, is it your thinking that the purpose is being achieved?

Posted by: Jack Lindahl at August 24, 2005 03:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack,

The purpose was thoroughly discussed in public during the summer of 2002. The discussion was in a broader context of how to defeat terrorism. The general concensus as I understood it was that capturing Bin Laden or destroying Al Queda wouldn't end terrorism. The only way to end terrorism was to change the political dynamics of the mideast.

But.

There is a huge problem with trying to change mid-east politics. From the mideast perspective Islam is not just a religion. It is a way of life. The mideast propagandists would have a very easy time convincing their citizens that any US efforts to change politics is actually an act of aggression against Islam and Arab society in general. As such, we must be careful not to allow our actions in Iraq to be propagandized into a wider war against either pan-arabism or Islamic ideals.

Historically, President George "Closeau" Bush, once slipped and called Iraq his crusade. Since then I have seen a concerted effort by our government to disengage US actions in Iraq from the broader ME. If Iraq successfully defines a new form of governance then the rest of the ME will follow irregardless of how it is "sold" at home. However, telling all the americans who weren't watching back in 2002 would be a goldmine of propaganda and recruiting tools for our enemies. It would certainly make political life easier on the domestic front but it would make the fight in Iraq immensely more difficult. Somethings are better left unsaid. BTW - "Bring democracy to the mideast" is a politically correct way of saying the same thing without giving our enemies any useful propoganda.

Posted by: moron99 at August 24, 2005 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Somethings are better left unsaid. BTW - "Bring democracy to the mideast" is a politically correct way of saying the same thing without giving our enemies any useful propoganda."

I think you're exactly correct in outlining the purpose **behind** the stated purposes of the invasion and occupation in Iraq. Basically, you describe the neo-conservative THEORY of how to "fix" the middle east.

In short, it seems to me that we attacked and occupied Iraq to test the theory.

Personally, I question whether the loss of almost 2000 American soldiers, plus thousands more wounded, plus tens of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis, is worth the test. And we know the Bush people agree with that assessment, since they scrambled for two years to float other rationales (more that 25 in all!) that would seem more palatable to the American people.

Finally, I don't agree that "some things are better left unsaid" when you are asking people to put their lives on the line. They deserve at the very least to know the truth.

Posted by: Jack Lindahl at August 24, 2005 05:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack -

In the west we have an easy time seperating politics from religion. But Iraq isn't in the west. To us it is possible to seek a new political order without involving religion. Most citizens in the mideast may realize this too. But it isn't most that wear C4 vests, bomb trains, or smash jets into skyscrapers. To that small group, it is not possible to separate religion from politics. To openly state the goal of changing politics so that the dictators lose power is easily manipulated so that they see it as an attack on Islamic values. Saying it gets more people killed than not saying it. Some things are better left unsaid.

Yes, you are right that it is an unproven theory. The problem is not the cost of action, it is the cost of inaction. In the contemporary, terrorist attacks had been following an upward spiral of increasing damages. Every two years a new attack was launched with each one creating more damage than the one before. The cost of inaction was to continue along that path. In historic context, Islam is a teenager. It now ravages upon the world the same sins that Christianity put forth when it was a teenager. It has grown to fill its geogrpahic confines and now seeks to expand its position. Unlike Christianity, there is no "new world" to be discovered. In order for Islam to expand further it must displace one of the existing religions and the society(s) built around it. To be blunt, there is another world war in our future if Islam repeats the path of previous teenage religions. However, that is an "if". According to history, religions outgrow this expansionist phase through a period of reformation leading to an age of tolerance. History does not tell us if the tolerance is brought about because the culture is beaten down by wars or if it is a consequence of being exposed to alternate cultures that offer greater prosperity. The true nature of the "test" is that tolerance is a consequence of being exposed to alternate solutions. If not, then there is a war coming and 2,000 lives will become immeasurably small. If so, then people like you can continue to lament the the grave miscalculations that led to the deaths of innocent people. I happen to subscribe to the theory that one must count the lives saved as well as the lives lost.

Posted by: moron99 at August 24, 2005 07:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack -

In the west we have an easy time seperating politics from religion. But Iraq isn't in the west. It is possible for westerners to seek a new political order without involving religion. Most citizens in the mideast may realize this too. But it isn't most that wear C4 vests, bomb trains, or smash jets into skyscrapers. To that small group, it is not possible to separate religion from politics. To openly state the goal of changing politics in the GME is easily manipulated so that they see it as an attack on Islamic values. Saying it gets more people killed than not saying it. Some things are better left unsaid.

