“Losing Is Not An Option”

Omar, at Iraq The Model, issues a cri de coeur to the west about the war.

We need the decision-makers to rise above the rhetoric of who’s right and who’s wrong and focus on protecting the world from falling prey to the vicious enemies of civilization.

He’s right, of course. For too many of us the war is a tool to be wielded for political advantage – to frighten the electorate and shift votes right, or to decry and shift votes left.

The reality is that there is something real, and bad, over the horizon. We should neither deny its existence nor build it into something it is not.

And what I want from my leaders – and what Omar needs from them – is something other than fairy stories designed to frighten us or lull us to sleep.

I’ve met Omar, and shared meals with him. It’s personal to me.

If we’re not careful, it’ll be personal for all of us soon.

56 thoughts on ““Losing Is Not An Option””

  1. If you are not frightened of the Democrat plan for cut and run you are not paying attention.

    There may be no good plan. It may just come down to bottom. Who will quit first.

    Our enemies think in thousand year time frames. What is our horizon? Five years max?

    ===

    I do some commenting on the Netscape blog. If you take those comments at face value there are any number of folks who can’t wait to hand Iraq to the head choppers. Did I mention that they hate Bush? Probably America too.

    A.L. when I mentioned I was a John Kennedy – pay any price – Democrat do you know the response I got? Crickets. Silence enough to hear a snow flake crashing on the pavement.

    Alcee Hastings (impeached and convicted of bribery) to head the Intelligence Committee in the House? The Democrats are clueless.

    I remember the aftermath of ‘Nam (which moved me to the right). This will be worse.

  2. The Dem-bashing would carry more weight if anyone on the Right had a realistic plan for Iraq. Or Afghanistan for that matter.

    The Bush administration began this Iraq war and now seems to have no plan. That fact voids their critiques of democrats. You don’t get to dig yourself into a hole and then complain that the people you’ve crapped all over haven’t pulled you out.

  3. Before 9-11-2001, we faced a serious threat, and muddled through, sometimes better, sometimes worse.

    On 9-11-2001, we got slugged. Hard. For a while, it looked like we would rally the world to the cause of civilization.

    By late 2002, it became clear that our leaders were determined to fight fire with gasoline.

    Over the last four years, the extent and seriousness of the debacle has become clearer and clearer.

    Principle Number 1: When you are in a hole, stop digging. We have to kick out the people whose bad judgment confronted a serious problem and made it orders of magnitude worse.

    But then we can’t assume there is no underlying problem. There is, and it has to be solved. But we need to have a serious, open-minded national discussion about how to go about it. (Sorry I’m in fantasyland here, but I still have a naive faith in American democracy.)

    Yes we have a problem with militant radical Islamist terrorists like al Qaeda. But the “Kill All The Terrorists” position is fundamentally broken. It is precisely analogous to fighting fire with gasoline.

    If you kill 10 suspected terrorists, you probably get 1-2 genuine terrorist enemies, and you create 20-50 new enemies, with 5-10 of them willing to become dedicated terrorists. You are not coming out ahead.

    We need new ideas. The current leaders have old ideas that they have convincingly demonstrated to be wrong. Start with new leaders, and then work to sift through the good and bad ideas and try to find some good one.

    Losing is always an option, and continuing to pour gasoline on the fire is a pretty good way to do it.

  4. A cri de coeur obviously has no effect on the coeur de jello. They’re ready to get back to the business of the country: kiting checks off the House bank and investigating administration officials for having a foreign policy.

  5. If you kill 10 suspected terrorists, you probably get 1-2 genuine terrorist enemies, and you create 20-50 new enemies, with 5-10 of them willing to become dedicated terrorists.

    Wow. What do you get if you kill 2800 New Yorkers? A fucking Hallmark card?

  6. Funny, Glen, but I would have thought the reaction to 9/11 demonstrated Beard’s point, that you create many more enemies than you kill.

    Face it, Team Bush is failing in Iraq. Each month the place is more chaotic than the last. Now instead of wasting oxygen calling us jello-hearted, oh 101st Fighting Keyboarder, try to figure out how to get a better result than violent anarchy in Iraq. Even Bush seems to have noticed that no one likes staying the course over a cliff.

  7. I have no regrets about approving of and arguing for the removal of Saddam Hussien. It was the right thing to do.

    What we were doing was building a bridge from Saddam Hussien to democracy.

    The first third of the bridge, on our side, was political will. George W. Bush supplied that in spades. He should go into history as a great idealist, a true believer in the goodness of Islam and in the invincible love of freedom of all men everywhere.

    The middle third of the bridge was for United States, United Kingdom and other coalition armed forces to build a new Iraqi army and police force. The question was, could we do this, or would terrorists disrupt it. And the army won that one. Well done. Thanks to all the soldiers, Marines and others. And that ends the bit that was up to us.

    The last third of the bridge, without which all the rest is worthless, was on the far side. The Iraqi people had to want democracy more than the incompatible things that they also wanted, and the elected Iraqi government had to pursue that, and Iraqi armed forces, once they had the physical power to crush all enemies of democracy in Iraq, had to go ahead and do so.

    Every part of that hope has failed. A growing majority of the population approves or attacks on Americans, which is incompatible with putting democracy in first place; the government is simple raking in American money and military support while the real players in Iraq prepare to do things that have nothing to do with our democratic dreams; and the army now has overwhelming power but has not won its war and is not doing so. It has not “stood up” in the only sense that mattered. There is no reason to think that it is about to do so.

    The hour came for moderate Islam to speak up for democracy in Iraq, with a voice of thunder, and reach out with its full strength to achieve it. And the hour passed mostly in quiet, and with little effective activity.

    The bottom line seems to be that support for the Great Satan (and of course the Little Satan) is not sufficiently acceptable in the Muslim world, Muslim solidarity against the kufr, regardless of rights and wrongs, is decisive, and no matter what anybody says, Muslim terror and tyranny are indeed acceptable to historically decisive numbers of Muslims. When push came to shove, in practice they were accepted. America was not able to fight for democracy for Muslims and among Muslims without creating decisive numbers of new enemies. And America was not able to appease unfriendly Muslim sensitivities except temporarily, and by such mildness and even feebleness that playing by Muslim rules meant losing, as of course the kufr are supposed to lose to Muslims.

    Now events have passed the tipping point: growing majority support for attacks on Americans is such a tipping point. There is no reason for the Americans to prolong their stay indefinitely for people who just want them dead.

    I think a leave-taking of longer than a year or so no longer makes any sense at all.

    It doesn’t matter whether we define defeat as an option. Even before the tipping point was passed, that didn’t really matter. It only mattered, once we had done our bit, what Iraqis really wanted.

    There was only one way to find out. Hope said that we had pay the (high) price to try, and belief in Islam, the religion of peace, said the answer had to be good.

    Now we know better of course. Or we should.

    Let’s never do this again.

  8. That’s a really good comment, David. I’m with you on about 80% of that.

    In the end, “bringing democracy to Iraq” means you have to allow them to screw it all up. If you don’t, then you’re not letting them choose.

    I think we did the right thing by letting them choose. Looking at this over the long run, Saddam had to go, and he’s gone. We might be back to that region in force, so the honorable thing to do was to let the Iraqis choose their government. They did.

    If Iraqi leaders want to play short-term politics, then long-term politics will kill them. That’s life, and that’s not something we can fix. I think we should make it abundantly clear that we were there because we were forced to take Saddam out or leave a terrorist regime in power. If we are put in that spot again with Iraq, I think they’ve used up their “Let’s do this the nice way” card with the American people. This year might be a good time to get some pictures of Baghdad for the history books.

    Having said all of that negative stuff, perhaps we as a people want a quick fix for everything. Maybe it takes 20 years of 2000-Americans-killed-a-year conflict to acheive a peaceful prosperous Iraq. In my opinion, it’s still worth doing. But folks back home can’t stand long military commitments, which our enemies are well aware. We could take one huge battle that lost tens of thousands, but the same amount killed over ten years somehow becomes a fiasco. In a way, I’m ashamed of my fellow countrymen — the decision to go to war and human sacrifice should be worth something more than partisan politics and election-year timetables. Some of these people were picking the war apart before the tanks even rolled, and have spend the last several years simply trying to come up with a coherent story that holds together well enough to run a party on it. I think when the commenters move from “what it is” to “how we got there” we can see this meme regurgitated in all it’s glory. And no, I’m not buying all of it. The biggest mistake was under-manning the occupation, which falls on the Joint Chiefs and the Pentagon, which has had decades to plan for just this type of operation, and we executed it according to one theory of how it was supposed to work. That theory needs to be discredited and not used again, not the entire idea of freeing a people.

