If You Can’t Argue, Can You At Least Read?

Alicublog linked over to my Iraq post and commented:

So if I stand here (jumps left) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow, and if I stand here (jumps right) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow. So where do I have to stand to avoid making harder choices tomorrow? Nowhere, my friend; nowhere. (laughs, smokes a cigar like Michael Dunn at the end of Ship of Fools.)

All things being equal, I think we should get the hell out of Iraq.

Well, yeah – if all things were equal, I’d say let’s get out of Iraq this afternoon…but might I suggest an argument as to why the hard choices tomorrow will be just as hard if we stay as if we go? My side has made a lot of them about why they will be harder…but Roy, like all the Netroots Pioneers of the Left…seems to think that argument is beneath him.

Reading is apparently as well, because in the same post, he slags Redstate for ‘declaring war‘ on the GOP leadership. If he’d bothered to read the whole post at Redstate (I had it tagged to do a post about it…) he’d have seen that the conservative site is pissed off at the GOP leadership for appointing a corrupt (Republican!) Representative to a leadership position.

I would fell swoon to think that my fellow Democratic bloggers would be as bold. But I must have missed the Netroots Pioneer outrage over the walkback from fighting the “Culture of Corruption”. After all – that sweet lobbyist money can be spent on Democratic Internet coordinators, and left blogads. so it will help support the Netroots!! And how can anything be bad that makes sure Matt Stoller has a fast pipe and a comfy chair??

32 thoughts on “If You Can’t Argue, Can You At Least Read?”

  1. One choice costs a lot more money than the other. This reduces our options for dealing with hard choices in the future.

    We won’t have the same resources to make the hard choices of the future if we try to fix Iraq by the means Bush has chosen. Those means include the writing of a constitution that is not rights based, funding the Iraq economy in a socialist fashion, occupying a country that is essentially in a state of civil war, NOT extracting any economic benefit for ourselves from the situation, etc.

    We have no obligation to deal with terrorism in the fashion we have chosen. We don’t have the responsibility of establishing “democracy” over there. The means we are using most certainly will fail to establish what they really need, which not democracy but what we have, “a limited republic”.

    Punishing another countries leaders for trespasses against us is a lot easier than trying to re-engineer the society to our liking. That’s best done by example.

    Iran is emboldened precisely because they see the actions we have taken are impossible to carry out against every nation that has been violating our rights. North Korea is blackmailing us for tribute, as is Egypt. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Iraq, are or in the past were supporting terrorist attacks against us. Many of these countries are subverting our political institutions by funding NGOs, bribing officials, and lobbying (eg. Jimmy Carter). We cripple our own transportation industry just because we are afraid of not being politically correct and using profiling.

  2. AL, the quote wasn’t Alicublog’s substitute for argument. It was his argument and, for sure, a silly one since, in essense, it calls for not making a choice at all, something which he then goes about doing by recommending we leave Iraq. If he took his own advice, Alicublog should be a fence sitter.

    Your jab at the “All things being equal” is on target. That’s a technical standard in the sciences of which he appears to have little understanding. The unintended irony is, he uses it to set equal, or discount as insignificant, all other possible independent variables on the complex situation of Iraq so as make a decision on how to go forward because … we can’t seem to control the complex situation of Iraq.

  3. “…but Roy, like all the Netroots Pioneers of the Left…seems to think that argument is beneath him.”

    This is ridiculous, of course. Perhaps no one wants to engage you seriously because you cannot do so in return. EVERY DAY I read posts on “Netroots Pioneers of the Left” blogs that put forth carefully considered arguments about why leaving is better than staying. Perhaps I’ve not been coming here long enough, but I have yet to see you engage A SINGLE ONE of these serious arguments yourself…all you seem to do is pluck out a few comments you disagree with and attempt to frame your personal dislike of the left blogosphere around them.

    Look, for someone like you who is apparently “too busy” to spend time to think before you type, don’t expect to be taken as a serious thinker or policy advocate.

    And on that note, adios idiotos.

  4. Brian Macker:

    Punishing another countries leaders for trespasses against us is a lot easier than trying to re-engineer the society to our liking. That’s best done by example.

    If by “us” you mean the United States, then the trespass was not against us, per se, but against the authority of the United Nations – an authority which we pressed for many years to peacefully enforce before we went to war.

