August 25, 2005

Drift and Muddle?

The FT is giving this front-page treatment, but it's getting largely ignored in the U.S. press:

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.

He denied the withdrawal was motivated by political pressure from Washington.

He said: “We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.

The President today gave another hard-hitting 'stay the course' speech. But there continues to be a sense of drift and muddle on the future direction of Iraq policy. I wonder if this explains some of the downward movement in the polls? 'Stay the course' and 'fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here' (of which more later)--it's just not cutting it anymore. Does Karl Rove get this? People are starting to whisper--is this Administration being overtaken by events in Iraq? There are live gun-battles in the streets of Baghdad. There's a potential show-down between competing Shi'a factions. Many Sunni are seething--as the Shia and Kurds try to force-feed the constitution down their throats. Meantime, and it is still possible the constitution gets teed up, Iraqis are asking:

What can I do with a constitution if I have no water, gasoline and electricity?" asked Hanan Sahib, 29, a Shiite database operator at a telecommunications company in Baghdad, echoing Mr. Sami. The main problem, she added, was security, particularly for women.

Security. Security. Security. Let me say that again: Security. Security. Security. There still isn't a sense of it, now two years out from the invasion, through large swaths of Iraq and major population centers like the capital. And the President isn't persuasively explaining how he plans to change that, to materially remedy the lack of security plaguing much of Iraq. It's the same old each time he steps up to the pulpit to deliver an Iraq address, and it's starting to really sound like a broken record. So yes, people are whispering: do we have a plan? are we being overtaken by events? what is going on in Iraq? And conflicting signals on troop levels and the conditions by which they may or may not be withdrawn are not particularly helpful either. Like the public, the insurgents are smelling muddle too, I suspect.

Meantime, and this is the Guardian so take it with a sizable grain of salt, recall the 14 Americans felled in Haditha a week or so back? Here's a rare dispatch from the town. If true, it is a sobering reading indeed.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town's security, administration and communications.

A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

Haditha exposes the limitations of the Iraqi state and US power on the day when the political process is supposed to make a great leap - a draft constitution finalised and approved by midnight tonight.

For politicians and diplomats in Baghdad's fortified green zone the constitution is a means to stabilise Iraq and woo Sunni Arabs away from the rebellion. For Haditha, 140 miles north-west of the capital, whether a draft is agreed is irrelevant. Residents already have a set of laws and rules promulgated by insurgents.

Within minutes of driving into town the Guardian was stopped by a group of men and informed about rule number one: announce yourself. The mujahideen, as they are known locally, must know who comes and goes.

The Guardian reporter did not say he worked for a British newspaper. For their own protection interviewees cannot be named.

There is no fighting here because there is no one to challenge the Islamists. The police station and municipal offices were destroyed last year and US marines make only fleeting visits every few months.

Two groups share power. Ansar al-Sunna is a largely homegrown organisation, though its leader in Haditha is said to be foreign. Al-Qaida in Iraq, known locally by its old name Tawhid al-Jihad, is led by the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There was a rumour that Zarqawi, Washington's most wanted militant after Osama bin Laden, visited early last week. True or not, residents wanted to believe they had hosted such a celebrity.

A year ago Haditha was just another sleepy town in western Anbar province, deep in the Sunni triangle and suspicious of the Shia-led government in Baghdad but no insurgent hotbed.

Then, say residents, arrived mostly Shia police with heavyhanded behaviour. "That's how it began," said one man. Attacks against the police escalated until they fled, creating a vacuum filled by insurgents.

Alcohol and music deemed unIslamic were banned, women were told to wear headscarves and relations between the sexes were closely monitored. The mobile phone network was shut down but insurgents retained their walkie-talkies and satellite phones. Right-hand lanes are reserved for their vehicles.

From attacks on US and Iraqi forces it is clear that other Anbar towns, such as Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi, are to varying degrees under the sway of rebels.

Read the whole thing, and comment on how much credence you think the story has below. Later tonight, I hope to post on the many fallacies of flypaper...


Posted by Gregory at August 25, 2005 02:08 AM | TrackBack (14)
Comments

I grant it complete creedence. I have read reports about Fallujah attracting insurgents. I have read stories about Iranian SOF (TIME two or three weeks ago) obtaining footholds in the wake of the armored column's advance 2.5 years ago. So much was said about the size of Iraq requiring patience on the part of weapons inspections for finding those WMD after Saddam fell. Iraq has not gotten smaller, and insurgencies reign throughout the sountry.

