January 04, 2006

More Bubble-Breaching!

It'll be a pretty interesting meeting at the White House on Thursday...

P.S. By not playing the Wilkerson tune (one Dick Holbrooke thought was a tad erratic, it seems), Powell has kept the door open to the Oval Office. Does it make a difference? Not if Thursday's meeting is just used as PR exercise (the former SecStates are happy! Bush listened to Colin and they hugged! etc). But if there are frank exchanges, and Powell and others can prod Casey/Khalilzad for raw from-the-field info, and give unvarnished advice to POTUS--hell, the preservation of the relationship might just be worth something...

UPDATE: So, um, Colin Powell said nothing? Zip, nada...? How odd, no?

Posted by Gregory at January 4, 2006 05:10 AM | TrackBack (0)

holbrookes piece is interesting.

Although hes not explicit about what the "wrong decisions" were - the way the Iraq invasion was carried out, or THAT it was carried out. And im still not sure that grouping wolfowitz (whos certianly not dumb) with Feith is fair (and the fact that wolfie is at the world bank, while Feith has left govt, is a fair indication others think similarly) . But I think Holbrookes take on Rice is fair.

But i think Holbrooke is still wrong. The process didnt work - and there is a structural problem. Historically keeping the national security cats herded has required either a president who has a clear foreign policy agenda - like Reagan - or a very strong NS advisor - a Kissinger. When thats been absent things tend to go to pieces, as with Carter. Bush started without a for pol vision, and improvised after 9/11. Rice wasnt strong enough to impose her will (though shes come a long way) And the problem wasnt just the policies proposed by the "cabal" - it was powells opposition, and the way the cabal dealt with that.

We could have made a more solidly democracy oriented case for the Iraq war from the beginning - but we didnt, partly out of deference to Powell, and also to Rummsy skepticism of "utopian projects". Instead the case was made on WMD's - which has since resulted in embarrassment for the admin, for the US, and a misunderstanding of what the current stakes in IRaq are.

Posted by: liberalhawk at January 4, 2006 03:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No one makes reference to the "Wisemen" re the Isaacson & Thomas tome of that name; who gave Johnson the recommen
dation to intervene in Vietnam, and then took it back three years
later. THey were the cold, contemplative 'realists' that got it wrong
back then; hence giving way to the New left influenced policy
figures (like Lake and Holbrooke) and the conservatives on the other. The argument for 'democracy' could probably not be made
with a straight face, with the likes of Russia and China on the UNSC; not too mention the role of Syria and Libya; as major
committee chairs, in the pre-war interim. Most other intelligence
services including the war skeptical Russian SVR and German BND as well as the Jordanian and Egyptian Mukharabat's beleived they
had weapons. The only real doubts that Joe Wilson had; was whether the Iraqis had restarted their nuclear supplies with Niger
(Which his omissions about such entreaties in Oangdou and Algiers
helped muddle the story. Had we chosen that strategy, it would have made the rehabilitation of the Baath party infrastructure of
death and dismemberment, even less tenable.

Posted by: narciso at January 5, 2006 03:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


what on earth do you think that a gathering of all the living former Secs of State and Defense is intended as, other than a PR exercise?

The question is: to what end? Is it just an exercise in saying "there is no bubble! Look! We have all these people giving advice to the President! how could there be a bubble?"

My gut tells me that something else is up.....like Bush is gonna present these former Secs with "evidence" of Iran's nuclear weapons program, and ask them to stand behind him as he gives his big speech announcing a bombing campaign of Iran.

I hope to Christ that my gut is wrong (at least on the specifics about what is up) on this one....

Posted by: lukasiak at January 5, 2006 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We can't possibly announce a plan to bomb iran. That's absurd.

Most of the rest of the world would decide we were crazy. The russians and the chinese might announce ultimatums. The iranians would probably ship shoulder-fired missiles into iraq, to take out our supply helicopters. They might encourage their shia supporters to attack us in iraq too. It would be an utter mess.