  9. I agree with #s 8 and 9: Any huge organizational endeavor is going to be riddled with sincere mistakes, downright blunders, inefficiencies, and worse. People who plan and direct these things have their varied motives but, typically in their own minds, want to succeed.

    Clumsy in hindsight or not, fighting back has value; appeasing or ‘dialogue’ with zealots only appears weak. We made an honest effort for ourselves and the Iraqis, as we have done all over the world in the past, and they’ve had their elections and a constitution. But–you can’t want something for someone more than they want it for themselves. It’s becoming clear the Iraqis are behaving as they probably always have and much like most of the entire region–backward and barbaric.

    If this effort fails it won’t be our failure; we did our part. The failure will be with the Iraqis who could not take the great gift that was offered.

  10. If this effort fails it won’t be our failure; we did our part. The failure will be with the Iraqis who could not take the great gift that was offered.

    I am trying to decide if this is deliberately ironic. On the Internet it can be hard to tell.

    Let’s see, though. Stage One of our gift was creating a chaotic environment in which all forms of authority were eliminated, forcing people to rely on non-governmental entities (tribe, religious grouping). It also included widespread looting and violent crime, too inadequately staffed even to guard ammunition dumps. Reconstruction of the infrastructure was handed over to American companies, who wasted half of the US taxpayer’s money on actual construction, but did manage to repatriate the other half as “overhead”. (Cheneyburton shareholders have done quite well with this war.) The political reconstruction was turned over to a bunch of children of correct political views. (Hammes recalls meeting the Coalition Provisional Authority’s head of planning for the Ministry of the Interior. He was 25 years old and in his first job out of college. The young staffer told Hammes his team consisted of four fraternity brothers.). The idea that we went into Iraq for the Iraqis’ benefit is itself absurd (remember Colin Powell telling the UN about the WMD, not one word of which turned out to be true?). The Noble Experiment that Failed. What chutzpah.

  11. Sigh. I think we’re seeing the outlines of the excuse for failure: “We did everything right. Those ungrateful Iraqis dropped the ball.” Lots of medals will be handed out for everything we’ve done right over the past four or five years. It’s enough to make you vomit.

    The truth is: we are facing a dangerous, determined, and highly intelligent enemy in extremist, terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda.

    We took our eye off the ball, and spent our time, treasure, and blood on a secondary target, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, not strategically critical for the safety of the United States. Iraq was a target of opportunity, hoped and believed to lead to the New American Empire, where we would defeat terrorism through global hegemony. (I’m being as sympathetic as I can to this bone-headed idea.)

    We have failed to address the real threat, and we have played into their hands.

    Do any of you remember a science fiction writer named Christopher Anvil? He was fond of alien invasian stories where the Earth was conquered by aliens with superior technology, but not nearly the intelligence and creativity of Earth (ie American) people. In every story, the aliens are harrassed and attacked by guerrilla groups that they couldn’t predict, and couldn’t respond to in any useful way, until they finally had to retreat and give up. (Actually, Harry Turtledove has done a recent version of this, too.)

    For those of you who might want to understand Iraq from the Iraqi perspective, consider how the USA would respond to being conquered, “for our own good”. Play that war game in your mind. Figure out what you would do, to show that the occupiers were ineffective, that their attempts to do good for Americans were failures, that they could be attacked and harmed. How would you attack them, on every front including the news back home, to get them to withdraw?

    What would it take to convince you that you were making a mistake? That you should join forces with the occupation government to make a peaceful USA in alliance with your occupiers? Could you ever be convinced? (I seriously doubt it.)

    If you can never be convinced, then perhaps you can only be killed. What happens then? Once the occupiers have tracked you down and killed you, what about your friends, your relatives, your colleagues, underground and above? Do you think the occupiers have made progress by killing you? Or do your friends, relatives, and colleagues rise up, visibly and invisibly, to take your place and more?

    If you can imagine this parallel, then perhaps you have a chance to understand what’s happening in Iraq.

    If you can’t imagine this parallel — _but we’re us and we’re good, while they’re them and they’re bad!_ — then you just don’t have a clue. You live in a fictional world, playing cops and robbers, and the real world will sandbag you from a direction you can’t see at all.

    As you navigate the tree of choices on any important issue, there comes a point where you’ve passed the last opportunity for a good outcome. At some point, if you have made sufficiently bad choices in the past, every option has bad outcomes. We could be there. I hope not, but we might be.

    My guess is: In Iraq, there are no good choices for us anymore. But in the overall struggle against terrorism, there remain good options. We need to figure out what those are.

  12. Ah, the blame game begins. Opening gambits: blame the media and blame the Iraqis. To blame ourselves would of course be to admit that all the conservative chin-strokers were wrong.

    Blame the media is absurd on its face. The president owns the bully pulpit. The idea that he is somehow unable to tell his side of any story is laughable. Further, he had the active assistance of the NYT and other MSM in the run-up to war, and through the initial invasion.

    The media soured over time — a time that coincided with an equivalent souring by people with first-hand, non-media-driven knowledge of the situation the ground. The generals and foreign policy professionals and Senators like McCain, Hagel, Warner, Graham, Biden who have, between them, dozens of trips to Iraq and do not get their information from the NYT, and are not running for reelection.

    Gambit #2, blame the Iraqis is contemptible. They didn’t ask us to invade, we made that call on our own. The responsibility for the outcome rests with us. (Including me, as a supporter of this war.)

    “Letting them choose” was stupid. There’s no other word for it. It was stupid. We didn’t let the Germans or the Japanese choose for themselves, we imposed a system on them. Why in God’s name we’d expect the Iraqis to outperform the Japanese in terms of democracy-building is a mystery to me. I assumed we were doing Japan 1945. I never, in a million years, would have supported this war if I thought we were counting on the Iraqis. No one but a damned fool would count on the Iraqi people.

    Bottom line: we screwed this up. “We,” not “they.” Sorry if that bruises some self-satisfied egos, but it’s the truth.

  13. A few points.

    1) What is going on in Iraq today as a result of US invasion and occupation were neither expected nor planned for by the Bush administration and their Republican congressional allies. Therefore, there’s absolutely no reason to expect them to provide a solution to a problem they still seem intentionally unaware they created or obstinately refuse to acknowledge.

    2) Military solitions, like the one linked to approvingly by AL written by Phil Carter in Slate, do not relate to any specific political strategy or party here in the US.

    3) I don’t know if Carter’s ideas are valid, and I am unclear on the details of other stratetic and tactical solutions being proposed recently, except to say that I’m glad people are trying hard to think of how to dig the US out of this historic and potentially apocalyptic mess.

    4) I see no evidence at all that the current government, comprised entirely of Republicans at the top, is willing to alter it’s course (I will not use the word “strategy” here because that is giving it far more credit than it is due) at least partly because of the political fallout they preduct from “changing their plan”.

    5) The only way to improve the situation, therefore, is to elect Democrats (especially The Fighting Dems) who will take office with the intent of improving the Iraq debacle and are thus willing to consider credible alternatives to the idiotic “stay the course” approach that is more a political slogan than anything else.

    6) It is not a concern to me, nor should it be expected, that Dems articulate a specific strategy that everyone agrees on before they are handed the “keys to the kindgom”. I am competely satisfied they will do something that the current adminstration/government is unwilling and unable to do: consider alternative plans. I would therefore expect the Dems to give a lot stronger consideration to what the generals on the ground and other top military advisors have to offer. At the moment, the views of these people are completely subjugated to the political control that Rove, Bush and Cheney feel that it is necessary to exert to maintain power.

    7) I don’t think the Dems can make the situation any worse than it is already or quickly becoming. It’s going to get worse all on it’s own under the “leadership” of the Republicans.

    Therefore, if you like Phil Carter’s (or really any other that the Bush administrations) ideas and would like to see them given some attention by politicians, I can see no alternative than to vote Republicans out of office.

    Otherwise, its more of the same.

  14. There is a plan it is called Unified Action which is all about rebuilding Iraqi society. It is not going to be quick.

    The question is: do we have the bottom for a plan that may take 10 to 20 years to undo what Saddam did to Iraq?

    The lefties can’t wait to repeat ‘Nam. One hundred thousand murdered. Five hundred thousand driven to the sea. Half of which died at sea. So all you folks who advocate leaving Iraq: if there are no more than 350,000 deaths and 250,000 refugees will that be OK? Not counting Cambodia of course.