    I’m sure it seems very silly to many that we acted to enforce a UN authority that the UN itself – tainted with bribery and corruption – doesn’t seem to give a crap about. Many people who flaunt conservative colors while attacking the decision to go to war against Saddam take this line. A similar attitude prevailed in the 70s:

    I WAS THE “PUBLIC” MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES DELEGATION TO THE 26TH ASSEMBLY. FROM FIRST TO LAST I WAS APPALLED AT THE EXTENT TO WHICH TOTALITARIAN NORMS AND FINLANDIZED RESPONSES HAD COME TO DOMINATE BOTH THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND, AS BEST I COULD LEARN, THE UN SECRETARIAT …

    THE DOCUMENT WAS AN OUTRAGE. IT MEASURED THE SOCIAL WELL-BEING OF VARIOUS NATIONS IN TERMS OF ONE SINGLE DENOMINATOR: THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF SOCIAL PROTEST. PRESENCE PROVED TROUBLE. ABSENCE PROVED PEACE …

    WHAT APPALLED ME WAS THAT THE UNITED STATES WENT ALONG. FOR TWO LONG YEARS THE DOCUMENT HAD BEEN REVIEWED AT LEISURELY CONFERENCES IN THOSE REGIONS OF EUROPE NOTED FOR THEIR SCENERY AND THEIR CUISINE. ONE PLUMP-MINDED AMERICAN OFFICIAL AFTER ANOTHER HAD SILENTLY OR ENTHUSIASTICALLY ASSENTED TO A PROLONGED SLANDER ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, A SUSTAINED ADVOCACY OF TOTALITARIAN DICTATORSHIP. YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE WE SENT STUPID MEN AND WORSE WOMEN TO THOSE CONFERENCES. AND WHY DID WE DO THIS? BECAUSE THOSE HARD-NOSE COLD WARRIORS ON THE SIXTH FLOOR THINK SUCH THINGS DON’T MATTER.

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, cable to the Secretary of State, 1974

    So we have people on the right who claim that the world is going to hell in a shopping cart anyway, flying the UN flag all the way, and on the left you have people who absolutely gloat over our troubles with Europe and the UN, no matter what the stakes are. And you have people who love anybody who opposes a Republican adminstration – yes, even if they kill Americans and Iraqis to express their opposition.

    You say we are trying to “re-engineer” Iraq, another characterization that comes from both left and right. Getting rid of dictators is not social engineering, as Democrats used to understand. Democracy is not something that is good because it is to “our liking” – which is the left’s backhanded way of saying that other people’s democracy is bad.

    You say things are best done by example. Well, Iraq is now a huge example, whether anyone wants it to be or not. If a democratic government goes down in blood, the worst people in the world will be extremely gratified by that example, and will point to it for decades and centuries to come.

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan again:

    THE MATTER IS TOO FAR DISTANT AND THE WEATHER HERE TOO DISAGREEABLE FOR ME FULLY TO RECONSTRUCT THE FURY WITH WHICH I SAT IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND LISTENED TO THE STALINIST SON OF A BITCH FROM CUBA GO ON ABOUT PUERTO RICO. BUT STILL IT WAS HIS JOB. HE IS A STALINIST. HE CAN GET KILLED IF HE MAKES A MISTAKE. WHAT DROVE ME TO DESPAIR WAS THE COMPLACENCY OF OUR PUTATIVE ALLIES IN THIS MATTER. THE HONOR OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IS BEING IMPUGNED? WHAT IS HONOR? – SAID OUR ALLIES …

    THERE WAS A SAYING AROUND THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE: DON’T GET MAD, GET EVEN.

    … THAT WE SEEM WILLING TO FORGET ABOUT A CLEAR VIOLATION OF THE CHARTER, A DIRECT LIE ABOUT THE UNITED STATES. WHAT HAS COME OVER US? FORGET ABOUT A SLANDER ON OUR HONOR? WHAT HAVE WE BECOME?

  5. tcg —

    The single shortcoming of the Left has been to argue that there are zero consequences for being defeated by Al Qaeda and Iran in Iraq.