We have to bomb iran with no warning. Pull a Pearl Harbor. Of course, they've tended to put their nuclear sites under cities so we have to bomb the cities to get to them, and then when we do get them we'll be spreading radioactives around the cities. That will be real bad for our international relations too, but it will be already done and nobody will think they can do anything to stop it.

All things considered, wouldn't it be better to get the israelis to bomb iran for us? We could say we didn't know anything about it ahead of time, and israel wouldn't lose any international support, not having any except from us.

It would be crazy to announce a bombing on iran ahead of time. When china was going nuclear the russians wanted to do a pre-emptive strike and we stopped them. Surely the russians would be glad to return the favor for iran. Probably the chinese would.

If we're going to bomb iranian cities we need to do it with no warning whatsoever. No warning. No quarter. No mercy. No rules of war. Destroy their nuclear facilities and whatever else we want to destroy, and then trust that we can do it again every time from now on -- after we do our Pearl Harbor we can't afford for them to ever, ever get a functioning nuke.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 5, 2006 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We can't possibly announce a plan to bomb iran. That's absurd.

unfortunately, "absurdity" doesn't seem to have stopped Bush from doing anything so far.

But I wasn't suggesting that Bush use the collected Secs of State and Defense to announce plans, but to announce that the bombing was beginning--- that's the worst case scenario.

The second worst case is that he will use them for a dog-and-pony show....giving each of them five minutes to rattle sabres at Iran, as a prelude to the inevitable bombing of Iran.

And it really doesn't matter if we announce our plans in advance, in terms of what the reaction would be --- a Shiite uprising in Iraq (at least among the Madhi contingent) against US forces, using arms provided by Iran. Possible retaliatory attacks on US bases in Kuwait and Qatar, and the blockading/blocking of the Straits of Hormuz, cutting off the shipping lanes through which Kuwaiti and Saudi oil tankers reach their markets.

But as we've seen, this administration doesn't really worry too much about what might go wrong in the aftermath of their actions.... and "absurd" is no impediment to Bush.

Posted by: lukasiak at January 5, 2006 12:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it might matter if we announce in advance. For one thing, the iranians very likely aren't sending advanced weapons to iraq yet. Once they send them they no longer get to decide when they'll be used. If we give warning they'll definitely send them, but if we don't give warning we might manage to stop some of them -- bomb them while they're still in iran etc.

(Incidentally, the madhi group appears to me to be less supporting iran than some of the others, and less supported by iran. But that's a minor detail, there are certainly some who'd attack us under those circumstances. The iranians could even give stuff to sunnis -- stuff that hits armor and aircraft won't particularly hurt the shia militias who have neither.)

I doubt iran has a lot to hit our bases with -- if they tried it would give the US navy some targets. Similarly they don't have what it takes to blockade the shipping lanes, if they tried we'd just stop them. I suppose they could lay mines and we'd have to do minesweeping which would take us awhile.

My bigger concern about a prior announcement is that it would give third parties time to threaten us -- and then when we didn't back down they'd feel obligated to carry out their threats.

But I find no big disagreements with you. I don't see anything to do about it but check my emergency supplies. If the rice has weevils better to replace it now than after the crisis starts.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 5, 2006 01:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J T...

Iran doubtless has quite a few short/medium range missiles that are sufficiently accurate to target US military installations in Iraq, Qatar, Turkey, and Kuwait.

Now, its true that the US could bomb the crap out of all of Iran's military installations at the same time it goes after the nuclear facilities --- and no doubt there are people among the neo-con cabal who would support such an effort.

But I really don't see that happening in the "first wave" of bombings. I say this mostly because this would require a quantity of large bombers far greater than those deployed currently (as far as we know) in Iraq. Any such fleet of bombers would require us to get permission from various nations to use their airspace for the attack --- permission which is highly unlikely to be forthcoming.

And while the Sadrists may not be the most closely connected to Iran among the Shiite factions, they are the most likely to immediately go on the offense against the US should an attack on Iran occur...and Iran knows this.