Shiite-police killing in Basra. Sunni-Taliban-esque militants in Haditha. Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. SCIRI's militia. Kurdish forces. The fissures expand.

So we're going to pull out?

Posted by: Chris at August 25, 2005 03:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The second half of this post touches on something I wrote about the other day, the relationship between Iraqi Sunni Arab insurgents and foreign jihadists.

We tend to think of the former as mostly Baathists, and of Baathists as secular. But after the Gulf War Saddam Hussein devoted some effort to appearing as a pious Muslim, probably in an effort to shore up support for his rule among tradition-minded Iraqis after the Kuwait disaster. It's also possible, though, that he was simply accomodating trends that were going on among Iraq's Sunni Arabs anyway -- the point being that among these people are probably many Baathists, admirers of Saddam, who nonetheless see themselves as very religious Muslims and the foreign jihadis more as fellow jihadis than as foreigners.

On the other thing, I don't think the Financial Times has a senior, highly paid reporter attached to the White House beat, so they may well play up reporting from other sources. Are Abizaid and other American commanders determined to press for liquidating the Iraqi commitment earlier rather than later, regardless of how many boilerplate speeches the President makes? I just don't know. Is it possible? Well, if you were John Abizaid, knowing how this war is affecting your Army and knowing the quality of the political leadership, would you be enthused about "staying the course" for another three, five, however many years?

Posted by: JEB at August 25, 2005 05:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You know, JEB, I just don't see Saddam Hussein being the accomodating type...maybe it's that whole psychotic paranoia thing, interferes with his bedside manner. On the other hand, the Iranian revolution unleashed/epitomised the Islamist movement in the middle east after Pan-Arabism and all the rest failed. Secularism failed in every attempt tried [though not every option was tried], and a secular power failed to check an Islamic power...and carrying the custom of your betters is the wage of defeat.

And a single anonymous sourced article by the Guardian ought to make you pause before tipping the hat. DVD beheadings topping Habib the Builder among the kids...DVDs of beheadings on the bridge are distributed free in the souk. Children prefer them to cartoons. My personal favorite right at the beginning...Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. Oh? Hmmmm.

The little touches like that either point to outright propaganda or macabre artistry, or just sheer hyperbole. Its doubtful that Haditha is under the sway of the Coalition and the central Iraq government, just as its unlikely that Rawa, now host to a Stryker brigade or Qaim where tribal leaders fought to eject the jihadis are under the wing of the insurgency, lock, stock, and barrel as the article presumes here: From attacks on US and Iraqi forces it is clear that other Anbar towns, such as Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi, are to varying degrees under the sway of rebels.

Contested areas? Yes. Insurgent presence? Yes. 'Citadel?' Doubt it.

And don't forget even if true, even in the very best-case/worst-case, of an insurgent strong point in Haditha is less likely to be as fortified as Fallujah and represents a massive retreat from that previous hard point.

Posted by: Brad at August 25, 2005 06:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You know, JEB, I just don't see Saddam Hussein being the accomodating type...maybe it's that whole psychotic paranoia thing, interferes with his bedside manner. On the other hand, the Iranian revolution unleashed/epitomised the Islamist movement in the middle east after Pan-Arabism and all the rest failed. Secularism failed in every attempt tried [though not every option was tried], and a secular power failed to check an Islamic power...and carrying the custom of your betters is the wage of defeat.

And a single anonymous sourced article by the Guardian ought to make you pause before tipping the hat. DVD beheadings topping Habib the Builder among the kids...DVDs of beheadings on the bridge are distributed free in the souk. Children prefer them to cartoons. My personal favorite right at the beginning...Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. Oh? Hmmmm.

The little touches like that either point to outright propaganda or macabre artistry, or just sheer hyperbole. Its doubtful that Haditha is under the sway of the Coalition and the central Iraq government, just as its unlikely that Rawa, now host to a Stryker brigade or Qaim where tribal leaders fought to eject the jihadis are under the wing of the insurgency, lock, stock, and barrel as the article presumes here: From attacks on US and Iraqi forces it is clear that other Anbar towns, such as Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi, are to varying degrees under the sway of rebels.

Contested areas? Yes. Insurgent presence? Yes. 'Citadel?' Doubt it.

And don't forget even if true, even in the very best-case/worst-case, of an insurgent strong point in Haditha is less likely to be as fortified as Fallujah and represents a massive retreat from that previous hard point.