    No argument from the Left has ever addressed this issue. How to avoid the total collapse of deterrence, and similar defeat in Afghanistan by the same measures.

    Given that Pakistan is sliding into control of the Taliban/Al Qaeda, with much of the NWF in the hands of the Taliban/Al Qaeda and the capital under defacto control of the Red Mosque, with Musharraf barely surviving 3 different known assassination attempts, this is not a trivial issue.

    Nor does the steady march of Iran to nuclear weapons when they possess a global terrorist network (Hezbollah) that operates in this country, when the leadership since Khomeni has repeatedly pledged to destroy us, provide much confidence in a safe national security environment in the wake of defeat in Iraq by Iran and Al Qaeda.

    Nor does the open presence and collaboration of Al Qaeda and Iran give much confidence in security with a defeat in Iraq.

    Instead I see the blithe reliance on the goodwill of Iran and bin Laden.

  6. It’s funny, tcg how often folks who want to fundamentally disagree decide that leaving – rather than arguing and defending your position – toss up their hands and walk out with a bitchy insult tossed over their shoulder.

    Sorry, unmpressed.

    A.L.

  7. The single shortcoming of the Left has been to argue that there are zero consequences for being defeated by Al Qaeda and Iran in Iraq.

    And, of course, if we stay in Iraq and create a stable nation several years down the road, al Qaeda is going to admit to defeat. That’s, frankly, surreal. And it’s equally surreal to claim that our exit constitutes a “victory” of al-Qaeda. We’re leaving (and we will – the American people have never been keen on policing civil wars) because there’s a civil war, and we’re facing diminishing returns for every year we’re there. It has nothing to do with being beaten by al-Qaeda (even if they claim it does; although, as noted above, they’ll claim that regardless of what happens)

    So, far from the left failing to rebut the arguments of the right, I just don’t see anything of substance to rebut. It’s just a lot of chest thumping and sloganeering.

  8. jpe:

    And, of course, if we stay in Iraq and create a stable nation several years down the road, al Qaeda is going to admit to defeat. That’s, frankly, surreal.

    No, it’s your logic that’s surreal. Even if we succeed, we fail, right? And no matter what success is achieved, the left will simply refuse to recognize it.

    Invincible ignorance is not an argument. Neither is the claim that the Iraqis are all fucked no matter what happens now, and that’s what your “civil war” tag means.

  9. AL, you really haven’t heard solid arguments for leaving? I doubt it. Anyway, here are a few.

    1. The day we announce a major troop withdrawal from Iraq someone somewhere will claim victory on behalf of AQ. So what. As the Israelis discovered in south Lebanon, if you allow a non-state enemy to define your victory, you have already lost.

    The proper response when AQ declares victory is simply to ignore it, or at best say that AQ’s words do not define US foreign policy, and that the US has every intention of working cooperatively with local governments to destroy AQ whereever they are.

    It’s worth noting that a 2-person sniper team wreaked havoc on DC. If AQ were all that, we’d have a lot more problems in this country. The fact that they cannot deploy a single sniper team anywhere in this country is pretty strong evidence that they are, mostly, a small bunch of huge blowhards.

    2. The arguments in favor of leaving are (a) blood and (b) treasure. The opportunity cost of the money wasted in Iraq is staggering; the waste of human life is atrocious.

    3. The best future for Iraq, at this point, appears to be a strongly pro-Iranian and strongly theocratic Shia-controlled government, with a quasi- or completely independent Kurdistan. This is worth fighting for? Supporting a government that will be strongly influenced by our worst enemy?

    4. Within the US in the last 200+ years, the residents found two issues so compelling that they were worth fighting for — freedom from the British and the end of slavery. In Iraq we are, largely, pawns in their own civil war. Why? Shouldn’t they be allowed to determine their own destiny?

    5. The last election in this country was largely a referendum on the Iraq war. Speaker Pelosi’s biggest problem isn’t the Republicans, it’s the members of her own party who want to end the war faster. The inability to get a war funding bill out of the House without benchmarks reflects the will of the voters.

    The President and the Republican-controlled Congress took a huge gamble last October when they failed to pass a year’s worth of war funding in advance of the election. The consequence of that decision is that the debate over the war can no longer be ignored. The majority of the voters want an end to the US occupation and the President is no longer in a position to over-rule their wishes.