    Suppose the head choppers get the Iraqi oil revenuse and use it to finance their jihad. Will that be OK?

    Do you think the American people will still vote Democrat after an Iraqi genocide?

    Ya gotta be careful for what you wish for.

  15. Simon:

    Do we have the bottom for it? Spare us.

    We spent 10 years in Vietnam. Ten years. And yet it’s portrayed as an example of cutting and running. And most absurdly as an example of Democrats cutting and running. Excuse me, but who was president when we signed the deal with North Vietnam? Which Secretary of State took home a Nobel for that deal? And who was president when we choppered the last guys out of the Saigon?

    Do we have the bottom for it? Pompous nonsense.

    Do we have the bottom to keep driving when we reach the edge of the cliff? By gad, we’d better stiffen our lips, what? Keep driving, damn yer eyes, keep driving I say.

    Will we spend 20 years without a strategy? Um, no. No, m’lord, we won’t. We’re a practical people here in the colonies. Once we figure out that we’re being led into a morass by incompetents
    we kind of like to think about changing course. We don’t think there’s anything brave or smart about doing the same stupid things over and over again in an attempt to justify the foolishness of insecure armchair generals who simply cannot, no matter how many die, admit they were wrong.

    This is no longer a war for Iraqi Democracy, it’s a war for the egos of men who simply cannot admit what is screamingly obvious. The question is, Simon: do you have the bottom to face the truth?

  16. Despite the similarity in name, I’m not Andy L; but I think his last post is excellent.

    I’m not convinced that the smartest, utility-maximizing plan is to withdraw immediately from Iraq. I am, however, even more skeptical that the various phased withdrawal stand-up stand-dowm stand-around plans do anything other than a slow-motion version of whatever bad will befall us if we leave immediately.

    We need new leadership with a new plan, and the only way to get that is to elect Democrats. Bush’s credibility is completely shot, with his Mission Accomplished nonsense. Who could imagine, for example, hundreds of thousands of young Americans signing up for the armed forces or a civilian reconstruction authority—and everyone not actively employed by the Administration knows that any last-gasp attempt to create a stable and peaceful Iraq needs tens or hundreds of thousands more Americans on the ground—for this bunch of bozos. And Bush has made it perfectly clear what “victory” means to him. It means that there will still be American troops in Iraq at the end of his term, even if only Laura and Barney his dog support him. It doesn’t matter, for a Bush-victory, what Iraq looks like. As long as he doesn’t allow a retreat, he’s “won”. Even some members of the Republican Party must be wondering if they aren’t sailing with Captain Queeg.

    As for M. Simon, he seems to have missed the fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are already dead. We aren’t comparing post-America Iraq with some Edenic fantasy, but with the other actual possibilities. But the Right is always looking for another Dolchstosslegende to absolve them of their horrific past screw-ups while drumming up support for their next even-worse disastrous mistake.

  17. #11 from Andrew J. Lazarus: “Let’s see, though. Stage One of our gift was creating a chaotic environment in which all forms of authority were eliminated, forcing people to rely on non-governmental entities (tribe, religious grouping).”

    It was called liberating Iraq, not conquering it. When an American soldier put a flag over the face of Saddam Hussien’s big statue, and this was a public embarrassment soon repented of because Operation Iraqi Freedom had to be an Iraqi victory not an American one, that was the problem right there. It was never possible to say: “We conquered and you have been conquered, so do what we say or else.” Instead the message was: “This is your country, rejoice in your freedom and slake your innate thirst for democracy.”

    The number of American troops in Iraq when the looting started was less important than whether they opened fire on looters. Mowing down any Iraqi who flashed a defiant eye, in the ancient manner of conquerors, there would have been plenty enough conquering troops to empty the streets. But without opening fire, which is what “liberating Iraq” implied, no number of soldiers meant anything.

    The idea of liberating people, not conquering them, can work well, but only if you apply it to the right populations. In this case, we applied it to a wrong population.

    It’s hard to see how we could have done anything fundamentally different though. The innate hostility of the population was such that “a small footprint” and “liberating not conquering” probably saved us from the population turning against us so violently and quickly that we would never have had a chance to find out how the rest of our democracy program went.

    When you are dealing with a population that at a deep religious/cultural level is wired for excessive supremacism, touchy pride, hostility and negativity towards kufrs…

    If you shoot looters, you get violently hated now, but if you are weak you get failure and more hatred later. If you crush the terror city of Fallujah after the killing and desecration of four contractors, you get violently hated now, but if you are weak you get failure and more hatred later. If you immediately kill or imprison Moqtada Al Sadr – like you promised your own supporters after his militia opened high intensity hostilities – you get violently hated now, but if you are weak you get failure and more hatred later. This is how it is when you have to work with a population that is so prejudiced against you that to give it what it wants practically means accepting failure. The failures mount up, and the population blames you for that too.

    In future, we should be assisting non-Muslim friendlies, who may if they judge us purely on what’s good for them turn out to be friendly.

    Or if we have to go into Muslim countries we should break what should be broken and kill who should be killed and leave, not standing on ceremony but bearing in mind that what can’t be done quickly generally can’t be done at all, and remembering also that the more we hang chatting around the more we’ll be hated anyway, so all extended discussions designed to mollify people are counterproductive.

  18. #13 from Beard: “For those of you who might want to understand Iraq from the Iraqi perspective, consider how the USA would respond to being conquered, “for our own good”. Play that war game in your mind. Figure out what you would do, to show that the occupiers were ineffective, that their attempts to do good for Americans were failures, that they could be attacked and harmed. How would you attack them, on every front including the news back home, to get them to withdraw?”

    Fudge! A crash just removed my long answer, complete with an assassin-proof nuclear Saddam in America and Yoda’s white-armored, Kiwi-accented liberation army; and the Australian scenario with an American invasion, and the British scenario I was going to start next.

    Your religious/cultural/political culture and traditions are decisive. We could all be back up and running democracies in weeks, not months, in that scenario. The invaders would be means to an end, the end being to get back to who and what we believe we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be and actually were doing.

    In Somalia and Iraq also, the dominant local religious/cultural/political culture and traditions have proven decisive. Unfortunately, people are not motivated the way we hoped.

  19. #14 from m. takhallus: “Ah, the blame game begins. Opening gambits: blame the media and blame the Iraqis. To blame ourselves would of course be to admit that all the conservative chin-strokers were wrong.”

    I’ve said the opposite: that for example there is no point focusing on biased media protecting Saudi Arabia from America, when George W. Bush has no intention of forcing Saudi Arabia to stop funding madrasses anyway. Yes the mainstream media is biased, but if you don’t adopt the necessary goals its not their fault that you didn’t achieve them. (When you do something good and they blow secrecy on it, then it’s their fault.)

    #14 from m. takhallus: “Gambit #2, blame the Iraqis is contemptible. They didn’t ask us to invade, we made that call on our own. The responsibility for the outcome rests with us. (Including me, as a supporter of this war.)”

    The outcome of the invasion is our responsibility, and the outcome of the reconstruction is the responsibility of the Iraqis, and more broadly the umma.

    The outcome of the invasion was that the tyrant was removed, with minimal loss of life in comparison to what was accomplished. The outcome of the reconstruction is that Iraqis are building themselves the kind of government they deserve, in spite of the Americans, who wanted then to have a good democracy.

    OK. Let’s learn from this.

    Let’s not accept that “you broke it, you own it” nonsense again.

    The problem is that we are dealing with hostile cultures. We don’t own them.

  20. David:

    Absurd. Unasked we overthrew the Iraqi tyrant and once we’d shot the bad daddy in the head it was up to the abused kids to shift for themselves?

    Is that American strategic thinking now? We’re in the business of decapitating rogue regimes and to hell with what happens next? How exactly does that square with war rationale #3: build a model democracy in the middle east?

    I can’t understand what’s stopping us from offing L’il Kim and Ahmadinejad and Castro and Chavez. Let’s go pop those S.O.B.’s and whatever happens next, hey, not our problem. Surely we have the coordinates of all the relevant palaces, and we have so many cruise missiles, so really, what’s stopping us?

    We didn’t just invade. The invasion was 3 and a half years ago. Since then we’ve been occupying Iraq. And when you occupy a country you are responsible for what happens to it. So, how about we dispense with your nonsense?

  21. Re: #9 from Daniel Markham: Thanks for the kind words. Yes we seem to be 70% or 80% in agreement.

    Re: #12 from Armed Liberal: “It takes into account the successes of the late Vietnam war, and the lessons I talked about from Boyd.”