Posted by: Brad at August 25, 2005 06:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's even more infuriating when people of good will like Greg and Mr. Britt swallow the MSM defeatist spin than it is reading the spin first hand. I really wish Greg would spend a little time reading the Military Bloggers and not focus so much energy on the guys sitting around the Palestinian Hotel bar wearing a pith helmet, you might get a more nuanced view.

Are we going to cut back our troop commitments? Yes, barring a draft we need to allow some troops to come home for a year to rest and refit. Does this mean GWB is abandoning his goals in Iraq -- I don't see the proof of that. Will it make it harder/take longer to pacify obscure corners like Haditha? Probably. Does that mean the job won't get done? I don't see where that follows. I'd much rather have the momentum that is moving in the direction of the new gov't than I would that of the "insurgents." And as for the credibility of the Guardian, Glenn Reynolds linked to a piece they ran a few months back saying there is no problem in Darfur, it's all a pretext for the evil, evil CIA to get their hands on Sudan's oil.

Posted by: wayne at August 25, 2005 01:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's even more infuriating when people of good will like Greg and Mr. Britt swallow the MSM defeatist spin than it is reading the spin first hand. I really wish Greg would spend a little time reading the Military Bloggers and not focus so much energy on the guys sitting around the Palestinian Hotel bar wearing a pith helmet, you might get a more nuanced view.

Are we going to cut back our troop commitments? Yes, barring a draft we need to allow some troops to come home for a year to rest and refit. Does this mean GWB is abandoning his goals in Iraq -- I don't see the proof of that. Will it make it harder/take longer to pacify obscure corners like Haditha? Probably. Does that mean the job won't get done? I don't see where that follows. I'd much rather have the momentum that is moving in the direction of the new gov't than I would that of the "insurgents." And as for the credibility of the Guardian, Glenn Reynolds linked to a piece they ran a few months back saying there is no problem in Darfur, it's all a pretext for the evil, evil CIA to get their hands on Sudan's oil.

Posted by: wayne at August 25, 2005 01:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne wrote:
"Are we going to cut back our troop commitments? Yes, barring a draft we need to allow some troops to come home for a year to rest and refit. "

Does anyone really think there is going to be a draft??? I don’t know of one authoritative source (R or D) who honestly thinks we will have a draft. So, why the qualifier “barring”? Also, when you say “allow the troops to come home for a year to rest and refit”, you seem to imply a large permanent presence of troops in the Sunni strongholds, like Haditha. This is precisely the problem with the milblogs argument. The only way the U.S. can “win”, is to permanently control and occupy places like Haditha. Otherwise, they will revert back to their natural state, which is to say, pretty much how the Guardian article describes it. ( I don’t want to quibble about what the meaning of “Citadel” is. I think the Brits tend to use terms like that, on a regular basis). By any measure, Haditha is just another Sunni shithole, and that’s the way it will always be (always has been). The problem with the milblogs, is that they think that the ability to effectively “clean-out” places like Haditha, Fallujia, etc, on a regular basis, is the definition of “winning”. It is not. This isn’t Ft. Irwin. The sunni triangle is not some permanent training base, for live fire exercises. But, whenever I read the milblogs, that is the sense I get. Everyone understands and acknowleges, the active duty units operating in Anbar province will (and have repeatedly ) prevail in any action they undertake. But, that’s not the point. The point is, that they have to continuously undertake these operations. After 2-1/2 years of this, what does that say??? To the milblogs, it appears to say “that’s just fine.” All we have to do is “allow some troops to come home for a year to rest and refit” and then send them right back; a permanent rotation. Is that your idea of “winning”.

Posted by: Mark Jones at August 25, 2005 03:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Jones,

I do not think there is going to be a draft, I put that in to emphasize the fact that a temporary removal of troops does not imply we are abandoning the effort, i.e., its the only realistic option we have right now. I agree that places like Hadatha will need to be held someday -- by Iraqi troops we are in the process of standing up. Rotating in and out, clearing out nests of insurgents and having the place go back in a few months is discouraging, but apparently more discouraging to us on the home front than to the troops that are reenlisting at beyond optimistic rates. I do not want to sound like a lackey of the administration: I agree this is the most dangerous period we have faced in Iraq. Our ability to stay the course depends, more than any other single factor, on the communcations ability of our tone-deaf Commander in Chief trying to get his message past a hostile press. In that sence I agree that the insurgents have a chance, and realize that they have to win now or never.