You are correct in saying that Iran could not effectively blockade the straits -- but skuttle a few large ships in the middle of the shipping lanes, and they can effectively block the straits.

To me, the real issue isn't the question of whether we "announce our plans"...its the fact that we've already telegraphed our intentions (or at least our desires) -- and we've been doing so for close to four years (i.e. the "axis of evil" speech). Iranians are not stupid, and they doubtless have plans ready to go should the US attack.

Finally, I can't really credit the idea that the Iranians would be deterred from retaliation by the threat of further retaliatory strikes by the USA. This is the country that employed the "human wave" strategy in its war with Iraq....the idea that they would hesitate to retaliate because of concerns for the lives of their people is inconsistent with recent history.

Posted by: lukasiak at January 5, 2006 07:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lukasiak, I don't disagree with any of your points except perhaps some minor details.

I have a slightly different emphasis, but no real disagreement.

If we actually announce the attack ahead of time then that gives various entities the chance to try to deter us -- russia, china, the EU, the UN, etc. If we pull a Pearl Harbor then they can only respond after the fact.

And if we decide we need a great big attack, we can send in the B52s etc from wherever we want, and to hell with respecting other nations' airspace. It's stupid, but the whole thing is stupid.

Many of our bases in iraq get small mortar attacks daily or more often and it doesn't do any damage to speak of. They're hardened. Bigger rocket attacks wouldn't do all that much damage. But we ship urgent supplies by air and the big bulk in giant toothy convoys, and those would both be threatened by better portable weapons aimed by locals.

I expect we would prevail militarily in the short run -- if the odds weren't real good our military would know and would suggest some alternative. I think there are dangers at least as big in trying to start a limited war against a nation we aren't ready to defeat, as there are in letting them get nukes. Once we attack them, it isn't over until they decide it's over. We have to keep raiding their nuclear facilities over and over as they rebuild them, until one time we fail. Because once they decide for revenge it isn't a theoretical thing any more. It isn't that we think they might be some kind of danger if they get nukes. Once we've made them our dedicated enemies they are *definitely* a danger to us.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 6, 2006 12:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

UPDATE: So, um, Colin Powell said nothing? Zip, nada...? How odd, no?

Well, considering that the entire "consultation" with Bush consisted of 40 or so minutes of a "briefing" from Bush, and 10-15 minutes of "back-and-forth". At that point the meeting with Bush was ended, but the former bigshots did get to talk to Stephen Hadley afterwards.

Powell probably wanted to let the others have their 70 seconds worth of "back and forth" with the Prez. Or maybe he just didn't want to waste his breath, after four years of doing so.

This was obviously a photo-op, pure and simple -- and one that, I suspect, did not go according to plan. Just a guess, but whoever thought this thing up had visions of the former hotshots filing out of the room to stand in a line behind Bush while he made a statement. He wouldn't have said anything important, and what he said wouldn't matter. The image of a bi-partisan group of former Secs of State and Defense "standing behind the President" was all that mattered.

....and at least a few of the attendees balked, so the photo-op didn't come off as planned, and what we really got was just one more example of how completely Bush insists upon isolating himself from outside ideas.

This isn't how you do consultation. You aren't going to get a frank opinion of Bush administration policies when the architects of those policies are not only in the room, but are seated on Bush's immediate left and right.

I'd be willing to bet that if Bush had met privately with these former Secs for half an hour each, he would have heard a variety of ideas and criticisms, but there would have been unanimity on one point --- Dump Rumsfeld (and it would have been "dump Rumsfeld and Cheney if Cheney wasn't a Constitutional officer.)

Some would have told him to dump Rumsfeld because he was a fuck-up. Others would have said "dump Rumsfeld" despite their admiration for him, because the White House had to signal that it understood that "mistakes had been made, and we're going to fix things." But the message would have been unanimous....


well, at least there was good news. My "gut" was wrong, and this wasn't about Iran....

Posted by: lukasiak at January 6, 2006 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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