    I followed the link, and the first thing I saw was:

    Action:

    Undermine guerilla cause and destroy their cohesion by demonstrating integrity and competence of government to represent and serve needs of the people – rather than exploit and impoverish them for the benefit of a greedy elite.*

    How will you demonstrate goodwill to nations of people who are hopelessly prejudiced against you and prone to wild fantasies un-grounded in reality? Can Jews undermine the Hezbollah and Hamas guerilla causes by demonstrating “integrity and competence of government to represent and serve needs of the people” when the needs of the people include wiping the Zionist entity from the page of time and implementing aspirations such as “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas!!”? Can the Yids win the love of people who blame them (and the boogeyman CIA) for the 11 September, 2001 attacks, among other fantasies? Can the Great Satan do much better with populations that approve of movements such as Hezbollah? How?

    Not by crushing the proud and touchy locals, I hope. And they are corrupt.

    Take political initiative to root out and visibly punish corruption. Select new leaders with recognized competence as well as popular appeal. Ensure that they deliver justice, eliminate grievances and connect government with grass roots.*

    Well, a key grievance, though not the key pretext, is that the kufr are not being crushed and humiliated. Except for the local Christians, who are indeed being ground out of existence. (Old Europe seems willing to address that true grievance, not that it’s buying them any mercy. I hope Australia, America, the United Kingdom and our real allies never are.)

    Infiltrate guerilla movement as well as employ population for intelligence about guerilla plans, operations, and organization.

    Given that the population hates us and tolerates terror and tyranny from its own, this doesn’t work well. A Sunni population where nearer to ten out of ten than nine out of ten of the locals approve of deadly attacks on Americans is a source of information for the enemy.

    The enemy’s whole fighting method is based on this. “Improvised explosive devices” are a ridiculous weapon, because everybody in the neighborhood can see you plant them. Unless that doesn’t matter, because there is support for these attacks. Which there is.

    I think we should let that sink in.

    Hate is the true weapon. Explosives are just the tip of the spear.

    Seal-off guerilla regions from outside world by diplomatic, psychological, and various other activities that strip-away potential allies as well as by disrupting or straddling communications that connect these regions with the outside world.

    Seal off parts of Iraq under the sway of Moqtada Al Sadr? From what, the people, the government? How? Given that he has according to the people and the (or perhaps I should say not “the” but “his”) government the right to do what he wants (including make high intensity war on us, which he did) and we don’t have the right to kill or imprison him, and that we have accepted this, how?

    All this would be moot of course if there were no alternative policies to follow. But there are. I agree tactically with Jonah Goldberg’s referendum idea and strategically with the Diana West line also supported by Jihad Watch; and there’s Ralph Peters’ latest line to consider; and I called attention to Fjordman’s ideas before; and there’s Victor Davis Hansen’s grim and concise statement of the likely American consensus if reconstruction fails in Iraq, and so on. There is no shortage of reasonable alternatives to remaining in place and accepting continued responsibility for and casualties from choices that Iraqis make against our hopes.

  22. #22 from m. takhallus: “Absurd. Unasked we overthrew the Iraqi tyrant and once we’d shot the bad daddy in the head it was up to the abused kids to shift for themselves?”

    To think of our enemies as abused kids is indeed absurd.

    #22 from m. takhallus: “Is that American strategic thinking now? We’re in the business of decapitating rogue regimes and to hell with what happens next? How exactly does that square with war rationale #3: build a model democracy in the middle east?”

    This is an Australian thinking, not an American. I love America and Americans, but ultimately the Yanks have to keep the world safe for values (like democracy) that are critical for Australia, keep the world speaking English, employ Australian actors (like Nicole Kidman), and maintain global security and trade environments of which Godzone Country is an obvious beneficiary. America has to be a winner so that Australia can be a winner, and the United Kingdom too, and New Zealand, Canada, India etc. if they want to come along.

    It’s our task to make the Americans win. If they don’t, we lose because our friends and allies lose. And if we say that they are no longer our friends and allies and they lose, that doesn’t mean it’s no skin off our nose, it means we still lost and it’s twice as bad because we were disloyal and that’s a violation of our national ethos.

    That’s my position. It’s an Australian position, not an American position. I didn’t mention “freedom!” or “all men, everywhere!” once. I don’t have that American idealistic kick at all. I just want us and our mates to do well, and the rest of the world can do as well or as badly as they like.

    This is also not American strategic thinking because I’m thinking primarily about goals now. Strategy, tactics, logistics and morale come later. Before you decide how to get where you are going, you need some idea where you want to go.

    I’m not thinking in terms of decapitating rogue regimes at all. Colonel Gadafy can live on and on. It’s not worth one American Marine’s life to replace him with someone equally hostile or worse. I’m thinking on entirely different lines, systemically, in terms of new diplomacy (like George W. Bush’s stroke of genius regarding India), in terms of a new way of war based on an updating of British imperial methods (fighting around the edges, indirectly, using allies as much as possible), enemy resource reduction, and though the answer “good luck with that” has a lot of validity to it, less Islam.

    How does this square with the rationale of building a model democracy in the Middle East?

    Oh, a democracy in the Middle East is fine by me. It’s called Israel. Muslims hate it of course.

    Or did you mean a model Muslim democracy in the Middle East?

    Aiming primarily at that means doing things that are popular with Muslims and refraining from things that are not popular with Muslims. That’s a loser, because defending ourselves, even with passive containment methods as recommended by Fjordman, is unacceptable to Muslims. And, we’re not going to be popular with Muslims anyway. Besides which, Muslim democracy didn’t protect Abdul Rahman, our armed forces did, and that’s how I’m looking at the whole fight.

    If we live, in the long run, it will be through our strength, prudently and uncharitably directed to the diminishment of those who mean us ill. We will not live through our enemies’ love and benevolence.

  23. m. talkhus,

    The history of the Vietnam war is not as you present it.

    Major amounts of American troops were gone by ’73. Vietnamization worked.

    What did not work was the US Congress who withdrew support from Vietnam when the North attacked in ’75 with conventional divisions. A Democrat Congress I might add. Leading to 350,000 deaths and 250,000 boat people. Not counting Cambodia.

    Note also that General Giap thought he had lost the war with his Tet offensive until he got the feedback from the American press which portrayed Tet as an American loss. He then thought if he could hang on America would eventually abandon the South.

    In fact the jihadis hold up Vietnam as an example of how military defeat can lead to political victory. You don’t have to defeat the Americans. Just out last them. So retreat encourages our enemies.

    News travels faster these days and who ever votes for leaving Iraq will be blamed for the genocide which will inevitably follow.

    So be careful what you wish for.

    BTW have we been in Iraq 10 years yet?

  24. #19;

    “The idea of liberating people, not conquering them, can work well, but only if you apply it to the right populations. In this case, we applied it to a wrong population.”

    If you’re only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail….eh, David?

  25. Back to the title of the thread: “Losing Is Not An Option”.

    In any war where winning and losing depend on the actions of people who can’t be counted on, losing is and option – their option.

    If you want a war where we go for a win and get it, we need to select aims that can be achieved unilaterally, which will often mean blowing stuff up, or (harder) you need allies that can be counted on, and no need for anybody’s goodwill but theirs.

  26. Looks like M. Simon has the same “victory” metric as G. Bush. As long as some American troops are holed up at Iraqi bases, with a few of them dying every day from IEDs, why, that’s “victory”. Doesn’t matter if there’s electricity. Doesn’t matter if there’s a pro-American government in Baghdad, or for that matter any government. Doesn’t matter how many Sunnis are killed by Interior Ministry death squads and how many Shia shrines are being blown up by Sunni car bombs. Because the war isn’t really about Iraq for either Simon or Bush, the war is about the Democrats. How they have to look tougher than the Democrats, with other mothers’ children. Democrats don’t have IEDs, so they can be tough and safe at the same time. It’s all about the Vietnam stab-in-the-back legend (BTW, M. Simon, weren’t you of age to be called to the colors then—what happened?)

    The Republicans will be blamed for the IraqWagmire because the whole mess was their idea. The American public knows that, as it suspects that the situation is beyond repair—certainly beyond repair if left in the hands of the clueless leadership which has misaccomplished so much. The American public does not judge “victory” by the Bush/Simon standard that as our armed forces are ground down, as we lose the ability to reinforce our troops in Afghanistan, we are “winning” as long as some assclowns don’t have to admit they screwed up.