Posted by: wayne at August 25, 2005 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cute, Mark Jones, but no cigar. While technically correct, you omit the little details of how you occupy territory in the first place; right now the US/Coalition is mounting bracing attacks into the interior of the Sunni insurgency and advancing piecewise into the breach as Iraqi units stand up and cover largely pacified areas. If you tripled the number of troops in Iraq you may have the ability to seize and hold territory, but you'd sacrifice longevity of the gains by removing the theatre and global reserves (before the 'A ha!' impulse comes to the fore, you'd be lucky to gather another ten, twenty thousand troops from the European 'allies' of France and Germany, they don't have them, and no other foreign reserve seriously exists to fill that levy, and the whole reason we stayed out of the triangle in the first place was...political, for fear of provoking a Sunni insurgency that we now have [crossing fingers, hoping you take the bait on that one]).

You are technically correct that only permanent pacification will permanently pacify, but the raids and spoiling action taken in cities like Haditha profit the insurgency not at all. The reason why Haditha is likely NOT a new (and improved!) Fallujah is that major combat operations have happened in and near there in the past months, whereas Fallujah was nearly pristine insurgency from the beginning of combat operations. Operations into the heart of the insurgency keep them off balance, destroy and disrupt cells until the currently occupied areas come under control, until forces can come up and secure new areas.

Doubling or tripling the number of troops, or rather combat troops, two different things, would allow us to seize more territory, of course. But you have to hold it, and doubling or tripling the number of troops makes that impossible for more than one tour of duty. With current forces, we could seize more area, but while the insurgents have never beat the Coalition in platoon sized engagements, they have in squad level engagements; moving out may thin the lines and enable defeat-in-detail. And that's where your contention with the mil-blogs ends, with defeat in the details.

Posted by: Brad at August 25, 2005 05:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

McQ at Questions and Observations gives a much more reasoned analysis of Major General Lute's comments than Greg does.

Standing up Iraq, standing down our troops

Posted by: Marlin at August 25, 2005 05:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Security Security Security

Sounds good Greg

Lets find some arab strongman and put him in charge - human rights and democracy be damned

And lets be clear - we never ever ever have to hear one fucking word from ANYONE about how "we work with dictators"

We tried it another way - and nothing but criticism

so to hell with it

Find the most vicious goon we can and buy him - put him in charge ( you'll have security pdq then by golly! ) and step away

You have listed your preferences for Iraq so lets just concentrate on it shall we

what were they again - oh right - security security security

( didn't Voltaire say that those who are willing to give up some of their liberty for more security deserve neither )


Maybe if you keep beating this drum it will happen as I descibe above

Then will you be pleased?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 25, 2005 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure exactly what policy options are encompassed by the "defeatist Mainstream Media spin," but I'm pretty sure that even if they do cover Greg's view of the Iraq situation, or mine, they cannot cover both.

Greg is most afraid that we will bungle the effort to achieve the President's stated goals for Iraq. I never thought the goals were realistic in the first place, and am most afraid that the effort to reach them will compromise American interests in more important areas of the world. Greg believes our cause is just, because Iraqis have a right to freedom; I believe only that American commitments once made, however unwisely, cannot be lightly abandoned as long as there is a chance they might succeed. Greg is disappointed in President Bush's leadership and probably -- I do not wish to presume something he has not written -- compares it unfavorably to that of Bush's father; my opinion of Bush, which on very warm days doesn't rise much above very cold disdain, was orginally an outgrowth of the low opinion I had of his father, and still do.

If Greg and I share anything with the Mainstream Media in their pith helmets around the bar of the Palestinian Hotel, it is probably the futile feeling that comes from knowing that even the best ideas about Iraq are likely to fail of implementation to the extent that their implementation involves a President badly out of his depth in a peacetime White House and hopelessly so in a war environment. In my case anyway this has little to do with ideology and certainly not of party feeling. It's just a question of facing dangerous times knowing the commander in chief is not up to the drill.