    6. Fight them there so we don’t fight them here is perhaps the single dumbest, counter-productive and amoral idea for continuing the occupation. One, we are in a country we don’t know well where the inhabitants speak a language few of us understand. As a result we have made a staggering number of mistakes and will continue to do so. Second, it’s not like the US borders have been sealed during the occupation, but the terrorists will hitch onto the returning flights like zebra mussels in a cargo hold. If the terrorists wanted to bring the fight here now, they could. The fact that they haven’t suggests, rather strongly, that AQ operates best in chaotic environments where they can speak the language.

    Fight them there, as a policy, only made sense if we could assure ourselves that we were killing individuals who wanted to strike us here at home faster than we were creating such individuals. The US mortality rate in Iraq suggests that we have failed in that attempt.

    Moreover, since it appears that the Iraqis would like to fight their civil war without any interference — ours or AQs — once we leave the Iraqis will rapidly dispatch the remaining foreigners without our help.

    7. Assuming the war was winnable (whatever that means) at one point, corruption, incompetence and conservative ideology have ruined US credibility. The sale of Iraqi oil fields while under US control? Abu Ghraib? Incomplete or useless reconstruction work? 20-year old Republican partisans put in control of massively complex projects while on 90-day ticket-punching tours of duty? Dick Cheney trying to bully Iraqi legislators into not taking a summer break?

    Every single positive result is offset a dozen times over by our f*ckups. We are not wanted. We have achieved our goal of eliminating Saddam and have now overstayed our welcome.

  10. Francis – AQ and allies are doing a pretty good job in the Phillipines, Thailand, Indonesia, the Horn of Africa, and Northern Africa.

    As a movement, it’s empowered by a number of things – one of which is the perception among potentially sympathetic audiences that “we could win this thing!”…

    But it sounds like I ought to do a post on this.

    A.L.

  11. Glen,

    I don’t give a hoot about the UN and would prefer that we just withdraw from it and set up another organization.

    I think Francis made a lot of sense and am not particularly interested in adding to it.

    Getting rid of Saddam could have been done much cheaper.

    I say we declare victory and leave. We should not have bothered to rebuild Iraq at all. No restoring power plants, water filtration plants, etc. Should have left it to the Iraqis to pay for their own reconstruction. Should have pounded the Sunni portions of the country harder also. Then other countries would think twice about messing with us. That’s what I mean by punishment.

  12. #12 A.L.

    Perhaps you should do a post on AQ around the world… however, I think it is difficult to say AQ is being very successful in those areas except for the Horn of Africa.

    I am becoming increasingly critical of the “we have to stay” arguments being aired (not just here.) Viable nation building has shown itself to be more a theory than a successful effort in many parts of the world. E.g., if the criterion for leaving Iraq is the cessation of bombing by either Iraqi sectarianists or outside terror groups then it may be the US will never leave Iraq.

    Indeed, I’m having a hard time imaging when AQ (or similar groups) would *not* claim victory for any US withdrawl at any time. Note the AQ “claims” victories now… they will publish and videotape their propaganda regardless of how you and I see any particular action by the US (or any other nation.)

    IF the GWOT is not a traditional war, then perhaps “victory” will not be had in the traditional sense also? (theoretical question, open for discussion.)

  13. Francis and inJapan have both supplied some valuable points, for which I thank them.

    I agree especially with InJapan’s point about victory not necessarily being recognizable.

    I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the “GWOT”, but have yet to bring any coherence to my thoughts. Partly because there is so much to cover, and partly because its difficult to make up my mind about certain things.

  14. Francis, inJapan, etc.

    My challenge to you:

    How do you withdraw from Iraq under Al Qaeda’s victory / terrorist attacks and deter both Pakistan and Iran from giving Al Qaeda nukes and/or staging terrorist nuclear attacks on the US with deniable proxies?

    Given that we have no samples of either Pakistani or Iranian nukes and therefore cannot determine material origin, and of course there remains deniable proxies?

    Your fundamental error is in conflating Vietnam, where our nuclear MAD posture acted as a deterrent, with a multi-polar world with deniable proxies and the widespread feeling in all Muslim nations and communities that if enough Americans are killed we will submit to Islam.