  27. a reminder: the problem I have with sprouting the ‘victory’ of tet offensive is that it was only a victory with american support. In truth, the people of vietnam did not like their curropt leaders. They would not fight to support their goverment for that reason. Even if we had decimated the communist army, the second we left their goverment would have folded, or would have had to become a military dictatorship to consolidate power.

  28. Re: David Blue: “The idea of liberating people, not conquering them, can work well, but only if you apply it to the right populations. In this case, we applied it to a wrong population.”

    #26 from Andy L: If you’re only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail….eh, David?

    Considering my point in context was to not hammer out freedom where conditions don’t fit but instead to use other tools, I thought that was the least apposite remark I’d read for weeks and the least apposite I would read for weeks.

    Then I read this (my emphasis added):

    #28 from Andrew J. Lazarus: “Looks like M. Simon has the same “victory” metric as G. Bush. As long as some American troops are holed up at Iraqi bases, with a few of them dying every day from IEDs, why, that’s “victory”. Doesn’t matter if there’s electricity. Doesn’t matter if there’s a pro-American government in Baghdad, or for that matter any government. Doesn’t matter how many Sunnis are killed by Interior Ministry death squads and how many Shia shrines are being blown up by Sunni car bombs. Because the war isn’t really about Iraq for either Simon or Bush, the war is about the Democrats. How they have to look tougher than the Democrats, with other mothers’ children. Democrats don’t have IEDs, so they can be tough and safe at the same time. It’s all about the Vietnam stab-in-the-back legend (BTW, M. Simon, weren’t you of age to be called to the colors then?what happened?)”

    Of all the people at Winds of Change to accuse of not caring if Iraqis get electricity, M. Simon is by far the silliest choice.

    There was an abundant supply of unjust and unreasonable accusations in post #28, but that one beats all.

    I think this is an example of using the war as an opportunity for point scoring, political sniping and personal negativity, whereas Armed Liberal in the original post was asking for something better than that.

  29. David Blue,

    Good on you, mate! I would just add that you should include your countryman Wretchard in your analysis. His contention (that it’s win this way or eventually wind up with a terrible cataclysm) is, sadly, right on the mark. And why I like everthing you say, except for that last little “Let’s never do this again.”

  30. Re: #31 from Kirk Parker: Thanks for the kind words, Kirk Parker.

    I’m ignoring Wretchard for the time being. I admit it: I simply want him to be wrong about his three conjectures. (link) Because if he’s right, it’s not pretty. Even Steven Beste’s more hopeful view (link) is not idyllic. And I have my own ideas, that start with radiological attacks inadequately met and escalate to more severe attacks gaining initial successes, as in Al Qaeda’s electoral win in Spain. That might work out very unpleasantly indeed.

    And unlike Steven Den Beste, I do not believe in an externally driven reform of the Islamic world; I believe in containment and vigorous asymmetrical pushback, with internally driven Islamic reform as a possible bonus if we prove Islamic militancy is a losing game for the umma, but only a desirable bonus and nothing that we should count on. So unlike Wretchard and Steven Den Beste I don’t think there is a “golden hour”. We’d better not need one.

  31. Reading some of the comments. like m (“Unasked we overthrew the Iraqi tyrant and once we’d shot the bad daddy in the head it was up to the abused kids to shift for themselves?”) It seems we are missing some key points here.

    Some points to consider:

    • If “winning” is undefined, by definition so is “losing” – You can’t have it both ways. Those commenters who pointed out that for each concrete goal we have set, he have also achieved are correct. Those who give vague “stay the course” and “we’ll never make Iraq Switerland” arguments have nothing concrete to discuss.
    • The Pottery Barn Rule can be true and racist at the same time – If you overthrow a dictator and install a democracy, you owe the people something, but not everything. A couple of elections, a constitution, and an installed political party sounds about right to me. After that, you are just having a proxy political fight.
    • There were honest professional soldiers who thought we were well-manned for the occupation – Maybe the adminstration was inept. Maybe other generals disagreed, but there was a strain of legitimate thought that said we could do the job with what we had. If you feel that the job is not being done, vote the Rs out if you like, but wouldn’t it be a little smarter to fix the theory? I mean, whoever is president next is still going to have to rely on his/her generals. Shouldn’t we fix the national position and not just the elected blowhards?
    • Freeing a people is the right thing to do – It really disturbs me to see former liberals come out so strongly isolationist. I thought you guys were the idealists — heck, that was the best thing you had going for yourselves. The conservatives never wanted to get involved anywhere overseas anyway, and Bush is the anomaly. If the left gives up bringing choice and peace to the world, I don’t think there’s hope for a lot of folks, at least not from the west. Maybe they’ll come out with some standards, like who the “special” people are that deserve our blood and treasure, and who are undeserving. I’d like to see that set of rules when it is completed.
  32. #24

    So, they’re “our enemies” but we’re counting on them to build a democracy in Iraq? I thought they were our liberatees.

    But let’s pause this foreign policy quibbling and focus on the most interesting part of your response: Nicole Kidman. On behalf of American men let me say: thank you, my Aussie brother, for that contribution. She may be a bit of a loon, but that is as fine a piece of work as any nation can claim.

    And now, back to our regularly scheduled brawl.

    Most of the rest of your commnt is preaching to the choir in my case. I’m not a believer in benevolence. I supported the Iraq war on the assumption that we meant to follow a model much closer to Japan 1945. I’ve long been an advocate of boot-on-neck democratization — assuming always that democratization was our goal.

    One of my great concerns now is that the fiasco in Iraq would plunge us into a period of Carterism — passive, hesitant, self-doubting, hair shirt foreign policy. But I’ve been worried about this since Rumsfeld announced that “stuff happens” and it became clear we had no idea how to go about occupying and pacifying Iraq.

    Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. We will now enter an era of hesitancy and self-doubt.

  33. Re: David Blue post #24: #34 from m. takhallus: “So, they’re “our enemies” but we’re counting on them to build a democracy in Iraq? I thought they were our liberatees.”

    We did liberate them. We wished them well. I wished them well. And we were counting counting on them to build a democracy in Iraq.

    But that was then. This is now.

    Upon learning that a growing majority of Iraqis approve of attacks on Americans – and it’s six out of ten, it’s not close – I moved Iraqis as a nation finally out of my “friendlies” column into my “hostiles” column. We are fighting a war where the main attack the enemy uses to kill and main thousands of our soldiers replies on the approval of the public. In Iraq, approval for attacks on Americans is itself an attack, or a vital part of the usual attack.

    You don’t get to choose your enemies. They choose you by fighting you whether you wanted a fight with them or not.

    So there is no paradox in saying: we liberated them, and they are our enemies.

    While it’s unjust to accuse M. Simon of not caring whether Iraqis get electricity, it’s fine for me. For the six out of ten Iraqis that want Americans maimed or dead, in a national context where wanting that means contributing to it, not only do I not want them to get electricity, but I cordially wish that the civil war they seem intent upon furthering delivers to each of them that harm they want for Americans.

    They are heavy, they are a burden, they do encumber us, they are not our brothers, and their welfare is not our concern. If civil war keeps them too busy to focus on killing us, roll on civil war.

    #34 from m. takhallus: “But let’s pause this foreign policy quibbling and focus on the most interesting part of your response: Nicole Kidman. On behalf of American men let me say: thank you, my Aussie brother, for that contribution. She may be a bit of a loon, but that is as fine a piece of work as any nation can claim.”

    No man who admires Nic can be all wrong.

    And let me say: thank you America for Hollywood. It’s a wonderful thing that you keep this place open for the benefit of Australian (and other English-speaking) talent. It’s the American film industry and the American-led Anglospheric hegemony that goes with it that gives Nic the global stage she needs and deserves.

    #34 from m. takhallus: “And now, back to our regularly scheduled brawl.”

    OK.

    #34 from m. takhallus: “One of my great concerns now is that the fiasco in Iraq would plunge us into a period of Carterism — passive, hesitant, self-doubting, hair shirt foreign policy. But I’ve been worried about this since Rumsfeld announced that “stuff happens” and it became clear we had no idea how to go about occupying and pacifying Iraq.

    Unfortunately, that ship has sailed…”

    Yes, the ship has sailed. Whatever I say now basically amounts to sour grapes. We’ve passed the tipping point, it didn’t turn out as we wanted, and all our Iraqi should-have-beens are now academic.

    I would have preferred that the Iraqi enterprise prosper and put pressure on Iran and other tyrannical countries through its attractive example, and I would have preferred and the Anglo-American relationship be consolidated by success in this bold venture rather than levered apart by frustration and failure. That won’t happen. Tony Blair is a goner, and history is taking another course.