Posted by: JEB at August 25, 2005 05:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brad,

I am not in a position to question your description of the current military tactics (“bracing attacks into the interior ….. advancing piecewise into the breach….” et al); you seem to know what you’re talking about (maybe you’re recent active duty, or you read a lot of milblogs,…….). However, when you say “...as Iraqi units stand up and cover largely pacified areas.” this is where I strongly disagree. The Iraqi units haven’t proved to be very good at anything, except avoiding close contact. I base this on what I have read of first person accounts, (on a milblogs/ posts by active duty people) that has described the operational effectiveness of these Iraqi units. I am referring to actual combat situations, not drill/ceremony or firing range/training type stuff. The idea that these Iraqi units are ready to assume combat operations, at the same (or close to) level as US forces, is fantasy. Nobody believes that is possible; they may talk about it at higher levels, in Pentagon briefings/Sunday talk shows, etc. But to me, that is just make believe. How is it possible to assume that Iraqi units will be able to accomplish (i.e. simultaneously pacify large amounts of Sunni areas) what US forces have not been able to. Whether it is due to lack of US combat troops, poor pre-war planning, political decisions make by the Pentagon, etc., the fact is, we have not been successful in consistently (and simultaneously) pacifying these Sunni areas. Well, if that’s the case (and I think it is), then how are Iraqi troops going to do this? The answer is, they’re not. Not in a meaningful sense. It will only be on paper, if that. Only with large scale US forces (over an extended period of time) will it be possible (any maybe not even then) to completely defeat the insurgency. And only then, will we “win”. So, in summary, my point is (again), that this is not “winning”. If winning means 100,000+ (maybe a BIG “+”) US combat troops, engaged in continual combat operations, for an extended period of time. I mean, answer me honestly, what % of the American public signed on for this definition of winning? IMO, a very small %. You may not like the fact that only a small % of the American public is up for a 100k + combat troops, on the ground for an extended period of time, but it is what it is. This is not “defeatist” thinking, this is real world thinking.

Posted by: Mark Jones at August 25, 2005 06:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB

If Greg and I share anything with the Mainstream Media in their pith helmets around the bar of the Palestinian Hotel, it is probably the futile feeling that comes from knowing that even the best ideas about Iraq are likely to fail of implementation to the extent that their implementation involves a President badly out of his depth in a peacetime White House and hopelessly so in a war environment.

You can probably also add "a President who has frequently subordinated goals in Iraq to domestic political considerations".

Posted by: Guy at August 25, 2005 06:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wayne: It's even more infuriating when people of good will like Greg and Mr. Britt swallow the MSM defeatist spin than it is reading the spin first hand. I really wish Greg would spend a little time reading the Military Bloggers

Everybody spins, whether they know it or not. Military Bloggers are just as likely to have biases because they are not going to want to believe their efforts and sacrifices are not being effectively used. And governments spin most of all. The trick is to look at all sides and try to extract the information out of the spin. GD and JEB seem pretty good at that to me, but YMMV depending on your own biases.

Posted by: fling93 at August 25, 2005 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One of the biggest problems we will have in Iraq as we hand over control to the Iraqi's is the reporting by the MSM on every infraction of Western style administration and justice to be found

Because there will be corrupt police and prison horror stories worse than AG for sure ( although still better than some dungeon in Tehran where pro-democracy protestors languish un-noticed by the NYTimes and BBC )

And once the US departs - we can expect the same chorus to highlight every failing in Iraq as proof that we failed in the mission

If Iraq doesn't become Iowa on day 1 - we can expect to hear the criticism - because these folks have too much invested in the whole "Iraq was a mistake" mantra to allow it to succeed without every last effort being made to portray it as a failure

Bush simply must be linked to a great failure - and Iraq is the card to play

Sure this may make life harder on 25M Iraqi's ( and a hundred million other arabs ) - but isn't that a small price to pay to be proven "right" about Iraq and the idiocy of the Bush admin

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 25, 2005 08:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a card-carrying left-winger, when I read this stuff from Juan Cole, I take it with a grain of salt.

When I read it here, I realize that things are worse that I imagined.

And while the Vietnam comparison is over-used, it does appear that it is becoming increasing apt....with the US government and military "holding" Saigon/Baghdad and other urban areas while the countryside is pretty much out of control.

The analogy doesn't hold because, unlike in Vietnam, we aren't facing one challenge to the primacy of the "central government" that we are supporting, but three --- a Sunni/jihadist insurgency in the west, a Shia militia controlled theocracy in the south that is taking its marching orders from Iran, and the "independent" Kurdish insurgency that will brook no interference on its own autonomy imposed by a central Baghdad government....

This is turning into a disaster far worse than I'd originally imagined....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 25, 2005 08:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The analogy doesn't hold because, unlike in Vietnam, we aren't facing one challenge to the primacy of the "central government" that we are supporting, but three --- a Sunni/jihadist insurgency in the west, a Shia militia controlled theocracy in the south that is taking its marching orders from Iran, and the "independent" Kurdish insurgency that will brook no interference on its own autonomy imposed by a central Baghdad government....