    Vietnam (for America at least) was “cost-free” in that no great material harm was done to our national security. The Soviets and Chinese understood our MAD posture. Not so now, not the least of which has been nearly 30 years of nuclear disarmament. No one believes we would nuke out of existence an aggressor EVEN if they could be identified.

    Thus leaving Iraq with Pakistan and Iran figuring we were defeated is a guarantee to get US cities nuked.

    [Short of turning the US into a North Korean Police State with pure isolationism, ending all trade, sealing the borders, shooting all border crossers on sight, expelling all illegal aliens, massive police powers and people to check ID cards at every turn, internment or expelling of all Muslims, closing all Mosques, summary execution of suspected terrorists, there is simply no practical way to prevent nukes from being smuggled in via the borders and the current drug routes. Thus we MUST rely on some form of deterrence.]

    We COULD withdraw from Iraq, if we summarily also nuked Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities and made quickly many more nuclear weapons. No one would doubt intent and pre-emption, our willingness to use nukes, and our ability. Failing to make unmistakably clear to Iran and Pakistan however our determination to act pre-emptively in ways they would find too costly will just get us nuked.

    THIS is what we are playing for: the lives of everyone in DC, NYC, Chicago, Boston, etc.

  15. #16 JIm

    I’m not sure you got the thrust of my argument, so I will try a variation.

    You say:
    “How do you withdraw from Iraq under Al Qaeda’s victory / terrorist attacks and deter both Pakistan and Iran from giving Al Qaeda nukes and/or staging terrorist nuclear attacks on the US with deniable proxies?”

    My apologetic is, if you truly believe that statement I quoted of yours, then you have to buy into the idea that the US occupation of Iraq is *indefinite* and likely *very* long term.

    My belief is that *that* would be wholly unacceptable to the US populace, thus not tractable for any administration. It is likely not acceptable to the Iraqis either, thus risking making an enemy of the very people we are supposedly helping.

    Additionally, it is unclear to me why an indefinite extended stay in Iraq would diminish the AQ threat, given that there are plenty of places in the world in which AQ could foster their cause.

    On your concern of the existing Pakistani nuclear program and the probable emergent Iranian nuclear program, if I understand you correctly you want to proactively use nuclear weapons (against Iranian nuclear material refinement facilities.)

    Though I have no problem with the US proactively using military force in the face of an imminent threat, I am very queasy about the proactive use of nuclear weapons. Do you really want to go there?

  16. bq. And on that note, adios idiotos.

    tcg – Please do the adults here a favor and stay gone.

    AL – There are so many arguments for and against leaving Iraq it is hard to sort them all out. But the one I keep sticking with is the one that says we should not abandon Iraq as long as there is one Mohammed and one ITM. As long as that is the case, there may be hope for that savaged country.

    I believe there are too many tcg’s and davebo’s of the left in this country to ever abandon the fight for freedom. And listening to them makes me think we still have work to do here. The useful idiots of the Left in the US will never admit they are pawns of a failed political philosophy that caused the deaths of millions in the last century.

    The Hobo

  17. Eric Chen:

    Does failure in Iraq mean the end of liberalism as a viable approach to international relations?

    NO!

    The death of John F. Kennedy meant the end of liberalism as a viable approach to international relations.

  18. InJapan,

    “Additionally, it is unclear to me why an indefinite extended stay in Iraq would diminish the AQ threat, given that there are plenty of places in the world in which AQ could foster their cause.”

    This was a reason for OIF (choice C) as opposed to maintaining the indefinite containment-punishment mission in Iraq (choice A) that was a cornerstone of Al Qaeda’s cause.

    Choice C, unlike choice A, actually promises one of two clear end-states:

    The desired end-state is that we resolve the Saddam dilemma, end the pre-OIF Iraq mission, and manage the transition of Iraq from a dangerous failed state to a peaceful “Iraq the model”. As the President said on the USS Abraham Lincoln, “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”

    The undesired end-state, but an end-state nonetheless, is that we fail and the continued high cost of a failed OIF compels us to abandon the mission. That we’ll continue to pour political cache, lives and billions of dollars into a failed mission forever is unrealistic. The Dems requiring a deadline for OIF in writing is a political artifice. It’s more realistic that the surge strategy is the final fully invested opportunity we’ll give OIF. (It’s said that 24 months are needed for the surge strategy to play out, which would run it into the next administration. My guess is the Dems wish to wholly contain OIF to Bush rather than fall into Nixon’s dilemma with Vietnam if/when they win the presidency in 2008.)