  34. David Blue, et al: You have been articulate exponents of the “Blame the Iraqis” explanation for the current catastrophe. And you attribute much of that blame to the fundamental hostility of Islam toward the West. Have I stated your position correctly?

    I hope so, because I believe you are deeply wrong.

    Let’s start back in the 1990s, although the story starts much earlier, of course. Islam, around the world, is getting progressively more secular and Westernized. Western cultural imperialism, epitomized by Hollywood, blue jeans, and rock’n’roll, are taking over the youth of the planet, certainly including the youth of Islam. This was particularly clear in Iran, but also plenty of other places in the Muslim world.

    It was driving the fundamentalists nuts. They were clearly on the way to extinction, as the younger generation succumbed to Western materialism, and rendered devout Islam irrelevant. How could they save their extreme view of the world?

    Osama bin Laden, fighting in Afghanistan, saw the way: if you can foment violent jihad between Islam and the West, and if you can do it within the next few decades, then you can recruit the idealistic youth back to extremist fundamentalist Islam. It certainly worked when you had a small underdog group fighting the Soviets. Lots of your people died (but there’s plenty more where they came from), and the survivors were _very_ tough. When the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan (with help from the USA, of course), these guys are full of themselves.

    How can they expand the war to the West, and in particular, to violent jihad against the USA? Because if they can do it, then they can really start mobilizing the youth, and the other complacent people within Islam, to fight for Islam and against the West, which they hadn’t wanted to do, because they were happy and comfortable, and just wanted to live their lives and be left alone.

    The key, for Osama bin Laden, was to get the West sufficiently inflamed to strike a major blow, that could be portrayed as a blow against Islam. al Qaeda kept trying, with the embassies in Africa, with the Cole, with the first World Trade Center bombing, but they just kept being perceived as an annoying criminal band, not as the existential threat that would provoke a major attack. And al Qaeda needed that major attack on Islam, to wake up their population.

    Finally, they got lucky and hit the jackpot on 9-11-01. For a while, it looked like even that wouldn’t work, since the USA fought a focused battle specifically against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and had succeeded in getting most of the world community, including lots of Muslim countries, on their side. It looked bad for OBL, and reached bottom at Tora Bora.

    But Tora Bora was al Qaeda’s Dunkirk. They escaped with their lives, and got the chance to regroup. Even better, the Bush administration succumbed to the temptation of world empire, and resolved to attack Iraq.

    Even then, it would have been possible to avoid disaster, if the post-invasion had been done right.

    David Blue: your error is in regarding the Iraqi people as having a fixed character and position, which was only revealed after the invasion, to our dismay.

    In fact, most Iraqis, like most people everywhere, want to live in peace and be left alone to tend to their own affairs. They want to worship on their Holy Days, but they want to be left alone by their religious leaders the rest of the time. This attitude drives fundamentalists nuts, there as here, but it’s a fact of life.

    We needed to impose very strong controls on Iraq immediately after the very strong Hussein regime was deposed, in order to leave the large mass of the people in peace and quiet, with a vested interest in keeping things peaceful and quiet. We did that in Germany and Japan, but not in Iraq. The violence in Iraq only grew when it became clear it was open season.

    But the situation was like a supersaturated liquid, waiting to crystalize one way or the other. We let it crystalize into Sunni/Shiite/Kurd vs each other and vs USA occupiers. If we had anticipated the problem (and some people did), we could have crystalized it into Iraqi/USA vs extremists, and the road to democracy would have been possible.

    It’s important to look back and see why the catastrophe has happened, so we can fight the next battles in the war we are facing. Iraq has crystalized in a way that will be difficult or impossible for us to change at this point, though we could have sent it along a different path earlier.

    We need to understand the mistaken worldviews of the leaders who took us down this catastrophic path, so we can get rid of them, and then decide among new potential leaders.

  35. If you overthrow a dictator and install a democracy, you owe the people something, but not everything. A couple of elections, a constitution, and an installed political party sounds about right to me.

    Not to me. This is all window dressing, especially the constitution (I can write a constitution for the People’s Republic of Berkeley in my kitchen, it’s putting it into effect that counts). The Soviet Union had elections, several splendid constitutions, and an installed political party. What a curious model to recommend!

    What we needed to turn over to the Iraqis was

    • A state in which the government had a monopoly on the use of force. But at no time did even our own troops have such a monopoly, as violent crime and looting were rampant from the beginning, so we could scarcely bequeath it to the Iraqis. (Did we have hundreds of unsupervised mercenary contractors running around Occupied Germany and Japan?)
    • A country in which the physical infrastructure (much of which we had destroyed ourselves) had been repaired, so that citizens would have access to the necessities of life and economic opportunity. We failed at this, utterly. From the very beginning reconstruction was treated as a profit generator for American, and only American, contractors. The importance we attached to the issue can be measured by electricity generation, sewer capacity, and access to potable water (all at roughly Saddamite levels) and the police station our contractor built at great expense where toilets leaked onto desks below.
    • A country whose internal political structure mirrored the constitution. Having dismissed government even down to the local level, we were responsible for its restoration. Instead, we tolerated anarchy, in which Iraqis self-organized into tribal and religious groupings for their own security. At the national level we used inexperienced interns from the Heritage Foundation, and such like, many of whom saw Iraq as a test-bed for pet theories like a flat tax. I strongly suspect that the central government is unable to collect taxes, flat or otherwise, in most if not all of the country. Even those members of our kiddie corps who tried were lacking in relevant experience, too few in number, and hampered by the lack of security.

    On the other hand, I wonder why this issue even comes up. We did not invade Iraq for the benefit of Iraqis. Saddam’s butchery peaked in the 1980s (when he was on excellent terms with American conservatives); by 2003, the Sudan, Burma/Myanmar, and even Zimbabwe offered better targets for humanitarian intervention. The humanitarian explanation was, of course, merest afterthought. Our invasion of Iraq was, principally, as mentioned upthread, a bone-headed attempt to intimidate Islamic terrorists by projecting the power of the United States. There were other even less appealing motives: doubtless Georgie Jr. wanting to show up his father, Victor Davis Hanson explaining to Cheney that for a leader to be great he must be a war leader, and the dupes of Ahmed Chalabi—does he even live in Iraq now?—enthralled by his dissimulations about WMD and his plans for a pro-Zionist Iraq.

  36. Omar has been a guiding light the last few years and I respect him, his brothers and their insights immensely.

    However, hard as it may be on individuals like Omar, the time has come when Iraqi’s MUST take responsibility for their own future. It no longer is a matter of what Americans consider to be right or wrong, nor is it a matter of Dem’s vs. Rep’s in office, nor is it even a matter of “staying the course” vs “cutting and running”.

    Iraqi’s have GOT to stand up to the plate on start swinging on their own. We cannot determine who the “bad guys” are among them – they have to do that for themselves.

    We cannot finish off their Hatfields & McCoys’ feuds — they have to do that for themselves.

    We cannot elect them a strong government — they have to do that for themselves.

    We cannot even provide them with 24/7 electricity — if they insist on stealing the copper wiring and bombing the pylons.

    Sadly, for every brave Iraqi with his eyes still on the prize like Omar is and has been, other Iraqi’s (such as Zeyad at Healing Iraq) have given up and are now saying “it was better under Saddam”. I just don’t see how individual Iraqi’s EVER expect to win a valuable prize if they’re not willing to fight for it. In the whole history of humanity has there EVER been an instance where one group of people were able to give another group of people a whole new life and way of looking at life without some pain and struggle?

    For the Iraqi’s to have expected us to march in, topple Saddam’s statue, stop all their own personal looting and criminality, kill all the influx of bad guys, give them 24/7 electricty to power their air conditioners AND running water in all their homes AND 20th Century sewage systems … all without killing a single civilian … just strikes me as infantile now, looking back at it.

    Maliki’s current guilt trips about “not being America’s man” and not agreeing to timelines for performance are equally devious and juvenile.

    Iraq is like a whole country made up of juveniles who desperately want the keys to the car, but have no concept of what’s involved in working to buy a car, maintaining a car, or have legally mandated insurance to run the damned thing. AND, they insist on wreckless driving, speeding and other juvenile behavior which is guaranteed to bring on a crash at the earliest possible moment. We all know the crash(es) caused by Iraqi incompetence will hurt, maim, and kill a lot of innocent bystanders, including American soldiers.