I don't really see the Shia-militia-controlled theocracy and the Kurdish nationalists as "challenges to the primacy of the 'central government' " -- they, or rather a bizarre hybrid, ARE the central government we are supporting, for lack of a better alternative.

Posted by: Guy at August 25, 2005 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka, you made an error in your post

It should have read

"This is turning into a disaster far worse than I'd originally dreamed of.... "

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 25, 2005 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I still luv ya babe, put I think you need to chill a bit. As you said, this IS the Guardian for cripe's sake. In any case, Bill Roggio has a pretty decent post on the subject.

"This is turning into a disaster far worse than I'd originally dreamed of.... "

For the left, this is their wishful thinking, consequences be damned. It's all about beating evil Chimpy McBushitlerBurton or proving their failed ideology is the correct one. Should this come to pass (I'm not saying it will, nor do I believe it), the left, including much of the media which has served as the left's mouthpiece, will have much to answer for in the long run, even if the right is blamed politically in the short term. Their "victory" will be a pyrrhic one. Just like their "victory" in Vietnam, only the stakes are much greater this time...

The President has said over and over again that this will take time. You don't rebuild a country nor expect to completely change the political culture of a region as sick as the Arab World (which has been stuck in a self-pitying, self-destructive rut for close to a THOUSAND friggin' years) is, overnight. And it seems to me, the cost of inaction (leaving things as they were=9/11) should be weighed in the same manner as the cost today is. It seems these things ought to be self-evident. Then again, we live in a society consumed by instant gratification, self-absorption and narcissism...perhaps the Islamists are right about us after all.

Posted by: Mike at August 25, 2005 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB

1) I meant Palestine Hotel, not Palestinian, my bad.

2) I agree that GWB is mediocre at best. Had the Dem's run Gephardt or Edwards I would have given up my preferences for domestic issues and Court appointments and pulled that lever.

3) No matter how incompetent Bush is, I do not think you should denigrate what we have accomplished so far. Imagine a mideast coping with Arafat's death if Saddam were still in power, having wriggled out of sanctions, and attempting to impose his legacy. I did not look forward to this war with any bloodlust or jingoism; but I do think we tend to minimize the unique combination of megalomania, paranoia and sadism that made Saddam a different magnatude of problem than other bad actors in the world.

Posted by: Wayne at August 25, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB

1) I meant Palestine Hotel, not Palestinian, my bad.

2) I agree that GWB is mediocre at best. Had the Dem's run Gephardt or Edwards I would have given up my preferences for domestic issues and Court appointments and pulled that lever.

3) No matter how incompetent Bush is, I do not think you should denigrate what we have accomplished so far. Imagine a mideast coping with Arafat's death if Saddam were still in power, having wriggled out of sanctions, and attempting to impose his legacy. I did not look forward to this war with any bloodlust or jingoism; but I do think we tend to minimize the unique combination of megalomania, paranoia and sadism that made Saddam a different magnatude of problem than other bad actors in the world.

Posted by: Wayne at August 26, 2005 12:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In a world of Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch empire, increasingly powerful conservative publications and blogs, and a pro-war editorial stance by the Washington Post, to blame the "defeatist MSM" for increasing public discomfort with the war is absurd - and a continued focus on that as an explanation for our difficulties seriously detracts from our ability to confront them effectively. In fact, I would go further: it is a desperate attempt to escape the reality of a naive, misconceived, and terribly executed enterprise. Also, for what it's worth, I don't know anyone, right or left - and I know some wackos on both extremes - who would rather we failed than succeed in Iraq. Those who opposed the war are human, and so feel some measure of vindication at the mess we see today, but what they feel much more intensely is dismay. That aside, my main point is this: to blame the media for Bush's declining support is a Vietnam era anachronism - far more than was the case back then, much of the media supported the war at the outset, and there is a much wider array of editorial viewpoints available today; the NY Times is a long way from being able to call the shots. Furthermore, a "blame the media" approach insults the instincts of the American people. They know it's not going well - as Greg himself suggests. Let's discuss what the real problems are, and what really needs to be done; blaming the media or Democrats is facile - and useless.

Posted by: Sheldon at August 26, 2005 02:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka, you made an error in your post

pogue, unlike you, I don't get off on dreaming about American military personnel and Iraqi citizens being killed and mutilated. You obviously see death and destruction as some sort of glorious enterprise---as long as its not your own ass on the firing line.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at August 26, 2005 02:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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