    The old Iraq mission was truly indefinite. It was a failure, it was provocative and cancerous, poorly planned, and it was harmful in many ways. However, from our perspective, it was also relatively low-cost and politically expedient. The costs could be passed forward. Who knows how long we would have continued with choice A if 9/11 hadn’t changed our calculus.

    I actually share your observations about our shortcomings revealed since 9/11. None of them have come as a surprise. After all, the Vietnam War has defined our culture and been broadcast to the world for decades, and on top of that, the 1990s were very instructive.

    However, fixing our flaws and weaknesses, even as obvious as they are, required a state of urgent necessity. OIF, beyond changing our pre-OIF relationship with Iraq, has been a historic opportunity for our nation to fundamentally reform our culture, policies, relationships and institutions as a world leader. As much as the Bush administration has been criticized for poor preparation for the post-major combat stages of OIF, it’s unrealistic that the necessary preparation could have preceded the real-world necessity for it.

    In the 20th century, our predecessors made titanic, heatedly controversial reforms so America could deal with Fascism and WW2, and then spurred by Korea, the global competition with the Communist bloc during the Cold War. Iraq has given our generation the opportunity to choose for America: accept our current flaws and weaknesses as America’s limit or make the titanic, heatedly controversial reforms to deal with the challenges upon us.

    You know, I’m a fan of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. The overarching story arc of the series involves the Dream-king’s decision whether to fulfill his responsibilities to his realm or abandon the Dreaming to itself, as his brother Destruction did with his realm. In the series conclusion, the Dream-king decides he’s weary of the burden of leadership and sets in motion the events that ultimately kill him and allow him to pass the leadership of the Dreaming to a new king.

    We can choose to do that, too – we simply have to accept our limitations. Leadership is a hard job, maybe too hard a job for 21st century America.

  19. How do your remain in Iraq under Al Qaeda’s victory / terrorist attacks and deter both Pakistan and Iran from giving Al Qaeda nukes and/or staging terrorist nuclear attacks on the US with deniable proxies?

    There, I fixed it for you. Whether we stay in Iraq or leave is irrelevant to the doomsday scenario laid out (or its relevance certainly isn’t obvious; perhaps the commenter could do us the favor of expanding his Shia Iran / Sunni al-Qaeda conspiracy theory and the role of the Iraq war in deterring that counter-intuitive alliance)

    Fight them there so we don’t fight them here is perhaps the single dumbest, counter-productive and amoral idea for continuing the occupation.

    Indeed. If it means we draw al-Qaeda to Iraq so that al-Qaeda can kill civilians there instead of America (I don’t see any other interpretation), it’s tantamount to a sacrifice of Iraqi civilians to save American civilians. I’d go beyond “amoral” and note that such a strategy is immoral. In fact, it’s monstrous.

  20. Firstly, leadership is obviously a hard position, but to hint that because his job is hard it’s some what aceptable for our president to make a monstorous mistake such as killing innocent civilians to find “weapons of mass destruction” is proposterous. If the job was too hard he should have bowed out or listened to the advice of more knowledgeable people, which he obviously didn’t do because we see it in the 9/11 reports. If people took more responsibility for their actions and actually thought out the process we wouldnt be in this mess in the first place. And if we plan to pull out hastily now that shows a bad precedent on OUR country to the rest of the world. we appear like bullies who come in force our morals on other people while destryoing their lifestyle leaving them to scrape on their own. Let the military mend what they have broken before we leave nad save some of what little dignity we have.

  21. AL, if AQ is having success in Horn of Africa countries or the Phillipines or Indonesia, then we should fight them THERE.

    One point of 9/11 was that the realist school of international affairs had failed; having gone from one totalitarian government to another in Eygpt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, the locals were fed up. The counterweight has been radical religious extremism.

    Religious extremism is an idea and a movement, not a nation-state. We will prevail against the idea much the same way we prevailed against Communism, by showing the world that our way was better.