    I just don’t see where our military can accomplish much more there until the Iraqi’s themselves decide to grow up, get a job and go to work. We should stick around to provide them with good adult role-models and to make sure the gangs down the street don’t move in and take over, but we *really* need to roll over, hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, with instructions to wake us up when they’re ready to talk.

    P.S. When I say “get a job” I mean more than selling Coke on the street corner. I mean “get a job with a future” where you’re building your country as well as providing for your family. So far, I see absolutely no sign that ANY Iraqi, including Maliki, is interested in building their country.

  37. Andrew (#37)

    No. We do not. Your assumption is that the native people of the region are in fact cohesive. They are not. This was the same assumption the Bush administration made. Once the people became empowered, they wanted to live separately. So be it. Please do not continue the charade.

    All of your points are based on this fallacious assumption, in my opinion.

    BTW, this does not mean that Iraq was a mistake. Far from it. The arbitrary division of tribal lands into countries cannot be expected to pass the test of time in all cases. Another lesson learned.

  38. #28 Andrew J. Lazarus,

    What we have now is not victory. However, leaving will be a defeat and embolden our enemies. Especially if they get control of Iraq’s oil revenues.

    Typically guerilla wars take 10 to 20 years to win. (The war against the IRA in England took over 80 years).

    At 4 years in we are no where near victory. However, if we do not stay until we prevail it will be a defeat.

    NahnCee,

    It took us about 6 years after WW2 to get Germany and Japan to the point where they could stand on their own somewhat (note that American troops are still in those places). In Vietnam it took about 8 to 10 years.

    I fear we are at a Rhileland 1936 moment. A point where avoiding war will only lead to a worse war in a few years.

    If we cut and run from Iraq now those who favor such policy will be hung with the ensuing genocide. The Dems will be labeled the party of the genocide enablers. And they will deserve it.

    At the cost of much $$ and 1,000 soldiers a year we are preventing a genocide. Is it worth it? There was a time when the Democrats used to think that preventing genocide was their highest moral calling. What ever happened to my party?

    Didn’t the post ‘Nam genocide in SE Asia teach them anything? It certainly taught me a lesson. Which is why the Rs these days get most of my support.

  39. M. Simon – in Germany and Japan, we *told* them how to do it – how to create a new government and a new country and a new structure to live under after WW2. We were the victors, and when we said “jump” it was expected that they say, “how high?”

    We have been entirely too polite with the Iraqi’s to be this demanding on them, treating them tenderly as a nation of victims of Saddam.

    I don’t have a problem with doing a 180 turn-around and starting to slap them around and be more demanding about what is and is not acceptable. I just question how effective this attitude would be given their damnable obsession with honor and humiliation.

    It seems to me that, really, it would be more effective to ignore them until they, themselves, decide that they need help and ask for it. If they want air conditioning, fine. Then they need to stop beheading each other and work for electricity. Otherwise, they can just sweat.

    (I also think that if someone could figure out how to institute an oil revenue sharing program, that would create miracles of change … and why wasn’t this done three years ago?)

  40. Typically guerilla wars take 10 to 20 years to win. (The war against the IRA in England took over 80 years).

    At the end of which, Irish Nationalists had about 3⅓/4 of what they wanted.

  41. #41 NahnCee,

    Yes. We told them.

    Unfortunately there was no will to tell the Iraqis. Why? Well, first it might be construed as extreme colonialsim retarding our efforts due to political backlash.

    Second, there was no mandate for such telling in America.

    In any case I’m not sure that telling the Iraqis how to write their own Constitution would have produced any better results than we see today (quite possibly worse) due to a lack of buy in.

    Buy in may be more important than perfection.

    In any case I think the American troops should stay in Iraq with enough strength to prevent genocide until the Iraqis are strong enough to do it themselves. Which might take three to six more years.

    Rebuilding institutions, economies, and polities destroyed by fascism is not something done quickly. It is a long hard slog.

  42. Another point to remember: instead of who’s fault it was, or what we did a year or two ago, or whether we are winning or losing we need, as they told me in basic training, to grow some brains.

    We are where we are in Iraq. Our decisions may lead to huge numbers of Iraqis killed by our hand if Iraq goes a bad way. Redeployment might be great, it might be awful. The day the last troop leaves Iraq, what then? Simply because there was a political battle fought and won by the Dems over here, that doesn’t change anything. There are no simple, color-by-numbers answers. Anybody who tells you that is is lying to you.

    Maybe we’re losing. Maybe losing for another twenty years is the best thing we could do. I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying that take away all the local political BS, and you still have a geopolitical situation that is not going away simply because we lose faith or patience.

  43. M. Simon [#40]: _If we cut and run from Iraq now those who favor such policy will be hung with the ensuing genocide. _

    Which genocide, specifically, by the way?

    It’s clear that the situation is terrible, and in the resulting civil war, a lot of innocent people will die, which is terrible. But it’s not obvious to me whether one side will be in a position to commit “genocide”, and if so, which one.

    Just asking.

  44. #36 from Beard: “David Blue, et al: You have been articulate exponents of the “Blame the Iraqis” explanation for the current catastrophe. And you attribute much of that blame to the fundamental hostility of Islam toward the West. Have I stated your position correctly?

    I hope so, because I believe you are deeply wrong.”

    I reserve the right to contest later extrapolations (by others) from your nutshell version that might leave out other things I’ve also said, but as far as you go: yes you have stated my position correctly.

    #36 from Beard: “Let’s start back in the 1990s, although the story starts much earlier, of course. Islam, around the world, is getting progressively more secular and Westernized.”

    I don’t believe that’s a reasonable starting point, or a good description of what was happening then.

    If you want a very recent starting point, I think it has to be the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The rise of this powerful and violently anti-Western Islamic theocracy, combined with booming Muslim demographics and vast transfers of oil wealth to Islamic authorities intent on preaching jihad (especially In Saudi Arabia), nurtured and empowered new expressions of some of the deadliest currents perpetually present in Islamic thought. The softness and weakness of the West (exemplified by the “Great Satan” Jimmy Carter) and the failure of the far more ruthless and feared but worn out and crumbling Soviet Union were an invitation to reverse the thinking of Mustafa Kemal in relation to the West. “If you can’t beat them, join them” was still the choice, but the West and secularism were not unbeatable, far from it, and Sayyid Qutb was pointing (posthumously) to how very repulsive the West was from a modern Islamic point of view, and therefore how repulsive it would be to “join them”. (I’m not saying that’s all there was to him – but sheer detestation is a key part of the modern Muslim attitude to the West, and he was part of that.)

    When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988 and 1989 and soon collapsed, jihadist confidence and ambition was validated.

    Then, the swiftly growing Islamic lion no longer feared the chair or the whip of the decadent West, and a situation that was already increasingly dangerous went critical. The umma settled on its course, one consistent with its ancient pride: the legacy of Mustafa Kemal was on the way out, ane men like Osama Bin Laden were in. Don’t join them, O Muslims, beat them! Allah hu Akhbar!

    And so the growing jihad war that we were already in, from the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran at latest, assumed its present form.

    #36 from Beard: “David Blue: your error is in regarding the Iraqi people as having a fixed character and position, which was only revealed after the invasion, to our dismay.”

    I remember, unfortunately without having thought their views at the time remarkable enough to save them as evidence, a lot of theoretically expert and expert-sounding people saying that the Iraqis were highly secular, and unlike in Afghanistan religion could not reasonably be expected to be a problem. Why it would be bigotry to suggest it! And proof of ignorance.

    That didn’t work out too well, did it?

    My position is indeed that we were wrong about the character of the Iraqi people and the umma and Islam in general. After we invaded and “opened the box” we found out how wrong we were about the Iraqis, to our dismay.

    #36 from Beard: “But the situation was like a supersaturated liquid, waiting to crystalize one way or the other.”

    I don’t believe Islam or Islamic populations are or ever were super-susceptible to being crystalized in any form our wise interventions might point to. On the contrary. Islam is as intractable as anything in human affairs can be. The Jews are not more stubborn. We should get used to the idea that the umma does not do as we please, it’s fundamental features are not a response to us, and we can have more or less of it (with the most humane and desirable version of the “less” having been Mustafa Kemal’s radical secularist option), but we do not have the option of making it what we want it to be rather than what Muhammed (pbuh) made it.

    #36 from Beard: “We let it crystalize into Sunni/Shiite/Kurd vs each other and vs USA occupiers. If we had anticipated the problem (and some people did), we could have crystalized it into Iraqi/USA vs extremists, and the road to democracy would have been possible.”