Yes, you are right that it is an unproven theory. The problem is not the cost of action, it is the cost of inaction. In the contemporary, terrorist attacks had been following an upward spiral of increasing damages. Every two years a new attack was launched with each one creating more damage than the one before. The cost of inaction was to continue along that path. In historic context, Islam is a teenager. It now ravages upon the world the same sins that Christianity put forth when it was a teenager. It has grown to fill its geogrpahic confines and now seeks to expand its position. Unlike Christianity, there is no "new world" to be discovered. In order for Islam to expand further it must displace one of the existing religions and the society(s) built around it. To be blunt, there is another world war in our future if Islam repeats the path of previous teenage religions. However, that is an "if". According to history, religions outgrow this expansionist phase through a period of reformation leading to an age of tolerance. History does not tell us if the tolerance is brought about because the culture is beaten down by wars or if it is a consequence of being exposed to alternate cultures that offer greater prosperity. The true nature of the "test" is that tolerance is a consequence of being exposed to alternate solutions. If not, then there is a war coming and 2,000 lives will become immeasurably small. If so, then people like you can continue to lament the the grave miscalculations that led to the deaths of innocent people. I happen to subscribe to the theory that one must count the lives saved as well as the lives lost.

Posted by: moron99 at August 24, 2005 07:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jack: "In short, it seems to me that we attacked and occupied Iraq to test the theory."

Well, no. Jack, why do you insist on Monday morning quarterbacking -- arguing from better present knowledge?

You have to go back to what was believed at the time. The danger was perceived to be real -- as WMD (Even Blix and the French believed it was there), as support for terrorists (Even Clarke felt Bin Laden might Boogie to Baghdad), as Saddam's abuse of neighbor nations (Kuwait and Iran) and his own citizens (mass graves and jails that proved real), as lack of cooperation with the UN, and as violation of the previous war's agreements. With all that in mind, you go into Iraq because you feel other alternatives have failed or won't work, that the danger of not going in is high, and not lightly on a whim to test the theory. It's unfortunate you suggest it.

Posted by: sbw at August 25, 2005 01:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM added "It was pretty clear why the Revolutionary War was being fought. (No taxation without representation, etc) This has been true of most of our other wars"

And you call George W Bush "simplistic" ????

It was not clear at all to many people in the Colonies in 1776 why the war was being fought at all

It wasn't even clear that we would become a Republic with a President ( Washington was offered the title King you know )

The Revolutionary War can be called our first Civil War as well

1% of the pop dead - that would be 250K Iraqi's now ( not even the Lancets "average" between 8K and 198K dead meets that target )

Honestly - you should learn a bit more there AM - try reading the books reccomended and you won't say such silly things again

As for other comments in this very good thread - it was asked what the reason for this liberation of Iraq was and I have seen several good answers already

I can only second the "some things are better left unsaid" comment

to which Jack replied

"Finally, I don't agree that "some things are better left unsaid" when you are asking people to put their lives on the line. They deserve at the very least to know the truth."


I think the disconnect here is between the MSM version of Iraq, and therfor your perception, and that of the troops in Iraq

From what I can gather - the men and women in Iraq for the most part understand the wider goal of this conflict and are actually re-enlisting in large numbers

This is the majority view - check the mil-blogs

Its not what the NY Times will tell you of course


It doesn't matter that you would prefer the Admin state its goal in Iraq as democratization with an ultimate goal of ME transformation that leads to stability in the region and an alternate path for the growing numbers of disaffected muslim youth away from AQ and into soccer and porn ( eg - the European model )

There are sound and solid reasons why this should not be stated

They outweigh your desire for "truth" Jack


Now many people have understood the ultimate goal and purpose of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the start

WMD was the legal rationale - but it was always going to end with Saddam ( and Ebay and Oy-vey ) gone and Iraq transforming into an arab democracy

Iraq - the "Germany" of the ME - is a fantastic place to push this change

Now you can argue that another target would make more sense ( bear in mind what trouble Saddam would make if left un-molested )

Or you can argue that its either not our job to do this or not worth the effort

I can't argue that it is our job to do this - I wish it weren't But it needs to be done imho - before the next 9/11

Will it be worth the effort? Time will tell - we may not know for 20 years

Whats constantly amazed me is the shallowness of the anti-Bush lefts arguements about Iraq are.

Its basically - No WMD = we shouldn't be there

Either they can't grasp the actual aims of this conflict - or they just won't

Whatever the Admin says will not please them - so ignoring them is the best option ( that and continueing to win elections )

It must be agravating to be so "right" about how wrong we are to be in Iraq today - and find the troops and the majority of the nation disagree with you

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 25, 2005 04:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

A brief thought for you. W will not be able to spend multiple billions on a war 70% of the American people and 80% of the elites do not support. His funding will be cut off, and his authority to command troops in Iraq will be taken out from under him via a Congressional resolution passed through veto-proof majorities.

We are not at that pass yet. We are merely heading there swiftly.

As for your points, the majority of the public in the 1770s could not read, let alone vote. The elites knew exactly why they were fighting in 1776-1781.

What are we fighting for now? Is the fact we are fighting helping us achieve our war aims? If so, how?

You dont need to tell me. Bush does. He hasn't.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at August 25, 2005 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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