    Totalitarians have it easy. They can always find puppet generals to run foreign countries. Our way must be to allow foreigners to develop their own governments.

    Occupation is a very poor tool to persuade the rest of the world that secularism, individual liberty and democracy are a better way to live than authoritarian theocracies. We’re not changing anyone’s mind to our benefit.

  22. The problem, Francis, is that sovereign countries there may not be very excited about having us do so. That’s always been the crux problem for the ‘law enformcement/low intensity’ model of fighting AQ. For us to send SF troops to Algeria, for example, is an act of war by us on Algerian soil.

    See the dilemma?

    One argument for showing some sticking power in this is that ot the extent they think we are a reliable partner, countries where there is a negative political impact of allowing US troops in might be more willing to try it – because they might think we were seriously committed to defeating AQ.

    A.L.

  23. _if AQ is having success in Horn of Africa countries or the Phillipines or Indonesia, then we should fight them THERE._

    Assuming this is a serious suggestion . . .

    The U.S. _is_ fighting AQ in the Phillipines. The government wants us there, though on their terms and with their operational constraints.

    On the flip-side, Somalia is a failed state, fighting AQ w/o the government’s consent would further weaken it, and increase the region’s attractiveness as a terrorist base. Without a stable government or social order, actionable intelligence about “who” and “where” is AQ will be difficult and the ability to prevent AQ from returning will depend upon whether Somalia remains a failed state. Its hard for me to imagine that the U.S. would ever effectively engage in Somalia if its unwilling to do so in Iraq.

    Indonesia is in the middle. It is sometimes described as a failing state in certain regions. AFAIK the government doesn’t want or seek active American involvement. It has pro-democratic liberalizing trends that might effectively blunt sectarian strife.

    Iraq is an emerging state, whether it will fail or not is unknown at this time. American military presence and development efforts supply actionable intelligence. The prospect of some form of representational government, supported by a U.S. trained military could allow the U.S. to withdraw into the role it plays in the Philipines. Otherwise, it becomes Somalia.

  24. Hmmm. I’d say Ethiopia has been fighting a Taliban-like Islamic government, and U.S. support of Ethiopia has led to actionable intelligence against their al-Qaeda allies. I’m not sure this is sustainable so long as the government is failing. None of which is to belittle U.S. accomplishments in taking advantage of a situation that arose.

    OTOH, this “West Point paper”:http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/aqinhoa.pdf (557 page pdf) argues that Kenya is the real regional threat to serve as a terrorist base. It argues that the level of violence and logistical challenges make a failed state a poor base. I suppose the freedom of U.S. warships to bomb your country without much of an international whimper also makes failed states poor choices. I suspect one reason Kenya is a weak state though is that its next to Somalia.

  25. Angelsayshimrsilton: “Firstly, leadership is obviously a hard position, but to hint that because his job is hard it’s some what aceptable for our president to make a monstorous mistake such as killing innocent civilians to find “weapons of mass destruction” is proposterous.”

    Remember that WMD was not the only reason for OIF. See
    “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq”: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html . The Saddam-led Iraq compiled quite a record of punishable trespasses over its 1991-2003 probation, before and after President Clinton declared “”Iraq has abused its final chance””:http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/16/transcripts/clinton.html in 1998.

    If you claim OIF has been “monstorous mistake” and “proposterous”, then how would you characterize the alternatives, (choice A) continuing the pre-OIF UN/US containment-punishment mission, based on essentially the same reasons as OIF, or (choice B) ending the pre-OIF UN/US mission and restoring full power and rights to a victorious Saddam?

    See “Iraq Sanctions: Were They Worth It?”:http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0401b.asp . Our containment-punishment of Iraq was harsh on the Iraqi people, it included military force, and we made no commitments to Iraqis for a better future beyond an Iraq Liberation Act that promised to support revolt yet contained no provisions to help Iraq avoid a post-Saddam meltdown. The pre-OIF Iraq mission was just expedient and cheaper for us, and politically palateable for the “international community” … does anyone wonder that the enemy wasted little time in bombing the UN compound in 2003?

    Pretend you’re President Bush in 2002: given the choice of continuing containment-punishment of Iraq indefinitely (at least through your administration), returning Saddam to full power, or regime change and nation-building, what do you consider as the least “monstorous” choice?

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