    I don’t think so, but in any case the ship has left the wharf and it’s not coming back.

    #36 from Beard: “It’s important to look back and see why the catastrophe has happened, so we can fight the next battles in the war we are facing. Iraq has crystalized in a way that will be difficult or impossible for us to change at this point, though we could have sent it along a different path earlier.

    We need to understand the mistaken worldviews of the leaders who took us down this catastrophic path, so we can get rid of them, and then decide among new potential leaders.”

    The “next battles in the war we are facing” seem to be domestic political ones from your point of view.

    I disagree. There is an enemy out there (and of course mass Islamic immigration can make it an enemy in here) compared to which all our old domestic quarrels are nothing.

    Which takes us back to Armed Liberal’s thoughts in starting this thread.

  45. Re: #38 from NahnCee: Your whole post: Bravo! (applauds)

    #44 from Daniel Markham: “Maybe we’re losing. Maybe losing for another twenty years is the best thing we could do. I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying that take away all the local political BS, and you still have a geopolitical situation that is not going away simply because we lose faith or patience.”

    That’s right.

    If you think that we need to fight jihadis aggressively, and it’s either fight them “over there, or here,” then you should be willing to talk about where else you want to fight and kill jihadis, and with what aims and strategy, if you say that in 2008 or 2009 there should be no American or other coalition troops in Iraq.

    That’s only one of many issues.

    “Just walk away” is not a solution. Those who say “these puppies will follow us home” are telling the truth. Those who say that a Coalition defeat in Iraq will vastly empower jihadist, giving them increased prestige, influence and resources, as well as confidence and ambition through the roof, are also telling the truth.

    But if you can say “Maybe losing for another twenty years is the best thing we could do.” I can say “maybe moving out of Iraq in the course of the next year or two and buying into a war of choice (or multiple wars of choice) somewhere else is the best we can do.”

  46. (#47) The best way to fight anybody is to convince them not to fight. Sometimes that involves force, sometimes not. I’d use a fleet of Flying Spaghetti Monsters if it worked. I wouldn’t get too much into “we have this neat solution, let’s go find a problem to fix it” Armies are great at killing people and blowing up things. We have plenty more tools, however.

  47. David Blue [#46]: “_The umma settled on its course …_”

    This epitomizes an error that you (and many other people) make. The Islamic people are not an individual, to make a decision and settle on a course. They are a diverse population, with many different goals and beliefs. Even when a significant number settle on a common course of action, it is undoubtedly with a variety of different motives and justifications.

    Imagine saying, “_The American people believe …_” It would be quite difficult to find a truthful end for that statement. We are a diverse people, and out of that diversity comes some portion of our strength.

    If you think of “the umma” as a unified being with a single opinion, it leads to serious errors of thought and action. In particular, it is easy to say things like: “The umma is violently opposed to the USA, so our only defense is to kill them all.” I hope that sounds absurd to you. It certainly does to me.

    There are radical Christian extremists who say extreme and violent things, too. Fortunately for us and our own society, they are a tiny minority, and very marginalized by the rest of the population, even for their size, so they are mostly not a threat (except occasionally to people working in abortion clinics).

    What’s really going on is that the extremist minority within Islam is not nearly so small, and they have intimidated (or attracted sympathy from) much of the rest of Islam, to the point where they have influence far beyond their numbers. Furthermore, at least their most violent factions (still small) are recruiting and growing.

    The strategic question from our point of view, is to identify the factors that help the violent extremists keep sway over the rest of Islam, and what factors could help reverse their dominance.

    You claim that some “experts” were wrong about the claim that Iraqis are highly secular, and religion was unlikely to be a big factor. I am not an expert, but as a well-informed citizen, it appears to me that the issue is tribalism and ethnicity rather than religion. An interesting analogy is the historical conflict in Northern Ireland. Although the sides can easily be identified (and self-identify) as Catholics and Protestants, it seems clear that the issues are ethnic and economic, not whether transsubstantiation or consubstantiation is the correct understanding of Holy Communion. The same is pretty clearly true of Shiites versus Sunnis (versus Kurds).

    You say, _The “next battles in the war we are facing” seem to be domestic political ones from your point of view._ And then you disagree. Well, I disagree too.

    I believe we are facing serious problems with extremist fundamentalism of many flavors, in many parts of the world, as versus tolerant pluralism. We need to find ways to confront these various kinds of fundamentalism.

    As far as I’m concerned, the domestic political issue is just a matter of getting rid of leaders who want to fight fire with gasoline, and are making a bad situation many times worse.

  48. Islam is as intractable as anything in human affairs can be. The Jews are not more stubborn. We should get used to the idea that the umma does not do as we please, it’s fundamental features are not a response to us, and we can have more or less of it (with the most humane and desirable version of the “less” having been Mustafa Kemal’s radical secularist option), but we do not have the option of making it what we want it to be rather than what Muhammed (pbuh) made it.

    What you are saying is short term true.

    Long term “Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy” is more powerful.

    To get the “Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy” we need to go on a world wide Electrification campaign.

  49. David Blue [#46]: “The umma settled on its course …”

    #49 from Beard: “This epitomizes an error that you (and many other people) make. The Islamic people are not an individual, to make a decision and settle on a course.”

    Again and again, that theory fails to pan out. It would be nice if the movements in the Islamic world resembled Brownian motion, but they don’t.

    #49 from Beard: “They are a diverse population, with many different goals and beliefs. Even when a significant number settle on a common course of action, it is undoubtedly with a variety of different motives and justifications.”

    Undoubtedly, but this is to say very little. Aggregates matter.

    #49 from Beard: “Imagine saying, “The American people believe …” It would be quite difficult to find a truthful end for that statement. We are a diverse people, and out of that diversity comes some portion of our strength.”

    OK, I’ll agree that the Muslim world is no more united than the American population. There is no more practical agreement on the mandate of jihad than there is on the bill of rights.

    And there doesn’t have to be. The degree of cohesion that exists is more than enough to define a global clash. One that is playing out in, among many other places, Iraq.

    #49 from Beard: “You say, The “next battles in the war we are facing” seem to be domestic political ones from your point of view. And then you disagree. Well, I disagree too.

    I believe we are facing serious problems with extremist fundamentalism of many flavors, in many parts of the world, as versus tolerant pluralism. We need to find ways to confront these various kinds of fundamentalism.

    As far as I’m concerned, the domestic political issue is just a matter of getting rid of leaders who want to fight fire with gasoline, and are making a bad situation many times worse.”

    I’m sorry to have mis-stated your position.

    Now that I understand your position better, I still don’t agree with it. But for me to pursue this would lead us further away from the issue of Iraq.

  50. #51 from M. Simon: “To get the “Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy” we need to go on a world wide Electrification campaign.”

    But, but, but!

    #28 from Andrew J. Lazarus: “Looks like M. Simon has the same “victory” metric as G. Bush. As long as some American troops are holed up at Iraqi bases, with a few of them dying every day from IEDs, why, that’s “victory”. Doesn’t matter if there’s electricity.”

    Aren’t you supposed to not care if there’s electricity? :P

  51. C’mon, Blue [#52], you know perfectly well that you’re not addressing my points [#49].

    Everyone knows that the understanding of social behavior has more than the two poles: collective personality versus brownian motion.

    The value of a reasonable model of social behavior is that you can figure out where your points of leverage are, and you can simulate proposed courses of action and find bugs ahead of time, rather than at vast cost in the field, for example in Iraq.

    The cost of an unreasonable model (or an unreasonably small space of possible models, such as the pair of polar opposites you seem to propose), is that you make unreasonable plans, and then you can’t understand why they fail.

  52. M. Simon [#54]: “_The jihadis tell us that what they fear most is American culture._”

    Bingo! Give the man a prize for identifying the most powerful weapon in our armory. And the one we’ve let the jihadis prevent us from using.

    You’ve got to have law and order, peace and quiet, to have a chance to appreciate the value of American culture. Therefore, the jihadis have to make sure those things don’t appear until they can lock down the society, Taliban-style. Look at Kurdistan, where they have (mostly) failed. Those guys are on our side, and they are just as Islamic as the Sunnis and the Shiites.

    Here’s where American conservatives can play a serious, creative role. How do we portray American tolerant pluralism as consistent with serious, peaceful, but strong religious belief? That is, our enemies will portray tolerant pluralism as equivalent to (versus just tolerant of) being a bunch of non-religious, unprincipled, materialistic libertines. How do we answer them?

    You’ve identified the correct weapon. Now, how do you use it?

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